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Kurdish Human Rights Project: This is the legacy website of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, containing reports and news pertaining to human rights issues in the Kurdish Regions for 20 years.

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2010 News
KHRP Condemns Execution of Five Iranian Kurdish Activists
Monday, 10 May 2010 14:34

On the morning of Sunday 9 May, five Kurdish activists were executed at Evin prison in Tehran, bringing the total number of executions undertaken in Iran over the weekend to 11. The five individuals have been identified as four men, Ferzad Kemanger, Eli Heyderiyan, Ferhad Wekili and Mehdi Eslamian, and a woman, Şîrîn Elemhulî. The execution of Mr Kermanger came despite urgent action appeals sent by KHRP to various UN Special Rapporteurs in December 2008, and again in July 2009.

Although all five were officially convicted of ‘Moharebeh’, waging war against God, a variety of conflicting reports suggest their arrests were primarily motivated by their support for pro-Kurdish or other opposition groups. According to unofficial reports received by KHRP, the arrest of Mr Eslamian for example, was made on the basis of his alleged support for the pro-monarchist Kingdom Assembly of Iran.

With the anniversary of last year’s disputed presidential elections looming, some have asserted that the executions are in part aimed at discouraging pro-opposition rallies. However, reports emerging today have suggested planned protests are due to continue at Tehran University as well as in Piranshahr and Kamyaran. It has also been reported that Martial Law has been declared in the predominantly Kurdish cities of Mahabad and Sanandaj.

KHRP remains strongly opposed to the use of the death penalty under all circumstances. Iran has yet to sign or ratify any of the existing international treaties which prohibit its use, and has repeatedly disregarded UN moratoriums. Moreover, it is the belief of KHRP that the independence of the Iranian judiciary is likely compromised by the influence of the political authorities and security forces, and has subsequently become a tool for the repression of opposition groups.

‘The ongoing persecution and execution of Kurdish and other opposition activists in Iran is indicative of the authoritarian nature of the incumbent regime, as well as their refusal to adhere to international human rights standards,’ said KHRP Chief Executive Kerim Yildiz. ‘There exist a number of other activists awaiting execution, and KHRP urges the wider international community to join us in demanding that the Iranian authorities commute such sentences. Furthermore, we appeal to Iran to abide by international human rights standards, in particular those embodied in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).’

Kurdish Human Rights Project Nominated for National Award
Monday, 10 May 2010 10:08

We are delighted to announce the organisation’s nomination for a major national prize at The Charity Awards 2010, the UK charity sector’s most prestigious award scheme. It has been nominated in the International Aid and Development Category.

KHRP is hoping to pick up the coveted award at a star-studded awards ceremony in London on 10 June hosted by comedienne Jo Brand and attended by celebrities including Greta Scacchi, Lynda Bellingham, Jon Snow and Peter Bowles.

The Charity Award judges recognised KHRP for the tireless work it does helping to bring perpetrators of human rights abuse in the Kurdish regions to justice. If it wins its category the charity will also be in the running to pick up the Overall Award for Excellence in Charity Management – a prestigious award given to the best of the 10 category winners.

The annual Charity Awards ceremony, sponsored by the Charities Aid Foundation, The Leadership Trust and The Times, is the most high-profile event in the charity calendar. Since launching over ten years ago, the awards have honoured hundreds of charities, large and small, from across the UK, acknowledging their outstanding work and achievements and the tireless commitment of the people behind them. The charities, which submit their own entries, are each shortlisted for specific initiatives which have improved the delivery of their charitable objectives and which demonstrate outstanding examples of best practice from which other charities can learn.

The Charity Awards 2010 is organised by Charity Finance, the leading business publication for the voluntary sector. The distinguished panel of judges includes John Low CBE, Chief Executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, Maeve Sherlock OBE, former Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, Dame Jo Williams, former Chief Executive of Mencap, Paul Winter, Chief Executive of The Leadership Trust, and Dame Mary Marsh, founding Director of the Clore Social Leadership Programme and former Chief Executive of the NSPCC.

Daniel Phelan, organiser of the Charity Awards 2010 comments:

‘The Charity Awards recognise and reward the fantastic work that takes place within the voluntary sector right across the UK and beyond. It’s so important that we acknowledge the achievements of voluntary organisations because it applauds the people who are least likely to expect any recognition but most likely deserve it.

Over the years, many wonderful charities, large and small, have been recognised by the Charity Awards, highlighting the major and selfless contribution they make to society and the huge effort and commitment that goes into making them work. By being short-listed, The Kurdish Human Rights Project has already demonstrated that it is amongst the best-managed charities in the UK. I wish everyone involved the best of luck on the night.’

For more information on the awards, please visit the Charity Awards 2010.


KHRP Highlights Widespread Human Rights Abuses Ahead of CAT Review of Syria
Friday, 30 April 2010 10:58

Next Tuesday 4 May 2010, the Committee against Torture will review Syria’s first periodic report on its implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).

Ahead of this review, KHRP wishes to draw urgent attention to three key points: (i) the need for Syria to adapt its laws to establish a definition of the offence of torture; (ii) the need for Syria to properly enforce legislation aimed at preventing and punishing acts of torture; and (iii) the need for Syria to properly investigate allegations of torture against Syrian Kurds and to provide appropriate redress where it has been established that torture has occurred.

