On 9 January, the bodies of three Kurdish women, active supporters of the PKK, were found at the offices of the Kurdistan Information Centre (KIC), the European communications and public relations office of the PKK. They had been killed by several bullets in the head. Not having heard from them since midday, some Kurdish friends forced open the doors at about midnight and found their bodies. They were Sakine Cansiz, a European level leader of the PKK, Fidan Dogan, who was manager of the KIC and Leyla Soylemez, a work placement assistant.
Visiting the scene in the course of the morning, the Minister for the Interior, Manuel Valls, described these acts as “executions”.
Coming a few days after the statement by the Turkish Prime Minister that direct negotiations were beginning between Abdullah Ocalan and Hakan Fidan, the Director of the Turkish MIT (Intelligence), these murders were immediately viewed as an attempt to cupper the process of settling the conflict.
Sakine Cassiz was, naturally described as the main target, the two others seem to have only been eliminated because they were there too.
Born in 1957, in Dersim, Sakine Cansız rapidly joined the revolutionary movements of the Elazig student circles and, in 1976 she joined the Kurdish revolutionary movement. Soon after having taken part in the founding Congress of the PKK, on 28 September 1978, she was arrested along with several others. In the atmosphere of terror that followed the 12 September 1980 coup d’état, she was subjected to ferocious torture in Diyarbekir prison, one of torturers even going so far as to mutilate her breasts, as punishment, according to her cell mates, for her not only being Kurdish but also of the Alevi faith.
Released in 1991, she joined the PKK in Iraqi Kurdistan and fought in the guerrillas. Coming into conflict with several of the military commanders, she had to give up here position in Kurdistan and go to Europe, though without any serious conflict as she had always been a close and loyal supporter of Ocalan. She secured the status of political refugee in France but was more often lived in Germany.
Fidan Doğan, was also an Alevi Kurd, from the Maras Elbistan district, a region that at the end of 1978 experience a period of pogroms against the Alevi community, orchestrated by the Turkish extreme Right. Born in 1982, she emigrated, with her family, to France where she grew up and started her High School education. She dropped these to join the PKK in 1999, the year in which Ocalan was arrested and the PKK announced its first unilateral ceasefire. She was active in the political and European branch of the PKK as from 2002 and was in charge of the KIC at the time of her death.
As for Leyla Söylemez, she was not an Alevi but came from a Yezidi family from Lice Province, and was born and grew up in Mersin (Mersin Adana houses many Kurds deported from their homes after their villages had been destroyed by the Turkish Army). Her family emigrated to Germany in the 90s. She studied architecture for a year before joining the Kurdish movement in 2006, passing a year and a half in the PKK camps in Iraq and returning to Europe in 2010.
The victims were all shot in the head, Sakine Cansız and Leyla Söylemez receiving three bullets each and Fidan Dogan four, one of which was in the mouth, apparently from the same weapon, a 7,65mm. The fact that access to the upper floors of the building is only through an inside door that can only be opened by interphone indicates that the women knew their murderers and had themselves opened the door. The position of the bodies also showed that they were killed by surprise, or at least without putting up any resistance.
When the murder was announced, hundreds of Kurdish activists gathered in front of 147, rue La Fayette shouting slogans accusing Turkey.
However, although spontaneously pinpointed by the Kurdish activists, the Turkish State’s responsibility has left nearly all the observers familiar with the “Kurdish case” in Turkey rather sceptical. It is not easy to see what interest the AKP government could have in scuppering negotiations that it had just initiated itself.
Another avenue was immediately suggested — that of internal divisions in the PKK. This was first raised by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who stated that these assassinations were of a “villainous character” linked to the PKK’s internal dissentions, especially by the “factions” hostile to the peace process. The AKP spokesman, Hüseyin Çelik, even recalled the many internal political executions that have peppered the PKK’s history,
Similarly, and almost as a mirror image, it the avenue of the Turkish extreme Right nationalists was quickly raised by the Kurdish side, each camp, Kurdish or Turkish mutually accusing the “hawks” of the other side. The fact that there does exists a “deep State” with a history of collusion with extreme Right circles, and the mafia, and having protection at high levels in the State was laid on the table, some considering that this was just an extension of the Ergenekon affair.
