Sunday, August 21, 2016

In Iran, feminism is overthrowing the governmen

Amnesty International reported Wednesday that since the beginning of this year, more than a dozen women’s rights activists in Tehran had been interrogated by the Revolutionary Guards.

The religious dictatorship in Iran relies heavily on patriarchy to survive. When Men are watchdogs for women, the government needs to control only half of the society and the other half  is an (unwitting) agent reproducing suppression. Afterall, empowered women are not easily silenced.
Women's activists are treated as "enemies of the state" and threatened with imprisonment on national security-related charges, AI reported. The government is specifically sensitive about the two following initiatives:
The first was a campaign launched in October 2015 to advocate for more female involvement in Iran’s February 2016 parliamentary election. It was called the Campaign to Change the Masculine Face of Parliament.
Second, a website called “Feminist School” began educating people about feminism in theory and practice by posting reports and articles on women issues in Iran and around the world.
Iranian-Canadian academic Homa Hoodfar was recently arrested upon visiting Iran and has been for the most part incommunicado since.
An article published in the Revolutionary Guards-affiliated press stated that Hoodfar’s work with Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUM) to promote feminism and women’s equality in Muslim countries and enhance women’s bodily autonomy was aimed at “disrupting public order” and “prompting social-cultural changes that can ultimately pave the ground…for a soft overthrow.”
Indeed, if Iranian women of diverse backgrounds were to unite and speak in solidarity, they could overthrow the regime. 

Since the 1910-era Constitutional Revolution, women in Iran have struggled to achieve gender equality, only to no avail.
In the 1930s, women had 14 magazines discussing their rights, and by the 1970s had gained some freedom of education and occupation.
But these achievements were taken away when Ruhollah Khomeini usurped power in Iran in 1979.
Throughout history, Iranian rulers have established power over the country by subjugating the female body. Reza Shah, the Pahlevi Dynasty’s first Shah, ruled Iran from 1925 to 1941. He forcibly removed the hijab from women in an attempt to westernize the country.
Since 1979, the Islamic Republic has forced the hijab back onto women to Islamize the country.
After a century-old movement, women are still officially considered subhuman in the eyes of the state.
Women suffer gross injustice in areas related to marriage, divorce, and child custody. They are legally unable to work or leave the country without their husband’s permission. A woman cannot marry without her father or a male guardian’s authorization.
There is little to no protection for women and girls against sexual harassments, and domestic and external violence.
Additionally, early and forced marriage, as well as marital rape, is still common in the country.
Women’s rights groups were hopeful that gender-based discrimination would ease under President Hassan Rouhani, but they have seen few improvements.
According to the Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum, Iran ranked 130 out of 136 countries in 2013.
Just three percent of Iran’s parliamentarians are women. Even influential ministers such as Maryam Mojtahidzadeh, head of the women's ministry, talk about ‘complementary’ roles for women—not equality.

Feminism under a theocratic government that severely suppresses any challenge to its “divine” rules is an endless struggle. Any activity must be undertaken with extreme caution and has severe repercussions. 
But the Iranian women movement is divided and is facing many challenges.
The contradictory perspectives of secular women activists versus religious ones is one of the main obstacles.
While one group believes “genuine” Islam can be emancipating for women, the other considers secularism as the first step out of male domination.
Urban and rural women are also divided. Middle and upper-middle class women seek occupational and educational rights, while for poorer women, health issues and welfare are primary needs.
Kurdish women's activist Geziza Bapiri believes feminism does not receive the social support it needs. 
"Iranians have not been educated about the value of feminism. That kind of awareness frightens the regime," Bapiri said.
"Also, the movement is a protest. Iran does not tolerate any sort of criticism because it might surface the dissatisfaction among the citizen or inspire other movements. That terrifies the government too," Bapiri added. 
But an important, yet unacknowledged, source of division among feminists in Iran is the ethnocentrism of the dominant group.
Women of Kurdish, Baluch, Arab or Turkmen origins in Iran suffer ethnic as well as gender oppression. However, the first level of subjugation is not admitted by the feminists of the dominant group.
The plight of ostracized women is marginalized not only by the patriarchy in their culture and the national chauvinism of the ruling state but also by the negligence of mainstream feminists.
Last week Kurdish women began a campaign to support female cyclists who were harassed and threatened by officials. The women were biking as part of an environmentalist movement, namely "Green Tuesdays."
Despite the momentum it gained in the Kurdish region, the initiation was largely overlooked by prominent Iranian feminists.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Kurdish woman helps cure fatal brain cancer

