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

Monday, May 2, 2016

US: Iran should release Kurdish prisoner Kaboudvand

US: Iran should release Kurdish prisoner Kaboudvand
Mohammad Sediq Kaboudvand has been in Iran for 9 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).
WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) - During a press briefing on Thursday in Washington DC, an American official asked Iran to release the Kurdish prisoner Mohammad Sedigh Kaboudvand and other incarcerated writers and journalists.
John Kirby, the Spokesperson for the State Department told the press, "For today’s case for World Press Freedom Day we’re going to highlight Mohammad Sedigh Kaboudvand, a journalist and human rights activist from Iran who’s been held in Evin prison since July 2007."
"He [Kaboudvand] reported on torture in Iranian prisons, women’s rights issues, and cases of human rights abuses against Iran’s ethnic minorities," Kirby added.
The US official then called on Iran to release Kaboudvand and other prisoners who have been detained "simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression."
Mohammad Sediq 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).
Because of his journalistic activities, Kaboudvand was named the international journalist of the year at the British Press Award in 2009. When he co-founded the Kurdistan Human Rights Organizations, 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 arrested at his place of work in Tehran in July 1, 2007.
Kaboudvand’s books, computers, photographs and personal documents were confiscated and he spent the first five months of his detention in solitary confinement. His health deteriorated in prison because of abuse and lack of medical care. 
"Kaboudvand has reportedly suffered several heart attacks while in custody and has suffered from serious kidney and intestinal problems. Prison authorities have reportedly denied requests to transfer him to a hospital where he can receive treatment appropriate for his illnesses," Kirby added.
Charged with "acting against national security and engaging in propaganda against the state," he was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
PEN International, 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.
Because of his commitment to the protection of human rights, Kaboudvand received international recognition from organizations such New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Last year he also received the International Centre for Human Rights (ICHR) award for his contributions to human rights activism in Iran.
Yet, the pleas and recognition have so far been left unanswered and Kaboudvand remains incarcerated for nine years now. After years, he was allowed to visit his sick son. 
Receiving furlough is one of the prisoners’ rights, according to the Islamic Republic of Iran, but the Kurdish activists are often denied the basic rights that other prisoners receive in Evin.
Speaking to the media, Nasrin Sotoudeh, Kaboudvand’s lawyer, echoed the notion that the Kurdish activist had received one of the worst treatments in Evin.

Reporting by Ava Homa
Editing by Delovan Barwari

Kurdish dance, music graces Canadian book launch

Book launch of You Can't Bury Them All (ECW, 2016), Toronto. Left to right: Patrick Woodcock, poet; Paromita Kar, dancer; Siyar Yetim, musician. (Photo: Monica Graves)
TORONTO, Canada (Kurdistan24) – Canadian award-winning poet, Patrick Woodcock, launched his latest poetry collection in Toronto accompanied with Kurdish music and performance.
You Can't Bury Them All, described as “a poetry that is at once harrowing, angry, and achingly beautiful,” is Woodcock's ninth book, published in 2016 by the reputable ECW Press in Toronto.
Yan Kurdistan, Yan Naman, Kurdish for “Give me Kurdistan or give me death,” is the title of the first section of this book which is set in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The other two sections are based in Fort Good Hope in the Northwest Territories, and Azerbaijan.
Woodcock, who calls himself “an almost Kurd,” has lived in the Kurdistan Region and has been involved with the people, politics, and landscapes of the Region. His previous book, Echo Gods and Silent Mountains (ECW, 2011) was written fully from a Kurdish perspective.
Talented dance scholar and founder of Dilan Dance Company, Fethi Karakecili, originally from Urfa, Kurdistan of Turkey (Bakur), choreographed a piece to match the poetry and the instrument.
“I found the right music for both the dancer and the author. I found the music but I wanted to use just one instrument that can represent Kurdish identity,” Karakecili told Kurdistan24.
“My choreography for this particular event was related to the words and poems of Patrick's new book. The poems were very powerful, emotional, strong and real. That’s what I focused on during the choreography, and tried to offer the same impression with body movement, facial impression, costume and scarf in harmony with the kaval instrument,” he added.
Karakecili is the artistic director of the first Kurdish ballet theatre performance in the world, Mem-o-ZinThe Legend of Noroz, Dance of Colors was his second production staged in Isabel Bader Theatre at the University of Toronto. 
Siyar Yetim, also from Bakur, played the instrument kaval, a chromatic end-blown flute, while Woodcock read parts of his book and performer Paromita Kar danced.
The kaval is an instrument that is often associated with mysticism and mountain life. Unlike the flute, the kaval is fully open at both ends and is played by blowing on the sharpened edge of one end.
Paromita Kar, a member of Dilan Dance Company who has a Ph.D. degree in Dance Studies in Canada (York University, Toronto) and has performed in numerous Kurdish venues and starred at both Mem-o-Zin and The Legend of Noroz, shared her thoughts with Kurdistan24.
“The movements are from his [Karakecili's] envisioning, and we used the yellow scarf for expressing parts of the music and poetry. We draw upon different movement heritages of the region: whirling, and some work with the scarf. It was a really interesting and enriching process to work with everyone in this inter-arts performance piece!” Kar told Kurdistan24.
She mentioned that she acquired her costume from a lady who owns a costume shop in Diyarbakir, in southeastern Turkey.
Woodcock, a poet, wanderer, writer and witness who has lived in Iceland, Russia, Bosnia, Colombia, Oman and Saudi Arabia seemed satisfied with the event.
“I am always quite nervous when I read. But when I was reading along with the dance and music I felt strangely confident. I think I was aware that I was participating in something special and that made me feel oddly proud. It felt really rewarding to take such dark poetry and make it beautiful,” Woodcock told Kurdistan24.

Reporting by Ava Homa
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany