17 May 2010. A World to Win News Service. The people have still not been able to come to terms with the extreme brutality of the Iranian regime that executed five political prisoners, four of them Kurds, at Evin prison in Tehran in the early hours of 9 May. They were Farzad Kamangar, Shirin Alam-Houly, Ali Heidarian, Farhad Vakili and Mehdi Eslamia.
Kurdish people in Iran and people in the country as a whole have continued to express their anger against a regime that viciously and deliberately is killing the best and most conscious of the country's sons and daughters to prolong its shameless and backward rule.
The most significant of protests in the last few days was the successful 13 May general strike in Kurdistan in response to a call from all the Kurdish political organisations and with the support of revolutionary political parties and organisations all over the country.
Starting in the morning of that day, reports, photos and videos posted on the Web s indicated that the Kurdish people were determined to respond the regime's brutal act. The Kurdish Web site Rouzh-halat reported that in Kamyaran, where the most prominent of the executed prisoners, Farzad Kamangar, was born, lived and worked, the whole city was shut down except for governmental offices attended by the Herasat (representatives of the security forces in the universities and workplaces) and of course the security forces. There were reports that the security forces were patrolling the city, but nevertheless people were able to gather in front of Farzad's home several times that day.
In the Kurdish city Sanadaj, all the central city shops and all the bazaars and alleyway markets were closed. Reports from Marivan, Mahabad, Saghez, Divandareh, Bukan, Oshnouyeh, Piranshahr and Kermansha indicated that people did not open their shops or go to work, school or university. The majority of those who stayed on the job were members of the security forces and the Herasat. According to reports, on several occasions the security forces unsuccessfully attempted to force the owners of shops and arcades to open their businesses.
Security forces were stationed in key locations in the major cities. In fact, an unannounced martial law was in force. Special guards and security personnel poured into Kurdish cities from other parts of the country, highly intensifying the security situation.
These reports were confirmed by most of the best-known news agencies, including the BBC-Persian service, which said that in Kamyaran, "Students did not show up for class in schools or universities" and that in Kurdistan cities and towns, "so many shops and traditional bazaars were closed that it seemed like a holiday."
People also reportedly demonstrated in the Kurdish cities Arbil and Soleymani, in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The reaction to the execution of these five political prisoners may indicate a new upsurge in Kurdistan. The Kurdish people were among the first victims of the Islamic Republic's brutality. It was only six months after the revolution that Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa (religious decree) declaring Jihad (holy war) against the region. But the Kurdish people stood firm and fought back for years. Even when Khomeini staged a coup to suppress the remnants of the revolution's achievement, the Kurdish people continued to resist the Islamic Republic with arms in hand.
Kurdish cities have been relatively quiet in the last 25 years, but fire still smoulders under the ashes. These protests against the execution of Farzad and the four other political prisoners are an expression of undying hatred for this brutal regime.
In support of the general strike in Kurdistan, on 14 May the Communist Party of Iran (MLM) issued a statement to the Kurdish people. They wrote, "Your strike once again showed that the enemy is facing a militant and conscious people. A people who crave national, religious, class and gender liberation… This struggle is an opening battle in the nationwide uprising of the Iranian people. Not only is the revolutionary movement in Kurdistan a thorn in the eyes of the rulers of the Islamic Republic, it is also an important advantage and strength for all the people of Iran. This people who militarily resisted the Islamic regime for 10 years is rich in experience of struggle, has a high political consciousness and has witnessed the advantages of militant and organised struggle. It can once again be the vanguard of the Iranian revolution. The revolutionary movement of the Kurdish people distanced itself from religious traditions during the 1979 revolution, and its just struggle played an important role in exposing the reactionary nature of Khomeini. It was only in this region that the revolution could go deeper and last longer before being completely suppressed by the regime."
At the same time as the Islamic regime found itself unable to stem the tide in Kurdistan, it flooded central Tehran and especially the area around Tehran University and Azadi and Enghelab squares with thousands of security personnel.
The families of the political prisoners had planned to hold a sit-in in front of Tehran University the day following the executions, but security forces had already surrounded the area and prevented it.
In addition to the widespread condemnation of the executions and support for the political prisoners by different social sectors, including students, teachers' unions, workers' unions (including the bus drivers' union), intellectuals and university lecturers, there were also brave expressions of support coming from within the prisons.
Political prisoners in the Rajaii Shar prison in Karaj near Tehran where Farzad Kamangar was imprisoned and inmates at Evin announced their support. There were reports of a hunger strike 10May to protest the executions of political prisoners and the transfer of some prisoners to unknown locations.
These events coincided with protests in Afghanistan against the treatment of Afghan refugees in Iran, who face even greater open brutality. The Islamic Republic has executed dozens of Afghan refugees recently, and many more are on death row. A demonstration was organised in Kabul in support of the five Iranian political prisoners. Protestors shouted "Death to Ahmadinejad" and carried placards condemning the execution of the five political prisoners. One read, "'Our Farzad is not dead – it is the regime that is dead."
Throughout the week following the executions Iranians abroad continued to organise protest actions and demonstrations. In Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm, angry Kurds and Iranians carrying red flags protested in front of the Iranian embassy. In Oslo, the protestors attempted to attack the embassy and were pushed back by the police. In Stockholm, thousands of Iranians gathered in the city centre and marched towards the Iranian embassy. In London leftist forces organised a midweek demonstration in front of the embassy and then on the weekend a march from central London. In other European cities such as Helsinki, The Hague, Frankfurt and Hamburg, and in Sidney and Vancouver, Iranians continued to protest in front of the Iranian embassy.
This is the picture of a country whose rulers want to terrify the people by cutting off its best flowers. Now that the murderers have committed this crime, they have appeared on their radio and television to justify it.
The accusations against the victims were never proven; in fact, they were false. The state did not even complete its show trials – the Supreme Court never approved the sentences.
The authorities did not dare inform the family and the lawyers before the executions. They had even informally indicated to the prisoners and their family and lawyers that the death sentences would not be carried out.
Ali Javanmardi, a journalist who works for Voice of America TV, posted a report on his Facebook account that he says comes from a source inside the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) about the last days of Shirin Alam-Houly, a 27-year-old Kurdish woman who was among the five: "Shirin was going to be released. During the two years in Pasdaran custody she was repeatedly raped. They told her mother that she would be released on the condition that she say nothing about what happened to her. Shirin promised not to say anything, but she sent out a few letters (two of them published) that exposed what was done to her. Furthermore, she raised the point of rape in a meeting supposedly held to investigate the problems and difficulties experienced by prisoners. This caused her jailers to review their decision."
In the end, the regime that wanted to terrify the masses has instead been terrified by the people's rage and struggle. That is why they still refuse to hand over the bodies of Farzad, Shirin and the other executed political prisoners to their families.
* The latest news is that a group of students from Tehran University, Amir Kabir University in Tehran, Kurdistan University, Tabriz University and Razi Univeristy (Kermanshah) have called for a nationwide strike on 18 May to protest the execution of the five political prisoners and the government's refusal to return the bodies to the families, and in solidarity with the Kurdish people.
** A YouTube video linked to the Web site of the 8 March Women's Organisation (Iran - Afghanistan) shows thousands of Kurds in Turkey who marched to the border and angrily protested the killing of the five political prisoners in front of an Iranian border post. http://www.8mars.com/browsfilm.php?tb=8MARS_SOTI_FILM&Id=60&catId=&pgn= The 8 March Organisation also put on a statement on the executions. (8mars.com)
Excerpted letters from the executed political prisoners
Following are excerpts from a prison letter the young schoolteacher Farzad Karmanger sent to his pupils, one of several dozen widely circulated letters that made a great many people feel as close to him as if they had known him personally:
I miss you all. Here during the day and into the night I sing the song of life, dreaming and savouring my sweet memories of you. I start out every day here saying good morning to the Sun instead of to you. Every day I wake up between these long walls with your memory. I laugh with you and go to sleep with your memory. Sometimes the feeling of missing you takes over my soul.
I miss the times we visited various places on what we called "science trips". I wish we could once again rest next to a clean and clear spring and forget all our weariness. I wish once again the sound of water would caress our ears, that we could entrust our souls to the caress of flowers and plants, and put our maths books with all their equations and unknowns under a big stone. In fact, what difference does it make to have four decimal places instead of three when a father has no bread to bring home for dinner? I wish we could once again put aside the science textbooks, with all their chemical reactions and physical transformations, and we waited for change… I wish that Kurosh (a particularly lively pupil) would not have to leave school to go to work, and finally in search of a piece of bread fall from a high building and leave us forever. And wait for a change that would bring a new pair of shoes, new clothes and a table full of sweets for all at Norooz [traditional items for the pre-Islamic New Year celebration on the first day of spring]. I wish we could once again slip away from the eyes of the frowning head master and study the Kurdish alphabet, and sing for each other in our mother tongue, and then dance and dance and dance.
I wish I could once again be the goalkeeper for the first year boys, so that while you were dreaming of becoming the next Renaldo you would score a goal against "Mr Teacher" and hug each other. How sad that you don't know that in our land, dreams and wishes become like picture frames covered by dust and forgetfulness. I wish I could once again be with you girls to sing "Amoo Zanjir baf". The same girls that would later on, in their diaries, write, "I wish I were a boy."
I know you are growing up and will marry, but for me you are the same simple and honest angels still marked with the kiss of Ahura Mazda [Ormazd, the god in Zoroastrianism, a pre-Islamic Iranian religion] between your two beautiful eyes. In fact, perhaps if you were not the angels of suffering and poverty, you would not have collected signature for the women's campaign [against the Islamic regime's discriminatory laws regarding women]. Or perhaps if you were not born "in this godforsaken land", you would not be forced – with your eyes full of tears and longing and 13 years old "under a white net" [the wedding veil] – to say goodbye to school and experience the "bitter story of the second sex" with all your soul. You the girls of the land of Ahura Mazda, tomorrow, when you want to collect mint for your own children or want to make them a crown of flowers, make sure you remember all your childhood purity and freshness.
Your comrade, playmate and childhood teacher.
Rajaii shahr prison-Karaj
28 Feb 2009
Excerpts from a letter from Shirin written only a week before her execution:
My incarceration is entering its third year, that means three years of suffering. During the period before I was charged, I spent bitter days with the Pasdaran corps (under interrogation). Then came imprisonment in section 209 in Evin (the famous political prisoners cellblock). What have I done to deserve being jailed or executed? Because I am a Kurd? I was born a Kurd and because of that I have suffered a great deal and have been deprived of many things… the tortures that I have gone through have now become my nightmares. I know that I am not the only one they have done that to.
They told me I would have to cooperate with them if I don't want to be executed. I don't know what this cooperation means, since I have nothing more to say. In fact they wanted me to repeat what they told me to say. The interrogator told me, "We wanted to release you last year but your family didn't cooperate and now we are at this point." In fact the interrogator confessed that I am nothing but a hostage in their hands…
Shirin Alam-Houley, 3 May 2010
"Be strong, comrades" – a schoolteacher's last letter to his colleagues from death row
17 May 2010. A World to Win News Service. Following is the English translation of the schoolteacher and political prisoner Farzad Kamangar's last letter from prison, addressed to his fellow schoolteachers. Signed by Shiavosh J, it appeared on the Web site Persian2English - Breaking the Language Barrier on Human Rights (persian2english.com), where the Dutch, French and Italian translations of this letter are also available. The translator's notes in brackets are based on those by Siavosh J. The original was published by the Human Rights Activists News Agency.
Be strong, comrades
Once upon a time, there was a mother fish who laid 10,000 eggs. Only one little black fish survived. He lived in a stream with his mother.
One day the little fish said to his mother, "I want to go away from here." The mother asked, "Where to?" The little fish replied, "I want to go see where the stream ends." ["The Little Black Fish" is the title of a short story for children, written in 1967 by the dissident teacher Samad Behrangi. The book was banned under the Shah's regime. It tells the adventures of a little fish who defies the rules of his community to embark on a journey to discover the sea. On the way, he courageously fights enemies. The tale is considered to be a classic of Iranian resistance literature]
Hello cellmates. Hello fellow mates of pain!
I know you well: you are the teacher, the neighbour to the shining stars of Khavaran, the classmates of dozens whose essays were attached to their legal cases as evidence, the teacher of students whose only crime was their humane thoughts. I know you well: you are colleagues of Samad and Ali Khan. You remember me too, right? [Khavaran is the cemetery in eastern Tehran where many political dissidents were executed during the 1980's and buried in mass unmarked graves]
It's me, the one chained in Evin prison.
It's me, the quiet student who sits behind the broken school benches and longs to see the sea while in a remote village in Kurdistan. It is me, who like you, told the tales of Samad to his students; but in the heart of the Shahoo Mountains [in Kurdistan].
It's me, who loves to take on the role of the little black fish.
It's me, your comrade on death row.
Now the valleys and mountains are behind him and the river passes though a plain field. From the left and the right side, other rivers have joined in and the river now is filled with more water. The little fish enjoyed the abundance of water… he wanted to get to the bottom of the river. He was able to swim as much as he wanted and not bump into anything.
Suddenly, he spotted a large group of fish. There were 10,000 of them, one of whom told the little black fish, "Welcome to the sea, comrade!"
My jailed colleagues! Is it possible to sit behind the same desk as Samad, look into the eyes of the children of this land, and still remain silent?
Is it possible to be a teacher and not show the path to the sea taken by the country's little fish? What difference does it make if they come from Aras [a river in north-western Iran, Azerbaijan], Karoon [a river in south-western Iran, Khuzestan], Sirvan [a river in Kurdistan] or Sarbaz Rood [a river in the Sistan and Baluchestan region]? What difference does it make, when the sea is a mutual destiny, to be united as one? The sun is our guide. Let our reward be prison, that's fine!
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?
Is it possible to be in the year of no justice and fairness and fail to teach the H for Hope and E for Equality, even if such teachings land you in Evin prison or result in your death?
I cannot imagine being a teacher in the land of Samad, Khan Ali, and Ezzati and not join the eternity of Aras. [A river in northwest Iran, bordering Iran and Azerbaijan. Samad drowned in the river in the summer of 1968. Some have considered the circumstance of his death suspicious and blamed agents of the Shah's regime for his death]. I cannot imagine witnessing the pain and poverty of the people of this land and fail to give our hearts to the river and the sea, to roar and to flood.
I know that one day, this harsh and uneven road will be paved for teachers and the suffering you endured will be a badge of honour so everyone can see that a teacher is a teacher, even if his or her path is blocked by the selection process, prison, and execution. [The selection process or Gozinesh through which teachers and other government employees are vetted based on their ideological, political, and religious views.] The little black fish and not the heron bestows honour on the teacher.
The little fish calmly swam in the sea and thought: Facing death is not hard for me, nor is it regrettable.
Suddenly the heron swooped down and grabbed the little fish.
Grandma Fish finished her story and told her 12,000 children and grandchildren that it was time for bed. 11,999 little fish said goodnight and went to bed. The grandmother went to sleep as well. One little red fish was not able to sleep. That fish was deep in thought.
A teacher on death row, Evin prison
Farzad Kamangar's explanation on the title of his letter:
Eight years ago, the grandmother of one of my students, Yassin, in the village of Marab, played the tape of the story of the teacher Mamoosta Ghootabkhaneh. She told me then, "I know that your fate, like the teacher who is the writer and recorder of this poem, is execution; but be strong comrade. The grandmother said those words as she puffed on her cigarette and stared at the mountains.