Jailed Iranian Kurdish rights activist
Awarded Hellman/Hammett Grant
for Persecuted Writers Given to Imprisoned Iranian
NEW YORK,— Human Rights Watch on
Wednesday announced a Hellman/Hammett grant, awarded
to persecuted Kurdish writers, for the Iranian human
rights activist Mohammad Sadegh Kaboudvand. He is
serving a 10-year prison term in Iran for his
writings and is in a critical medical condition in
urgent need of care.
Each year, Human Rights Watch awards Hellman/Hammett
grants to writers punished by their governments for
expressing opposition views, criticizing government
officials or actions, or writing about topics that
the government does not want reported. A special
emergency grant is awarded to writers who need to
flee for their safety or need immediate medical
treatment for injury caused by torture, assault or
harsh prison conditions.
Iranian Kurdish Human Rights activist and journalist Mohammad Sadegh Kabovand
"Kaboudvand's work as a
human rights defender and journalist promoting
critically needed reform in Iran has landed him in
prison with little access to urgently needed medical
care," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and
North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "His
experience is harsh testimony to the plight of
journalists, dissidents and other peaceful critics
in Iran today."
Kaboudvand is a prominent human rights defender,
journalist, and founder in 2005 of a group that
seeks to protect the rights of Iranian Kurds, the
Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan (HROK). The
group grew to include 200 local reporters throughout
the Iranian Kurdish region,www.ekurd.net
allowing it to provide
detailed and timely reports from throughout the
region, published in the now-banned newspaper Payam-e
Mardom (Message of the People) for which Kaboudvand
was the managing director and editor.
Through his human rights and journalism work,
Kaboudvand was instrumental in creating a civil
society network for Kurdish youth and activists. He
is also the author of three books, Nimeh-ye Digar
("The Other Half," a book on women's rights),
Barzakh-e Democracy ("The Stuggle for Democracy"),
and Jonbesh-e Ejtemaii ("Social Movements").
Intelligence agents arrested Kaboudvand on July 1,
2007 and then searched his home and possessions, his
lawyers said. The agents took him to ward 209 of
Evin Prison, under the control of the Intelligence
Ministry and used to detain political prisoners.
They held him without charge in solitary confinement
for nearly six months.
In May 2008, Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court
sentenced Kaboudvand to 10 years in prison for
"acting against national security by establishing
the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan,
widespread propaganda against the system by
disseminating news, opposing Islamic penal laws by
publicizing punishments such as stoning and
executions, and advocating on behalf of political
prisoners." In October 2008, Branch 54 of the Tehran
Appeals Court upheld his sentence.
The Iranian government relies on these and other
provisions of its "security laws" to imprison
writers, intellectuals, and human rights defenders
for expressing critical views, or for trying to meet
peacefully. In 2008,www.ekurd.net
Human Rights Watch issued a
report about how Iran's security laws are used to
clamp down on independent activism (http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/01/06/you-can-detain-anyone-anything-0
Kaboudvand's wife and three children last heard from
him on December 16. On December 17, Kaboudvand,
whose parents both died of heart attacks, suffered a
heart attack in prison, said his lawyers. He had
already been in fragile health because of a previous
heart attack, high blood pressure, a kidney
infection, and a prostate condition. According to
his lawyers, the authorities have rejected requests
from prison doctors to allow him access to
specialists for medical care that is not available
in the prison medical center.
Human Rights Watch called on the Iranian government
to grant Kaboudvand the medical care he needs to
treat his life-threatening conditions immediately
and to end his unjust confinement. Human Rights
Watch reiterated its calls on the government to
repeal the vague and arbitrary provisions of its
penal code used to silence critics and activists who
seek to exercise their rights to free expression and
Human Rights Watch started the Hellman/Hammett
program in 1990. Since then, it has awarded grants
to more than 600 writers from 91 countries. It
awards the grants every year after a selection
committee composed of authors, editors, and
journalists who have a longstanding interest in free
expression issues review nominations.
Human Rights Watch
published a new report in 2009 detailing the repression of Iran's
Kurdish population by the Iranian government in Iranian Kurdistan (Eastern
Kurdistan). In this report, the Human Rights Watch strongly criticizes Iranian
government for violating human rights and freedom of expression in Kurdistan.
Kurds make up approximately 7 percent of the population and live mainly in the
northwest regions of the country.
In a report released in July 2008, the human rights
organisation, Amnesty International
about the increased repression of Kurdish Iranians,
particularly human rights defenders.
The report cited examples of religious and cultural
discrimination against the estimated 12 million
Kurds who live in Iran.
“We urge the Iranian authorities to take concrete
measures to end any discrimination and associated
human rights violations that Kurds, indeed all
minorities in Iran, face,” Amnesty said in its
“Kurds and all other members of minority communities
in Iran, men, women and children, are entitled to
enjoy their full range of human rights.”
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hrw org | Agencies
Iranian Kurdistan (Kurdish: Kurdistana Îranę or
Kurdistana Rojhilat (Eastern Kurdistan) or Rojhilatę
Kurdistan (East of Kurdistan)) is an unofficial name
for the parts of Iran inhabited by Kurds and has
borders with Iraq and Turkey. It includes the
greater parts of West Azerbaijan province, Kurdistan
Province, Kermanshah Province, and Ilam Province.
Kurds form the majority of the population of this
region with an estimated population of 12 million.
The region is the eastern part of the greater
cultural-geographical area called Kurdistan.
More about Iranian Kurdistan
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