News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan
The following article is a report on Kurdish political prisoner Zeinab Jalalian (Zeynep Jalaliyan) compiled by Justice 4 Iran. It has been translated into English below. The original report, written in Persian (with relevant citations), can be accessed here.
Zeinab Jalalian, a Kurdish political prisoner, is the only female political prisoner sentenced to life imprisonment in Iran. Since her arrest seven years ago, her basic human rights have been violated repeatedly and in various ways. In addition to these violations, she has been deprived of access to health facilities in Khoy prison, where she is held at the moment.
Zeinab Jalalian was arrested in 2008 on a road in Kermanshah. She was initially sentenced to death for her alleged membership in the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), and alleged armed activities against Islamic Republic of Iran. The death sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment in 2009. Although Zeinab is doing her sentence in prison, she does not have access to any proper medical facilities, medications and necessary treatments for the physical illnesses caused by the very own prison system, and long years of torture. Moreover, being granted a medical furlough is conditioned upon her making a confession on Iran’s state media television, which she has constantly refused to do so.
Zeinab Jalalian has been diagnosed with conjunctiva and as a result, is on the verge of losing her eyesight. In addition to conjunctiva, long years of arrest and physical mistreatment have lead to multiple severe physical conditions, among those are a terminal intestine infection and gastrointestinal bleeding, for which she needs immediate access to medication and specialized treatment. Although her family has accepted to pay for the medical expenses, the intelligence ministry has yet to approve her furlough from prison for medical purposes.
Justice for Iran has conducted a rigorous report on Zeinab Jalalian legal case. Eyewitness testimonies, documentations and evidence shed light on the unjust conditions of the trials during which Zeinab’s sentences were issued. Additionally, following her arrest, she was brutally tortured. Some of the torture methods include: Rape threats, hitting her head against the wall (causing fraction in her forehead, which later turned into an eye inflation,) whipping her feet with metal cable, and interrogation sessions with closed eyes, while her hands and legs were tied together.
Spending her sentence in a small crowded cell, being forced to obey the Islamic dressing codes and wear Islamic hijab inside an all women section, limitation on using the toilet or having outdoor breaks, constant searching, seizing and demolition of her personal belongings, controlling her private conversation with her family and other cellmates, are only a few examples of the breathtaking sanctions opposed on her during the past seven years.
The International campaign of “Jobran” in collaboration with “Justice for Iran” have registered a complaint to The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in United Nations seeking justice for Zeinab, regarding her arrest conditions, and initial sentence. The complaint marks International Women’s day and the 7th anniversary of Zeinab Jalalian’s arrest; she is the only female political prisoner sentenced to life imprisonment in Iran.
The information provided in this report is based on a painstaking study of the previous verdicts, testimonies from Deniz Jalalian, Zeinab’s sister, Zeinab’s letter published after her initial death sentence; information from Zeinab’s former attorneys; interviews with Reen Rahmani and Saman Rasoul Pour, two Kurdish activists serving prison time concurrently with Zeinab who were involved with her legal case; and a list of individuals whose names and identity are anonymous due to security reasons and their safety.
The mission of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in United Nations is to investigate cases of deprivation of liberty imposed arbitrarily or otherwise inconsistently with the relevant international standards set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In addition to filing an individual complaint for Zeinab Jalalian in The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in United Nations mission, Justice for Iran has the first report in Farsi on Zeinab’s case, which has long been mistreated and misunderstood due to lack of evidence and lack of access to the relevant documentation.
Who is Zeinab Jalalian?
Zeinab Jalalian is a Kurdish activist who was born in 1982, in Deim Qeshlaq a small village around Maku in Eastern Azerbaijan province in Iran. The poor social and cultural conditions of her birthplace deprived Zeinab from receiving a proper education which later forced Zeinab and her sister to leave their hometown for Iraqi Kurdistan in 2000 in order to study and do social and political activities.
During her time in Iraqi Kurdistan as a supporter of Kurdish Workers Party (P.K.K) she was engaged with women’s movement and social work. She did not have any other engagement with PKK during this time. It was only after the establishment of PJAK in 2004 that Zeinab joined this group with hopes to improve women’s condition. Most of her social work involved education and recreation development for women, and during her involvement with PJAK she never participated in any armed or military activities. Jalalian told one her cellmates that upon her arrest she did not carry any weapons and she had never carried or owned any sort of weaponry whatsoever.
One of the women rights activists in Kamyaran:
“Prior to her arrest, on March 8th the international day for women, Zeinab had visited Bent-ol-Hoda high school in Kamyaran to give a speech and give an introduction on the importance of this day and its history. She also gave flowers to the students as well. Having known Zeinab’s enthusiasm and interest, one of the teachers at school invited her to give a speech and she accepted the offer.”