A conference on pluralism and its challenges in Iran

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Berkeley offers Kurdish language course

Berkeley University offers Kurdish language course
A Kurdish girl by a blackboard writes the name of her language and her unofficial country. (Photo: Archive)
LOS ANGELES, United States (Kurdistan24) – For the first time, the Kurdish language will be taught at one of the most prestigious American universities, University of California, Berkeley.
“Hûn bi xêr hatin Pola Kurdî ya Destpêker - Welcome to the Beginner Kurdish Course,” announced the Near Eastern Studies of UC Berkeley. 
The course will introduce complete beginners to the Kurmanji-dialect of Kurdish, a language that is rarely taught in the United States.
Deniz Ekici, the language director for the University of Arizona’s new Kurdish Language and Culture Studies program in Diyarbakir, Turkey, will be teaching the course at Berkeley this fall.
Ekici is a former Visiting Professor at Middle Tennessee State University. He received his Ph.D. from the Centre for Kurdish Studies at the University of Exeter, UK.
“UC Berkeley has some funding for a pilot project involving Kurdish language and area studies. Within the framework of this pilot project, the university offered a Kurdish history, politics and culture class taught by Nicole Watts last year," Ekici told Kurdistan24.
"This year UCB want to follow up with Kurdish language courses for fall and spring semesters. Depending on their funding and interest they might continue offering Kurdish courses. I think this is a great accomplishment for the field of Kurdish studies and I hope more universities offer similar courses,” Ekici added.
He is the author of Beginning Kurmanji Kurdish DVD-Rom, University of Arizona Press (July 2009) and Kurmanji Kurdish Reader, Maryland: Dunwoody Press (February 2007).
The course will “introduce basic grammatical forms, essential frequent vocabulary and key aspects of pronunciation,” UC Berkeley announced.
“Participants of the course will have opportunities to practice communicating in Kurmanji-Kurdish in class on daily topics such as routines and activities, hobbies and habits and so forth,” the university added.
The course hopes to enable students to communicate on everyday topics in various social contexts.
Interested individuals can then progress to the “Beginners Kurdish 2” class in the Spring term.
Berkeley’s Near Eastern Studies Department, founded in 1894, is one of the oldest and most distinguished departments in the country.
The department offers both general instruction and specialized training in Archaeology, Art History, Assyriology, Egyptology, Iranian Studies, Judaic and Islamic Studies, Comparative Semitics, Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish.

Reporting by Ava Homa
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Book review: You Can’t Bury Them All

