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Iran: Farzad Kamangar, (part 3) Solidarity

This is the third of three postings about Kamangar’s case, which looks at solidarity in his case. In the first posting you will find Amnesty’s appeal and a link to our online action. In the second posting you will find Farzad’s account of his treatment in his own words. Please take action now .

Amnesty and the global and national trade unions have co-operated closely in the defence of trade unionists who are jailed, intimidated, or otherwise at risk in Iran. We have worked intensely together on the cases of Mahmoud Salehi and Mansour Ossanlu, and others. You can find out more at Amnesty UK’s Iran trade union webpage.  The ITUC paints a dismal picture of trade union repression in Iran. The government strictly controls trade union activity, cracking down on activists. The teachers’ unions are a recent focus of government repression.

Farzad’s case has been very strongly advanced by Education International, the global union representing 30 million teachers. Check out this page to take action and for extensive background information. Here you can also download a link button to put on your own website. LabourStart, with its reach of many tens of thousands is also campaigning for Farzad.  The TUC and British unions have also joined the appeal . Amnesty has been following and reporting on his case since his circumstances became known to us. As Farzad’s situation has become ever more acute, the coordination between us has become ever deeper: we are all striving for the maximum impact.

As well as collaborating on activism, we are also sharing intelligence, to which Amnesty is able to contribute its wider understanding of the human rights situation in Iran (see for instance our report last summer Iran: Repression Against the Kurdish Minority which is available in English, Kurdish and Farsi here, with a summary here).  We're campaigning on lots of fronts; for women's rights, in defense of minorities, challenging child executions, and defending HIV/AIDS doctors.I'll blog on  these another time.

Lobbying can be a vital tool for human rights, and the trade unions have taken his case to the International Labour Organisation, whose Committee on Freedom of Association stated last year 'The Committee urges the Government to immediately stay the execution of Farzad Kamangar's death sentence, annul his conviction and secure his release from detention. It also requests the Government to undertake an independent inquiry into the allegations of torture inflicted upon Mr Kamangar during his detention and, if proven true, to compensate him for any damages suffered as a result of the said treatment.'

Meanwhile, a joint Amnesty-TUC delegation gave evidence on trade union rights violation at a November 2008 hearing of the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Iran. TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber’s remarks are here and Amnesty UK Director Kate Allen’s are here. This meeting preceded the latest news on Kamangar.

Nor is all the activism coming from outside Iran. A support committee composed of members of the Teacher Trade Association, former colleagues of Kamangar and human rights attorneys, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, was established on July 21, 2008 to defend the civil rights of Farzad Kamangar and to undertake legal actions to have his death sentence commuted.

However, according to Education International, following the first meeting of the Committee, three teachers were arrested and taken to the Intelligence Detention Centre in Sanandaj, in the Iranian province of Kurdistan. According to EI, two – Hassan Ghorbani and Kaveh Rostami– are still in detention, while the third, Ahmad Ghorbani, was released on bail after two weeks. Farzad’s supporters and their family members are regularly intimidated through phone calls by the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security.

The repression of internal solidarity seems to be intensifying over the past month. On 21st December, the Tehran-based Centre for Human Rights Defenders, of which Shirin Ebadi was a co-founder was forcibly closed: Perhaps this was the Iranian authorities’ way to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At the same time a number of other trade unionists have been rounded up over the Christmas and New Year periods.

This unwelcome news has only served to re-double our efforts in the trade union and Amnesty movements to maximise our cooperation, deepen our solidarity and reinforce our activism and impact. Please join us!

Meanwhile, one Iranian campaign group has published an Open Letter by Farzad Kamangar written from prison on 22nd December and addressed to the head of the Ministry of Intelligence. This text hasn't been verified by Amnesty but is circulating on the web. In it, Farzad expresses his wish for his organs to be donated in the event of his death. In a translation that surely misses the lyricism and poetry of the original, Farzad reportedly says “Let my heart beat in someone’s chest, and it’s not important what language s/he speaks or what’s his/her color of skin; only if s/he is a working person’s child whose father’s calluses on the hand would spark my heart with outrage against inequalities.

Please act now. Please add your name to our online email protest.  Please spread the word – email the link or add it to your website. Please also support the Education International action.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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