Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kurdish Prisoner Ghader Mohammadzadeh Transferred to Solitary Confinement

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A Kurdish prisoner in Iran who is currently serving a 20-year sentence was reportedly transferred to solitary confinement without a clear reason.

Ghader Mohammadzadeh was accused of muharibih, or “enmity against God,” for allegedly belonging to a Kurdish political party (Komalah). Activists say Mohammadzadeh’s attorney was not given access to the client’s file and was not present when the prisoner received his verdict.
When he appealed to his sentence of 32 year imprisonment, he was sentenced to execution, in response.
“It is not clear if the defendant has any further right of appeal over such a conviction and sentence, despite the requirement… that ‘everyone convicted of a crime shall have the right to his conviction and sentence being reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law.’ It would appear that a defendant in such a circumstance could request an extraordinary review of his or her case, but the Head of the Judiciary can refuse such a request and there is nothing to prevent an execution going ahead in such circumstances once the death warrant has been signed by the Head of the Judiciary,” Amnesty reported.
Ehsan Fatahian, Kurdish-Iranian activist, was treated the same way. When he appealed to his original sentence of 10 years in prison, he was sentenced to death and was executed in 2009 at the age of 28.
When international media covered this current case, Mohammadzadeh was placed under ongoing psychological pressure, threats and interrogation. In the end, the Intelligence Office of Orumiyeh accused the prisoners of allegedly being in connection with the Western media, reported Iran Human Rights Documentation (IHRD) in March 2010.
Mohammadzadeh’s death penalty was later reduced to twenty years imprisonment. He was arrested in 2005 in his home village of Mirvaband, near the city of Bukan in the west of Khuzestan province.
Mohammad Amin Abdollahi was also arrested at the same time with Mohammadzadeh and on the same charges. Both cases received international attention which saved them from execution but added to their time in prison. The two spent over a year in legal limbo until in winter 2006, when they were charged with “enmity against God.” 

This is an ongoing trend of Kurdish-Iranian men thrown into Iranian prisons for their Kurdish affiliation. Other Kurdish political prisoners are living under dire conditions in Iranian prisons including Muhammad Sediq Kaboudvand, a Kurdish journalist who was convicted in 2007 of breaking numerous laws including “acting against national security” and “widespread propagation against the system.” He is serving an 11-year sentence. Those that have perished include Farzad Kamangar, 32, Ehsan Fattahian, 28, and Fasih Yasmani, 28, who were among those hanged for “enmity against God.”

This article was originally published in

Turkey: What Is the Kurdish Question?

An insightful, thought-provoking article published on Kurdistan Tribune:

By Dr. Amy L. Beam:
What is the Kurdish Question?  From Istanbul to Ankara, one is likely to hear the resentful, bitter lament “What do Kurds want?  They have all the same rights as we do.”  There remains a deep chasm of animosity between they andwe.  After ninety years of Kurdish persecution and thirty years of armed conflict, only one who has been hypnotized by mainstream media can fail to know what Kurds want.
They want the Turkish government to stop killing them and to recognize their Kurdish identity and language.  They want peace and democracy.  They want the military occupation of their towns and cities to be withdrawn.  Every news story about the Kurdish Question includes the boiler plate statement that over 40,000 people have died in Turkey’s internal conflict since 1984, but conveniently omits the fact that most of them have been innocent Kurds killed by their own government.
Thus, the uninformed reader might erroneously infer that it has been mostly Kurdish guerillas killing Turkish soldiers.   The notion is planted, unchallenged by international mainstream media, that all Kurds are terrorists and those dropping the bombs and destroying peaceful, law-abiding communities are merely providing security.   It is not uncommon in western Turkey and among police posted to eastern Turkey to hear the sentiment that “every Kurd is a terrorist.”

