IRAN: Anger and protests follow executions of Kurds on terrorism charges

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Reports have surfaced of renewed unrest in parts of Iran and protests at Tehran University after Sunday’s execution of four Iranian Kurds, including a woman, and another Iranian activist for alleged terrorist activities.

Media reports said Iranian Kurds were planning protests in anger over the executions and the declaration of martial law in the cities of Mahabad and Sanandaj, which have predominantly Kurdish populations.


According to the independent Kurdish news website Aweenah, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani had made a secret visit to Tehran early Sunday in a last-minute bid to stop the executions.The website said Talabani, a Kurd, had been scheduled to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to ask him to intervene in the case and put the executions on hold.

But the executions went ahead, and Farzad Kamangar, Ali Haydarian, Farhad Vakili, Shirin Alam-Houli and Mehdi Eslamian were hanged after their convictions on various charges, including terrorism and waging war against God, according to Iranian state media.

Four were ethnic Kurds and members of the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PEJAK), an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Kurdish activists insist that none of the four were involved in terrorist activities, and the executions have drawn condemnation and criticism from human rights groups.

‘A regime which relates earthquakes to the way women dress has no credibility when it tries to link civilian activists to bombings,’ Kaweh Ahangari of the Kurdish Democratic Party was quoted as saying by the Guardian newspaper.

The Iranian rights watchdog Human Rights Iran claimed the defendants were sentenced under dubious circumstances and that they suffered maltreatment while in detainment.

‘None of the five executed today had fair trials and they had been subjected to torture while in the prison,’ Iran Human Rights spokesperson Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said in a statement.

Meanwhile, scores of video tributes to the five, such as the clip below, have emerged on the Internet.

The hangings were viewed by some as an attempt by the Iranian authorities to intimidate opposition activists and deter them from answering the calls of Iran’s main opposition leaders, Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi for protests on June 12, the anniversary of last year’s disputed presidential election.

Still, a day after the executions, protests erupted at Tehran’s Shahid Beheshti University during a surprise visit by Ahmadinejad. The opposition website Jaras said 1,000 students turned up for the rally against the Iranian president.

It was unclear whether the executions partly provoked the protests, but opposition leaders and activists have been trying to reach out to the country’s restive Kurdish minority.

Videos said to be from the demonstrations show crowds of young men and women chanting anti-government slogans and ‘azadi,’ or freedom.

No major clashes between protesters and police appear to have taken place during the demonstration, but clips such as the one below suggest the protest turned a bit chaotic at times.

After the executions, protests reportedly also broke out outside the Iranian Embassy in Paris and in Germany as well as other countries.

-- Alexandra Sandels and Becky Lee Katz in Beirut

Shirin Alam-Houli (left to right) were three of the Iranian Kurds executed Sunday. Credit: Iran Human Rights website

Videos: Scenes of protest at Tehran’s Shahid Beheshti University on Monday. Credit: YouTube