Thursday, January 28, 2016

Kurdish activist wins Australian award

A Kurdish woman received the Woman Hold Up Half The Sky prize during the 2016 Australia Day celebrations.
Award-winner Tara Fatehi, 25, is a medical science student, and co-founder of the Adelaide Kurdish Youth Society. She is a passionate advocate for women and the youth.
A delighted Fatehi accepted the award on Tuesday “on behalf of all Kurdish women, and dedicated it to [all] Kurdish women fighters.”
For Fatehi, the mere act of identifying as a member of a stateless nation is a political stance. “As a Kurd, most of the time simply existing in this world is resistance,” she told K24 in an email interview.
Fatehi added that she strongly identifies with Kurdish women and their long history of sacrifice.
“I come from a nation of lionesses, women who have fought generations of hostility towards their gender and their ethnicity,” she said. “That plays in all my work. I am only a daughter and sister of female warriors.”
The Women Hold Up Half The Sky  award honors Fatehi’s outstanding contribution to her community. The title of the prize is inspired by an artwork the artist Ann Newmarch AO created.
Gail Gago, Minister for the Status of Women, says the award is important in ensuring that the valued contribution women make to the community does not go unnoticed.
For Fatehi the award is valuable because it draws attention to the plights of her nation in the global community. “At a time like now when we see what is happening to our people in Turkey...while the war against ISIS continues to rage on and the Kurds are left behind to rebuild...while others are trying to find safety across the world...for me this award highlights their struggle,” Fatehi said.
Being recognized by the Australian community motivates her to continue her activities despite many challenges.
“Awards like this one give our community and our people a voice. And my constant aim has always been just that, for the Kurdish people to have a voice on platforms across the world. If I can do the very small bit here in South Australia, then that is what I will continue to do,” Fatehi said.
Born in Sina, Rojhalat (Iranian Kurdistan), Fatehi was three-years-old when her family immigrated to the city of Adelaide, the capital of South Australia. The community’s challenges inspired her to organize the Adelaide Kurdish Youth Society to establish a connection between Kurds in the city and the country. The organization focuses on leadership skills, health, education and social justice.
Not only does she try to find ways to support Kurds at home and in Diasporas, she also deals with the hostility of other immigrant communities in Australia.
Fatehi says ethnic groups who neighbor the Kurdish land in the Middle East continue their efforts to disregard and antagonize Kurds oceans away from home.
“My personal story is that of one of 40 million Kurds globally. And while we have to deal with what is happening in Kurdistan, we have to battle these struggles locally like our community has had to with the Persians in the past few weeks,” Fatehi said.
But the young activist says she knew from the beginning that she would be isolated and criticized for her activities, though she remains positive. Fatehi’s medical research focuses on Kurdish women’s health issues such as childbirth, but also more controversial topics such as self-immolation, honor killing, and female genital mutilation.
For Fatehi, health, gender, and ethnic rights are intertwined and inseparable subjects.

Reporting, writing by: Ava Homa
Editing by: Karzan Sulaivany

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Kurdish immigrant’s 15-year purgatory

Kurdish immigrant’s 15-year purgatory

LOS ANGELES, United States – After having lived a peaceful and successful life in America for over two decades, Ibrahim Parlak, a Kurdish immigrant, is now at imminent risk of deportation to Turkey where his safety will be endangered.
Parlak, owner of the popular Gulistan Café in Michigan, has lived in the U.S. since 1991 and has become a pillar for his community.
He was arrested and tortured in Turkey. A federal appeals court filing in the U.S. from 2007 says, "The Turkish gendarme shocked him with electrodes, beat his genitalia, hung him by the arms, blindfolded him and deprived him of sleep, food, water and clothing, and anally raped him with a truncheon over the course of almost a month.”
Parlak’s asylum case was accepted in 1991. However, in 1997, six years after Parlak’s entry, the U.S. designated the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) a terrorist group. As a result, Homeland Security has decided Parlak’s ties to the outlawed group makes him a threat to America.
“When I applied for citizenship, they [U.S.] didn’t know anything about Kurds. Although Kurds have not done anything against the States, political ties with Turkey meant the U.S. doomed the Kurdish movement, and everything has gone downhill from 1997 on for me,” Parlak told K24 in a phone interview.
In 2004, he was placed in Calhoun County Jail to be deported, but the community rose to his defense. His neighbors and friends launched a successful campaign, built a website, sold T-shirts and told everyone that Ibrahim is not a threat to anyone.
Parlak also has the support of some American politicians and some U.S. media outlets have covered his case extensively. The New Yorker calls this a wasteful case and Democracy Now says deporting him to Turkey would be “an act of terror.”
But on Dec 24, 2015, Parlak’s deferral expired. Despite Christmas holidays, at the eve of the deportation, hundreds of people showed up before the Gulistan cafe and held a candle vigil. Citizens’ support forced the authorities to issue another 90 days deferral.
“They can throw me in the fire. That’s not the issue. I am no better than the 12 kids killed in Van, the three women assassinated in Turkey, than all the Kurds suffering at the moment under siege and are not allowed to even bury their dead. The issue is what U.S. stands for in the world,” Parlak told K24.
Turkey says it is fighting a war on terror by enforcing curfews on several Kurdish cities. Rights groups in Turkey call for peace negotiations and declare that 1.3 million people have been impacted by the curfews and more than 150 civilians have been killed.
“Kurds are the only force effectively combatting IS. Our women fighters are the suicide bombers’ biggest fear, the only reason they may not get their '72 virgins.' Why is the U.S. silent then when Kurds suffer? The country that says it’s bringing peace and democracy to the world is working against the only people fighting terrorism.”
Parlak is now on “deferred action,” which means he can be grabbed and deported at any time.