On March 10th 2008, Zeinab Jalalian was arrested by intelligence services on the Kermanshah-Sanandaj road. On December 3rd 2008, Judge Moradi, the president of the revolutionary court of Kermanshah, branch number one, sentenced Zeinab to a death penalty on accounts of “armed actions against Islamic Republic of Iran”, “membership of PJAK”, “possessing and carrying illegal weapons, and military equipment, and involvement with anti-regime groups.” This sentence was later confirmed on April 2nd 2009 by Judge Ali Mohammad Roshani, the president of Appeal Court of Kermanshah, branch number four.
During the past couple of years, Zeinab Jalalian and her lawyers have requested her transfer to Maku Prison, which is in vicinity of her family’s residence, on numerous accounts. She was moved to Khoy prison in West Azerbayjan province in November 2014. Khoy is three hours away from her family’s residence which makes visits for her relatives, specifically her elderly parents very challenging. On November 2009 her death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, while her lawyers were constantly trying to request for a retrial.
Accounts of Violations of Human Rights in Zeinab’s Case:
Violation of Ban on “Indefinite Detention”: Arrest Without Verdict
Zeinab was arrested by three or four undercover agents, also known as “Lebas Shakhsi,” at the Ghazanchi checkpoint near Kamyaran. Based on one of the passengers’ testimony who was on the same bus as Zeinab, after being stopped at the checkpoint the bus was surrounded by armed officers, and everyone was taken out of the bus, later the officers tied Zeinab’s hands and feet, and dragged her out of the bus and put her in the trunk of a black Peugeot car, beating her almost to death. Immediately after her arrest she was transferred to the detention center of the intelligence service center of Kermanshah known as Meydan Naft, and later moved to Correction and Rehabilitation Center in Kermanshah. During this time, she was not informed on the account of her charges. It was not till November of 2009 had she been informed on her charges by judge Moradi. During her stay at the Correction and Rehabilitation Center she was constantly moved back and forth to Meydan Naft.
On March 2009 she was transferred from the Correction and Rehabilitation Center in Kermanshah to Tehran’s Evin prison without any previous notice to her family or her lawyers, or the reasons for such a transfer. She was held in 209 section of Evin prison for 5 months. The execution of four other Kurdish prisoners on May 9th 2010, in Evin Prison concerned her family deeply. On August 2010 Zeinab was moved from Evin prison to Dizel Abad prison in Kermanshah and remained there until November 2014. She has been held in Khoy prison until today.
Violation of The Right of Access to Legal Advising and Consulting, and The Right of Access To A Lawyer
According to the letter published by Zeinab in the fall of 2009, she was put in trial and sentenced without having access to a lawyer. Despite the fact that her family, with all the financial hardships imposed on them, had managed to pay a legal fee of 12 million Iranian Rials to an attorney named Farborz Ensani Mehr. Deniz Jalalian, Zeinab’s sister stated that Zeinab was not allowed to meet with her lawyer before the trial. After the death sentence, Fariborz Ensani Mehr requested to resign and drop her case, as he had told to her family that “they won’t let me do anything, and they want me to resign and drop the case, and I will do so.” In a petition for retrial, the name of another lawyer is also mentioned, Ajdar Panj Azar Habashi. Until today no one knows what has been his role in Zeinab’s defense.
After the initial death sentence, Zeinab’s father asked a few human rights lawyers to accept her case. However each was directly or indirectly rejected by the judiciary system. Khalil Bahramian, who was presented by Zeinab’s family to the court after months of effort, was not able to have Zeinab sign the letter of representation and consequently unable to legally represent her.
After many months it was only in summer of 2010 that Zeinab was able to meet her lawyer, Mohammad Sharif, and sign a letter of representation that allowed her to be officially represented by a lawyer. As for now, her case is represented by Mohammad Sharif and Amir Salar Davoudi.
Violation of Ban of Torture
Right after her arrest she was moved to the Sepah Detention center in Kermanshah known as Meydan Naft, during which she was brutally tortured. One of her inmates, detained for drug related crimes, whose identity is anonymous for safety reasons, had told Justice for Iran that during her stay at the detention center in May 2008 she could hear Zeinab’s screams, and hear her head constantly being beaten against her cell walls. The abovementioned inmate had been deeply affected by being exposed to Zeinab’s tortures. She had once asked one of the officers that what is this woman’s crime, for which she is being tortured so hard, and the response was that “she is a guerilla member of PJAK and we wont let her go until she confesses.”
