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Pressures on Kurdish students and teachers in Marivan continue

(13 February 2012) – Over the past few weeks, the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center has received several reports about continuing pressure from Iranian authorities on university students and teachers in Iran’s Kurdish region. Amidst reports of pressures on Azerbaijani student activists in other parts of Iran, the latest reports are indicative of an enduring and troubling pattern of intimidation of students and teachers by Iranian authorities.

Yesterday, on Sunday, February 12, Suran Daneshvar, a Kurdish university student from Mariwan and member of the central council of the Democratic Union of Kurdish Students, was sentenced to a year in prison, suspended for two years, by the first branch of the revolutionary court of Sanandaj for “propaganda against the regime”. Daneshvar, along with other members of the Democratic Union of Kurdish Students—a student organization—were detained for their activities last summer and later released on bail. Since the summer, many members of the organization have been arrested and jailed.

On the same day Daneshvar was sentenced, three other Kurdish university students were summoned by the intelligence office in Marivan and interrogated, threatened and later released. These three students—Jiar Salamatian, a law student; Esma’il Ravangard, a geography student; and Aziz Tajik, a social sciences student—attend Payam Noor University in Mariwan. Salamatian, Ravangard, and Tajik were summoned and threatened in connection with their role in a gathering to condemn the actions of the Turkish army in killing 34 Kurdish citizens in Uldere, Turkey this past December. Previously, on January 13, 2012, Salamatian and Dana Lanjabadi, a Kurdish student of agricultural economics, also from Payam Noor, were summoned around noontime by the intelligence office of Marivan and interrogated, threatened, and beaten for hours until 2 AM the next day.

Additionally, on Wednesday, January 25, intelligence agents from Marivan arrested two Kurdish teachers, named Rezgar Sharifi and Mozaffar Sharifi, from the “Lenjabad” village of Marivan, as well as a student named Aram Faraji from Payam Noor University in Mariwan. No further information has been obtained about the condition or whereabouts of these three individuals.

Also, a month following his initial detention, Mardin (Khaled) Eyvazeh, a law student from Payam Noor University in Marivan is still being held in the detention center of the information campaign of Mariwan’s intelligence office. Earlier, authorities promised that Eyvazeh would be released, but as of yet, that promise has not come to fruition.

Kurdish student publications and Kurdish student gatherings are closely monitored by government officials in Iran. According to witness testimonies taken by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center in recent years, the herasat—or what is known as the intelligence gathering apparatus on a university campus—collects intelligence files on Kurdish student activists. Sometimes the herasat reports students to the intelligence authorities in that city or town.

Students suspected of “subversive” activities are then singled out for disciplinary action ranging from forced transfer to other universities (sometimes in non-Kurdish majority regions) or outright expulsion. Expulsions have a deterrent or chilling effect on the larger student body – and tend to discourage others from participating in Kurdish student organizations.

Along with expulsion, government agents pressure universities to shut down student publications and student organizations. In extreme cases, some students are arrested and taken to prison for their student activism.