Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Iran: Security Forces Kill Kurdish Protestors

(New York, August 11, 2005) - The Iranian government must
investigate the deaths of at least 17 people at the hands of security
forces in the western province of Kurdistan over the past two
weeks, Human Rights Watch said today.

Security forces reportedly also wounded hundreds when they
opened fire on demonstrators protesting the killing of a young
Kurdish man, Shivan Qaderi, on July 9.

In addition, the government forces arrested hundreds of people
throughout the province, including Roya Toloui, a women's rights
activist, and several other leading human rights defenders and
journalists.

On July 9, security forces shot and killed Shivan Qaderi in
Mahabad. Kurdish groups, quoting Qaderi's brother, said that
Qaderi was approached by the security forces in public, shot three
times, and then tied to a military vehicle and dragged around the
city. According to these reports, Qaderi was a social and political
activist, but government authorities have accused him of "moral
and financial violations."

In the wake of Qaderi's murder, protests erupted in several cities
and towns in Kurdistan. Protestors demanded that the government
apprehend Qaderi's killers and put them on trial. Some of the
protests reportedly involved attacks on government buildings and
offices. Human Rights Watch obtained a list of 17 protestors killed
by the security forces, including three people shot dead in
Oshnavieh on July 26, two people shot dead in Baneh on July 30,
one person shot dead in Sardasht on August 2, and 11 people shot
dead in Saqqez on August 3.

"The Iranian government needs to conduct a full and impartial
investigation into the violent response to the recent protests in
Kurdistan," said Hadi Ghaemi, Iran researcher for Human Rights
Watch. "Officials who are responsible for any excessive use of
lethal force must be prosecuted."

On August 7, officials of the Interior Ministry said that two men
died in Saqqez on August 3, but they denied that government
forces had fired on protestors. However, two residents of Saqqez
told Human Rights Watch that Special Units (Yiganhay-e Vizhe) of
the Revolutionary Guards fired indiscriminately in an effort to
disperse the crowds.

"The security forces moved towards the protestors while shooting
directly at them," one eyewitness told Human Rights Watch.
Eyewitnesses also told Human Rights Watch that one of the dead
in Saqqez, Mohammad Shariati, was shot in the head.

"As his family tried to retrieve his body, the security forces pointed
their guns at them and threatened to shoot them. Then they started
beating his family with batons," said an eyewitness who told
Human Rights Watch that she saw Shariati fall to the ground.

In addition, eyewitnesses said that the security forces in Saqqez
flew helicopters quite low in an effort to disperse the
demonstrators, who numbered in the hundreds.

According to local residents, major cities in Kurdistan remain
surrounded by units of the Revolutionary Guard and that an
undeclared martial law is effectively in place throughout the
region.

Iranian authorities blamed the unrest on "hooligan and criminal
elements" and charged that "public and state-owned buildings,
including banks, were damaged." Human Rights Watch recognizes
the responsibility of the government to take steps to deal with
threats to public safety and property. However, the government's
response must be lawful and governed by the standards set out in
the U.N. Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the
U.N. Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law
Enforcement Officials. These principles state that "intentional
lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable
in order to protect life."

On August 2, the government shut down Ashti newspaper and the
weekly Asu in Kurdistan. Authorities detained Roya Toloui, a
leading women's rights activist, at her home in Sanandaj for
"disturbing the peace" and "acting against national security."

On the same day, security forces detained other prominent
journalists and human rights defenders at their homes and offices
including Azad Zamani, a member of the Association for the
Defense of Children's Rights; Mohammad Sadeq Kabudvand,
journalist and co-founder of Kurdistan Human Rights
Organization; Jalal Qavami, editor of the journal Payam-e
Mardom; and Mahmoud Salehi, the spokesman for the
Organizational Committee to Establish Trade Unions.

Human Rights Watch called on the Iranian government to
immediately and unconditionally release detained journalists,
human rights defenders and activists.

To view this document on the Human Rights Watch web site,
please visit: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/08/11/iran11619.htm

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