Two other States have also been suspected of being involved in these assassinations, as neither has any interest in seeing a truce between the PKK and Turkey — namely Syria and Iran.
However, on 20 January, it was announced that two Kurds, close to the KIC were being detained. One was very quickly released while the other, Omer Guney, described as Sakine Cansız’s “occasional” chauffer was charged with homicide, the Paris Public Prosecutor, Francçois Molins declaring at a Press conference that there were enough serious factors for considering that he was at least one of the perpetrators of these murders, even if the possibility that he was not alone was not completely discarded. Traces of AND, corresponding to Guney’s had been found on one of the cartridge cases.
According to the Prosecutor, Guney would have declared, when auditioned by the police, that he had taken Sakine Cansız to the KIC in the morning of Wednesday the 9th and that he had left the premises’ at about 11. However, the monitoring cameras show him leaving the building at 12.56, which corresponds with the time slot in which the murders were committed. He left the KIC at about 1 pm carrying a case in which traces of explosive were found, so that it was the monitoring cameras, of whose existence he was unaware, that have “betrayed” him.
Omer Guney, 30 years of age, was at first described as a “Kurd” by the authorities and the French press. However, the pro-Kurdish media hastened to “reveal” that the suspect was not Kurdish but Turkish, as if the fact of being Turkish were incompatible with being pro-PKK or even a party activist. Yet there have always been some Turks in the PKK and, in the 90s, one of them was even officially President of the FEYKA (Federation of Kurdish Societies in France). However, it is true that pro-Kurdish Turks are generally Alevis, whereas Omer Guney’s home village, Sakisla (Sivas region) is not at all Alevi and above all not pro-Kurdish. In the last elections Sarkisla voted for the two extreme right parties.
Omer Guney’s uncle, contacted by the press, denied any involvement of his family with the PKK and described his nephew a mentally handicapped, subject to considerable lapses of memory due to a brain tumour.
Ömer Güney’s role in the pro-PKK Kurdish community was probably too insignificant for them to enquire very closely into his or his back ground: he occasionally acted as a translator, as he spoke French very well as his family had settled in France when he was only 5. This meant he could also help then fill the mass of official forms and paperwork. Fidan Doğan also sometimes asked him to act as “chauffer” when required, which enabled him to claim that he had been “a member of the PKK for the last two years”.
Murat Karayılan, who leads the PKK Presidential Council in Qandil, (Iraqi Kurdistan) retorted that one did not become a PKK member that easily, without ideological and military training, which is quite true. The FEYKA, like the other pro-PKK associations, has large numbers of rank and file sympathisers who, apart from taking part in demonstrations and social activities and paying “the revolutionary tax” are not expected to conform to the rules and duties incumbent on the “cadres”. They marry, have children and do not leave to fight in the mountains or lead the monastic existence of the European level cadres. Nor are they involved in the party’s more secret activities, though they can quite easily rub shoulders with senior leaders.
According to Murat Karayılan, he was an “agent” who had infiltrated the movement over the last two years. He accused the Turkish Government of wanting to eliminate the European cadres in cooperation with a Turkish “Gladio” and then USA and the EU. “Neither Europe nor the USA have supported a solution to the Kurdish problem none of these powers has ever made the slightest effort to reach a solution through negotiations while they have always taken part in a solution based on violence”.
At the end of January the press (be it Turkish, Kurdish or international) concentrated on revelations about Omer Guney’s life and personality. Those who had shared lodgings with him, in Germany and in France (the country where he had lived after his marriage in 2003 and to which he returned after his divorce in 2011) describe him as having a contradictory and changeable character. Seen as a Turkish nationalist in Germany, he appeared to be a PKK sympathiser to the Kurds in the Paris region. The all, however, describe him as a pleasant young man, not very intelligent, with a fascination for arms and an extensive wardrobe of nearly 50 suits and owning 4 or 5 mobile telephones. Some epileptic crises had led to finding that he had a brain tumour, which enabled him to receive, according to his lawyer, a handicapped persons allowance (Liberation, 11/2/13).