The Process of Turkification

The modern Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923.  Its first leader, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, is revered by Turks for creating a secular state.  It is with some irony that Turkey’s founder has taken on myth-like proportions after the policy of religious assimilation transformed the population to 97.8 percent Muslim.  Assimilation’s aim is to create one cookie-cutter citizen proud to recite the national pledge “How happy is he who says I’m a Turk”.
The process of Turkification was implemented through the Ottoman Turk’s practice of village evacuations and destruction.  During the final years of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, over one million Christian Armenians were displaced (1915-1917) and their properties appropriated by the State.  This was the Armenian Denial.  According to The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, denial is the eighth and final step in the process of genocide.
From 1917 to 1923, 1.2 million Christian Greeks were sent to Greece in what was  euphemistically named, after the fact, Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations [1].  While Greece remembers it more accurately asThe Asia Minor Catastrophe [2] that it was.  Six hundred thousand Greeks never arrived.  They were massacred or marched to the interior [3] where they died of starvation.

Kurdish Displacement and Assimilation 1920s and 1930s

After this process of religious Turkification, the Republic of Turkey was created in 1923, and the Turkish government began its assimilation campaign against the 20 million Kurds in eastern Turkey.  The north Kurdistan region was renamed Anatolia.  “Kurdistan” was stricken from the Turkish vocabulary.
The Kurdish names of families, rivers, mountains, cities, and villages were changed to Turkish names beginning in 1934 [4]. Dersim became Tunceli.  Amed becameDiyarbakir.  As early as 1924, the Kurdish language was officially outlawed. Later the letters q, w, and x were outlawed.  Thus, Wan became Van.  Kurds have persisted in calling their villages by their Kurdish names, despite government signs bearing the Turkish names.
Bilican, Turkish name for Ağori on north side of Mt. Ararat
Bilican, Turkish name for Ağori on north side of Mt. Ararat
Ortasu, Turkish name for Roboski in Uludere, Sirnak
Ortasu, Turkish name for Roboski in Uludere, Sirnak
The practice of village evacuations was codified in the 1934 Turkish Resettlement Law[5] (law no. 2510) in defiance of international law.  This gave legal sanction to a longhistory of massacres from Ararat [6]. (1930), Zilan [7] (1930), and Dersim [8] (1937-38) up to more recent massacres including Bilge [9] (2009) and Roboski [10] (2011).  The list is too long to name here.