Book review: You Can’t Bury Them All
You Can’t Bury Them All by Patrick Woodcock. (ECW Press, Toronto 2016)
Reading You Can’t Bury Them All is like going on a journey with the poet, Patrick Woodcock, seeing people and landscapes of the otherwise estranged lands of the Kurdistan Region, Fort Good Hope, NT, Canada, a small aboriginal community in the Northwest Territories, and Azerbaijan.
The poetry collection, with its striking imagery and piercing language, allows the reader to see what locals see, be frightened or moved by what entices them, and hear voices that wake people at night, like that of the Kurdish propane tank which the poet describes as “an archive of apparitions, an urn of celestial ashes.”
Woodcock digs under the surface of objects and into the skin of locals. He presents to the reader not only what or who he sees but also “the shadows they cast.”
The collection confronts the borders, races, religions and whatever else manages to isolate human from human while exploring and bringing into focus all that connects us.
“Yan Kurdistan, Yan Naman” Kurdish for “Give me Kurdistan or Give me death,” is the title of the first section of You Can’t Bury Them All.
You Can’t Bury Them All is Woodcock’s ninth book and his second poetry collection that contains poems about Kurds.
Woodcock has been called an “almost Kurd” since he lived in the Kurdistan Region for over two years and was deeply engaged with the Kurdish culture, history and landscape. He is still active within the global Kurdish community and is working on an NGO called Canadians for an Independent Kurdistan.
But Kurds are not the only people Woodcock has immersed himself with. He was a volunteer with the elders of Fort Good Hope 20 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle for almost a year and taught in Baku for two years. His incredible power of empathy enables him to see the world from the point of view of various cultures and age groups.
“The cemetery’s headstones are scattered, misshapen—some are as small as the palm of my hand. Smaller than infants, some battered, some hidden, as if none ever mattered or walked on this land.”
The “I” contained within the poems of You Can’t Bury Them All is not always Woodcock but often a local whose perspective the poet is exploring.
In this book, “I” can be a man, a woman, a Kurd, an Azeri, or an aboriginal elder in Canada's north where he worked as a volunteer. It could also be a statue of a poet or a post-communist building falling to ruin.
The central theme of the collection is contained within the title. You can’t bury them all - not in the mass graves in Kurdistan, abandoned children’s cemeteries in Azerbaijan, not under the heavy snow of Canada's north, not by time, aging, neglect, homophobia or by trying to stifle protest and free speech.
“Let snow and what it blankets hearten not haunt you.”
Sprinkled with historical, cultural and geographical references of the three countries,You Can’t Bury Them All triggers one's curiosity by offering a myriad of powerful and profound images. This allows the reader to relish the initial poem before delving further into the geo-political complexity of its subjects.
The accompanying link to the book with the photos and captions can be helpful to enlighten the reader.
You Can’t Bury Them All by Patrick Woodcock
ECW Press, Toronto 2016

Friday, May 20, 2016

Cannes Film Festival screens 'Peshmerga' documentary

The image of the "Peshmerga" documentary showing a female fighter scanning the horizon during the battle with the Islamic State. (Photo: Bernard-Henri Levy website)
CANNES, France (Kurdistan24) – “Peshmerga” is a documentary about Kurdish freedom fighters directed by French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy and is included in the 2016 Cannes Film Festival official selection.
In a press release, the organizers explained the last-minute addition, “This film, which we have just discovered, offers a close-up look at the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.”
The topical and insightful story portrays the sacrifices of the unknown individuals in the military forces in the Kurdistan Region, who are fighting the Islamic State (IS) extremists.
Levy said in a statement on Monday that he traveled 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) along the Iraqi border to film battles, landscapes and the faces of men and women who rarely show themselves.
Ala Hoshyiar, one of the main camerapersons of Levy's crew, told Kurdistan24 that the heart of the great battles is the Kirkuk areas of Mosul and Sinjar (Shingal).
“The movie that started in May 2015 recorded Peshmerga's activities indiscriminately across the border,” he explained.
Hoshyiar was severely injured during the recording of the film but did not stop working.
The 92-minute picture will be screened at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, May 20, in the Salle Bazin.
“If demand is high, another screening will possibly be added on Saturday,” organizers said.
The Kurdish Peshmerga have been the most efficient ground forces battling IS on behalf of the world. Many Peshmerga commanders continue to call on further support from the international community in the form of weapons and ammunition.
These humble and noble men and women fighters in Kurdistan are suppressing the same group that claimed attacks in Paris, Brussels, and California.