More disturbing, the enquiry seems to show that he visited Turkey several times in 2012 — a fact that he concealed from the Kurds, saying he was leaving to visit his sister in Normandy.
One of the people with whom he shared lodgings revealed, anonymously to FiratNews Agency (pro-PKK) the way Guney had reacted on learning of the murders: “I didn’t notice anything abnormal in his behaviour that day when a friend called me at about 3 in the morning to tell me that our three comrades had been killed. Shocked at the news I immediately woke my fellow boarders and told them what had happened. He (Guney) said he didn’t believe it, that he had seen them in good health on that day. However, he did not say what he had done with them in the office that day”.
Going to be interrogated by the police with the same fellow lodger, he did not seem worried and obviously thought that he had been summoned y the police as a witness or for some translations, although he could have fled between mid-day on the 9th and the dawn of the 10th of January, when the bodies were found.
Omer Guney’s arrest and his being charged started a multitude of “revelations” in the Turkish press, from sources of varying reliability, often repeated by the Kurds. Thus the Turkish daily Aksam published statements by his uncle, Zeki Guney. He talked of two other people who had accompanied his nephew to the scene of the crime, allegedly filmed by the monitoring cameras, whose pictures had been “conjured away” from the films seized by the police. Similarly, Zeki Guney also stated (without explaining how he had the information) that Omer Guney had also mentioned two people with him, and that he denied the murders, which “endangers his life”.
In the Kurdish press, Yeni Özgür Politika (pro PKK) published the confessions of Murat Sahin, a Kurd from Elazig, who claimed he was an MIT agent when arrested in December 2011 in a police operation against an extreme Left organisation. Affirming he was an agent, he was released a week later, and is said to have returned to Switzerland. Feeling he had been “exploited” by the State, which, he said, had employed him he had left the Turkish Intelligence.
This person, who seems very inclined to embroider the truth, stated to Ozgur Politika and to the NûçeTV channel, that he recognised Omer Guney from a photo that an MIT agent had shown him, pointing him out as one of their men in Paris. He also insisted on the story that “two or three ” agents would have accompanied him.
Basing itself on an article in Hurriyet dated 19 October 2012, Yeni Ozgur Politika mentioned a reward of 4 million Turkish liras (1.6 million euros) that Turkey had planned to pay for the execution of 50 PKK leaders, including 20 European cadres.
Was this an internal PKK settling of scores for political reasons? Unlikely — Sakine Cansız did not have the character of a “dissident” to the Ocalan line. Moreover, even in the event of a °dispute” with some members of the Presidential Council less inclined to give what was being negotiated at Imrali a blank cheque, Sakine Cansız had clearly never taken part in diplomatic missions. If she was a legendary character, it was because of her “historic ”past, since there are not many people in the PKK was had taken part in its foundation, between those purged politically, the dissenters and those killed in action. Killing Sakine Cansız could not put paid to the negotiations.
This leads to the “extreme Right” thesis. Admitting that some ultra-nationalist factions hostile to negotiations had envisaged (as had been the case with Ergenekon) to assassinate political public figures or representatives so as to provoke disturbances and inflame the Kurdish question in Turkey, why infiltrate the PKK in Europe so as to kill a member whose death, highly respected though she was, would not changed anything in the movement’s policies? Why kill, almost by chance, a European cadre when it would have been simpler and surely more effective for launching a wave of riots in Turkey, to have assassinated a prominent member of the BDP, an elected member of Parliament or a media-friendly mayor — one of the party leaders. It is probable that the “execution” of an Ahmet Turk, an Osman Baydemir or Salahuttin Demirtas, particularly at a time of elections, would have cause a much greater shock wave in Turkey.
