Amnesty International calls on the Iranian authorities to release Kurdish civil society activist Zahra Mohammadi immediately
Please find attached and copied below an urgent action Amnesty International issued today on Kurdish civil society activist Zahra Mohammadi, aged 29, who has been arbitrarily detained since her arrest in Sanandaj, Kurdistan province, Iran, on 23 May 2019.
She is charged with national security offences in relation to her civil society work empowering marginalized members of Iran’s Kurdish minority.
Amnesty International calls on the Iranian authorities to release Zahra Mohammadi immediately and unconditionally as she is a prisoner of conscience detailed solely for her peaceful civil society activism.
The urgent action is available on the Amnesty International website at the following link:https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde13/1390/2019/en/
URGENT ACTIONKURDISH ACTIVIST ARBITRARILY DETAINEDKurdish civil society activist Zahra Mohammadi, aged 29, has been arbitrarily detained since her arrest in Sanandaj, Kurdistan province, Iran, on 23 May 2019. She is charged with national security offences in relation to her civil society work empowering marginalized members of Iran’s Kurdish minority.TAKE ACTION: WRITE AN APPEAL IN YOUR OWN WORDS OR USE THIS MODEL LETTERProsecutor General of Sanandaj Mohammad Jabbaric/o Permanent Mission of Iran to the UNChemin du Petit-Saconnex 281209 Geneva, SwitzerlandDear Mr Mohmmad Jabbari,Zahra Mohammadi, a Kurdish civil society activist, has been accused of co-operating with Kurdish opposition groups and charged with national security offences for her peaceful activities empowering members of Iran’s marginalized Kurdish community, including through teaching the Kurdish language. On 18 September 2019, without prior notice to her lawyers or family, Zahra Mohammadi was transferred to Branch One of the Revolutionary Court of Sanandaj for a hearing which was subsequently postponed.On 23 May 2019, Zahra Mohammadi was arrested in her home by plain-clothes agents from the Ministry of Intelligence and then held in solitary confinement at an undisclosed location until 31 May, when she was transferred to Sanandaj prison and her family were informed of her whereabouts. During a subsequent family visit, Zahra Mohammadi said that she had been pressured to provide a forced “confession” during those eight days in secret detention. From early June until early July 2019, she had ongoing contact with her family. From 6 July to 16 September 2019, Zahra Mohammadi was held in incommunicado detention and her family was denied all information about her despite multiple attempts to learn what had happened to her. After this period of incommunicado detention ended, Zahra Mohamamdi was able to tell her family that during that time, she was taken to a Ministry of Intelligence facility each day for hours-long interrogation sessions and again put under intense pressure to “confess” that she had been co-operating with Kurdish opposition groups, which she denied. She said that her interrogators threatened to arrest her family members if she did not agree to work for the Ministry of Intelligence and sign a pre-written “confession”. She has met with her lawyers just once, nearly four months after her arrest, and after the second round of interrogations during incommunicado detention ended.Zahra Mohammadi is in poor health. She currently has a stomach-related illness. She also has a pre-existing digestive condition that requires medication, which she has been unable to take in prison.I urge you to release Zahra Mohammadi immediately and unconditionally as she is a prisoner of conscience detailed solely for her peaceful civil society activism. Pending her release, please ensure that she is protected from torture and other ill-treatment and can receive regular visits from her lawyer and family, as well as adequate medical care, including any specialized treatment she may need.Yours sincerely,ADDITIONAL INFORMATIONOn 18 September 2019, without any prior notice to her lawyers, Zahra Mohammadi was transferred to Branch One of the Revolutionary Court of Sanandaj. Her lawyer and family were alerted that she was in court, and promptly arrived to protest the hearing taking place without prior notice. Her court session was subsequently postponed to a later date, though no further hearings have taken place since and the court has sent the case back to the office of the prosecutor for further investigations. She has met with her lawyers just once, nearly four months after her arrest, and after the second round of interrogations during incommunicado detention ended on 16 September.During the period she was held in incommunicado detention and subjected to interrogations for over two months without access to a lawyer, Zahra Mohammadi’s family made numerous attempts with different government offices in Sanandaj to learn what had happened to her. During one visit to the Ministry of Intelligence office, her family was permitted to speak over the phone with Zahra Mohammadi’s interrogator. According to information received by Amnesty International, the interrogator told her family that Zahra Mohammadi was being denied contact with