Scorched Earth Policy and Village Guards 1980s and 1990s

In the 1980s and 1990s the Turkish military and Gendarmerie carried out a scorched earth policy against the Kurds.  Turkey’s persecution of Kurds reached a peak between 1991-94 when over 2260 villages [11] were evacuated, resulting in the death or displacement of over one million Kurds.  The number of evacuated villages is now estimated between 3,000 and 4,000.
In 1985 the Village Guard system was created.  It armed local Kurds as paramilitary units to fight the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) or be forced from their village.  The first invitation would be presented in person by military forces.  If it were not accepted, within days planes bombed and killed their sheep, cows, and horses as a warning to what might happen to them.  Most “chose” to leave “voluntarily” rather than risk death.  After the villages were forcibly evacuated [12],they were burned and bombed to prevent villagers from returning.  The government spun its campaign of terror with the cover story that Turkey had to deny shelter for the PKK guerillas.
Hilal, Uludere, burned in 1994, displacing 5600 residents. 3000 went to Iraq. Others went to Mersin and Mardin.
Hilal, Uludere, burned in 1994, displacing 5600 residents.
K 04 20131022_oldhilal_hs (2)
3000 residents went to Iraq. Others went to Mersin and Mardin.
According to a 1995 Human Rights Watch report [13]:
“Evacuations were unlawful and violent. Security forces would surround a village using helicopters, armored vehicles, troops, and village guards, and burn stored produce, agricultural equipment, crops, orchards, forests, and livestock. They set fire to houses, often giving the inhabitants no opportunity to retrieve their possessions. During the course of such operations, security forces frequently abused and humiliated villagers, stole their property and cash, and ill-treated or tortured them before herding them onto the roads and away from their former homes.”
Only the poor with nowhere to go joined the Village Guard.  But there were thousands of poor Kurds enticed by a monthly government paycheck, so the Village Guard swelled to over 70,000 people.
The Turkish government carried out its scorched earth policy against the Kurds by the book.  What book was that?  Turkish practices bear a 100% correlation to the Army manual on counter-insurgency used by its close ally and military advisor, the United States.  U.S. Army Field Manual FM 31-20-3 [14], Foreign Internal Defense Tactics Techniques and Procedures for Special Forces, sets out the methods by which the U.S. sowed dissent in Latin America  in the 1970s and 1980s to overthrow elected democracies in countries such as Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala.  We owe gratitude to Wikileaks for making this public.
The manual on counter-insurgency techniques explains how to establish Civilian Self-Defense Forces (CSDF).  Especially in El-Salvador and Colombia these were known as “death squads”.  It states:
“When a village accepts the CSDF program, the insurgents cannot choose to ignore it. To let the village go unpunished will encourage other villages to accept the government’s CSDF program. The insurgents have no choice; they have to attack the CSDF village to provide a lesson to other villages considering CSDF. In a sense, the psychological effectiveness of the CSDF concept starts by reversing the insurgent strategy of making the government the repressor. It forces the insurgents to cross a critical threshold-that of attacking and killing the very class of people they are supposed to be liberating.”
As implemented in Turkey with the village guard system [15], this means Kurds were forced to take up arms against other Kurds or have their village destroyed, risk death, and face possible charges of aiding a terrorist organization.   The Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) which had only taken up arms in 1984, inflicted retribution against villagers who had joined Turkey’s village guard.   This was easily predicted behavior as described in the US counter-insurgency manual.  The goal of sewing internal discord among Kurds worked as planned.
In a 2013 Guardian interview [16], a Kurdish woman in a mountain village stated, “Village guards first wounded and then burned my son alive, dragged his dead body behind a car and left it to the dogs.  I hate the village guards more than I hate Turkish soldiers, and if I could find those who did this, I would kill them myself.”
If it had not been for the village guard system, the 30-year conflict would not have been so prolonged and bloody.  According to the records of the Interior Ministry [17]  between 1985 and 1996, a total of 22 thousand village guards were relieved of their duties due to severe misconduct.  Between the years of 1985 and 2006 a total number of 5139 crimes were committed by village guards; only 264 village guards have ever been sentenced in court.
Ali Gokpinar, a Fulbright  scholar,  fictionalizes the history [18] of the village guard creation thus:  “This system could be established in any village based on a request from the village headman and approval from the regional governor.”  This is the sort of deceitful propaganda that gets published in western media with credentials such as “Fulbright scholar”.  One must wonder how many survivors of the 2260 destroyed Kurdish villages Mr. Gokpinar interviewed.