One month after her arrest, in a phone call she had told her family that during her detention at Meydan Naft, she had been tortured during interrogation and beaten up with her eyes closed. She had also later told her family that in the first month of her arrest she had been held in a solitary confinement at Meydan Naft and was repeatedly threatened with rape, her feet were whipped and her head beaten against the wall. On one occasion, an officer had hit her head so hard causing her forehead to fractured, resulting in severe internal bleeding which later caused her severe eye problems.
Zeinab told one of her inmates that after getting whipped, she was moved to her cell while unconscious. Later she was forced to start walking in the corridor on her freshly whipped feet, although extremely painful. Later the officer would start whipping her again.
Based on testimonies of Zeinab’s inmates, after her transfer to Correction and Rehabilitation Center in Kermanshah, a team from intelligence ministry moved Zeinab in and out of the center repeatedly. Each time upon her return, the traces of torture on her body were evident. One of the former soldier trainees at the center, and a former inmate charged with drug related crimes, has stated that according to a letter by the intelligence ministry, Zeinab was prohibited from having any contact with other prisoners.
During one of the interrogation sessions, after having her head repeatedly beaten against the wall, Zeinab kicked the interrogator in an act of self-defense. The interrogator later filed a complaint against Zeinab, although she stated that her action was in self-defense, emphasizing that she had been beaten and her forehead had been fractured. Although she had reported her complaints right after the incident, and the evidence of torture was completely present on her forehead, and she had numerously reported the pain in her eyes to the health center of the correction center, there was never any follow up with her complaints.
During her first months of arrest, she was subjected to severe mental tortures in addition to the physical ones. Rabin Rahmani who was held in detention at the Dizel Abad prison at the same time states:
“Through one of Zeinab’s friend, a middle-aged man from Turkish Kurdistan, I got notified that his interrogator had threatened him to put him and Zeinab in one room and film them nude if they did not cooperate with the interrogation process. The threat was so horrifying to him that he once told me that if it had happened he would have definitely committed suicide.”
During Zeinab’s detention at Evin prison in Tehran she was also subjected to different tortures and was forced to do a televised confession. She went on hunger strikes both in Kermanshah and Tehran. One of the officials from intelligence ministry known as Haji Ghorban who was also in charge of other political prisoners such as Farzad Kamngar and Shirin Alam Holi had met with Zeinab’s family during Norouz holidays in Tehran. He had threatened them saying that if Zeinab did not cooperate and continued in refusing to do a televised confession she would be executed.
Violation of Principles of Fair Trial
In November 2008, Zeinab was sentenced to death for armed activities against the Islamic Republic of Iran, involvement with PJAK, possession of armed weaponry and making propaganda against the regime. The method of the execution had been mentioned: “to be hung from a pole.”
Based on testimonies of one of Zeinab’s inmates, Judge Moradi insulted Zeinab and her family during her court session, telling her “I will execute you” and prevented Zeinab from defending herself. In a letter published by Zeinab in fall of 2008, Zeinab had mentioned that she was sentenced in a trial lasting only four minutes, neither with a presence of her lawyer, nor any documents or evidence were provided.
In the letter she has written:
“I am Zeinab Jalalian, a Kurdish political prisoner. I am prevented from having a lawyer, and during a trial which only lasted a few minutes the judge told me that I am “an enemy against God (Mohareb)” and “all the moharebs will be executed shortly.”
During an appeal session on May 6th 2009, in Appeal Court of Kermnshah, branch number four, judge Ali Mohammad Roshani, once again, without the presence of her lawyer, confirmed her initial death sentence.
Violation of Prisoners’ rights: Prohibition of Family Visits
It was only three weeks after her initial arrest that Zeinab’s family were informed of her condition through a phone call made by someone introducing himself an official from Meydan Naft. Zeinab later informed her family in a three-minute phone conversation that she had been under arrest for almost a month.
During the past seven years, she has had very limited visits or contact with her family. During her time at Meydan Naft, she did not have any visits with her family. After her transfer to the Correction and Rehabilitation Center and later to Dizel Abad prison, she was still deprived of her right to have regular visits with her family. It was only in Dizel Abad prison where she was allowed to have two-minute phone conversations with her immediate family. Most of the information that her family has been providing us is based on these two-minute phone conversations, which were also controlled.
In the October of 2014 , Deniz Jalalian stated that in the past three years her sister was derived of family visits, either due to not having permission or because of the distance of the prison she has been kept in.