her family to put her under greater pressure to sign documents and agree to work for the ministry of intelligence and that, once she had done so, she would again be able to see her family.Since being held in incommunicado detention, Zahra Mohammadi has experienced a stomach-related illness for which the prison doctor prescribed medication, but she has said that the medication makes her nauseous and that her illness continues. She also has a pre-existing digestive condition which requires a special diet and medication. Since detention, she has neither been able to follow the special diet nor take her medication. Her family has requested she be transferred to hospital for examinations, but no response has been given to them.Zahra Mohmmmadi is the director of the Nojin Cultural Association, whose activities include teaching the Kurdish language and literature and other civil society activities. Prior to her 23 May 2019 arrest, Zahra Mohammadi had been subjected to several lengthy interrogations by the ministry of intelligence. The last took place on 8 March 2019, when she was interrogated for eight hours without the presence of a lawyer.Ethnic minorities in Iran, including Ahwazi Arabs, Azerbaijani Turks, Baluchis, Kurds and Turkmen, face entrenched discrimination, curtailing their access to education, employment and adequate housing. Continued economic neglect of regions with large minority populations has exacerbated poverty and marginalization. The Persian language is the sole medium of instruction in primary and secondary education in Iran.PREFERRED LANGUAGE TO ADDRESS TARGET: Persian, EnglishYou can also write in your own language.PLEASE TAKE ACTION AS SOON AS POSSIBLE UNTIL: 25 December 2019.Please check with the Amnesty office in your country if you wish to send appeals after the deadline.NAME AND PREFERRED PRONOUN: Zahra Mohammadi (she/her)
A letter by Mrs. Soraya Fallah to Mrs. Shirin Abadi; Concern over the imminent execution of a female Kurdish political prisoner Zainab Jalalian
January 23, 2010
Translated from Farsi: Dr. Kamal Soleimani
To: Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
Honorable Mrs. Shirin Ebadi,
Your membership and supportive efforts on behalf of the campaign for “a greater family for political prisoners”1, as well as your acceptance of several political prisoners of conscious as your own family members, is once again demonstrating your attention and concern regarding people who are facing abuse and torture or death and annihilation.
I am now seeking your support regarding one of the women among the listed Kurdish political prisoners in imminent danger of execution.
Zaynab Jalalian 2, a 27 years old Kurdish woman, was arrested in Kermanshah in early 2007. She was dispatched to the infamous Sanandaj prison soon after. This is the same prison which bears witness to Ehsan Fattahian’s 3 execution, and the tragedy of two sisters Nasrin and Shahla Ka’bi 4 who were violently annihilated. The same place which is plagued by the memory of Shahriar who was forced to carry on his back the tortured body of his brother Ehsan(Nahid) to an untimely and unjust death by the bullets of a firing squad 5.
Last year, in a show trail that lasted only a few minutes, Zaynab was condemned to death. Her offense was for the illusory “crime” of enmity against God – moharebeh – and affiliation with a supposed “anti-revolutionary” organization. Her death sentence was approved by the highest judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the absence of her lawyers Dr. Mohammed Sharif and Mr. Khalil Bahramy.
Ever since the harrowing execution of Shirin (Alam Hooli)(6), Zaynab’s friend and fellow inmate, the shadow of death is looming larger over her; however, Zaynab’s pleas for justice continue to go unnoticed by activists, political figures, and human rights organizations. It seems that many choose to continue to remain blind to Zaynab’s fate, out of fear of being falsely labeled, accused of guilt by association.
It is saddening, but not uncommon to witness such discriminatory treatments. This seems to be, and has always been, the fate of the long list of Kurdish political prisoners (7): executed or awaiting execution (8).
Unfortunately, no urgent action has been taken to change Zaynab’s conditions; neither by the so called leaders of the recent movement in Iran, nor by the Iranian human rights organizations. Thus Zaynab Jalalian and the likes of her are grappling with the nightmare of being slaughtered in obscurity, the worst nightmare for any political prisoner (9).
In her short epistle of pain and suffering, Zaynab states that, “I asked the judge to allow me to see my mother and my family for the last time, to say goodbye to them before I die; the judge told me to ‘Shut the…up!'” (10)
Like other Kurdish women, in addition to facing the widespread gender inequality in Iran, Zaynab has been doubly subjected to various forms of cultural, social, economic, ethnic, and religious discriminations, and experienced extraordinary inequality in educational opportunities. Now too, instead of being provided with an opportunity to redress these injustices, or like every human being be able to meet her full potential, Zaynab awaits the gallows.
