In advance of World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd, the U.S. State Department has been highlighting cases of journalists around the world who are suffering because they dared speak truth to power. One of them is Kurdish-Iranian journalist Mohammad Seddigh Kaboudvand.
Mr. Kaboudvand was the editor of the weekly journal Payam-e Mardom and the founder and head of the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan. He was arrested in 2007, and reportedly held in solitary confinement for months.
State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland spoke of him at a press briefing:
“Kaboudvand was reporting on torture in Iranian prisons -- and now finds himself in one himself -- and also on human rights abuses against Iranian Kurds. In 2008 he was sentenced to eleven years in prison for acting against national security and engaging in propaganda against the state.”
According to his family and human rights monitors, Mr. Kaboudvand has had several heart attacks in prison. Though physicians have recommended surgery for complications with Mr. Kaboudvand’s heart, authorities have denied temporary release for medical care. Before her own arrest and incarceration, renowned human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh was his lawyer. She said that “the most difficult conditions ever imposed on a prisoner have taken place for Mr. Kaboudvand.”
While all independent journalists and civil society activists live under threat in Iran, ethnic minorities like the Kurds are particularly targeted by the regime. Human rights monitors say that at least 14 Kurdish Iranian prisoners are on death row, and many other Kurdish journalists and rights activists languish in prison.
In the press briefing, State Department spokesperson Nuland called on the Iranian government to release Mohammad Seddigh Kaboudvand, along with the approximately 90 other journalists it is currently holding in Iranian prisons. The United States, as President Barack Obama has said, will continue to speak out “when fundamental human rights are denied, when freedom of judiciaries or legislatures or the press is threatened.”