If it was not the “peace” that was targeted, could there have been another motive for killing Sakine Cansız? In a diplomatic cable dated 2007 and revealed by Wikileaks, she is described by the USA as a key person, together with Eiza Altun, regarding the financing, arming strategy of the PKK, which was true and corresponded very well with her character of “unconditional loyalty” to Ocalan and a person above suspicion regarding any mishandling of funds or corruption, which would be easy in dealing with large sums transferred in complete secrecy.
This extract was taken up and widely commented on by some Kurds who even saw the USA’s hand behind the murders, via a Turkish version of Gladio. However, would the US feel the same urgency in neutralising the financing and arming of the PKK in 2012, six years later?
If it was just a solitary act by a nationalist, Omer Guney, in any case, does not have the behaviour pattern of Ogün Samast, who openly claimed the murder of Hrant Dink — he is denying the facts and presents himself of a PKK sympathiser. Could it have been an act of insanity due to his handicap? This is what his lawyer has let it be understood, at least with regard to his “lapsed memory” at the moment of the crime, or else he will present his client as having been “manipulated”. In any case, he does not have the aspect of a secret agent or of a professional killer. Some psychiatric experts or at least some more advanced psychologists may tell us more about Omer Guney’s personality and about what really happened on 9 January between 11 am and 1 pm.
On 30 December last, the Turkish government announced its intention of undertaking discussions with the PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan, imprisoned since 1999. The aim: to secure that the PKK guerrillas lay down their arms and to put an end to a war that has lasted for nearly 30 years.
This is not the first time that political attempts to settle the conflict have been announced, but they have never stayed the course in the field — the unilateral cease fires frequently repeated by the PKK since Ocalan’s capture have always been disregarded by the Turkish Army, that has continued its operations. Moreover secret negotiations between Ankara and the PKK, such as those in Oslo in 2011, broke down because of press leaks and gave way to large-scale legal repression against members of the KCK and/or the BDP.
This time, however, one of the Turkish Prime Minister’s principal advisors, Yalçin Akdogan, affirmed to the daily paper Taraf that the talks covered more than just a temporary truce but were aimed at bringing the Armed Kurdish movement to permanently cease fighting.
Little has been revealed so far about the details or course of the negotiations, conducted by the Turkish Secret Services (MIT) led by Hakan Fidan. For the Turkish side, the priority is clearly the disarmament of the guerrillas or even the surrender and exile of its high command. The PKK demands and those of the BDP cover (with some variation between them) that the Kurdish language be taught in the primary schools teaching (or that all teaching should be in Kurdish), a process towards self management for the Kurdish regions in Turkey (the extent of which is still not specified or explicit), the ending of Turkish Army attacks on the PKK bases and some demands regarding Ocalan’s fate, the demands ranging between ending his isolation to his complete release.
However, very little has seeped out about the conditions formulated by Ocalan personally, or about the meetings that began on 23 December. According to leading officers of the MIT, whose remarks have been published by the daily Hurriyet, the PKK is said to have demanded, in addition to an improvement in his conditions of detention, the ability personally to resume contact with the guerrillas, at present commanded “in his name” by the Presidential Council, that brings together many veterans of its armed forces. No one knows if this demand has been accepted.
In his New Year speech on StêrkTV, the President of the PKK Executive Council, Murat Karayılan, recalled that 90 years of “Turkification” had failed and that Ankara would have to admit this. Admitting more directly to the possibility envisaged by the Turkish Government that he and the guerrilla high command should leave their bases without being prosecuted on condition that they do not live in neighbouring States, but in “other countries”, Murat Karayılan replied that this proposal was an “attack on the Kurdish people and its values”.
“Everyone must know that the guerrilla of the Kurdish people’s freedom and resistance movement must live so long as the armed repression and political massacring of the Kurdish people continues”.