State Terrorism Backed by United States Military Arms Sales

The Turkish Gendarmerie Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism Organization (JITEM)[19], whose existence had been denied, is believed to have been responsible for several thousand extrajudicial killings and disappearances of Kurds during the 1980s and 1990s.  Most of these cases remain unsolved.  Many murders were falsely blamed on the PKK to successfully turn public opinion against the PKK and Kurds.
A typical example occurred in 2005, in Şemdinli [20] Hakkari, near the southeast border of Iraq, when two grenades killed a person in a bookstore.  The press immediately blamed it on the PKK, but bystanders captured three suspects who were said to have been members of JITEM.  They were convicted and sentenced to 39 years in prison.  After the conviction, all the judges and prosecutors associated with the case were transferred from Van to other cities.  Another alleged JITEM murder was when Yakup Kara, mayor of Hilal, was murdered [21] in 1991 for speaking out against the village guard system.
In 1995, the Human Rights Watch [22] interviewed a number of high-ranking American military officers.  When asked about Turkey’s human rights abuses, they all took the position, as stated by U.S. Colonel Edward Fitzgerald, “It was not my job to evaluate these problems.”
The Turkish government remains unrepentant for the suffering and financial ruin inflicted upon an entire ethnic population.   The U.S. stood staunchly behind Turkey’s policy of village destructions.  In 1995, the U.S. Clinton administration stated it supplied Turkey with 80 percent of its foreign military hardware[43] including grenade launchers, tanks, Black Hawk helicopters, and F-16 planes used to destroy villages.
Yet, the U.S. consistently refuses to link arms sales to improvements in Turkey’s human rights [44] record.   The U.S. is the world’s largest exporter of arms and Turkey is one of its top four customers.  The U.S. has exported 19 billion dollars inarms to Turkey [45] since Turkey’s armed conflict began in 1984. Sales peaked at 2 billion dollars in 1993 in spite of pleas from human rights groups to halt arms sales.  The level of U.S. arms exported to Turkey directly correlated with the level of military violence inflicted upon the Kurds.  It would take willful ignorance on the part of the U.S. Congress to blind itself to the fact that it was fueling the war on Kurds in Turkey.
Between one and three million Kurds were forced from their villages in the 1980s and 1990s, thus, solidifying support for the PKK by the general Kurdish population.  Every Kurdish family knows someone who has gone to the mountains to join the PKK.  Thus, in the eyes of the government, it is easy to accuse nearly any Kurd of “associating with a terrorist organization.”
In the last few decades the prisons have filled with thousands of students, activists, academicians, journalists, lawyers, and even children and musicians convicted of “aiding a terrorist organization,” “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization[23]”  or “inciting hatred and hostility.” Turkey continues with its mass show trials oflawyers [39], elected politicians [40], journalists [41] and generals [42].

What do Kurds want? 

Twenty million Kurds in Turkey want:
  • the right to return to their family land
  • damage awards for their destroyed villages
  • government investigation and prosecution of those responsible for extrajudicial murders
  • revision or abolishment of anti-terrorism laws
  • release of political prisoners accused under anti-terrorism laws
  • the release from prison of their leader, Abdullah Öcalan
  • removal of the PKK from the terrorist list so their sons and daughters can come home
  • to speak Kurdish in schools, courts, hospitals, and public offices
  • government employees . . . teachers, police, prosecutors, doctors, nurses, and civil servants . . . to be able to communicate with them in Kurdish when in Kurdish-speaking regions
  • equal opportunity and human rights in their own country . . . Turkey
  • a halt to building new military posts in the Kurdish-inhabited areas
Most Kurdish children under age six and women over 45 do not speak Turkish.  Imagine starting school as a small child and your teacher is speaking a foreign language.   Imagine the humiliation of a woman having to take her son along to visit a gynecologist and translate about her female problems.  Imagine going to court where the judge and prosecutor do not speak your language.

Things Are Getting ‘Better’ in 2000 – 2014

If one asks most Kurds today about the Kurdish political climate in Turkey, one will be surprised at the response.   “Things are getting better.  In the nineties they killed us.  Now they just lock us in prison,” says the conscientious objector known as Black Crow.  “The more they kill us, the stronger we become.”
The concept of resistance or uprising, known as Serhildan, has united the Kurds.   Resistance is a way of life.  Toddlers learn the imprisoned Kurdish leader’s name, Apo, at the same time they learn Baba (father).  When there is a grievous injustice against Kurds, businesses in every city in eastern Turkey are closed in a show of solidarity.  Millions of Kurds fill the streets in a sea of non-violent protest which western mainstream media ignores.
Only when police violently attacked demonstrators in Gezi Park [24] in Istanbul in 2013 did Turks get a dose of the state brutality that Kurds have been subjected to for decades.  International media came alive and covered Gezi demonstrations as if police brutality were something surprisingly new to Turkey.   Kurds silently thought, “Welcome to my world.”
Police target reporter in Istanbul with water canon
Police target reporter in Istanbul with water cannon
Diyarbakir funeral for slain Sakine Cansiz, Fidan Doğan, Leyla Söylemez
Diyarbakir funeral for slain Sakine Cansiz, Fidan Doğan, Leyla Söylemez
One must not refer to eastern Turkey as Kurdistan for fear of being accused of spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization, although Prime Minister Erdoğan insists Turkey has a free press.  May 13, 2014, Erdoğan criticized US-based watchdog Freedom House for downgrading Turkey’s status from “partly free” to “not free.” Freedom House said Turkey had seen the biggest decline in press freedom in Europe.  After Erdoğan and many of his government associates were exposed on Twitter and YouTube for allegedly participating in corruption, Erdoğan banned Twitter and YouTube in March 2014, and then criticized the courts for overturning his orders.