In its recent shadow report on Syria to the Committee, KHRP outlined historic and recent examples of torture of Kurds in Syria, and highlighted the fact that despite these abuses, no responsible parties have ever been disciplined or prosecuted, nor any victims compensated. As has also been repeatedly highlighted by KHRP in its urgent action appeals to various UN bodies, Syrian Kurds are among those most at risk of torture and ill-treatment. Syrian Kurds are stateless peoples and have long been targeted by the Syrian authorities and subjected to torture and ill-treatment, sometimes resulting in the victims being disabled or dying in custody.

Each of the 146 states that have ratified CAT is obliged to submit a report to the Committee every four years. These reports, along with submissions from other stakeholders such as NGOs and civil society representatives, inform the Committee’s assessments of each state’s compliance with CAT and help determine its concerns and recommendations to these states.

‘The torture of Syrian Kurds in detention remains a longstanding concern for KHRP’, said KHRP Chief Executive Kerim Yildiz. ‘Our shadow report challenges the Syrian Arab Republic’s official line on its record on torture, and aims to add to the pressure on Syria to implement measures to eradicate torture and safeguard minorities from its effects.’

KHRP’s submission to the UN CAT on Syria is available to download here.

KHRP Submission on Turkey to CESCR Pre-Sessional Working Group
Thursday, 29 April 2010 16:01

KHRP today submitted a report outlining a list of issues that it believes warrant urgent consideration by the Pre-Sessional Working Group to the 44th Session of the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR). These are in respect of Turkey’s continued failure to sufficiently meet its obligations under the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

The report is based on KHRP’s own findings and observations through its human rights work across the Kurdish regions. Contrary to Turkey’s initial report to CESCR in June 2008, it cites KHRP’s extensive research and legal casework to demonstrate significant areas where the Turkish government has failed to uphold the rights of its Kurdish citizenry with respect to their ICESCR. These include their rights to self-determination, to live free from discrimination, to have gender equality, to exercise trade union rights, to protect their families, to have adequate standards of living, to protect their physical and mental well-being, to access education, and to freely express their cultural rights.

Among other issues raised, were the rights of Kurdish people to be able to meaningfully participate in and contribute to policy and decision-making processes in the country. KHRP also requests that the Committee challenge Turkey’s exclusion of Kurds from their definition of ‘minority’ groups. Turkish official policy continues to centre on the 1923 Lausanne Treaty definition of non-Muslim minorities, which fails to give recognition to Kurds — Turkey’s most significant minority population — within the Turkish legal framework. KHRP also draws attention to the significantly higher 40 per cent illiteracy rate among Kurdish women; double that of their Turkish counterparts. KHRP contends that by subjecting children to the same laws as adults, and in particular in relation to anti-terrorism legislation, Turkey is failing to properly protect children’s rights. Lastly, although the Turkish Government claims to have a strong policy on the preservation of cultural heritage this is applied in a discriminatory manner, given for instance, the continued prohibition of the additional letters of ‘Q, W, X’ in the Kurdish alphabet and the yet to be reversed widespread Turkification of Kurdish place and street names in the country’s south-east region.

’While there has been some progress in terms of improving Kurdish cultural rights in Turkey, this remains woefully inadequate,’ said KHRP Chief Executive Kerim Yildiz. ‘We request that Turkey be asked by the Committee about the measures it is taking constitutionally, legislatively and in terms of resources, to ensure the effective implementation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights among Kurds, which can help to address the substantive inequality and systematic discrimination they continue to face.’

KHRP’s submission to the CESCR on Turkey is available to download here.

KHRP Condemns Turkey’s Ejection of EU Turkey Civic Commission Chair
Monday, 26 April 2010 16:04

On Saturday 24 April, Kariane Westrheim, Chair of the EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC), was stopped by authorities at the airport in Istanbul before being officially deported and placed on a return flight to Scandinavia. Westrheim, an Associate Professor at the University of Bergen had been en route to speak at a conference on women’s rights in Diyarbakir, and to conduct fieldwork with support of University of Bergen about education in areas of war and political conflict. The treatment of Ms. Westrheim, who has published significant works on the Kurdish issue, appeared to be politically motivated. She asserted that the Turkish authorities had accused her of “supporting separatists” and being “very critical toward Turkish politics”, and had assured her that she would never be allowed to enter Turkey again.

KHRP Managing Director Rachel Bernu denounced the decision saying, ‘Unfortunately, Turkey still seems confused about what its commitment to free expression actually means. So, let us be clear. When Turkey does not allow foreigners who criticize its policies into the country, it is in violation. By arresting, detaining and imprisoning its own citizens who are critical, it is again in violation. If Turkey is truly committed to the principle of freedom of expression, it must find a way to ensure this commitment filters down to its security and judicial apparatus.’

The EU Turkey Civic Commission, of which KHRP is a founding member, was established following a conference in 2004 on ‘The EU, Turkey and the Kurds’. Other founding members are the Bar Human Rights Association of England and Wales, Medico International and The Thorolf Rafto Foundation.

Five further conferences have been held subsequently at the European Parliament in Brussels, the most recent of which convened in February 2010. The Commission is supportive of Turkish accession to the EU under compliance with the Copenhagen membership criteria. Accordingly, the work of the EUTCC regularly involves monitoring and disseminating information pertaining to Turkish compliance with the Copenhagen criteria.

The Turkish authorities are yet to issue comment on the matter.

For more information on the EUTCC, please visit the website here.

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