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17/11/2009

The 'execution' of a young Kurd

A call to action by human rights campaigner Ahmad Eskandari

Ehsan Fattahian, the 28-year old Kurdish freedom fighter died in a prison in Sanandaj, the capital city of the Kurdistan province in Iran. He was arrested on 19 July 2008 in Kamiaran, a small town located between Sanandaj and his hometown Kermanshah. He had joined the Komala organisation, which opposes the Iranian regime and fights for democracy, freedom in Iran and the national rights for the Kurdish people. However, he had never actually participated in any armed struggle, and at the moment of his arrest, he was visiting relatives and unarmed.

While in custody, Fattahian was subjected to various forms of torture and was eventually sentenced by the 'Islamic revolutionary court' of Sanandaj to a 10-year sentence in a prison far from Kurdistan. According to a letter written by Ehsan Fattahian from 8 November 2009, the local prosecutor was not satisfied with the sentence and the appeal court changed the verdict to execution. The news appeared for the first time on 8 October 2009 on the Amnesty International website. Then again on 10th November: "Iran must halt imminent execution of Kurdish man", which led to a massive campaign among Iranian and Kurdish communities outside Iran. A number of petition letters were sent out and a huge amount of activity on the Internet and Facebook ensued.

Unfortunately, nobody knew that he had been 'executed' on Wednesday 11 November. The problem is that his body was not delivered to his family; while appealing for an amnesty, his father announced on Tuesday 10 November on VOA-Persian TV satellite channel that the family had never been allowed to visit their son in jail.

In an interview with the Persian website Roozonline.com published on Thursday 12 November 2009, the Iranian Nobel Prize laureate, Shirin Ebadi, recommended that Ehsan's parents ask for an impartial medical autopsy of the body prior to burial, in order to establish his cause of death. Nobody was present at the 'execution' scene: neither family members, nor attorney. No medical certificate was released after the execution. . .

Ehsan joins a list of prisoners in Iran who have been dealt 'sudden death'. The same fate befell Zahra Kazemi, the Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, as well as many of the demonstrators who took part in the the recent protests in Tehran and other cities after the elections. In the same town of Sanandaj, on 6 January 2008, Ebrahim Lotfollahy, a young Kurdish law student was arrested and, after just 9 days in jail, his family were presented with a cement grave as the only sign of their son. The immense effort of his relatives and human rights campaigners to get an autopsy, was fruitless. The young Ebrahim had no political affiliation to any oppositional movement in Kurdistan.

A local human rights organisation reported today, 12 November, that it has a photograph of a fresh grave in the city of Kermanshah. The grave contains the body of Ehsan Fattahian, who was buried in secret and without the knowledge of his family. This seems to suggest that the political prisoner Ehsan Fattahian was not alive while the freedom-loving people around the world were gathering signatures and making appeals to the Iranian authorities to prevent his 'execution'. In his letter from prison, he mentions how he was forced to 'confess' under torture.

While we grieve for a young man who struggled for freedom and democracy for his people, it is important to make renewed efforts to prevent the Iranian regime from executing some 12 other Kurdish political prisoners who are in similar situations in jails throughout Kurdistan.

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Ahmad Eskandari is a human rights campaigner in Sweden
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