Majority of the youth unemployed in Iranian Kurdistan

Majority of the youth unemployed in Iranian Kurdistan
Iranian migrant. Yannis Behrakis/Reuters.
The Iranian provinces of Kermanshah and Ilam have some of the highest unemployment rates despite the oil and gas industries that operate there.
Ilam Member of Parliament (MP), Omran Alimuhammadi, announced on Wednesday that unemployment in his constituency is now at forty percent. Though over 566 industrial operations were established in Ilam, 174 of them were closed down because of the national economic crisis. Hence, a large group of people lost their jobs.
Kermanshah and Ilam are both oil-rich provinces and though the Islamic Republic of Iran announced that some of the populations' incomes raised and that these regions are to see increased investment it has failed to fulfill its own promise. 
Kermanshah Province, which also hosts a large Kurdish minority population, has the third highest unemployment rate in Iran, at a little over fifteen percent.
Overall, more than fifty percent of the unemployed Iranians are living in provinces in the Western frontiers of Iran.
Additionally, fifty percent of the youth in Kermanshah Province are jobless, according to the Iranian official statistics.
According to the official Iranian statistics announced in summer 2015, Ilam Province suffers twelve percent unemployment. But on Tuesday, Iranian newspapers announced that over fifty-seven percent of the youth in Ilam between the ages 15 to 29 are unemployed.
Ilam Province which hosts a sizable Kurdish population, has the highest percentage, at forty percent, and Charmahal Bakhtiari Province has the second highest record, standing at sixteen percent.

Kurdish women football team wins fifth season

Kurdish women football team wins fifth season
The Kurdistan Province Municipality Team poses for a photo. Image courtesy of KPMT.
On Friday, Kurdistan and Lorestan competed in a rainy Sina, also known as Sanandaj, the capital of the Kurdistan Province in the northwest of Iran.
“We played for an hour and-a-half under pouring rain. The referees told us the Kurdistan team played much better than Lorestan throughout the game and was in a winning position the entire time,” Mohtaram Heidari in Sina told K24.
Sharmin Rahmati, one of the coaches that has fought hard for the team against the patriarchal system, told K24, "This was an important victory for us. The muddy ground made the competition difficult but the team played well. The victory has boosted the women's confidence that will affect their future games with Gorgan and Bam teams in the coming weeks."
Maleknia Stadium in Sina hosted the sixteenth week of the Premium League where Lorestan played against Kurdistan. Player Samira Esmaeili scored the winning goal for Kurdistan. The Kurdistan team currently has 14 points in the national competition taking place in several cities across the country.
Last week Kurdistan played against Ilam in a scoreless draw. In gameweek 17 of the Premium Leagues competition, Kurdistan will play against Vahdate Isare Gorgan.
The Kurdistan women’s football team became the Iranian champion in winter 2014. In the process, the team had won a major honor for the impoverished Kurdistan province that men’s football teams were never able to achieve.
For these women, playing football isn’t only a sport. They are fighting for equality and demonstrating women’s power and abilities outside of the domestic life.

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Iran’s nuclear deal: minorities’ double-edged sword