Reporting by Ava Homa
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany

Right groups: Sohrabzadeh's life is threatened

Rights groups: Sohrabzadeh's life is threatened
Afshin Sohrabzadeh suffering from cancer, remains incarcerated in internal exile at a remote prison in Minab, Hormozgan province, desperately in need of immediate specialized medical attention outside of prison.
LOS ANGELES, United States (Kurdistan24) - Fourteen human rights organizations released a joint statement, expressing deep concern about the dire conditions of a Kurdish political prisoner.
Twenty-four-year-old Afshin Sohrabzadeh, a Kurd serving a 25-year sentence forMoharebeh (enmity against God) in Iran, suffers a life-threatening gastrointestinal condition, exacerbated by prolonged lack of adequate treatment.
Sohrabzadeh went on hunger strike in protest to the lack of proper medical care on Monday, April 11, 2016. 
"The right to life is one the most basic rights of every human being. Iran’s Judiciary is causing serious physical harm and even death of prisoners during their imprisonment by ignoring their right of life," the statement said.
Iran is breaking its own laws by denying prisoners like Sohrabzadeh and Mohammad Sediq Kaboudvand proper medical care.
Prison authorities are legally required to protect the health of those in their custody but they have refused to cover the expenses.
Article 113 of Iran’s Prisons Organization Law, adopted on Wednesday, December 14, 2005, states: “Soon after the prisoner feels ill,  he or she should inform the prison authorities and should receive referral  to use the prison’s infirmary or a related healthcare facility to receive medical care and the necessary medication.”
Sohrabzadeh's family is too poor to afford the medical costs. 
Amnesty International (AI), a global human rights network based in the United Kingdom also called on Iran to provide medical care for this prisoner. 
Due to Sohrabzadeh's deteriorating health conditions, several requests have been filed with Persecution authorities to let the political prisoner serve his sentence in a province where he can receive medical attention. So far, the appeals have been rejected.
Sohrabzadeh was arrested in 2010 in Kamyaran, Kermanshah Province, and was denied the right to communicate with his family for several weeks.
Sohrabzadeh says he was tortured in that time which fractured his nose and caused a hernia in his abdomen. 
"In addition to his gastrointestinal illness, he is also believed to suffer from respiratory, renal and urinary tract health problems, which he says were caused by his torture, and have worsened due to conditions in prison," the AI statement added.
Taimoor Aliassi, the representative to UN of the Association for Human Rights in Kurdistan of Iran-Geneva (KMMK-G), told Kurdistan24 that Iran currently has 1152 political prisoners, 467 of them belong to the Kurdish minority. Out of 93 prisoners sentenced for Moharebeh (enmity against God), 63 of them are Kurds.  
“Moreover, 95 percent of secret executions in Iran are taking place in ethnic territories," Aliassi concluded. 

Reporting by Ava Homa
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Why Kurdish prisoners are double oppressed in Iran?

Kaboudvand, chronically ill Kurdish prisoner on hunger strike
Mohammad Sediq Kaboudvand has been imprisoned in Iran for nine years now. He was the editor of the banned weekly Payam-e mardom-e Kurdistan and the chair of the Tehran-based Kurdistan Human Rights Organization (RMMK).
LOS ANGELES, United States (Kurdistan 24) – Mohammad Sediq Kaboudvand, serving an 11-year-imprisonment in Iran, has been on hunger strike for 10 days, suffering aggravated health conditions.
Kaboudvand, born in Diwandara (Divandareh), Kurdistan Province, in the northwest of Iran, was the editor of the banned weekly Payam-e mardom-e Kurdistan and the chair of the Tehran-based Kurdistan Human Rights Organization (RMMK).
When he co-founded the Kurdistan Human Rights Organization, along with other activists, Kaboudvand documented and publicized widespread human rights abuses in the Kurdish areas committed by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
He was incarcerated in 2007 for his activities and has suffered several health problems in prison that are now aggravated because he stopped eating as of Sunday, May 8.
The hunger strike is in protest to the new accusations brought up against him almost a year before his scheduled release.

