This undated picture shows Ramin Hossein Panahi who has a stay of execution. Photo: Iran Rights
Seventy years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948 that calls for respect for human rights, liberty, dignity, and equality, its global foundation is under threat and nowhere is it so ruthlessly done as in Iran. This declaration has been translated into more than 500 languages including Farsi, yet it remains inaccessible if not an illusion in Iran where human rights defenders and advocates face intimidation, imprisonment, torture, and death. It is even more dangerous for religious and ethnic minorities such as Kurds who as “second class citizens” face a double oppression, more violence, more surveillance and more draconian punishments for defending human rights.
The tragic fate of Ramin Hussein Panahi family is telling. Ramin, a Kurdish political prisoner, has been condemned to death. Three days ago his niece, Nishtiman, traumatized by the news of the impending execution of her uncle, committed suicide. The brother of Ramin Hussein Panahi, Amjad in a moving statement speaks of the trauma and inflictions that his family has been subjected to as he calls upon the world to come to their rescue.
“Today, Nishtiman Hossein Panahi, Afshin and Ramin's Hossein Panahi's niece, and Ahmad Hossein Panahi's wife, who was recently arrested, has committed suicide at the age of 25. I do not know to whom I should express my condolences nor do I know with whom I should share my sorrow. Nishtiman after learning about the final verdict on the execution of Ramin put an end to her own life. I do not know how to cope with this matter. Indeed this is unbearable and far beyond the natural ability of anyone to endure. As member of the Hossein Panahi family I ask all freedom loving and genuinely humanitarian people to support Ramin Hossein Panahi and annul and denounce his impending execution and thereby alleviate our torment and anguish.”
Despite such a tragic end for a member of Hossein Panahi’s family whose members have reportedly threatened collective suicide in the event that Ramin is executed and despite repeated calls from human rights organizations, activists, and experts, the Islamic Republic is yet to annul the unfair verdict. It was only on May 2, that Agnes Callamard, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial summary and arbitrary executions, urgently appealed to the Islamic Republic of Iran to annul and halt the execution of Ramin, who like many other Kurdish and non-Kurdish prisoners have not received a fair trial. Before being sentenced to death, Ramin was held incommunicado, interrogated, and tortured for self-incrimination and forced confession, He has been subjected to the most inhumane punishment then put on death row, an endless ordeal that is destroying his family.
Although the world faces moral and intellectual challenges in confronting the impervious Islamic Republic of Iran when it comes to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human rights activists and defenders cannot give up the fight for the basic tenets and norms of the UDHR against those who represent the dark side of human society. Hossein Panahi's family as victims of human rights violations have already experienced and being haunted by an endless ordeal. On the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is necessary for all human rights advocates to reassert our universal commitment to the core values and ideals of this important document and stand up for Ramin Hossein Panahi to annul and halt his execution so we alleviate the suffering of the grieving family.
Amir Sharifi is the Director of the Kurdish Human Rights Advocacy Group in Los Angeles, California.