Iran’s nuclear deal: minorities’ double-edged sword

After more than a decade of investigating, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced in December that Iran’s nuclear weapons program "is no longer suspicious.” This crucial remark will help pave the way for sanctions to be lifted and for diplomatic relations between Iran and many Western countries to become normalized for months and years to come. 
Since the Islamic revolution in 1979, Iran has always aimed at being the predominant power in the Middle East. For its right-wing and extremists, handing over uranium to Russia is acting against the Islamic Republic’s primary goal—regional hegemony. Right-wing newspapers consider the “nuclear deal” a defeat that caused it to become submissive to international powers.However, many thousands in Tehran took to the streets celebrating the IAEA statement and the promise of a better economy. In a strictly religious country where occasions to celebrate are rare, people took full advantage of the opportunity to publicly express an otherwise-forbidden happiness.
Nonetheless, Kurds and other ethnic and religious minorities in Iran remain cautious and distanced from this international normalization. For minorities who mostly live along the ostracized margins of Iran, economic sanctions have been insufferable. 
According to the World Bank, if Iran operates well when sanctions become lifted the country will have the chance to improve its declining economy. The official unemployment rate is currently eleven percent (twenty percent for women). Over fifty percent of unemployed youth reside in Ilam, Kermanshah, Kohgiluyeh, and Lorestan Provinces in the Western frontiers of Iran. The World Bank explains these statistics “suggest that many individuals are vulnerable to changes in their personal[,] disposable income and[...] persistent rise in the cost of living.”
After sanctions are lifted, imported necessities such as medicine and medical equipment previously unavailable will become accessible to a great majority of the population. Perhaps when sanctions are lifted, fewer children will be deprived of education and not as many people will suffer and die from drug addiction, an epidemic affecting ten million Iranians presently struggling with substance abuse.
But for ten million Kurds and other underprivileged minorities, a crippling economy is not the only problem. Most minorities in the country have suffered state-sanctioned discrimination, political and social suppression under the Islamic Republic and previous monarchy, and little improvements have been implemented. Ever since Hassan Rouhani, the so-called moderate president came to power with considerable support from the Kurds, the number of executions has soared.
A twenty-six-page report produced by the United Nations in October declared that Iran broke the international record for the most executions per capita. Between January 1 and September 17, 2015, Iran hanged nearly 700 people. “The Islamic Republic of Iran continues…to execute more individuals...than any other country in the world. Executions have been rising at an exponential rate since 2005 and peaked in 2014, at a shocking 753 executions.” It is ironic then that Iran recently condemned Saudi Arabia for executing forty-six prisoners.
Many of Iran's executions are carried out under drug trafficking charges, though a significant number are killed for their ideological or religious convictions, including Kurds who belong to opposition parties, Baha’i, activists, journalists, and even filmmakers.
The Baluch minority only make up ten percent of the Iranian population. But their rate among victims of capital punishment is disproportionately high, according to Al-Arabiya. The impoverished region where they make up the majority also has a significantly high fatality rate: over 11,000 Baluch died over a nine-month period due to exceptionally high poverty and heart-related issues, according to a recent state-run Iranian agency report.
While President Rouhani and his American-educated Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, have been trying to whitewash Iran’s image, the regime’s hands are still dipped in blood. Clearly, the nuclear deal has aggravated Tehran’s human rights record as opposed to improving it.
Evidently, being accepted by Western countries means Iran’s human rights violations will receive little-no scrutiny and attention. With such a legacy of injustice, ethnic and religious minorities in Iran are rightfully wary that their countries' improved status may translate to increasing pressure on these already suffocating groups that make up half of the 80 million population.

The article was originally published in K24

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Iranian Kurds embrace environmental activism

Iranian Kurds, although economically deprived and ethnically suppressed, have not given up on environmental activism.
In the last 30 days, volunteers planted over 20,000 oak trees in Ilam and Kermanshah forests located in the northwest of Iran. The non-governmental organization, Heeloo, based in Kermanshah, a Kurdish province in western Iran, initiated and supported the movement.
The movement was to compensate for the fire that burned down thousands of tree in the Zagros Mountains in the summer in Kurdistan and Kermanshah provinces.
The Zagros Mountains that range across the Kurdish inhabited regions of Iran, Iraq, and Turkey, have a total length of 1500 km and have been an integral part of Kurdish life, culture, and resistance.
In addition to planting trees, Heeloo organization has been active in controlling fire in the forests and have raised funds to educate school children about the importance of environmental causes.
Iranian Kurds embrace environmental activismThe city of Mariwan, in Kurdistan Province of Iran, located near the Iran-Iraq border has an active environmental group called the Chya Green Association which has also been active in stopping fires, planting trees, holding exhibitions and overall raising awareness about the ecology of the region.
The village of Daraki in Mariwan held a symbolic ceremony in the summer when the hunter Ahmad Azizi broke his rifle to encourage limited hunting in the Zagros Mountains.
Azizi, an avid hunter, said he made this decision when he came home with a dead red-legged partridge and his daughter asked him in tears to never kill animals again.
His decision soon inspired other hunters in the region to do the same, and the news received national and international attention.
Inspired by this gesture, in another ceremony many citizens from across the Kurdistan Province freed their birds from their cages and burned the cages. The photos of that movement went viral on social media.
The Chya Green Association that supported and encouraged many such movements regularly organizes activities such as garbage collecting campaigns in which volunteers gather to collect plastic and other rubbish from the mountains and rivers.
Chya Green Association also recently received permission from the Iranian officials to publish a periodical and raise awareness about environmental issues.