Nowruz marks the new year in Iran, but the Iranian people are facing all-too-familiar repressive tactics by the Iranian government. Recently, baton-wielding security forces in Tehran broke up yet another peaceful demonstration -- this time of teachers protesting low pay and poor working conditions.
According to news reports, more than one thousand people were hauled to detention centers, and some ended up in Evin prison. Earlier this month, more than thirty women's rights demonstrators in Tehran suffered a similar fate.
Meanwhile, the press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders has called for the release of four imprisoned journalists from the northwestern Kurdish area of Iran. Aso Salah writes for the weekly journal "Didgagh." He was arrested in Sanandaj on March 8th, while covering a demonstration marking International Women's Day. Kia Jahani is a long-time contributor to the Kurdish-language television station, Kurdistan T.V. He was arrested on February 24th. Two other journalists from the region, Adnan Hassanpour and Kaveh Javanmard, have been imprisoned for several months and have been denied visits from family or lawyers.
Moreover, a group promoting human rights for Iran's Kurdish minority has sounded an alarm over the sentence of death imposed on five Kurdish Iranian women. One of the women, Mohabbat Mahmoudi, was condemned to death by hanging for allegedly murdering a man who tried to rape her. Another, Malek Shamameh Ghorbani, a mother of two young children, has been sentenced to death by stoning because she allegedly had an extra- marital affair. According to the Association for Human Rights in Iranian Kurdistan, the three other Kurdish Iranian women were also sentenced to death in problematic cases.
Azar Nafisi, a scholar at Johns Hopkins University and author of the best-selling memoir "Reading Lolita in Tehran", says it is important for the Iranian people to know that their plight does not go unnoticed:
"Let them know that they're not alone. I lived in Iran for eighteen years after the revolution. One of the worst things is when you think you're alone – that nobody knows about you and nobody cares."
"It is time for the Iranian government, says U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormick, "to cease the systematic oppression of its citizens [and] respect the human rights of all Iranian people."