|Twenty killed in clashes as unrest sweeps Iran|
Concern is escalating at the escalating crisis in Iran's north-west Kurdish regions that has left at least 20 dead and numerous wounded and imprisoned.
Protection of human rights has deteriorated rapidly as protests and civil unrest in the cities of Saqiz, Sine, Mahabad, Serdesht, Piranshar, Meriwan, Shino, Baneh, Divan and Dareh have been met by excessive force by state security forces, plainclothes agents and paramilitary Islamic vigilantes. The government has implemented de-facto martial law in many areas, and has reportedly deployed over 100,000 troops and helicopter gunships to the region. Human rights violations reported have included the gunning down of civilians by military helicopter, the harassment and imprisonment of journalists and human rights defenders, indiscriminate arrests of civilians including children, the torture or ill-treatment of detained Kurdish protestors, and the closure of two newspapers.
The crisis threatens to escalate yet further, with implications for the security of the wider region. The depth and breadth of the situation, coupled with the Iranian government's refusal to provide adequate information, demands the immediate attention of the international community.
The Democratic Party of Kurdistan-Iran (PDK-I) has released the names of 17 of the dead, all of whom were Kurds.
Journalists and human rights defenders confirmed to have been arrested include:
The whereabouts of several of the detainees are still unknown.
The unrest was ignited by the killing of Shivan Qaderi , a key figure in Mahabad's Kurdish national movement. According to eyewitnesses, Qaderi was shot at point blank range. Then still alive, he was reportedly tied to a Toyota Jeep and dragged through the streets. Local Iranian authorities assert that Qaderi was killed by security forces while attempting to evade arrest.
The unrest, ranging from peaceful sit-ins to violent clashes, soon escalated, spreading to many other cities in the region, as many in the Kurdish population expressed dissatisfaction with the cycle of violence, arrests and oppressive behaviour of Iranian forces.
There are nearly 9-million Kurds in Iran, constituting between 11 and 16 per cent of the population. The recent presidential election, which was heavily boycotted by Kurds, brought to power hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is suspected of involvement in the assassination of PD-I leader Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou in 1989. Many Kurds feared his ascension would usher in a worrying rollback of the little reform that had occurred under Mohammed Khatami.
Kerim Yildiz, Executive Director, says, "We are urging the Iranian Government to provide access to an independent team of observers to ascertain the true nature of the crisis. Proper investigation is also required into the killings, arbitrary arrests, and use of torture or ill-treatment. It is imperative that security and military forces act according to recognised international standards of conduct and international human rights treaties."