My own personal memories (from prison) make it possible to visualize some of her nightmares. I am not sure where she is being held captive, but if she is in one of Kurdish area’s prison, she will be taken to the bathroom, blindfolded, twice a day. She is most likely being kept in a crypt for solitary confinement. There she must lie down on the bare ground, since a bed is something that she can be blessed with only when she is being tortured. This prison is wholly sealed off from inspection by any watchdog organization; it is not even inspected once a year. Last June, in a cell next to Zaynab’s, a Kurdish prisoner, without a trial of any kind, was accused of separatism and consequently subjected to suffocation under the alcohol-boarding method. Zaynab constantly thinks of him, and of another acquaintance of hers, who was executed last May after months of torture.
Such nightmares are experienced daily; these atrocities, which have gone completely unnoticed, frequently take place in the large and small prisons of Kurdistan.
Of course, there are many who prefer to act as if they are unaware of this situation. Such people even try to avoid reporting the news about the long list of Kurdish prisoners awaiting the gallows and hangman’s noose, and they refuse to print the names and pictures of these prisoners because of a Kurd or even a Sunni “birthmark.”
It does not bother them to hear that one of the country’s award-winning authors (11) is being tortured, simply because he is a Kurd. Fearful that one day these prisoners might serve the Kurdish nation, no one bothers to fight for their release. Great minds, men who have dedicated their lives to combating HIV & AIDS (12), are now kept in the crypt and solitary confinements. All Kurdish activists must end up in prison; it does not make much difference whether their field of activity is a political, scientific, cultural or literary endeavor.
Last spring, after the sudden execution of five political prisoners in Iran (four Kurds and a fellow Persian prisoner), some of my [Persian](13) human rights activists asked me whether or not the victims were separatists and members of opposition groups. I was reminded of the forgetfulness of our uncles who wrote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Apparently, at the time, our uncles did not know, or they forgot to clarify who should be listed for execution and who shouldn’t. Had they read articles 1-3 in the Universal Declaration, perhaps their tender Persian nationalistic feelings would not be so wounded.
I have chosen Zaynab as my sister (14). However, because of the severity of her case, I have been unable to stay in touch with her. For the last three years, my family has been barred from visiting her. She was unable to even celebrate her birthdays. She has spent her last two birthdays under constant torture and interrogations. I was recently informed that due to frequent torture and heavy strikes on her head, Zaynabs’ eyesight is fast diminishing.
I feel overwhelmed with pain whenever I read any news about Zaynab or when I look at the pictures of her innocent face; it is as if she is the bearer of all incarcerated Kurdish girls’ pains and embodies their suffering.
Thinking of her reminds me of those frightening, chilly nights in Kurdistan’s prisons; the torturous sounds of the interrogators’ feet and the loud reciting of the Quran – I had no idea from which cell it was coming. I think of the military blanket and the curved strips and the broken lines on the walls and those moments when I was forced out of my cell to be tortured. At every moment, I felt a hostage of my fears of the interrogators’ indecent hands, and my thoughts of insufferable moments of violence, coupled with the hopes for freedom.
So each day now, in the hopes of hearing a piece of good news, that a political prisoner is being freed, and in order to break my silence, I join a group and participate in a campaign. Hoping that my voice may unshackle a prisoner’s feet; hoping to see Zaynab, an adolescent who left her home and family for the sake of freedom and equality, will one day return home; hoping to see that in Dem-Qeshlaq village/Maku, the little girls’ eyes will twinkle with the glow of happiness to witness their Zaynab returning to their village; I, like hundreds of like-minded people around the world who hold too many great hopes, aspire to actualize the contents of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Dearest Mrs. Ebadi,
In the light of your willingness to risk your own life to support and defend many political cases in the past, I am emboldened to ask for your support. You have been standing tall against various instances of human rights violations and discrimination in Iran. I am encouraged by your admirable use of your podium as a Nobel laureate in serving and supporting political prisoners. My hope is that you appreciate my logic, my fears, and my anxiety concerning the atrocities that are taking place against Kurdish activists in Iranian prisons specifically the fate of Zaynab Jalalian.
I am aware that you are not living in Iran any longer, and cannot be present at the courts to confront a justice system that has no independence whatsoever (15). However, Zaynab’s cries for justice will surely not be silenced if you symbolically represent her and if you accept her as one of your family members.
I believe human rights activists, and others whose voices can still be heard, have a responsibility, and should make room to defend all those whose voices have been silenced and buried behind prison walls, all those who are subject to torture, execution, and imprisonment for their fight against inequality, injustice, against the violation of their freedom, their collective and national rights, their religious rights, and against abuses and gender violence. Please help Zaynab’s voice to be heard; her voice is being buried alive. Please let the world hear all those voices that are buried under the debris of silence.
With warmest regards,
A member of the Greater Family’s Campaign for Political Prisoners
& chair of World’s Women For Life (17)