Ehsan Fattahian and the Treatment of Kurds in Iran

ehsan fattahian

'If the rulers and oppressors think that with my death, the Kurdish question will go away, they are wrong. My death and the death of thousands of others like me will not cure the pain; they will only add to the flames of this fire. There is no doubt that every death is the beginning of new life.'

Ehsan Fattahian was put to death this morning in Iran.  He was hanged in Central Sanandaj Prison for the crime of ‘enmity against God’ or moharebehMoharebeh is the term used in Sharia law to describe a major crime committed against Islam and the state.  It is a charge used frequently against Kurds in Iran (e.g. Farzad Kamangar and Adnan Hassanpour, to name just two) who are deemed to be security threats.

Fattahian, a 27-year-old Kurd from Kermanshah, was arrested on 20 July 2008 in the city of Kamyaran.  Originally he was sentenced to ten years of ‘prison in exile’ by a court in that same city.  Fattahian appealed the sentence, but so did the Kamyaran Revolutionary and General Courts prosecutor.  The prosecutor cited amendment 3 of article 22 of the Revolutionary and General Courts code as well as articles 186, 190, and 191 of the Islamic penal code and demanded the death sentence for Fattahian.  The prosecutor won the appeal, Branch 4 of the Kordestan Appeals Court overturned the initial verdict, and Fattahian’s sentence was changed to death.

This morning chief justice of the Kordestan province, Ali Akbar Gharoussi, said that the death sentence had been carried out (between 6.30am and 7.00am local time) and that Fattahian was ‘found guilty of armed action against national security’ and admitting to being a member of Komeleh.

Ehsan had admitted to being a part of Komeleh, a Kurdish political opposition group fighting to eliminate the national oppression of Kurds in Iran. Fattahian’s lawyer said, however, that no proof was presented in court that Ehsan Fattahian had engaged in any armed operations whatsoever as part of that group.

When asked by Al Arabiya about why he thinks Ehasan was hanged, Komeleh group leader Abdullah Moh’tadi said: ‘the Iranian regime is trying to intimidate ethnic minorities from joining the Green Wave. One of the methods to deter people is stricter sentencing in ethnic provinces such as Kordestan, Baluchistan and Ahwaz.’  The ‘Green Wave’ refers to the movement started in Iran for democracy during the last presidential election.

During Ehsan’s long detention he was routinely beaten and brutally tortured.  During that time he refused to confess to the iran_sanandajallegations against him that he carried arms or that he participated in an armed struggle.  Intelligence Ministry interrogators had wanted to get a taped confession and have him show remorse for his actions.  Ehsan called them ‘illegitimate demands.’

Growing up, as Ehsan’s thoughts were developing about who he was, he came to see and feel the injustices and discrimination against the Kurds in Iran.  He ‘went in a thousand different directions’ to discover the reasons behind the injustice.  One of those directions led him to Komeleh, which he said he joined to find his ‘stolen identity.’

There are more than 10 million ‘stolen identities’ in Iran and those Kurds make up approximately 15 percent of Iran’s population.  Expression of Kurdish culture is somewhat tolerated and the Kurdish language is used in some broadcasts and publications.  However, political activity based on Kurdish identity is banned and linked to separatism.  Kurds, as a result, are disproportionately targeted using security legislation such as the capital offence of moharebeh.  Punishments (article 191) are often entirely at the discretion of the presiding judge.

There are at least twelve Kurdish political prisoners in Iran now facing the death penalty.  Many, many more are imprisoned for their beliefs and activities.


Iran: Halt Execution of Kurdish Activist.  Human Rights Watch, 10 November 2009.

Ehsan Fattahian was Hanged this Morning in Iran. MidEast Youth, 11 November 2009

Iran executes Kurdish Political Prisoner Ehsan Fattahian. Kurdish Alliance for Human Rights, 11 November 2009.

Iran Executes Kurdish Man. Amnesty International, 11 November 2009.

Ehsan Fattahian was executed today morning by the Islamic Republic… Revolutionary Road Blog, 11 November 2009.

Iran authorities hang young Kurdish activist. Al Arabiya, 11 November 2009.

For more information on Kurds in Iran, read:

–The Kurds in Iran: Past, Present and Future. Tanyel B. Taysi and Kerim Yildiz (Pluto Press, 2007).

–KHRP’s Briefing Paper ‘Human Rights and the Kurds in Iran’ from 26 August 2009.  Download here (.pdf, 207kb)


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