Peace Process Mostly Symbolic

Government progress in the Kurdish peace process has been mostly symbolic.   The AKP government now allows Kurdish to be taught in private schools.  As a result of pressure from the 2012 Kurdish prisoner hunger strike, the Kurdish language may now, theoretically, be used in court.  The government promises to provide Kurdish interpreters in hospitals.
In 2009, two historians, Ercan Öksüz and Oktay Candemir, were sentenced to prison for publishing an interview with a 94-year-old Dersim massacre survivor.  In 2011, PM Erdoğan apologized for the Dersim massacre of 1937-38 and opened the Dersim archives.
In November 2013, when Prime Minister Erdoğan met with KRG President Massoud Barzani in Diyarbakir, Erdoğan for the first time ever pronounced the word “Kurdistan.”  Prior to local elections in Diyarbakir, in March 2014, an AKP banner with Erdogan’s picture [25] had Kurdish words, where only a few years ago banners with Kurdish words would be torn down by police.
Prime Minister Erdoğan on Kurdish language poster
Prime Minister Erdoğan on Kurdish language poster
Diyarbakir city hall adds Kurdish name Amed
Diyarbakir city hall adds Kurdish name Amed
On January 24, The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) fined Turkey over 60,000 euros in the case of several politicians who were all tried and convicted by Turkish courts for speaking Kurdish during election rallies.  Kurdish may now be spoken during political rallies.
In March 2014, the bans were lifted on former Kurdish names for settlement places.  Diyarbakir city hall added Amed to its name.  On March 27, a Turkish court released 45 defendants, including journalists and political activists, accused of links to Kurdish militants.
In April the ECHR fined Turkey 1.1 million euros [26] for the disappearance of villagers under military custody in southeastern province of Şırnak in 1993.
In May a signboard [27] reading “How happy is he, who says I’m a Turk” was removed in Amed’s Kulp district by municipal workers.  Kurdish school children no longer have to recite this pledge.
New roads, hospitals, and universities are being built throughout eastern Turkey.  In Dogubayazit a water purification project funded by the European Union is near completion to provide safe drinking water.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Backward in 2014