Regarding the principle of negotiation and peace, Murat Karayılan added that they would not withdraw from the fight except through a solution secured by dialogue and negotiation, on condition that the Turkish “authorities recognise the Kurdish people, see its reality and put an end to their policy of occupation”.
However, on 4 January, it was announced that two Kurdish Members of Parliament, Ayla Akat Ata and Ahmet Türk, had been able to see Abdullah Ocalan, something that no one except his brother Mehmet, had been able to do for nearly a year — and especially not his lawyers. On the very next day, the joint president of the BDP, Selahattin Demirtaş, twitted ironically that no special statement would be made about the meeting at Imrali and that political developments would be made public “when the time has come”. Speaking a little later on the NûçeTV channel, Mr. Demirtas promised a statement “in the next few days”, simply describing the meeting as “positive”. In the end, no detailed account of this meeting was given to the press.
Paradoxically, — or is it to keep its public opinion happy? — Turkey has not ceased its military operations against the PKK and openly declares that it has no intention of doing so. At least as expressed by its Minister of the Interior, Idris Naim Şahin (since replaced) who assured the Anadolu Press Agency that the assaults would be continued until “the group that is hostile to our people is no longer in a position to attack or shed blood” — an objective which, if seriously meant could prolong the conflict for another thirty years...
The same bellicose warning was given by Yalçin Akdoğan, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s advisor, who himself had announced the reality of the negotiations. He stated that there was no question of “suspending ort stopping the fight against terrorism” presenting the “security policy” as “a complementary factor” of the negotiations. On the other hand, any armed attack by the Kurds would be considered “as sabotaging” these discussions. Optimistically, Mr. Akdoğan alleges that the fighters, tired of living underground and in the mountains, were “exhausted” and considered that the perspective of being able to come down would be a sufficient incitement to laying down their arms.
Nurettin Canikli, a senior official of the AKP was more cautious and admits that some “progress” had been made but that he could not say if the PKK was on the point of laying down its arms, especially as the Prime Minister has, for the moment, ruled out any possibility of a general amnesty of the fighters — which is one of the demands made by the guerrillas as well as placing Ocalan under house arrest.
Although the military operations have not ceased, Erdogan is directly urging the guerrillas to lay down their arms as a pledge of their “sincerity” and assuring them, in passing, that any legal proceeding in another country would be abandoned. The reshuffling of his cabinet, that involved replacing Idris Naim Sahin as Minister of the Interior by Muammar Güler, a Kurd from Mardin, is at least a sign of appeasement, or of good will towards the Kurds, who had no love for Naim Sahin and his attacks on the BDP members of Parliament, who he described as “representing the PKK gangsters” and “people who were not worth a cent”. Muammer Güler, in addition to being a Kurd is also seen as a moderate within the AKP.
Regarding the withdrawal of the PKK from Turkey or even the exile of its military commanders, the BDP, for its part, affirms that it is not aware of this and et Demirtaş, its co-president rejected this eventuality as had Karayılan on the 1st January, and in much the same terms.
This is not a formula that the PKK can accept. After all, the PKK is an organisation that lives in Kurdistan — why would it wish to lay down its arms in Kurdistan and leave to live in other countries?
Demirtas continues to insist on the demand that “autonomy” should be granted to the Kurdish regions: “How this autonomy will be created and what it will consist of, can perhaps be discussed, but to say that, from a Kurdish point of view, it has renounced autonomy is false. Only the way it will be set up can change”.
The BDP co-president pointed out that he and another party leader, Gultan Kışanak, had asked the Minister of Justice for permission to meat Ocalan in their turn, but that they had not yet received any reply. He also added that the plan announced would, doubtless not be the agreement finally approved by Ocalan and that they would first have to “discuss (with him) and exchange ideas”.
At the end of the month Gultan Kışanak also, in turn criticised the isolation of Ocalan during the negotiations, recalling that Nelson Mandela had been transferred from his prison to house arrest during the same kind of process. According to her, the idea of a prior surrender of the PKK members is purely “speculative” and it seemed to her indispensible that the BDP and the PKK play a more active part, particularly by allowing the BDP to meet Ocalan (no allusion or information had been published about the meeting with Ahmet Türk and Ayla Akat Ata).
