Condemned Kurdish journalists on hunger strike

Further to my 8 August Comment is Free article on two Kurdish men sentenced to hang in Iran, I recently received from UK-based supporters of Adnan Hassanpour and Abdolwahed Boutimar a file of text documents and photos. If there are any Farsi readers of this blog who could take a look at these, please get in touch.

A little background for those of you not familiar with the case…

Two dissident Iranian journalists from the country’s Kurdish minority have been sentenced to death for being “enemies of God”. Adnan Hassanpour is a professional journalist on the editorial staff of the Kurdish news magazine, Asou (Horizon), which was banned in August 2005 during a crackdown by the Iranian culture ministry. Abdolwahed Boutimar is a activist and writer specialising in environmental affairs.

Following their arrest, Hassanpour and Boutimar were charged with membership of the PKK-linked political organisation and guerilla army Partiya Jiyana Azad a Kurdistanê (PJAK). The enemies of God bit is related to the charge of “Moharebeh”, which is levelled against those who engage in armed resistance and espionage. Hassanpour and Boutimar were tried in a ‘Revolutionary Court’ with only a state-employed duty solicitor to represent them, and in short order convicted and sentenced to hang. The Iranian regime has put no evidence into the public domain to support the charges, and the EU has spoken out against the death sentence.

Please refer to the CiF article (also published on my own site) for further details of the case, and also the support blog established by supporters of Hassanpour and Boutimar.

Not that there are many public details of the case. Khalid Khedri, a research student currently living in Southampton, has provided me with bits and pieces, but from what I can see they don’t add much, and serve more to help keep the story in the public eye. And that is sorely needed. The reaction to the CiF article was poor, and the case of Hassanpour and Boutimar has received very little UK-wide media exposure. There is a short news report on the BBC website, and a BBC regional TV broadcast featuring Boutimar’s Sheffield-resident brother.

Hassanpour and Boutimar are reported to be on hunger strike in Sanandaj jail, and having been so for over 40 days they must be in a very poor state of health. The 20 August appeal deadline has now passed, and I’ve yet to hear of any developments on this front.

Instead of arguing over whether Hassanpour and Boutimar are journalists or terrorists, and the nature and legal status of the PKK and its affiliates, we should focus our attention on two young men facing imminent execution, and the struggle of a people now largely forgotten by their fair-weather friends in the west.