Farzad Kamangar is a teacher, a human rights defender, and a member of Iran's Kurdish minority. The combination may prove fatal for the 33-year-old Iranian.
For more than 10 years, Mr. Kamangar taught in Iran's Kordistan province. He was also a member of the teachers' union there, before it was outlawed by the regime. In addition, he belonged to an organization that was active in defending human rights, including Kurdish minority rights and rights for women.
He was arrested in 2006 and sentenced to death in 2008, after being convicted of so-called "crimes against national security" and of being "moharabeh," that is, an enemy of God.
Mr. Kamangar has insisted that he is innocent of any crime, and international human rights monitors have said his trial was grossly unfair. They have also said he has been tortured in custody – beaten, flogged and electrocuted. Amnesty International reports that on November 24, 2008, guards entered his cell in Evin prison, beat him and threatened him with imminent execution.
It is hard not to see the Iranian regime's brutal treatment of Farzad Kamangar as part of a pattern of repression aimed at Iran's ethnic Kurdish minority. While all Iranian defenders of human rights or peaceful political dissidents are under threat and worse from the Iranian government, Iranian authorities are particularly punishing to those who belong to ethnic minority groups.
Human Rights Watch recently published a new report detailing the repression of Iran's Kurdish population by the Iranian government. Kurds make up approximately 7 percent of the population and live mainly in the northwest regions of the country.
The report shows how the regime, in an increasingly aggressive campaign, uses so-called security and press laws to arrest and prosecute Kurdish Iranians simply for exercising their rights of freedom of expression and association. Numerous newspapers and magazines have been closed; editors and writers have been imprisoned; non-governmental organizations have been refused permits to operate; and human rights defenders like Farzad Kamangar have been sentenced to death.
The U.S. calls on Iran to stop the repression of all Iranians, including Kurdish Iranians, who only seek the peaceful exercise of their universal human rights. In addition, the U.S. urges the Government of Iran to follow the rule of law, and free all political prisoners, like Farzad Kamangar, who are imprisoned because of their efforts to defend the rights of the Iranian people.