The BDP is not alone in complaining of the opacity of these negotiations. The Turkish opposition is also demanding more “transparency”. Thus the CHP’s Vice-President, Faruk Loğoğlu, complains that Parliament has not, so far, had its say in the process. Surprisingly, Loğoğlu, who says he favours a non-military solution, demands, in fact, that in place and in stead of Ocalan as recognised negotiator, the government should choose to address the Turkish National Assembly to find a solution, criticising the fact that the future of Turkey be at present subordinated to discussions with the PKK leader. Moreover, he criticises the vagueness and uncertainty reigning over the means of a possible disarming of the PKK, whose statements contradict the “progress” published in the Turkish press.
It is not very clear what new factors the Turkish parliament could provide for a 29-year-old conflict, even if a radical reform of the Turkish constitution were finally succeed in being voted. But it is certain that, in basing itself solely on Ocalan to negotiate a road map leading to a final peace is, perhaps unrealistic if Ankara does not take the guerrilla into account. At the same time, the Presidential Council, like the BDP, having always proclaimed that it was acting either in his name or on his behalf, it would be hard for it, particularly faced with its activist members, to completely disavow the political choices of their leader, at the risk of seeing the disintegration of their movement (which would not be in Turkey’s interest either).
In an interview to the daily Aswat al-Iraq on 25 January, Hajar Zagros, one of the five leaders of the PKK, confirmed that the basic conditions demanded by her party for negotiating peace with Turkey, were le freeing of Ocalan plus the 44 lawyers and 10,000 Kurdish activists behind bars. She pointed out that “at this stage” the PKK did not want an independent Kurdish State, but wanted recognition of Kurds as a second nation in Turkey in a Constitutional context, taking up Ataturk’s initial idea of a bi-national State or the present bi-national itu of the Iraqi State.
Like every year, Human Rights Watch publishes its report on the state of Human Rights in the world, continent by continent, with details of the “problem countries”.
The Kurds are mentioned as victims and sometimes as perpetrators of injustices in the chapters dealing with Turkey, Iran and the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. This year, Syria is only examined with respect of crimes committed by the Baathist government and also those imputed to the Free Syrian Army. Apparently the Kurdish areas were not visited.
Turkey is, unsurprisingly, criticised for the abusive misuse of the “anti-terrorist” laws and for its legal persecution of journalists, Kurdish politicians and for the restrictions on Kurds in general. The independence of the courts is seriously called to question.
The Prosecutors and courts use the laws against terrorism to prosecute and incarcerate Kurdish activists, Human Rights defenders, students, journalists and trade Unionists. Freedom of expression and of the media is reduced and “serious and persistent violations” were noted regarding the equity of trials.
Since the AKP “closes its eyes to the mass detentions of Kurdish activists” and to “the escalation of attacks by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the year 2012 has slid into a spiral of violence, with armed clashes that have caused hundreds of lives amongst soldiers and members of the PKK, which is significantly higher than in previous years. In the course of 2012, the PKK has kidnapped members of the security forces and civilians, including politicians, a member of parliament and some teachers, then periodically releasing them. A bomb attack at Gaziantep killed 9 civilians, including 4 children. The failure to resolve the Kurdish question remains the principal obstacle to progress in human rights in Turkey”.
Among the thousands of prisoners accused of terrorism, either sentenced or undergoing trial, are the academic, Büşra Esanlı, the publisher, Ragip Zarakolu, and the journalists, Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener, have been released, but the charges of terrorism have not been withdrawn.
The majority of these prisoners are Kurdish activists of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). They are accused of links with the Union of Kurdistan Communities (KCK/TM) an organisation linked to the PKK. In general, the legal vice has tightened on the BDP and on the Kurdish activist circles in 2012, with waves of arrests and prolongation of trials. Amongst them are many journalists, students, lawyers, trade unionists and Human Rights defenders.
