Concerned citizens across the globe should apply pressure on Switzerland not to return Kurdish activist Arezu Aliasi back to Iran, where she is in grave danger. Her very life depends upon citizens of conscience raising their voices in a timely manner, proclaiming that it is immoral for a democratic country to be sending a Kurdish women’s and human rights activist back to Iran, where she is likely to die.
In a video that has circulated recently on Kurdish social media, Iranian Kurdish activist Arezu Aliasi, a member of the PDKI in Switzerland, related that Switzerland seeks to deport her back to Iran, where she was “threatened and oppressed.” According to her, the Swiss government denied her political asylum and seeks to deport her back to Iran by July 31, 2020: “I’m a human rights and women’s rights activist. If they deport me back to Iran, my life will be in danger and I will lose my rights as a human. Therefore, I plead and ask for help.”
Moderate Iranian Imam Sheikh M. Tawhidi, who is representing Aliasi, stated in a recent press release, “Arezu Eliassi is a 22-year old Kurdish-Iranian lady that left Iran and sought asylum in Bern, Switzerland, along with her family. She is a well-known young activist for freedom, liberty, and human rights in Iran. After spending five years inside a camp, she has now been placed in detention and is set to be deported because the authorities don’t think her activism will result in imprisonment or torture if she is returned to Iran.”
“This is very wrong, as we have seen women being imprisoned over social media posts that are not in favor of the Iranian regime, let alone being an activist for human and women’s rights,” he proclaimed. “Arezu has already been interrogated by the regime, and both death and rape threats have been directed towards her upon news of her deportation back to Iran.”
Farhad Nassirkhani, the chairman of the board of the Imperial Iranian Airforce Association, concurred: “The Iranian regime has the worst human rights record and there is no doubt that a dangerous fate awaits her if she is handed over to the Tehran regime. Kurdish women have historically fought for their freedom and human rights as much as the men. The Iranian government calls them ‘terrorists’ and is always seeking to repress them.”
Iranian Kurdish dissident Kajal Mohammadi also concurred: “The Iranian regime has zero tolerance for political activists, particularly those with connections and membership in the PDKI. So, if she is as politically involved as she says that she is, she will face extreme persecution, aggression, possibly rape and assault, as well as jail time. In such cases [sic], she will be denied proper due process and legal representation. This is what happens to political prisoners in Iran. They face years of imprisonment, physical, sexual, and psychological assaults, and aggression. Now, too often we do not hear about the sexual assaults, but they take place and it is a way for the regime to break prisoners and activists down.”
She added that during the coronavirus crisis, many dissidents have not been released from Iranian prisons: “In fact, reports indicate that the regime has denied activists doctors visits and medications. This has been the case for political activists for many years.”
Iranian Kurdish journalist Sirwan Mansouri agreed: “Zeynab Jalalian is a Kurdish girl who was arrested by the government many years ago and was tortured till she confessed that she is a member of an armed Kurdish group. Due to these tortures, she lost her ability to see and now she has coronavirus. You know the political prisoners do not have any rights in prison and are under extreme pressure compared to normal prisoners. Sometimes, the government puts them with dangerous prisoners like murderers, opium addicts and HIV positive prisoners. In other cases, they are raped by the guards and authorities in the jails.”
According to Ruduw, Jalalian was on a hunger strike in the past even before getting coronavirus because she was denied medical treatment for her eyes. Iran Human Rights Monitor also reported that she is not receiving proper treatment for the coronavirus as well: “Prison authorities by the order of the Intelligence Ministry have refused to transfer Ms. Jalalian to hospital for COVID-19 treatment. Iranian prisoners and human rights organizations have warned of the overcrowded, unhygienic and unsanitary conditions in prison that put the prisoners at great risk of COVID-19 infections. Before contracting the coronavirus,
Mansouri emphasized that Iranian Kurdish dissidents who were sent back to the Islamic Republic often have a brutal fate awaiting them: “Adel Bahrami was a refugee in Turkey. She was sent back to Iran last year and is now in prison. Some months ago, some prisoners escaped from Saghez Prison. There was a political prisoner connected to the PDKI, otherwise known as the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan. His name was Mohammed Salimi. He went to Iraqi Kurdistan, but the PUK Party arrested him and sent him back to Iran. Some days later, he was executed.”
Mendi Safadi, who heads the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights, declared: “Switzerland’s handover of Kurdish activist Arezu Aliasi to the mullah’s regime of Iran is a delivery to the gallows. All human rights and civil society organizations must intervene in order to prevent the Swiss government from surrendering this Kurdish activist to Iran. We have a moral obligation to prevent Switzerland from perpetrating this heinous crime.”
Even though the world is pre-occupied with the coronavirus crisis, the international community should not neglect its moral obligation to stand beside those voices of conscience in a world gone mad. Although we are socially isolated and distant from one another, we should never neglect our moral obligation to stand up for human rights and the dignity of man in other countries. As Dr. Martin Luther King once wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Help urge Switzerland to accept Azuzu Aliasi’s plea for asylum and to permit her to stay within its borders.
Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights. She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”