It was with an overwhelming amount of shock and tears that I found early this morning several reports of what sometimes seems like a total unreality: the execution of FIVE prisoners of conscience. I saw the initial report on AP, but the reports made the victims themselves, teacher & writer Farzad Kamangar, civil rights activist Ali Heidarian, Kurdish activist Farhad Vakili, Kurdish activist Shirin Alam-Holi, and prisoner of conscience, Mehdi Eslamian, only second to a bunch of allegations made by the IRI. Where were there faces? Where were their names, aside from in a long string stuck between two careless dashes? What happened to the lives cut? Who did they leave behind? Were their families notified? Did they kiss their mothers and fathers a too big goodbye? Were they even given the chance? Beyond sentences and cases, these were people with stories that reached — and will continue to reach — far beyond a bunch of baseless allegations. Unfortunately, despite my best internet searches, not much is listed about some. If you can help fill in details, please e-mail us.
Farzad Kamangar was a 33 year old Kurdish teacher, social worker, activist, and journalist in the city of Kamyaran. The young teacher also went by Siamand. A year before being arrested, he taught at the Karodanesh Institute. He was also a on the board of directors of the Teachers of Kamyaran Association at the Kurdistan branch (until disbanded and banned by the government). Farzad was also a member of the environmental society in Kamyaran and began his human rights advocacy around 2005, eventually becoming one of the writers for the human rights association. When he traveled to Tehran in August 2006 to see his ill brother, who was also a political activist, Farzad was arrested. In a letter detailing the day of his arrest and beyond, Farzad writes of his prison experience: the flogging, the interrogation rooms, the electric shocks, the denial of such basic necessities as toothpaste and toothbrushes, the rancid food, the threats of rape, and the fungus infections he received as a result of the poor prison conditions. Farzad continues in his letter:
“While they were writing down my details they asked me of my origins as soon as I said “Kurd” they flogged me all over my body with a hose looking whip. Because of [my] religion I had to endure profanities, insults and beating. I was even severely battered because of the Kurdish ringtone that I had on my mobile. They would tie my hands and put me on a chair and put heavy pressure on various sensitive parts of my body…they would remove my clothes with force and threatening me with rape with a baton or sticks… They had a strange, singular hatred towards me as a Kurd, journalist and a human rights activist. No matter what was going on they never stopped torturing me…”
In a parable Farzad wrote (and was published two weeks ago), the early-30’s teacher and social worker asks:
“Is it possible to carry the heavy burden of being a teacher and be responsible for spreading the seeds of knowledge and still be silent? Is it possible to see the lumps in the throats of the students and witness their thin and malnourished faces and keep quiet?”
Ali Heidarian, who was arrested along with Farzad Kamangar and Farhad Vakili in August 2006, was an ethnic Kurd and civil rights activist. He, Farzad, and Farhad were detained Rajai-Shahr Prison near Karaj, a prison notorious not only for the abuse and torture, but also for housing prisoners of conscience with violent criminals as an intimidation technique. It was in Rajai-Shahr Prison that Ali was wounded by prison guards in May 2008. He was denied medical treatment until other prisoners united in protest. In a show of dissent, Ali and Farzad both took a vow of silence to protest the rough treatment by prison security guards. Ali has also been detained in prisons in Sanandaj, Kermanshah and Tehran.
Farhad Vakili was a Kurdish political activist who was arrested along with Ali Heidarian and Farzad Kamangar in August 2006. All three ethnic Kurdish activists faced allegations and charges, including links to Kurdish opposition groups and Mohabreh. Reports say that Farhad was a mid-ranking manager at Sanandaj’s Jahad-e Sazandegi (also known as the government ministry in charge of developing rural villages). While in Evin, Farhad protested by undertaking a hunger-strike, despite failing health and a previous heart attack.
Shirin Alam Holi, who would have celebrated her 29th birthday on June 3, was born in the village of Gheshlagh near the city of Maku. She was arrested in May 2007 by the Revolutionary Guards in Tehran and spent her first 25 days in an unknown location. She was later transferred to ward 209 of Evin prison where she was held in solitary confinement for six months. During her time in jail, Shirin spent 22 days on a hunger strike, during which time she continued to endure both physical and psychological torture. In a letter Shirin wrote before her execution sentenced was issued, she details her prison time, complete with internal bleeding, cigarette burns, and injected pain killers as her only medical treatment:
“My interrogators were all men and I was tied to a bed. They would beat me with electrical batons, cables, and would punch and kick me until I was unconscious. At that time I still had difficulty speaking and understanding Farsi. When I was not able to answer their questions they continued to beat me until I lost consciousness… When they saw that I would not break my hunger strike, they tried to force feed me with tubes. I resisted them by ripping the tubes out of my nose. This led to great pain and bleeding. Now, two years later, I still suffer from that pain.”
In a second letter, written only one week before she was executed, Shirin writes:
“I am entering into my third year of imprisonment, three years under the worst conditions behind the bars of the Evin prison. I spent the first two years of my imprisonment without a lawyer, and in pre-trial custody. All my inquiries about my case went unanswered until I was unjustly sentenced to death. Why have I been imprisoned and why am I going to be executed? For what crime? Is it because I am Kurdish?… Today is May 2, 2010 and once again they took me to Section 209 of the Evin prison for interrogation. They asked me to cooperate with them in order for me to be pardoned and not executed. I don’t understand what they mean by cooperation, when I don’t have anything more to say than what I have already said. They want me to repeat whatever they say, but I refuse to do it. The interrogators told me “we wanted to release you last year, but your family wouldn’t cooperate with us so things had to come to this.” He admitted to me that I was a hostage and until they reach their goal they will keep me a prisoner or execute me, but they will never release me.”
Mehdi Eslamian was a 30 year old prisoner of conscience who was arrested on May 3rd 2008. He was taken to the Intelligence Ministry’s detention center in Shiraz where he endured emotional and physical torture for 2 weeks before being transferred to Evin. Mehdi was denied medical treatment for his fractured shoulder and nose, both of which resulted from torture. On March 22nd, 2009, Mehdi’s 20 year old brother, Mohsen, was hanged along with 2 other prisoners of conscience, Ali-Asghar Poshtar & Roozbeh Yahya-Zadeh, in Adelabad Prison in Shiraz.