In the largest scale trial, that at Diyarbekir, of over 175 accused, 108 have been in detention for the last 3 and a half years, including the director of the Diyarbekir branch of the Human Rights Association, Muharrem Erbey, six BDP mayors, members of municipal councils, all BDP members and 5 elected Members of Parliament.
HRW recalls the bombing of 34 young villagers (largely teen-agers and children) at Roboski (Uludere) in December 2011, while they were crossing the Iraqi Kurdistan border to carry some smuggled goods, and expresses its concern regarding the hushing up of this affair. This is increased by the Prime Minister’s statement rejecting the demands by the families concerned, the opposition parties and the media, demanding some clarification, in view of the absence of any public and criminal enquiry.
There is, however, some progress in the public discussion of past events and new information has come to light on earlier crimes. This has given a fresh impulse to some criminal investigations regarding human rights violations by officers of the State in the years 1980-1990. In October, a Brigadier General was tried for the murder or disappearance of 13 villagers at Derîk early in the 90s.
Government reforms are needed to abolish the resort to assassination and torture.
Finally, the trial of 2 still living leaders of the 12 September 1980 Coup d’état, began in April, which is an important opportunity to provide justice for the victims of the massive violations of human rights that followed the coup d’état.
Regarding Iran, the government refused to refuses the grant freedom of worship to followers of Bahaism, the largest non-Moslem religious minority in Iran. Among the Moslems, the non-Shiites face discriminations in employment and representation in society, although the Sunni Moslems are 10% of the population. They cannot build mosques in the major towns or hold separate services during the Eid. The Sufis are often particularly targeted by the government.
The cultural and political activities of the Azeris, the Kurds, the Arabs and the Baluchis are subjected to considerable restrictions. In September 2012, at least 28 Kurdish activists were awaiting execution, accused of being threats to national security and of being mohareneh (enemies of God).
The Kurdistan Regional Government has made no progress in enforcing application of the 2011 law condemning excision. However, in July 2012 the highest Moslem authorities issued a fatwa signed by 33 imams and doctors of the law, declaring that Islam does not require excision. However, the application and carrying out of the law against family violence, which came into effect on 11 August 2011, which includes several measures to eradicate this practice, and only had mediocre results.
On 17 January, Amnesty launched an appeal to save two Kurdish political prisoners, Zanyar and Loghman Moradi, as well as an Azeri of the Yarsan or Ahl-é Haqq, Yunes Aghayanare at the moment in the Raja’i Shahr Prison, in Teheran. They were arrested on 1 August, in Zanyar’s case and 17 October in the case of his cousin Loghman, at Mariwan, In Kurdistan Province. Detained for 9 months without being charged by the Intelligence Service Ministry, they were transferred to several detention centres, without ever seeing a lawyer. They finally ended up in the notorious Evin Prison, in Teheran (run by the Intelligence Service).
In 2009, the PressTV channel, an official English language Iranian channel, finally announced that four “terrorists” linked to the British Government, had been arrested at Mariwan:
Several Kurdish clerics holding official religious offices in Kurdistan without being really key figures had been mysteriously assassinated, without the claims made by Kurdish pseudo-peshmergas being really convincing. Most Iranian Kurds seeing here the hand of the regime trying to discredit the Kurdish resistance groups in the eyes of the population.
On 22 December 2010 they had been found guilty by the 15th Chamber of the Teheran Revolutionary Court as moharebeh (enemies of God) and for the murder of the son of the Mariwan Imam, as well as armed activity as members of the Komala and spying for Great Britain.
A week after their trial, Zanyar and Loghman were transferred to the Raja’i Shahr Prison. There, they said in a published letter, their confessions were extorted by torture and threats of rape, as Zanyar Moradi wrote: “I confessed to none of their accusations until they threatened me with rape. They brought a bottle and told me that I must confess or they would seat me on the bottle”.
