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Iran Cracks Down On Kurds

There are new reports of Iranian government repression of ethnic Kurds. Reuters news service says that more than one-hundred people in the town of Saqqez were arrested. Several people have reportedly been killed.

In May, the independent monitoring group Reporters Without Borders condemned "a wave of harassment of Kurdish journalists by local [government] authorities." Iran's ministry of culture and Islamic guidance closed down Ashti, a daily newspaper, and Asou, which published weekly. Reporters Without Borders condemned "this crackdown on the Kurdish press because Iranian Kurdistan has more need than ever of its journalists in these times of great tension."

Ethnic Kurds comprise some ten percent of the population of Iran. They have a distinctive language and culture, and most are Sunni Muslims in a country where the majority are Shiites.

In June, Iranian security forces killed Shovan Ghaderi, a Kurdish youth activist, who was participating in a peaceful protest in Mahabad, a predominantly Kurdish city in Iran's West Azerbaijan province. Humans Rights First, an independent monitoring group, says that after he was shot, Iranian soldiers tied Mr. Ghaderi's body "to a military vehicle and dragged it through the city in a clear attempt to intimidate the population and deter further protests." Neil Hicks, director of International Programs for Human Rights First, says Shovan Ghaderi's death has become a rallying point for Iranian Kurds:

"There have been a number of subsequent demonstrations in the major Kurdish population centers calling for an investigation and justice in the killing of Shovan Ghaderi."

Amnesty International has asked Iranian authorities to provide the names of all those detained, and details of any charges against them. The U.S. State Department said in Iran, "Denial of the rights of minority groups is one aspect of the regime's appalling human rights and democracy record." The State Department called "on the Iranian authorities to exercise restraint and to respect the peaceful exercise by the Iranian people of their democratic rights."

"America believes in the independence and territorial integrity of Iran," said President George W. Bush. "America believes in the right of the Iranian people to make their own decisions and determine their own future. America believes that freedom is the birthright and deep desire of every human soul. And to the Iranian people, I say, 'As you stand for your liberty, the American people stand with you.'"

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.