Five Iranian Azerbaijanis, Jamal Shaikhzade, Farhad Islamdust, Muhammad Jangali, Dehqan Salamat and Riza Alipour were executed on 10 October, the World Day Against the Death Penalty, in the central prison of Urmia, Azerbaijan, Iran. These individuals were convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death after an unfair trial process largely based on confessions extracted under torture and documents allegedly prepared by the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security of Iran.
Three of these five executed individuals, Jamal Shaikhzade, Farhad Islamdust and Muhammad Jangali were residents of ‘Isti Su’ Village and members of the Iranian Azerbaijani Sunni minority commonly referred as ‘Sunni Turk’ or ‘Kuresunni’ by local people. These three executed Azerbaijani Sunnis were arrested in October 2009 in the city of Urmia and transferred to the central prison, where, according to their families, they were subjected to severe psychological and physical torture under interrogation, According to ADAPP’s reliable sources, at least one of the executed individuals, the 30-year-old driver assistant, Jamal Shaikhzade may have been innocent.
Additionally, at least three other Azerbaijani Sunni minority members, Yusuf Islamdust from the Isti Su Village in the city of Salmas, and Allahverdi Ahmadpurazer and Ahmad Jamshid Jam from the towns of Qulunju and Balov in Urmia are in imminent danger of execution.
As a result of the above executions, the family of Yusuf Islamdust is deeply concerned about the life of their son, whom they believe is innocent. According to Mahmud Islamdust, Yusuf’s father who spoke to ADAPP, his son has never accepted the accusation of drug trafficking. Ahmad Islamdust said, “My son is innocent. Although we had been told by the Judge that Yusuf will be sentenced to six or seven months in prison, the Ministry of Intelligence has asked for his death. My son had been severely tortured in the Ministry of Intelligence for about 50 days.” He also added, “Here, no one hears Kuresunnis’ voice. I hope our voice will be heard by the international community.”
The family of Allahverdi Ahmadpurazer is worried about him. They were told that Allahverdi was transferred to the quarantine ward of Urmia prison.
The Sunni Muslims are a religious minority in the Shia dominated Iran. The Sunni Azerbaijanis mainly live in the cities of Urmia, Salmas, Khoy and Maku in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province. Discrimination against the Sunni Azerbaijanis by the Iranian government is evidenced in their lack of opportunity to complete higher education, their being prevented from establishing religious schools and non-governmental organizations or associations and their difficulties obtaining state positions. Moreover, the Iranian officials impose financial hardship on Sunni farmers by redirecting water supplies away from their villages and thus exposing their farms to water shortages. In general, the Sunni Azerbaijanis claim that they have been experiencing discrimination in the Iranian justice system by receiving relatively heavier sentences most of the times.
The Association for the Defence of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran (ADAPP) calls on the Iranian authorities to stop the execution of Sunni Azerbaijanis, as well as other Iranian ethnic and religious minorities, who are sentenced to death in unfair trials based on the confessions obtained under torture. ADAPP also urges the Iranian government to allow the Sunni community the freedom to fully engage in religious, political and social activities, and to end education and job discrimination against the Sunni Azerbaijanis and other ethnic-religious minorities in the Iranian Azerbaijan provinces, as well as the entire country.
Association for Defence of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran (ADAPP) Alirza Quluncu Researcher & Communication Director Vancouver, Canada