Massoud Kordpour: "Why are We Afraid to Talk about Human Rights and Upholding the Law?"

Massoud Kordpour is a Kurdish journalist and teacher who, along with his brother Khosro, has been imprisoned by the Iranian government for the past several months. After Khosro’s arrest, Massoud visited Intelligence Ministry offices in Mahabad (Iranian Kurdistan) to check on his brother’s condition, at which point he was himself detained. After being held in Mahabad and the nearby city of Urmia for 111 days, the two brothers were transferred to Mahabad Central Prison on June 26, 2013. Already jailed for four months, Massoud and Khosro Kordpour were charged with colluding to act against national security, insulting the Supreme Leader, and propaganda against the regime by the Second Branch of the Revolutionary Court in Mahabad on June 27. Combined, the two brothers were sentenced to a total of nine years and six months in prison and internal exile. Massoud Kordpour, for his part, was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for collusion and six months more for anti-regime propaganda.

In this exclusive Tavaana translation, Massoud directly addresses three of Iran’s highest-ranking officials, including President Hassan Rouhani. The jailed Kurdish activist writes: “Honorable President Rouhani, I believe that, in order to solve the country’s problems, the lines of communication between the government and civil institutions, brave journalists, and even the opposition must remain open...The path to a secure, developed, and progressive Kurdish region is dependent on recognition of the legitimate and legal freedoms of the citizens.”

December 10, 2013

Full text of the letter:

Why are We Afraid to Talk about Human Rights and Upholding the Law?

Respectable heads of the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches,

Greetings.

These days, I read about subjects such as citizen’s rights, a change in political atmosphere, the relationship between prisoners and wardens, the attitude of judicial authorities towards prisoners, and ways of ensuring fair judgment in an Islamic society in the newspapers brought to our prison. There is a great deal of difference between these publications and the reality that my fellow inmates and I are facing. I often ponder and argue with my fellow prisoners about whether we should believe these words we read or the actual behavior and attitude we see from the local representatives of the government, in addition to the political and economic atmosphere forced upon the innocent people of this region by the incompetence of these authorities.

During these nine months of imprisonment, I have tried hard to have a conversation with the authorities, to reach an understanding with them, and to inform them of the injustices my brother Khosro Kordpour, myself, and many other prisoners and citizens have faced. Unfortunately, I have not received any acceptable answer outside of being advised to keep silent. As I am convinced that prison is not the solution to our problems, I have no other choice but to write a letter to you, the heads of the three branches of government.

I hereby evoke both my case and the problems and hardships that exist in the Kurdish regions. I hope it will be useful to you.

I spent 18 years studying in this country’s schools and universities, and I have taught in high schools in cities such as Tehran, Boukan, Isfahan and Takab for about 21 years. In my 42 years, I have never had legal difficulties with anyone. I have been a law-abiding and ethical journalist for about 15 years, and have been involved in civil, humanitarian, and journalistic activities. Although the country, and Kurdistan especially, has recently gone through many political trials and tribulations, I had never faced any serious problems. Unfortunately, however, due to changes in the country’s management in recent years, I came to face problems including banishment, being barred from teaching, and imprisonment. I was sentenced to prison for a year and forced to quit my job in 2008. I was arrested with my brother in Mahabad nine months ago, and was kept without arraignment for four months in horrible conditions and solitary confinement in Mahabad and Urmia. We have been held in Mahabad Prison since July.

Unfortunately, our defense and our explanations in the Revolutionary Court was ignored by the authorities. For our reports and criticism of the government’s policies and mismanagement in Kurdistan, we received the harshest sentence possible. What is surprising is that, as soon as a journalist in this region writes in the same manner as the national newspapers and media write or the ruling parties speak, if he asks why, 34 years after the revolution, the Constitution and the people’s rights are ignored at even the most basic levels, he has committed an unforgivable crime and has to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. About 34 years ago, right after the revolution, Imam Khomeini said even the Marxists were free to express their opinion. Now we are being imprisoned and banished for voicing our opinion and criticizing the status quo, even though our intention is only to reform and to solve the people’s problems. All the while, the authorities claim Iran is the center of the Islamic world and the government rules by Imam Ali’s justice.

Imam Ali used to say: “Until the enemy draws their sword, I will not cut their pension from the treasury.” How is it that, 34 years after a revolution whose ideals were freedom and justice and for which thousands sacrificed their lives, critics and opposition are banished and incarcerated for expressing their thoughts about the country’s conditions? Many sections of the Constitution which relate to the people’s and the opposition’s rights continue to be ignored. Why is Article 168 of the Constitution (which regards political and journalistic crimes) ignored, with people still being tried without a jury? For that reason, due to the political and security circumstances in the region, I have no hope of a fair trial in the courts of Western Azerbaijan. I ask the highest judicial authorities for an appeal of my brother’s case and mine before independent judges, so that you may see up close how the judicial process works in this region.

Respectable heads of the three branches, believe me when I say: if you were a Kurdish citizen, if you lived under the political, economic and societal conditions in this region, faced with the extremely centralized policies of the government from one side and mismanagement and social and economic frustrations such as poverty and unemployment from the other, you too would object to these conditions and would not be able to bear it. Unfortunately, the government’s repression in recent years have closed any window for objections and criticism. The national security policies in this region leave no flexibility. This has created a fractious and volatile political atmosphere as well as an increasing number of political cases in the courts.

The security forces in this region show no tolerance and are unnecessarily harsh, while the critics find themselves more and more limited every day. These conditions have given rise to expanded underground activities. Violence and secret newsletters will replace newspapers and civilized discussion, and human rights and the national interest will be trampled ever more.

Honorable President Rouhani, I believe that, in order to solve the country’s problems, the lines of communication between the government and civil institutions, brave journalists, and even the opposition must remain open, so that problems can be clearly discussed and analyzed and so that society and the government can be rid of corruption. Civil institutions are the seeds of democracy and human rights. In today’s world, in the age of communication, progress and stable development cannot be achieved without the presence of informed and educated people in civil institutions and without recognized and responsible political parties.

Respectable government officials and parliamentarians, I believe the path to a secure and peaceful region does not mean increasing the budgets of the security forces and the judiciary while putting more pressure on activists and journalists. This behavior will only widen the gap between people and the state, creating a cold peace. The path to a secure, developed, and progressive Kurdish region is dependent on recognition of the legitimate and legal freedoms of the citizens. In other words, ruling the people’s hearts – that which the holy men and God’s prophets saw as their key to success.

What do you dear leaders consider to be the crimes of those who were not allowed to act, even in accordance with the laws currently governing peaceful political and civil activities, and who are now imprisoned? These people, and many other prisoners incarcerated due to the prevailing political, social, and economic conditions, are the victims of the incompetent and illogical management of the country’s politics and security. Their only crime is to have been born in Kurdistan. Therefore, I ask you to please order that their cases be reheard, so that they may be freed and allowed to return to their families if possible.

Honorable head of the judiciary, it is unfortunately illegal to obtain a copy of the Constitution in Mahabad Prison. My constant requests for it have been in vain. I believe owning, reading and knowing the constitution of the country is necessary, not only for citizens but also for the opposition. This is because undesirable laws are still preferable to chaos.

Respectable authorities, please be aware that some people seem to be trying hard to keep the people of the region uninformed about their legal rights. They believe that fighting the law is the secret to power and wealth. I cannot comprehend why talking about upholding the Constitution and citizens’ rights, even in prison, is so frightening to some. It could be said that the real separatists are those who are afraid of the rule of law and of upholding human rights, those who try to point people and activists in various fields towards illegal measures and create security and judicial issues they can exploit in order to guarantee their own existence and power.

Please see to it that the necessary measures are taken for the rule of law and the implementation of the third chapter of the Constitution, which concerns the rights of the people of this region, so that journalists, civil activists, and citizens can continue their activities in a civil, rational, and peaceful way.

Massoud Kordpour

Mahabad Prison

What Tavaana Students Have to Say

Ignorance grows in a closed environment, and this type of environment causes many problems for societies like Iran. I participated in this course to learn methods and strategies that aim to create an environment that makes it possible for human beings to think freely.
- Shadi, Technology and Human Rights course graduate

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