On March 7, 2014, a Turkish soldier was killed [28] in Roboski when a grenade was thrown into a Turkish army convoy, thus ending the one-year cease fire.  This is in response to Turkish military on the border at Roboski.  In a statement by the People’s Defence Force (HPG), they accused the Turkish army of having broken the ceasefire by setting up military posts on the border.
The following day the house of Servet Encu [29] one of three survivors from the Roboski massacre in 2011, was attacked.  One hundred bullets were shot into his house while he and his family were inside.  The Gendarmerie refused to respond saying they could not investigate because it was dark.
According to the ‘Withdrawal and Resolution Process Monitoring Commission’ [30] established by the Human Rights Association (IHD), in the last year the decision has been taken to construct  341 new military posts and bases.  Eleven security dams are planned near the border and 820 kilometers of “security roads” have been built along the border.  Additionally, 2,000 new village guards have been recruited.
In every Kurdish town and city one cannot avoid feeling the sense of being in an occupied territory.  In Dogubyazit, a small town of 75,000 situated at the base of Mount Ararat, there are at least six different bases and stations between the Gendarmerie, local police, MIT, and secret police.  More than a dozen large military tanks with missile-launching turrets are parked at the edge of town.  Armored police tanks with turrets regularly drive through the city center causing resentment and unnecessary provocation.
Kurdish people do not want to live under military occupation.  On May 16, two soldiers were wounded [31] in clashes in Dersim when an armed group opened fire targeting the military base under construction in Kırmızıdağ area near the village of Sütlüce.
After the March 30, 2014, local mayoral elections which announced Kurdish BDPSirri Sakik [32] and Mukaddes Kubilay [47] as the winners in Agri, the AKP party demanded 14 recounts of votes.  At last, unable to show the AKP candidate had won, the government set a new election date for June 1.  There were accusations of electoral fraud in many Kurdish jurisdictions. The Turkish government is sending 12,000 police to Agri [46] for the elections to the tune of $1 million US dollars.
AKP party lost Agri mayoral election by 15 votes.
AKP party lost Agri mayoral election by 15 votes.
  Widespread reports of votes destroyed in Kurdish districts, March 30, 2014
Widespread reports of votes destroyed in Kurdish districts, March 30, 2014
The youngest mayor ever to be elected in Turkey, with 91% of the vote, was 25-year-old Rezan Zuğurli. After being elected BDP co-mayor of Lice on March 30, 2014, she gave a speech in Kurdish.  Like Leyla Zana [33] who served ten years in prison [34] after daring to speak one sentence of Kurdish when she took her oath in Parliament [35] in 1991,  Rezan Zuğurli [36] was sentenced on May 7, 2014, to 4 years and 2 months in prison for participating in three rallies in 2010 and 2011.  The court found her guilty on charges of committing crimes “on behalf of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party(PKK)” [37] although she is not a member of the PKK.
This punishment from the State in seeming retaliation for a Kurdish woman being elected mayor only exacerbates the conflict and cannot lead to peace.  When one Kurd is attacked, twenty million Kurds feel it personally and, thus, become more resolute in their determination to achieve their human rights.
Thousands of Kurds remain in prison, convicted under the anti-terrorism laws which have not been changed or rescinded.  Millions of Kurds have had no justice for the murders and disappearances of their loved ones.  They have received no damages for the destruction of their villages.  The persons who made the decision to bomb Kurdish villagers from Roboski and Gülyazı go unidentified and unpunished.  Lawyers for Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, imprisoned on Imrali Island, have been barred from meeting with him [38] since July 27, 2011.
The hour is very late for Prime Minister Erdogan’s AKP party to resurrect the defunct peace process and answer the Kurdish Question:  How much longer must Kurds wait?  Their cup of endurance is running over.
The Kurdish Question - how long must Kurds wait?
Dr. Amy L. Beam is a retired I.T. software developer who first visited Turkey in 2007 and fell in love with the wide-open rugged beauty of Kurdistan and Kurdish hospitality.  She promotes tourism to Mount Ararat and eastern Turkey.  Beam writes on free speech and human rights, focusing on the Kurdish peace and democracy movement.  Contact her Follow her on Twitter @amybeam.  Older blogs on the Kurdish question are at .
Amy L. Beam, Hilal Lake, Uludere, Sirnak, SE Turkey
Amy L. Beam, Hilal Lake, Uludere, Sirnak, SE Turkey


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Kurdish Singer Advocates for Women

