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An Iranian revolutionary court sentenced one Kurdish journalist, Adnan Hassanpour, to death last year for alleged espionage.
The death penalty was also passed on his cousin, Abdolwahed Batimer, head of the environmentalist Green Mountain group.
(From the time of Moustafa Kemal Ataturk, the leader who saved Turkey from becoming a western colony after the First World War, Kurds were officially labeled “mountain Turks,” and their language was prohibited until the 1990s.) The first Kurdish paper allowed under the moderate liberalization of the language laws, Azadia Welat, has come in for exceptional government scrutiny and regular bannings. They have either been imprisoned or placed in such fear of their lives that they left the country.
One editor, Ozan Kilinc, received twenty-one years in prison for mentioning the imprisoned former leader of the PKK, Abdallah Ocalan, and for not using the word “martyr” to describe Turkish soldiers who died in Kurdistan.
Their crime appears to have been granting an interview to the Voice of America, and evidence against them at the trial included such seditious objects as a Kurdish flag, videocassettes in the Kurdish language and photographs of them with their families in neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan.
The cousins appealed their sentence twice, which finally resulted in a reduction of sentence to thirty-one years.
Turkey’s record on Kurds and Kurdish journalists is, if anything, worse than Iran’s.
Apart from the old war against the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) that ended nearly twenty years ago with about 30,000 Kurds dead, the government has kept a close watch on its large Kurdish minority.
This is no time to be a journalist, especially if you happen to be a Kurd.
Under assault from Turkey and Iran, Kurdish journalists are imprisoned, tortured and intimidated.