Speaking to Kurdistan24 on the phone, Parinaz Hosseini, Kaboudvand's wife confirmed the news and she informed that he has lost significant weight, and his kidney infection and digestive problems have worsened.
Regarding the new allegations she explained that Kaboudvand has recently been interrogated three times.
“First, he was interrogated for having sent a message in support of Kobani and asking Turkey to resume peace with Kurds,” Hosseini said.
“The second time for 'propaganda against the state,' and the third time for writing his dissertation on the violation of the prisoners' rights in Iran,” she said. “The third accusation comes at a time when his dissertation has not been completed yet, and his writing has focused on Turkey and minorities.”
She called on human rights organizations to stand up for justice and not to allow “an innocent man to yet again suffer for crimes he has not committed.”

UN recently condemned Iran for denying prisoners medical attention.
Several Kurdish prisoners such as Afshin Sohrabzade, Mohammad Sediq Kaboudvand and Zeinab Jallalian suffer chronic illnesses.
Azad Moradian, an LA-based activist told Kurdistan24 that Kaboudvand reportedly has suffered from "heart disease, several heart attacks, and a prostate disorder. His condition worsened to the point that in April 2008 he suffered an acute stroke and was taken to a specialist for treatment."
At that time doctors announced that the prisoner needs immediate and specialized care, including heart and prostate surgery.
"Despite the professional advice given to authorities of the Islamic Republic on this issue, and the outcry and condemnation of his treatment from around the world, the authorities have thus far denied Mr. Kaboudvand medical care," Moradian added.

Kurds make up 10 percent of the 70 million population of Iran but they are a majority among political prisoners and receive some of the harshest treatments in prison.  
Saman Rasoulpour, a Sweden-based Kurdish journalist and analyst told Kurdistan24, “The pressure on Kaboudvand has been extreme even though his only 'crime' has been working on human rights in Kurdistan. He is a symbol, representing Kurdistan's civil movements. That's why Iran continuously increases pressure on him.”
In the past nine years, Kaboudvand received furlough only once even though it is one of the prisoners’ rights, according to Iranian laws.
Rasoulpour continued, “His [Kaboudvand's] case ceased to be a legal case years ago and has turned into a revenge story of Iranian government against any Kurdish movements towards equality and justice.”
He told Kurdistan24 that the new charges brought against Kaboudvand were part of the game Iran is playing to claim that it will respond to calls for the release of political prisoners by further oppressing them.
“But the reality is that anytime there is focused national and international pressure on Iran for a specific case, the government gives in and reduces pressure on that specific case,” Rasoulpour added.
Rahman Javanmardi, a Netherlands-based Kurdish journalist also said, “Kaboudvand was one of the first people who actively worked on human rights violations in Kurdistan. A region Iran is terrified by."
He added that, "Kurdish political prisoners such as Kaboudvand and Adnan Hassanpour never receive pardon although many non-Kurdish Iranian political prisoners have been released after serving a portion of their sentence.” 

John Kirby, the spokesperson for the State Department, highlighted Mohammad Sedigh Kaboudvand's case for World Press Freedom Day in April.
“He [Kaboudvand] reported on torture in Iranian prisons, women’s rights issues, and cases of human rights abuses against Iran’s ethnic minorities,” Kirby said and called Iran to release Kaboudvand and other prisoners who have been detained “simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression.”
Because of his journalistic activities, Kaboudvand was named the international journalist of the year at the British Press Award in 2009. He has also received international recognition from organizations around the world for his commitment to human rights.
PEN International, a worldwide association for literature and freedom of speech, adopted Kaboudvand as one of their select writers in prisons.
The British Press Award also named him “international journalist of the year” in 2009. Amnesty International has designated Kaboudvand as a “prisoner of conscience, held solely for his human rights work and the peaceful expression of his views.”
Amnesty International, and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and its affiliate, the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LDDHI) have repeatedly called upon Iranian authorities to release Kaboudvand.

