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Source: IranWire

May 3, 2024

Struggle for Life: Torture, Uncertainty, and Execution Fate of 7 Kurdish Citizens


On Wednesday, the judiciary of the Islamic Republic executed Anwar Khezri, a Kurdish prisoner of conscience known for his photos hugging cats, which had garnered public attention.

Another prisoner, Khosrow Besharat, has been moved to solitary confinement and faces imminent execution.

The judiciary alleges that Khezri, Besharat, and others were involved in the murder of a government-affiliated teacher named Abdul Rahim Tina, who was also an imam.

They were accused of "actions against national security, propaganda against the Islamic Republic, membership in Salafi groups, waging war against God, and corruption on Earth."

Several of them, including Khezri, have been executed since last November.

Soheil Arabi, a human rights activist living in exile, said that these individuals were known for their acts of kindness in prison, contradicting the claims that they were members of extremist groups.

Between November 2009 and February 2010, seven Sunni Kurdish citizens, primarily residing in Kurdish cities within West Azerbaijan province, were detained.

Initially accused of involvement in the murder of a Sunni Imam named Abdul Rahim Tina, who served as the imam of the Rashedin mosque in Mahabad, these individuals faced severe persecution.

Anwar Khezri, Khosrow Besharat, Kamran Sheikheh, Ayoub Karimi, Farhad Salimi, Davood Abdullahi, and Qasem Abasteh were subjected to solitary confinement during the initial two months of their detention at the Urmia Intelligence Department.

Subsequently, as documented in the Atlas of Iran's Prisons and through grievances presented by Khosrow Besharat and Anwar Khezri to human rights organizations, they endured months of uncertainty and relentless interrogation, accompanied by physical and psychological torment across various detention centers, including Mahabad Prison and Wards 240, 350, and 209 of Evin Prison.

Khosrow Besharat had previously detailed in a letter on the tenth anniversary of his arrest the excruciating methods of torture inflicted upon him.

"They suspended me from the ceiling for hours with handcuffs, lashed the soles of my feet with high-voltage electric cables, causing unimaginable pain, nearly extracting my brain from my mouth, displacing my eyes from their sockets, and nearly rupturing my heart," he wrote.

He, arrested on November 22, 2009, endured a similar ordeal of relentless interrogation and torture for months.

He recounted in a letter the extensive injuries he sustained: "Among the inflicted injuries were to my head, chest, knees, feet, left wrist, including multiple broken noses, and severe muscle and tendon damage. After enduring numerous tortures, I attempted suicide on the 56th day."

In his letter, he refuted the baseless accusations levelled against him, including the alleged murders of Tina. 

He emphasized that he voluntarily appeared at the prosecutor's office upon summons, questioning whether a person with criminal intent would willingly submit to legal proceedings.

The Atlas of Iranian Prisons also reported that four of these citizens—Anwar, Kamran, Qasim, and Khosrow—complied with summons to the prosecutor's office and were subsequently arrested there, suggesting a potential indication of their innocence.

After enduring seven years of uncertainty across various prisons and severe interrogations, in March 2016, Branch 28 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, chaired by Judge Mohammad Moqiseh, convened to adjudicate the case of these seven Kurdish citizens.

They were sentenced to death.

Following the defendants' protests, the case was referred to the Supreme Court, specifically the 41st branch, led by Judge Ali Razini.

Due to insufficient evidence for the death penalty and existing ambiguities, the sentence was suspended.

The case was remanded to the 15th branch of the Revolutionary Court, under the leadership of Abul Qasem Salavati, for reconsideration.

However, this branch once again imposed the death penalty.

Soheil Arabi, a human rights activist, sheds light on the plight of these seven Sunni prisoners, all hailing from the impoverished strata of Kurdish society, many of whom worked since childhood.

Having shared confinement with them in Rajaeeshahr prison in Karaj, Arabi reflects, "[If their lives were a book], we've barely read two paragraphs, the government's preferred narrative."

Of these young souls, five have met their fate through execution, while the rest teeter on the brink, Arabi reveals, "In prison, they exuded kindness and a zest for life."

Anwar Khezri, recently executed, is remembered for his compassion towards felines, sharing his meagre rations with cats.

Arabi underscores their resilience, noting their sacrifices to support their families despite paltry wages earned through prison labor.

For nearly 15 years, these individuals endured unspeakable torment, coerced confessions, and violated sentences, yet the Ministry of Information's relentless push ensured their unjust fate.

Arabi highlights the shared accounts of physical and psychological abuse, as well as threats against family members, reported by these young detainees during their interrogations.

Reflecting on conversations with individuals like Davood Abdullahi, in Rajaeeshahr after 14 years of imprisonment, Arabi recalls poignant moments.

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