Regarding the charge of murdering the Imam of Mariwan\s son, Eqbal Moradi, Zanyar’s father described the irregular and artificial aspects of the case:
“My son was arrested 20 months ago and it was only 17 months later that he was accused of murder and terrorism. But everyone in Mariwan, including the victim’s family, knows full well that it was not Zanyar and a few other young men who did this. Everyone in Mariwan, including the victim’s family, knows that these recent cases of murder are nothing other than acts of the regime and nothing to do with these young men”.
Similarly, Osman Moradi, Loghman Moradi’s father, confirmed the tardy character of these accusations:
“During the first 9 months that he was detained by the Intelligence Services, there was no murder charge on his file. Even later, during the 7 months he was in prison this was never mentioned. However they then took him to the Intelligence Ministry once again and there they tortured and ill-treated him to such an extent that he acknowledged the murder. I mean that he acknowledged it to escape from such a situation. It took them17 months to secure this confession”.
In January 2012, the Supreme Court confirmed the sentence and, a month later, the order for it to be carried out was sent to the appropriate office of the Teheran magistracy.
A year later, news circulated that the two cousins’ execution was imminent. Amnesty International, which has been following this case for several years, learnt that the Imam, the victim’s father, and the Public prosecutor had gone to Teheran together, which could mean that the death sentence might soon be carried out.
Yunes Aghyan, was arrested in September 2004, after some clashes between some Ahl-e Haqq (Yarsans) believers and the police, in which at least 3 members of the police were killed when the Yarsans refused to stop chanting religious slogans in their stock-rearing farm. Yunes and his family have always denied being involved in these clashes, pointing out that he was only a hired hand there.
During his period of preventive detention he was subjected to torture and ill treatment.
Tried along with 4 other Yarsans by the 2nd Chamber of the Mahabad Revolutionary Court, Yunes Aghyan was sentenced together with Mehdi Qasemzadeh to capital punishment as “enemies of God” in January 2005. These sentences were confirmed by the Supreme Court in April 2005 and Mehdi Qasemzadeh was executed in on 28 February 2009.
Three other Yarsans — Sehend Ali Mohammadi, Bakhshali Mohammadi and Ebadollah Qasemzadeh — had also initially been sentenced to death, but their sentence was commuted to 13 years imprisonment and exile to Yazd Province by the Supreme Court in September 2009.
The Yarsans or Ahl-e Haqq, are mainly Kurds with a smaller number of Azeris and are not recognised as a religious minority. Consequently their rites, the expression of their faiths and their practices are forbidden.
Yunes Aghayan was transferred to Mahabad Prison (Western Azerbaijan) on 26 December 2012 to be held in solitary confinement in Urmiah Prison.
Transfers to solitary confinement is often, for those sentenced and waiting in death row, a sign that their execution is close. Yunes Aghayan started a total hunger strike (neither food or drink) from the first day of his arrival at Urmiah. Since then, without any contact with the outside world, he has continued this strike and the state of his health remains unknown.
Atta Nasiri, former member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, has announced that after 5 years efforts and petitions, he has succeeded in persuading the Austrian authorities to authorise the erection of a monument commemorating the assassination of Abderahman Ghassemlou, the Kurdish leader assassinated in Vienna in 1989 by the Iranian Secret Services.
For several years Austria has shown reluctance to any tribute of this kind being paid on the grounds of “good relations with Iran”, according to Atta Nasiri, who is a former Peshmerga. Finally the present Austrian President, Heinz Fischer, has responded favourably, citing his bonds of friendship with Ghassemlou.
The monument will be erected on the site of the Kurdish leader’s assassination by Iranian emissaries claiming to be “negotiators”. The Austrian authorities at first showed reluctance at the inscription proposed, that mentions “Iranian terrorists”, but has finally accepted it.
Atta Nasiri had been sent to study abroad by Abderahman Ghassemlu, after he had lost a leg in fighting. He obtained a Masters in Sociology and is the author of a book on the Kurdish question.