The following coalition is currently working on Kaboudvand's case: Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan (HROK), Kurdish American Committee for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran (KAC4DHRI), Kurdocide Watch Chak (Eastern Kurdistan), Kurdish Women’s Rights Organization and Kurdish Human Rights Association. They are in contact with Kaboudvand's family and the international human rights organizations, US politician, and the United Nations.

Reporting by Ava Homa
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Heavy metal in Kurdistan does not always mean tank and artillary

Dark Phantom releases new album
Band Members: Murad guitarist, Rebeen guitarist, Mir vocalist, Sermet bass guitarist, Mahmmod drummer. (Photo: Dark Phantom)
Nation of Dogs is the title of the new album released by Dark Phantom, the multi-ethnic heavy metal band in Iraq.
Based in the heavily contested, oil-rich city of Kirkuk, Dark Phantom emerged in a hazardous climate; amid the reign of extremism and among the destruction of war, the heavy metal band rose in 2007.
Nation of Dogs includes 10 songs and is an album of protest to instability, war, destruction, and corruption in Iraq.
The album falls under the Thrash Death Metal genre, which employs techniques such as faster tempos, heavily distorted and low-tuned guitars, and features aggressive and powerful drumming.
The multi-ethnic band, consisting of two Turkmens, two Kurds, and one Arab, has survived not only lack of support and appreciation from some in their communities but has also braved various death threats from Islamists who equate ‘metal’ with Satan worship.
“They call us Satanists but music is life itself. And when you hear the sound of explosions and gunshots and the constant news of killings, heavy metal is the kind of music that comes to [our] minds, not hip-hop or love songs,” Murad Jaymz, the founder and guitarist, told Kurdistan24 in a phone interview.
“We are like brothers, and we speak to each other in all three languages all the time, Kurdish, Arabic and Turkmen,” Jaymz said.
“We like to show the realities of life in Iraq. We suffer, and war has destroyed our lives, but we rise above the war with our music,” he added.
Only two years after the most credible and serious death threats, the band held three successful concerts in the liberal Kurdistan Region city of Sulaimani “which was a great recovery,” the Dark Phantom founder wrote.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany

Monday, May 9, 2016

In Memory of Executed Kurdish Activists

Kurds commeorate executed Kurdish prisoners
Farzad Kamangar's mother holding her son's photo. He was executed along with Ali Heydarian, Farhad Vakili, Shirin Alam-Holi, and Mehdi Eslamian on Sunday, May 9, 2010, at Evin prison in Tehran, Iran.
LOS ANGELES, United States (Kurdistan24) – Today marks the sixth anniversary of the execution of four Kurdish activists who are still remembered by the Kurdish population every year.
Four Kurds, Farzad Kamangar, Ali Heydarian, Farhad Vakili, Shirin Alam-Holi, along with Mehdi Eslamian, were hanged on Sunday, May 9, 2010, at Evin prison in Tehran, Iran.
The body of none of the Kurds have been returned to their families. Instead, the families gather around a ceremonial graveyard every year.
Alam-Holi was a politically active rural woman sentenced to death in a language she could not speak. Born into a poor family in a Kurdish village, she never went to school and therefore never learned Farsi, the language of her prison guards and judge.
 In prison, she was beaten, including on the soles of her feet, and kicked in the stomach, causing internal bleeding, according to Amnesty International. When she went on a hunger strike, she was force-fed through nasal tubes, which she ripped out in protest, damaging her nose.
 “You interrogated me, tried me, and sentenced me in your own language, even though I couldn’t understand it and couldn’t defend myself,” she wrote from prison before she was hanged for “enmity against God.”
 Farzad Kamangar, who has touched numerous lives through the letters he sent out from prison, was a 32-year-old Iranian Kurdish teacher, poet, journalist and human rights activist from the city of Kamyaran, in Iranian Kurdistan (Rojhalat). He was sentenced to death for Moharebeh,  enmity against God.
Kamangar was repeatedly tortured, beaten and flogged. Despite his injuries, he went on strike to protest the execution of another Kurdish activist, Ehsan Fatahian, in November 2009. 
 According to Arash Alaei, his cellmate, Kamangar was electrocuted to the point where if you pat his back, he jumps in uncontrollable reaction. Yet, he had hope that he would be free and had started learning English, asking Alaei to help him.
 “I will eventually get out of here. The butterfly that flew away in the night told me my fortune,” Kamangar wrote in prison, shortly before the Iranian government made the decision to place a noose around his neck.
It was on Mother’s Day that Kamangar’s mother heard through the media that her son, who had been told he would be released, was killed.
She stopped celebrating Mother’s Day six years ago.
“He had such a tender soul. He loved his students to pieces. Spring was his favorite season. He was born in Spring,” his mother says in a video posted on YouTube. But tears stop her from continuing and revealing that he was executed in his favorite season.
Kamangar was tremendously popular, cherished by Kurds and non-Kurds, young and old, men and women. The love others had for him was, ironically, what convinced the authorities to execute him despite his obvious innocence. Popularity terrorizes dictators, who are nourished by hostility and antipathy in their nation.
 How did Kamangar move so many people?
He could not stop his torturers from breaking his chin and teeth, but he was able to maintain the life within him through imagination and literature. “I won’t let them kill me inside,” was his goal—and he fulfilled it.
In one of his letters, he describes being transported to Sanandaj Prison, Kurdistan Province. He paints a vivid picture of the city in the autumn through his view—not only from the window of the plane, but through the window of his imagination.
He writes little about his anguish, but instead about his moments of falling in love while listening to the music of legendary singer Abbas Kamandy and of hiking the Awyar Mountain. He is distracted from these memories only when the bitterness of the blood he accidentally swallows threatens to suffocate him.
The prison guard who anxiously checks that Kamangar has survived a severe beating does not know, cannot know, that Kamangar, in his mind, is dancing at his wedding, waving his chopi—his handkerchief—in the air and shouting, “Cheers! Cheers to all the prisoners’ mothers who are awaiting reunion with their children. Cheers to all the men and women who lost their lives for their ideals.”
 That is what has made Kamangar a legend. He is one of the few people on the planet—like Nelson Mandela, like Leila Zana—who was not broken under torture.
Kamangar was devoted to improving the life of village children. He was charged with terrorism for teaching young Kurdish children their banned mother tongue. He was all too familiar with suffering, both directly in his life and indirectly through others’ experiences.
He knew the pain of Kurds, the pain of ethnocide and linguicide. He was familiar with the widespread poverty in Kurdistan resulting from the politicization of the region, with the abuse and violence suffered by women because of the government’s gender policies. For Kamangar, the hurt wasn’t just the physical torture he endured—it was the pain of his nation.
His voice, his imagination, his words, his ability to touch the agony of others made him an icon representing all political prisoners who have been executed at the hands of the Iranian government.
He continues to live in the hearts of all those who remember him every year. His voice continues to be heard not only through his writing but also in the poems and stories he has inspired, including poems written by Ata Jamali.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Education deprivation in Iran and its aftermath

