Khalil Bahramian: Defending Kurdish Rights in Iran

Bahramian: 'If the reported news about the enforcement of Zeinab Jalalian’s execution is true, the only way to save this Kurdish prisoner is by contacting the UN Secretary General and asking for his direct intervention.'

Khalil Bahramian has been practising human rights law for more than 40 years. As a lawyer in Iran defending human rights, his job is isolating and dangerous. He has been threatened. He has been arrested. His car was set on fire. But he continues. Bahramian knows it is a high risk position with severe pressures but, he says, ‘[human rights lawyers] should stand with the people and defend citizens’ rights.’

His latest ‘case’ is that of Zeinab Jalalian. Bahramian has been trying to file papers on her behalf for some time now. Iranian authorities, however, have refused to allow him access to her.

Jalalian was sentenced to death in 2009 for ‘enmity against God’ because of her alleged ties to PJAK, the Free Life Party of Kurdistan. Her trial lasted only a few minutes and she was not allowed to have a lawyer represent her. She is now being held incommunicado in Evin Prison. See Kurdistan Commentary’s report from November 2009 for background.

Zeinab Jalalian

In an interview on 30 June with Radio Farda (Iranian Branch of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, broadcasting from Prague) Bahramian said that is was ‘only a few days ago I found out that Zeinab is detained in section 209 of Evin prison. [On Wednesday] I went to Evin prison but they didn’t let me visit her or draw up power of attorney papers.’ He also said that the fact that Jalalian is now in Section 209 and not in the public area increases concerns about her situation.

Bahramian had previously represented Farzad Kamangar and Shirin Alam Houli, two of the four Kurdish activists executed in Iran on 09 May 2010. Those death sentences, carried out without prior notice to either lawyers or families, drew international criticism.

Since their executions, Bahramian has conducted numerous interviews with different foreign and Iranian media defending Kamangar’s innocence and exposing the various judicial irregularities leading to the hangings. Bahramian had stated clearly that all Iranian officials knew full well that Kamangar had been innocent, but was finally executed in violation of many judicial norms and practices. Neither the families nor the lawyers of the executed prisoners were notified about the planned executions beforehand.

Shortly after the May executions, the Iranian opposition website Jaras reported that Bahramian had been arrested by security agents and taken to an unknown location due to his outspoken criticism of the regime. Bahramian, who was one of the lawyers defending jailed Kurdish journalists Adnan Hassanpour and Hiwa Boutimar, was also arrested in 2007 while trying to board a flight to Italy. He was to attend the 2007 ISF (Information, Safety & Freedom) Freedom of the Press award ceremony, where Hassanpour and Boutimar had been named recipients of the award.

Bahramian says that with more and more hardliners in positions of power and influence within the Iranian judicial system, the situation of political prisoners in Iran has become increasingly difficult. So too has Bahramian’s job. Kurdistan Commentary applauds Khalil Bahramian’s tireless efforts on behalf of these activists in Iran fighting for human rights and dignity.

At present there are 17 Kurds facing execution in Iran. They are: Rostam Arkia, Hossein Khezri, Anvar Rostami, Mohammad Amin Abdolahi, Ghader Mohammadzadeh, Zeynab Jalalian, Habibollah Latifi, Sherko Moarefi (represented by Bahramian), Mostafa Salimi, Hassan Tali, Iraj Mohammadi, Rashid Akhkandi, Mohammad Amin Agoushi, Ahmad Pouladkhani, Sayed Sami Hosseini, Sayed Jamal Mohammadi, and Aziz Mohammadzadeh.

Many are held in the infamous Evin Prison, named after a neighbourhood in northwestern Tehran. It is cruelly ironic that Evîn in Kurdish means Love.


Lawyer of executed prisoners Khalil Bahramian arrested. The Green Voice of Freedom, 20 May 2010.

Fathi, Nazila. Relatives of Kurds Executed in Iran Are Denied the Remains, and 2 Are Arrested. New York Times, 11 May 2010.

Lawyer Fears Kurdish Prisoner Faces Imminent Execution In Iran. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 01 July 2010.

Emotional Interview with the Lawyer of Executed Prisoners: “I Am Speechless”. Persian2English, 13 May 2010.

Iran: Executed Dissidents ‘Tortured to Confess’. Human Rights Watch, 11 May 2010.

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