This document is not available at this time.

Discrimination against Kurdish Iranians unchecked and on the rise

30 July 2008

Iran’s government is failing in its duty to prevent discrimination and human rights abuses against its Kurdish citizens, according to a new Amnesty International report.

The organization fears that the repression of Kurdish Iranians, particularly human rights defenders, is intensifying, according to the report Iran: Human rights abuses against the Kurdish minority.

The report also says that women face a double challenge to their human rights, both as members of a marginalised ethnic minority and as women in a predominantly patriarchal society.

Around 12 million Kurds live in Iran making up 15 percent of the population. Expression of Kurdish culture, such as dress and music, is generally respected and the Kurdish language is used in some broadcasts and publications.

However the Kurdish minority continues to suffer deep-rooted discrimination. Kurds in Iran have their social, political and cultural rights repressed along with their economic aspirations.

Parents are banned from registering their babies with certain Kurdish names and religious minorities that are mainly or partially Kurdish are targeted by measures designed to stigmatize and isolate them.

Discriminated against in their access to employment and adequate housing, the economic neglect of Kurdish regions has resulted in an entrenched poverty which has further marginalized Kurds.

Kurdish human rights defenders, including community activists and journalists, face arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment and prosecution when they protest against the government’s failure to observe international human rights standards.

When they link their human rights work to their Kurdish identity they risk further violations of their rights. Some, including women’s rights activists, become prisoners of conscience. Others suffer torture, grossly unfair trials before Revolutionary Courts and the death penalty.

Ethnic Kurds Farzad Kamangar, Ali Heydariyan and Farhad Vakili were sentenced to death in February 2008 after conviction of “moharebeh” (enmity against God), following a grossly flawed process that fell far short of international standards for a fair trial.

This is a charge levelled against those accused of taking up arms against the state, apparently in connection with their alleged membership of the armed group, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which carries out attacks in Turkey. Ali Heydariyan and Farhad Vakili were also sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment, apparently for forging documents. Under Iranian law, they must serve their prison sentences before being executed.

In May this year Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment by Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran. The sentence apparently comprises 10 years’ imprisonment for “acting against state security by establishing the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan (HROK)” and one year’s imprisonment for “propaganda against the system”.

The verdict followed a closed trial session. Amnesty International considers Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand to be a prisoner of conscience, held solely on account of the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and association during his work as chair of the HROK and his activities as a journalist. Such rights are expressly recognized in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a state party.

“Iran’s constitution provides for equality of all Iranians before the law. But, as our report shows, this is not the reality for Kurds in Iran,” said Malcolm Smart, director of the Middle East and North Africa programme of Amnesty International.

“The Iranian government has not taken sufficient steps to eliminate discrimination, or to end the cycle of violence against women and punish those responsible.”

Although women and girls form the backbone of economic activity in the Kurdish areas, strict social codes are used to deny their human rights.

Such codes make it difficult for government officials to investigate inequalities in girls’ education, early and forced marriages, and domestic violence against Kurdish girls and women - and the severe consequences of some of these abuses, including “honour killings” and suicide.

“Kurdish women are victims of violence on a daily basis and face discrimination from state officials, groups or individuals, including family members.” Malcolm Smart said.

How you can help

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL WORLDWIDE