In June of 2014, Ali Jalalian, Zeinab’s father stated that her visits with Zeinab had been cut. “We went to the prison to visit her, they did not allow us. They neither let us see her, nor do we receive any updates on her condition. When she calls, she says they don’t give me visitation permits. When we go to the prison, they make us wait outside for some time, then they tell us that your daughter has refused to see you. How that is possible, you are lying. Zeinab just made a phone call and was asking when will be able to visit her. Next time when she called, I asked her why you refused to see us, to which she replied that after every visit she will be tortured and will be taken to the intelligence center.”
Her family was not informed about her sudden transfer to section 209 of Evin prison in Tehran. This limbo and the constant lack of information on their daughter’s location and condition have had severe mental effects on her parents.
Constant appeals and lawyers’ requests to have Zeinab moved to a location close to her family residence have been rejected in the past six years. It was only at the end of November 2014, when she was transferred from Dizel Abad to Khoy prison in West Azerbaijan province, three hours away from her family’s residence. Since her transfer to Khoy prison, she has had the same rights like other prisoners, such as regular visits and phone calls. However, her requests for having a furlough have been constantly denied. Mohammad Sharif, her lawyer, has told Justice for Iran that the prerequisite for a furlough is giving a televised confession, which Zeinab has constantly denied to do so.
Violation of The Right of Access to Health Services
Zeinab Jalalian has been diagnosed with conjunctiva and is on the verge of losing her eyesight as a result. In addition to conjunctiva, long years of arrest have lead to multiple severe physical conditions, such as terminal intestine infection and gastrointestinal bleeding, and prison officials are preventing her from receiving medical treatment.
According to her family, Zeinab was in healthy condition prior to her arrest, and all these severe illnesses are due to lack of hygiene in the prison, lack of access to a healthy diet and years of torture and physical mistreatment.
From her first months of imprisonment Zeinab started to have eye problems, which has shadowed her health and put her on the edge of losing her eyesight. Early October 2013, Zeinab’s health condition declined drastically. According to the health service center of Dizel Abad prison, she urgently needs to have a surgery on her eyes, otherwise a lack of treatment will lead to complete blindness.
In May of 2012, after months of constant inquiry, Zeinab was transferred to Imam Reza clinic in Kermanshah where prison officials rejected the request to have her surgery done by a specialized doctor in the clinic, only allowing the surgery to be done in the prison, which in itself is almost an impossible task as the costs to have such a surgery in the prison are extremely high and her family is not able to afford the expenses.
In July 2013, her family was notified of her months long struggle with gastrointestinal bleeding and severe intestinal and kidney infection, which make even daily walks challenging for her. Based on their brief phone conversations, they believe that her internal bleeding are consequences of physical violence she has been subjected to during her interrogations ( she has been kicked in her stomach frequently). Although her health conditions are deteriorating, prison officials are refusing to send her to a specialized clinic outside the prison or to give her a furlough.
In October of 2013, one of her inmates in the prisons told Justice for Iran that “Zeinab’s conditions are deteriorating on all accounts,” according to this anonymous eye witness, “ Zeinab has been under severe pressure in the past year, mainly due to the severe condition of her eyesight. On the other hand, she is not willing to see her family as her health condition is worsening. Going down in a dark hole, she is becoming more shy everyday. As for now, she even needs assistance for basic daily activities, and she doesn’t want to keep her family or her lawyers in the loop either, it is partially because of her personality, she is a shy person.”
Additionally, there are two cases of using medical treatments as a form of torture on Zeinab. She had told her family that on few occasions she had been taken to the health service center in the prison, where she had got some forceful injections while being tied to the bed, all of which she had refused to take. She had told by the doctor in charge that she has the right to know what type of medication and injections she is getting and she should not undergo forced treatment as such. Once she had been threatened and forced to have virginity test done on her, prior to get her normal treatment, which she had refused and consequently her request for treatment was rejected. Later the prison officials stated that it was Zeinab herself that was refusing the treatment, and the prison was offering the medications she needed.
Violation of Prisoners’ Right of Security and Basic Living Facilities
Zeinab is serving a life-sentence at the moment, and is expected to have access to basic hygiene and health facilities, which according to the available evidences, that is not the case for her.
Amir Salar Davoudi, Zeinab’s lawyer, in a Facebook post stated that Zeinab is held in a prison cell with six other inmates, which only has the capacity for three people. Every two days their cell is searched aggressively, and even in one case the officers had ripped her Shahnameh book. Forcing to obey Islamic dressing codes – such as wearing a scarf, long thick pants, and a Manto in an all women cell – limiting her usage of the toilet to two times per day, are only some of the restrictions imposed on Zeinab and other inmates sharing the cell with her. Zeinab had told her lawyer that she is only allowed to have half an hour of outdoor break, and in the devastating heat of August none of the cells in Dizel Abad prison were equipped with either air condition or air circulation facilities. She had also told Mr. Davoudi that the prison’s store only sells limited items, such as cookies, tea and juice which Zeinab or her inmates are not even allowed to purchase.
Because of the sensitive nature of her case, not only Zeinab but also her inmates have always been under scrutiny and were forced to terminate their contact with her or else their personal belongings would be repeatedly searched. In March of 2013, she had told her father that her personal belongings are checked more than before and the circumstances in the prison are only worsening.
Human Right Violators in Zeinab Jalalian’s case
According to Justice for Iran, officers and interrogators of Kermanshah intelligence center, officials of women section of creation and rehabilitation center in Kermanshah, section 209 of Evin prison in Tehran, Dizel Abad prison in Kermanshah and Khoy prison are all part of a systematized sanction against Zeinab’s access to basic rights and torture. Moreover, the judges in both the initial and appeal trial are responsible for ignoring standard trial ethics and regulations, for which they must be questioned and held accountable.
Judge Moradi, The President of The Revolutionary Court of Kermanshah, Branch Number One.
Judge Moradi is guilty of violating human rights, due to his initial verdict without having enough evidence and violating the “principle of the presumption of innocence.” He must be questioned and held accountable selecting the death penalty, which Zeinab was initially sentenced to, only for her civil and social work. Judge Moradi in part of his written statement on Zeinab writes:
“The mentioned convict, is one of the main members of the group, has been persuading many others to join the group, and has been trying to disseminate propaganda against the regime. She has entered the country illegally many times, and must have been engaged in many terrorist activities as well, which she refuses to confess.”
The above mentioned statement indicates that judge Moradi does not have any evidence regarding Zeinab’s involvement with terrorist activities, and the death penalty was only based on his presumptions. Despite the fact that the article 37 of the constitution of Islamic Republic of Iran states: “Innocence is to be presumed, and no one is to be held guilty of a charge unless his or her guilt has been established by a competent court.”
Judge Moradi did not have any accountable evidence indicating Zeinab’s involvement with terrorist activities, and her initial death penalty is in repugnance with article 37 of constitution of Islamic Republic of Iran.
Judge Moradi is accountable for a series of violations, such as: dismissing standard trial ethics, insulting the detainee during the court sessions and threatening her with a possible execution verdict, dismissing the history of tortures during Zeinab’s interrogation sessions, ignoring detainee’s basic right to have access to a legal representative, and not acknowledging the adverse role of intelligence officers and their constant interruptions during the process.
Judge Moradi is notorious for issuing harsh verdicts for civil right activists. In 2010, Kaveh Ghasemi Kermanshahi, journalist and civil right activist, was sentenced to 5 years in Dizel Abad prison, on accounts of “actions against national security through membership in the Kurdistan Human Rights Defense Organization,” and “propagating against the regime through publication of news and reports, and interviews with the media,” as well as “contacting families of political prisoners and those executed.”
Ali Mohammad Roshani, The judge of the Appeal Court
As the president of Appeal Court of Kermanshah, branch number four, Ali Mohammad Roshani is accused of second approving such a harsh verdict, without requesting more evidence and conducting a rigorous study of the case.
He must be held accountable for dismissing torture during interrogation sessions, ignoring the strong intelligence ministry presence throughout the trial process and their illegal interventions. Approving the initial sentence of Zeinab, death penalty and 5 years in prison for Kaveh Ghasemi Kermanshahi are two examples of Ali Mohammad Roshani’s failure in appeal court, for which he is responsible. He must be held responsible for the violation of Zeinab’s basic civil rights, both as a citizen and as a detainee.
“Just for Iran” is demanding the followings:
-The immediate annulment of Zeinab’s life-sentence, due to unjust circumstances of her initial trial.
-Immediate access to medical facilities and specialized treatment for her physical illnesses.
-Upon her release, Zeinab must have her basic rights as a prisoner, including health and hygiene facilities in the prison, access to furlough, and family visits.
-Financial compensation for Zeinab’s family who has sold all their belongings to afford the financial costs of the lawyers and the legal system in general.
-An investigation of all the officers, interrogators, judicial representatives who were somehow part of either Zeinab’s initial trial or appeal. Specifically, judge Moradi, the president of Revolutionary Court of Kermanshah, branch number one, and Judge Ali Mohammad Roshani, president of Appeal Court of Kermanshah, branch number four.
Zeinab Jan, you are a mountain full of light.