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)