Mohammad Sadiq Kaboudvand is an imprisoned journalist, human rights defender and founder of the Kurdistan Human Rights Organization who is currently serving an 11 year sentence in Iran’s notorious Evin prison. To know more about him let’s go through his biography.
Mohammad Sadigh Kaboudvand was born on March 22nd, 1963 in Dyvandrh a small town near Sanandaj in Kurdistan province. He is the fourth child of a family of six children having two brothers and three sisters.
Mohammad Sadigh lost his father when he was 14 years old. He got married at the age of 20 and settled in Tehran since 1984. He has a daughter and two sons. His children are 26, 24 and 21 years old, university students studying respectively International law, Cinema and Literature.
Kaboudvand has bachelor degree in commerce management, master degree in Finance (accounting) and his study in the field of International law (M.A. degree) left uncompleted due to his arrest.
In 1996, Kaboudvand and a number of activists founded an organization called Unity for Democracy in Iran. It was a civil society organization aimed at creating a democratic civic culture acting publicly and peacefully. The organization published an internal magazine called Voice of Freedom. The actual reports and general information about the Human rights situation in Kurdistan was the main topics covered by the magazine. After a while, their activities got limited and the organization stopped.
During 1997 to 1999 Kaboudvand was busy writing about social movements, women’s rights and democracy. His books from this period are “the Other Half” which is about women’s rights, “Democracy in Limbo” which discusses transition towards democracy and finally “Social Movements”. The Iranian government did not allow the books to be published despite the author’s efforts and even after they had been revised several times.
In 1998, Kaboudvand applied for the permission to release a national weekly magazine. After waiting for 5 years, the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance finally approved his request in September 2002. The weekly magazine called “Payam-e- mardom” or “People Message” and it was an analytical magazine covering human rights, women rights and Kurdish people’s rights in the format of political, social, cultural, historical and linguistic articles. Kaboudvand was the chief editor of the magazine. Later it became a bilingual magazine, published in both Farsi and Kurdish. In June 2003, due to intelligence forces’ complain, Kaboudvand got arrested and the initial court sentenced him to a one and a half- year suspended jail term. After his release, he sent a message to the official and governmental press demanding the observation and recognition of Kurdish people’s identity in Iran by the government. Publishing that message, the magazine was shut-down by an order issued by general court.
In an effort to defend the rights of Kurds in Iran, Kaboudvand along with a group of friends established the Kurdistan Human Rights Organization in April 2005. He became the President and speaker of the organization. This non-governmental organization was preparing reports on the conditions and instances of human rights violations in Kurdistan. The organization was a politically and religiously independent body. It had offices in Tehran and Kurdistan province. Close to 200 local reporters throughout Kurdistan province were working with this organization. The organization had both human rights reporters as well as human rights watches. It aimed to encourage and to teach respect for human rights in Kurdistan, and to develop friendly relations between all the peoples of Iran based on equality before the law. Kaboudvand actively documented and reported on human rights violations in Kurdistan, from 9 April 2005 when he established the HROK, until the time of his arrest. During this period from April 2005 to July 2007, more than 250 reports were prepared and interview conducted.
On July, 1st 2007, Kaboudvand was arrested at his office in Vanak Square in Tehran by four plain clothes security officers and he has been held in prison since then. Kaboudvand was kept in solitary confinement for 7 months in Evin prison’s sections 209 and 240.
Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced Mr. Kaboodvand to an 11-year jail term and on 23 October 2008; branch 54 of Tehran Court of Appeal approved the 10.5 year. Kaboudvand has been charged and convicted for “acting against national security through establishing the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan (HROK)”, spreading propaganda against the regime by circulating news, opposing the Islamic punishment code by openly criticizing penalties such as stoning and hanging and his support of political prisoners.
Evidence cited in court was focused on the establishment of the HROK in 2005, communicating human rights violations to United Nations agencies and writing to former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. In addition, many other of the normal human rights monitoring and advocacy activities, which are not crimes in Iran, were cited as evidence supporting the charges against Kaboudvand, for example advocating for the equal rights of women and men and communicating with the Secretary General and High Commissioner for Human rights of the United Nations. The Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan was not operating illegally as it was claimed during the trial.
Mr. Kaboudvand’s trial did not meet international standards of due process. Mr. Kaboudvand was denied access to his lawyer except on a few occasions. His lawyer was allowed access only twice, before his hearing and trial, and was not allowed to confer with Kaboudvand during the hearing, although access to legal counsel is protected and permitted by Iranian law.
Kaboudvand’s court hearing was closed, according to Article 188 of the Penal Code, paragraph 1 according to which trials may be closed in order to protect public morals. But the case against Kaboudvand had nothing to do with public morals. The closed hearing was thus a violation of Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of Iran’s treaty obligations under Article 14(1) of the ICCPR, which call for fair and public hearings.
Kaboudvand’s lawyers were Shirin Ebadi, Giti Pourfazel, Nasrin Sotodeh and Neamat Ahmadi.
Kaboudvand has suffered heart attack and brain stroke several times in the prison. He suffers from acute cardiac distress, blocked blood vessels, kidney and prostate disorder and severe headaches but continued pleas by his family and prison doctors for much needed access to healthcare have been ignored by prison authorities. He has been given suspicious anti-anxiety sedative medication in prison which has created additional health problems including depression, loss of concentration and constant dizziness. They appear to be denying him appropriate medical assessment as a way of further punishing him for his peaceful political activities.
Kaboudvand was conferred with 2009 foreign journalist prize by British Press Awards for his activities in human rights areas.
Mr. KABUDVAND is a prisoner of conscience held only for having peacefully exercised his rights to freedom of expression and association. He is the first person who dared to create a publication mentioning the name “Kurdistan” and an organization dedicated to the defense of human rights in Iranian Kurdistan.