NEW YORK - Dr. Roya Toloui, a champion of Kurdish and women's rights who was detained by Iranian authorities on August 2, is reported to be facing charges of "disturbing the peace" and "acting against national security." Toloui's detention is consistent with a pattern of harassment and persecution that she and other human rights activists in Iran's Kurdish region have suffered in recent months in reprisal for their legitimate, peaceful activities in support of basic rights and freedoms. Human Rights First is calling for the Iranian government to drop all charges against Dr. Toloui, and to immediately release her and all those detained after a demonstration in Sanandaj on Monday, August 1.
"The Iranian authorities are trying to silence human rights defenders by
arresting Dr, Toloui and her colleagues, but repression will not quell the
legitimate demands of the people for rights and freedoms," said Neil Hicks,
Director of International Programs at Human Rights First.
There has been mounting unrest and a number of demonstrations held in Iran's Kurdish region since the presidential elections in late June, which saw the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a candidate viewed as hostile to Kurdish aspirations for greater equality and respect for their distinct cultural and religious traditions.
Reports indicate that Kurdish protests have been met with violence and repression on the part of the Iranian government. Large numbers of troops backed by helicopter gunships have been sent to quell protesters, resulting in more than 20 dead and hundreds of arrests thus far. In addition to Dr. Toloui, at least three other human rights defenders are reported to have been detained in recent weeks: Azad Zamani, a member of the Association for the Defense of Children's Rights from Sinne; Jalal Qavani, a journalist, and Mahmoud Salehi, a labor rights activist.
Roya Toloui is an outspoken critic of the policies of the Islamic Republic and its negative impact on the rights of women and religious and ethnic minorities. She and other human rights activists in Kordestan and West Azerbaijan provinces have been vocal in protesting the recent wave of repression unleashed on the Kurdish population in Iran. Regional magazines that reported on the unrest have been closed by the authorities, but information about continuing disturbances in the region continues to reach the outside world.
On July 9, 2005 security forces in Mahabad, a predominantly Kurdish city in West Azerbaijan province, shot and killed Shovan Ghaderi a leading youth activist and a member of the Association of Human Rights for Iranian Kurds. Press reports indicate that Revolutionary Guards and paramilitaries fired on a group of young men, wounding Qaderi in the foot after he had approached the soldiers to see what they wanted. After shooting him twice more, soldiers tied his body to a military vehicle and dragged it through the city in a clear attempt to intimidate the population and deter further protests.
Shovan Qaderi's killing has become the focus of mounting protests throughout
Iran's predominantly Kurdish provinces.
Kurds are a minority in Iran, comprising some ten percent of the population, concentrated in the western provinces of the country. They are economically disadvantaged and their distinctive language and culture has suffered in comparison to the dominant Persian culture. Moreover, most Kurds are Sunni Muslims, a religious minority in the Shi'ite Islamic Republic. Kurds had hoped for an improvement in their situation under President Mohamed Khatami, but their aspirations - together with those of many of their compatriots who had anticipated promised political reform - were not realized in eight years of his presidency.
... Payvand News - 8/16/05 ... --