Education deprivation in Iran and its aftermath
Kurdish kid (Photo: Flicker-Mustafa Khayat)
LOS ANGELES, United States (Kurdistan24) – More than 1,285 high school students in Kurdistan province of Iran have dropped out of school, according to Rashid Ghorbani, the chairperson of the Education Department.
Currently, in Iranian Kurdistan (Rojhalat), 225,000 people are illiterate, 60,000 of whom are between the ages of 10-49.
Last year, 53 children between the ages of 6 and 11, in the city of Poldasht, West Azerbaijan Province, could not attend school due to poverty. Poldasht has a population of 18,000 and is located in the northwest of Iran, near the Turkish border.
Additionally, 268 students in their first and second year of high school also dropped out of school, according to Fars, the state-run Iranian news agency.
Overall, 1,500 students in the West Azerbaijan province, which is home to Kurdish and Turkish ethnic minorities, have been unable to continue their education, according to Iranian officials. The alarming statistics caused Mojtaba Talebi, the chairperson of West Azerbaijan Province Education, to warn about the increasing rate of illiteracy in the region.
However, activists say the real number of education-deprived children is much greater than what the Iranian officials admit. For example, they claim that at least 160 homeless children who live in Sina (Sanandaj), the capital city of the Kurdistan Province, are not included in the national statistics.
The systematic oppression of the ethnic minorities in Iran, through linguistic exclusion and financial discrimination can lead to fatal consequences in the poverty-ridden regions.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Constitution, the States parties believe “in full and equal opportunities of education for all, in the unrestricted pursuit of objective truth and in the free exchange of ideas and knowledge.”
Iranian laws also dictate that elementary and high school education should be free and available to everyone.
Although some schools do not charge tuition, families have to provide for their children’s textbooks, stationeries, and school attire and pay for transportation costs. Many parents in far-flung villages are not able to cover these expenses.
In addition to poverty, gender inequality is the reason many female high school students are denied the right to education.
“The woeful human rights situation of Kurdistan is a grave risk for Kurds. Deprivation of education is an obvious violation of civil rights,” Kaveh Taheri, human rights activist and journalist told Kurdistan24.
“Kurds are treated as second-class citizens, although Hassan Rouhani said in his presidential campaign that we have no second-class citizens in Iran,” Taheri added.
Although Iran is rich with resources, regions that home ethnic groups flounder.
Provinces such as Ilam, Baluchestan, Khuzestan, Lorestan and Kurdistan, located near the borders of Iran—home to non-Persian ethnic groups—are underdeveloped. For the children in these marginalized regions, the first grade of elementary school is often a traumatic experience, since they have to learn literacy along with a new language.

The one state, one language policy in Iran relentlessly impacts the vulnerable population.
By recognizing only one official language, Iran annihilates linguistic diversity. Experts say doing so damages the overall well-being, cognitive development, and self-confidence of the non-Persian students and guarantees unequal access to education.
Approximately 50 percent of grade one students in Iran have to learn how to read and write in a language that is not their mother tongue. Statistics suggest that these students are more likely to drop out of school.
Most students who are not attending school work odd jobs to provide for their families.

The international sanctions, corruption, and mismanagement of resources have crippled the economy in Iran. The high rates of unemployment have affected Iran in general, and Kurds and Baluch ethnic minorities in particular.
Many education-deprived students find no other means to earn a livelihood but to risk their lives and work as Kulbar. They climb impassable passages for long hours, and sometimes days while carrying goods such as tobacco and tea to make as little as $10 a day.
According to human rights organizations, in 2015, Iranian government forces killed and wounded numerous Kulbars. Many died of hypothermia and other diseases due to the extreme difficulties of their jobs, Kurdistan Human Rights Network reports.
Taimoor Aliassi, the representative to UN of the Association for Human Rights in Kurdistan of Iran-Geneva (KMMK-G), told Kurdistan24, “Despite the current administration pledges to change the government security approach towards the Iranian Kurdistan, the number of indiscriminate killings of Kurdish citizens by the security forces is dramatically rising.”
“Last year, the KMMK-G received reports of 64 cases of government security forces shooting Kurdish Kulbar,” Aliassi said.
“According to the information received, at least 36 border couriers were killed, and 29 others wounded by the government border security forces without respecting even the Iranian domestic law, authorizing the use of lethal force only as a last resort,” he added.
Education deprivation not only reproduces the vicious cycle of poverty, it can have fatal consequences in the ostracized regions such as Kurdistan where unemployed youth find only dangerous occupations to earn a living.
With education deprivation and unemployment comes the train of poverty, subjugation, powerlessness and voicelessness, a vicious circle that reproduces itself, swallows its victims and spits them out.  

Reporting by Ava Homa
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany