Remembering five Kurdish activists executed in Iran

On 9 May 2010 five Kurds were executed in Iran.

Shirin Elemhuli, Ferzad Kemanger, Ali Heyderiyan, Ferhad Wekili and Mehdi Eslamiyan. The first four were accused of being members of PJAK. The fifth of being a member of the pro-monarchy "Kingdom of Iran Assembly”.

Shirin Elemhuli was an activist, a revolutionary. Kemanger, Heyderiyan and Wekili were teachers. There was no tangible evidence against them, yet it took a few minutes to take the decision to execute them.

Like many other political prisoners, they were accused of being “enemies of Allah". Opposition to the Iranian regime is interpreted by the regime as "opposition to Allah". The regime identifies itself with "Allah".

On the morning of May 9, 2010, five prisoners were executed in Evin prison. Before these executions there had been others. After them, came more.

Iran is among the countries with the highest number of executions in the world.

Elemhuli was 28 years old. In the letter she wrote a few days before her execution, she pointed to the illegality of this decision and said it was a political decision.

"Today 2 May 2010, they took me back to the interrogation …”, thus the letter begins.

"One of the interrogators told me, 'We let you go last year, but you family did not cooperate with us.' In other words, I'm being held hostage and they will not let me go until they get what they want. This means that they will either keep me as a prisoner or they will hang me, but they will never let me go”.

This letter was written four days before the execution. Writing about the three years she had spent in prison, Elemhuli remarked that she was not even given permission to have a lawyer to defend her. The summary of her life in prison could be told in two words: "Torture and cruelty."

Elemhuli who lived days of torture, wrote: “I went through days of pain in the hands of military forces. Why have they arrested me or why would they hang me? Because I am Kurdish? I was born a Kurd and because I am Kurdish I have been tortured and beaten”.

The Iranian authorities wanted Elemhuli to deny her Kurdishness. Elemhuli's response was clear: “If I do something like this, I will basically deny my very self. My language is Kurdish. I grew up speaking Kurdish. But they do not allow me to speak or write in my own language”.

As Elemhuli addressed the prosecutor and judge, she emphasized the illegality of the whole process: “As I do not know Persian well, you have taken my statements in my own language and you cannot understand what I said and what I told you”.

The letter continued as follows:

"The torture you imposed on me are the nightmare of my nights, the pains and sufferings of my days ... I am suffering from headaches due because of the blows I received during the interrogation. There are days when I simply fall unconscious so bad is the headache. I cannot understand what is going on and around me and I cannot come to my senses for hours. Another gift you gave me as a result of torture is that I have lost my sight almost entirely, as I was sight problems and you gave me no treatment”.

"I know that what you did to me and my family is not just done to us. You have tried these tortures on Zeyneb Jalaliyan, Rûnak Sefazade and many other Kurdish youth. For days, elderly Kurdish mothers have been waiting to see their children. Every time the phone ring, they are scared thinking about what bad news will be coming. Are they children been hanged, they wonder?

A long time later, a few days before May 2, 2010, they once again took me to the division 209 in Evin Prison for the interrogation and repeated their unfounded allegations. They wanted me to cooperate with them and they said they would cancel the death penalty. It was pointless. That's why I had nothing to say except what I said in court. In the end, they wanted me to repeat what they said in front of the cameras. But I did not accept it. So they said: ‘We came to this point because we wanted to help you, but your family did not help us’. The official said that they would then execute me”.

Guilty of being Kurdish teachers

Ferzad Kemanger, Ferhad Wekili and Eli Heyderiyan were arrested together in 2006. Kemanger was the spokesperson of the Kurdistan Teachers Association. In 2008, they were sentenced to death. It took just seven minutes to sentence them. Kemanger was 33 years old. While waiting to be executed in Tehran, he wrote a letter:

"I've been in prison for months," Kemanger said. They could not crush this love. He knew the ‘Iranian justice’ will take his life. He had a big heart.

Kemanger wrote:

"The prison was supposed to break my will, my love and my humanity. I was kept in a small room surrounded by walls. They thought they would take me away from my loved ones. But, everyday I traveled out of the small window of the cell and traveled to distant places. Prison deepened our ties to each other. The prison darkness was supposed to wipe out of the mind the sun and the light, but I witnessed the growth of black-and-white magnets in darkness and silence.

(...) One day, I was stigmatized as "kafir" because they said I was at war with "Allah". I want my heart be donated to a child with all the love and compassion in it. It does not matter where it comes from; a child on the Kaaron benches, on the slopes of Mount Sabalaan, on the edges of the East Sahara, or watching the sunrise from the Zagros Mountains. All I want is knowing that my heart will continue beating on the chest of a child. No matter what language you speak, let my heart beat in someone else's chest”.

Before the execution of these five political prisoners another execution had a huge impact on people: that activist and film director Ihsan Fetahiyan.

Kurdish activist Fethahiyan wrote a letter on November 11, 2009, while waiting execution in Sine Prison. He wrote:

"I've never been afraid of death. I am not afraid of it today. I feel the curious and honest presence of death in my life. I always want to feel its smell. Death became the oldest companion of this world. I do not want to talk about death; I want to draw attention to the problems behind it. If today this is the punishment for those seeking freedom and justice, how can one fear his own fate? Those of us who are sentenced to death by 'them' are only guilty of seeking to make this a better and more just world. Are they aware of this action of theirs?”