“Mothers can change the whole world,” she said. “From the first lullaby they sing for their sons, to the way they treat their daughter-in-laws, they send the message of ‘respecting women.’ Photo courtesy of Rojan
“Mothers can change the whole world,” she said. “From the first lullaby they sing for their sons, to the way they treat their daughter-in-laws, they send the message of ‘respecting women.’ Photo courtesy of Rojan
TORONTO, Canada—As a sheltered young singer from a liberal, culturally rich family, Rojan had little exposure to the hardships many women and girls were facing in Iran. Now, as a Kurdish diva who tours with renowned Kurdish singers, Rojan is able to advocate for women’s rights and serve as a role model for her female fans.  
Born into an artistically elite family in Sanandaj, Rojan was encouraged and supported by her father throughout her career as a singer. She started singing in elementary school in Sanandaj, the capital of Kurdistan province and the center of Kurdish culture. In high school her family moved to Kermansha in northwestern Iran, where Rojan rose to stardom and her music was broadcast on radio and TV. 
Her father, who was well respected in the community and a major supporter of art, would patiently accompany her daughter to the recording studios. He would wait for hours on end to protect her daughter’s reputation and honor from the judgments of a patriarchal society that looked down on female artists.
From what she witnessed with the women in her family — including her mother, siblings and aunts — Rojan assumed respect for women was prevailed in the society as well. It was only years later, when she got involved in women’s issues, that Rojan came face-to-face with abused women.
“It was also when I went to Erbil, Kurdistan, for a concert and connected with women’s organization that I realized how, despite the apparent freedom Kurdish women have — (not having to wear) veil, wearing colourful dresses, dancing and fighting (as Peshmerga) along with men — violence against women was widespread,” Rojan told Rudaw in a phone interview. 
When the Islamists took over in 1979 in Iran, women’s voice were banned. Rojan went to Italy with her husband and studied fashion design.  When she went back to Iran years later, women who had been suffering in silence shared their stories with Rojan.
“In a country where women are officially perceived as only objects, and not humans, all kinds of abuse are common. Many of the women were sexually, verbally and emotionally abused — even those in wealthy families,” she said. 
“Because they don’t have the right to custody and to divorce, they had to stay with unfaithful husbands. Because they were too afraid of losing their honour, they would remain silent about sexual harassments by family members and strangers. For many of these women sex meant satisfying a man and producing a child, nothing else.”
Years later, when Rojan immigrated to the United States with her husband, son and daughter, she once again pursued her passion for music. Her first album, recorded underground in Iran and containing Kurdish and Farsi songs, was an immediate hit.  
Rojan is a Kurdish folk singer who draws inspiration from Sufi music. Although she strongly identifies as Kurdish, performing in traditional dress and with Kurdish singers, she is sometimes criticized for singing in Farsi. 
“Having access to more languages means being able to offer richer works of art,” she said. “I can’t ignore the touching, classic poetry of Hafez and Rumi when they can help my art and can even bridge a gap between estranged cultures.”  
Rojan, who is now based in California, said despite the critique, the Iranian and Kurdish communities support her and she is always ready to give back. She is active in charity work and fundraising, and sends money to support Kurdish women who need medical attention. When women and girls in Kurdistan are in trouble, they know whom to contact.
“The last two were women who had lost their faces to self-immolation and needed plastic surgery,” she said. “When a Kurdish girl lost her sight as a reaction to penicillin, I talked to many doctors in America and followed (up on) her case. We started a social media campaign and attracted enough attention, putting Iran under pressure to accept the responsibility. Two days ago, I was informed that she fortunately got her sight back.”
In addition to offering financial and legal advice to women through her son, who is a lawyer, Rojan makes the time to listen to her fans. Despite juggling motherhood, family, recordings and rehearsals — plus a busy American lifestyle — Rojan is a maternal figure for people around her, including young fans who seek advice about their most important life decisions. 
“Mothers can change the whole world,” she said. “From the first lullaby they sing for their sons, to the way they treat their daughter-in-laws, they send the message of ‘respecting women.’ A mother who forgives the killer of her child to break the chain of revenge is a real hero who has a lot to say to the world.” 
Despite her success, Rojan has limited financial support for her music and releases single tracks instead of albums. One of her goals is to create an anti-war themed album of women singers from different ethnic backgrounds.
The theme of motherhood is apparent in her latest release. The Myth of Eve is an anti-war music video focused on mothers suffering in the in Iraq, Syria and Palestine conflicts.   
According to Islamic myth, Eve had two sons, Habil and Qabil — one good and one bad. When the bad one killed the good one, “it was Eve who suffered more than anyone else,” Rojan said. “Mothers suffer the most.”

This article originally appeared in

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Petition on White House for Kurdistan's Independance

An american friend of the Kurds has posted a petition on website. it is a paragraph long and asks for our freedom. If 100000 Kurds and their friends sign it, the president has promised to respond to it!

"For over a century, the Kurdish people have been repeatedly tortured, gassed, and brutally repressed in every country they live in. Denied an independent state of their own, the Kurds have suffered innumerable injustices at the hands of the people ruling them, including but not limited to a horrific genocide at the hands of Saddam Hussein in the late 80s. Recently, the President of Iraqi Kurdistan, Masoud Barzani, announced his support for an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq. The Kurds, already given self-autonomy in part of Iraq, have proven themselves more than able to run a country and are currently fighting against the malicious terrorist group, ISIL. As such, the Obama Administration should support Kurdish Independence for the betterment of the region and the world."

Here is the link

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Forbid Gas and Harvest Oil

An old narrative tells the tale of a tyrant who’d live on taxes from the poor farmers’ hard work and expected people not to protest to this injustice, just to shut up and just pay for his luxurious life. As common in old folktales, the King had a smart and sneaky Wazir who had a precious advised for the King. “Forbid farting in public, Your Majesty!” the Wezir said.

The king didn’t grasp the advice but trusted the sly analyst.  The law was passed and soon soldiers marched at the city to punish the culprits.

Some bravely called the law absurd, broke it and were jailed for it, tortured and executed. Others studied ways to deprive themselves of any kind of food that may create gas in their bowels.

Yet a larger group, mainly the youth, got together to find ways to outsmart the ban, to discover and share techniques that would allow them secretly let their body air out in public without being penalized for it.

These citizens found a way and they were successful! But, so was the King. In fact, he was the real winner because that was exactly what he wanted.

People got so busy with updating their strategies to fight the ban, they forgot the real problem: the heavy taxes they still had to pay. The King and the court continued living happily but to ensure the durability of their trick, they were sometimes strict, sometimes easy with the rules and created many sub-rules. The law remained the hot topic of the day for decades.

If you think this is a story that can only happen in old days, you are mistaken.

In Iran, people suffer from unstable economy and inflation in a country that is rich with oil. But, what some are terribly busy with is to dress fashionably within the red lines of the Islamic dress code, to find means to access the heavily filtered worldwide web and go on facebook, to flirt and flaunt in spite of the slum in which they are stuck.

A group of Parliament Members have recently proposed a bill to promote “Amre-be-Maroof,” ordering people to be virtuous. Remember, it is not asking, encouraging, persuading; it’s ordering.

If your outfit, your hair, even your eyebrow does not match the detailed descriptions of Iran’s dress code, you will be harassed, bullied and arrested.

But the self-righteous group who bosses citizens to come to the “serat-mostaghim,” the right path, isn’t the police or the army. It is done by the unofficial militia of Iran, the Basij.

The Basij is everywhere: streets, mosques, schools, universities, offices, hospitals, shopping malls, mountain tops. Basiji is unpaid or underpaid and is hated by middle and upper class Iranians.

But they have the power to harass people, to raid parties and social-political gatherings, to take bribes, confiscate the alcohol and CDs to sell later for profit.

Some are brain-washed, coming from families who fought for their country in the Iran-Iraq war, lost limbs, and still believe the Iranian government is holy.

Many are just opportunists.

But that’s not the whole story.  It takes more than that to make the sort of Basiji who can beat unarmed people without a second thought.
They are the most unwanted people in their society, bullied because of their class, looks, background.

The Basij recruits the humiliated people, gives them an outlet for their anger and frustration, grants them the power to police and beat up other citizens. They feel special, powerful and, most importantly, free to use violence. 

Basij is told constantly that they are loved by their religious leaders: Imams and mullahs and such.

Salvation! How convenient!

 Humanity has searched for eternal happiness for as long as it has existed. If finding salvation equals being armed, powerful and brutal, many volunteer to become a Basiji.

So while some of the humiliated crowd of a hierarchal and unjust system find a way to revenge and to own a property in heaven for their good deeds, the authority enjoys luxurious lives paid by oil money while citizens are busy finding ways to dress the way they want, to secretly dance and binge drink, to date underground, to sing “Happy” by Pharrell Williams and get arrested for it.

We all know who the real winner is.

The article originally appeared in