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EDITORIAL: Iran hangs a little fish

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A year ago, The Washington Times helped bring the world's attention to the plight of Farzad Kamangar, a Kurdish school-teacher wrongly accused of being a terrorist by the Islamic regime in Tehran. He spent almost four years of physical and mental torture in Iran's prison system. Mr. Kamangar's suffering ceased Sunday at the end of a hangman's noose. He was 34 years old.

Mr. Kamangar was killed along with four other "moharebs" or "enemies of God," whom the regime said were "convicted of carrying out terrorist acts." Three of the cases were still undergoing mandatory review when the executions were rushed through. Phone connections to Tehran's infamous Evin Prison were cut over the weekend while the executions were prepared and carried out. The regime did not notify the families or defense attorneys of the condemned in advance, as required by law - they learned of the execution from a press release. For a regime that claims to be the instrument of God, it behaved more like a criminal cabal with something to hide.

Mr. Kamangar's crime was being a Kurd. He taught at an elementary school in the northwestern Iranian city of Kamyaran, where he was a member of the Kurdistan Teachers Union and wrote for various underground human rights publications. He secretly taught his Kurdish students their banned language and told stories about their culture and history. He was arrested in July 2006 and subjected to beatings, whippings, electric shocks, malnourishment, sleep deprivation, and solitary confinement in cold, squalid cells. His cries of torment were drowned out by loud tapes playing passages from the Koran.

Mr. Kamangar was given a five-minute trial in February 2008. His lawyer, Khalil Bahramian, told The Washington Times by phone from Iran last year that there was "absolutely no evidence against Farzad that connects him to a terrorist group or activity." Farzad, he said, "is a teacher, a poet, a journalist, a human rights activist and a special person." And no such evidence was presented to the court, or was needed for it to make its perfunctory, predetermined ruling.

In his final letter from prison, Mr. Kamangar related the Iranian story "The Little Black Fish," written in 1967 by the dissident teacher Samad Behrangi, which tells the story of a little fish who defies the rules of his community to embark on a journey to discover the sea. Through many adventures, the little black fish finds freedom, but also an untimely death. "Is it possible to be a teacher and not show the path to the sea to the little fish of the country?" he wrote. "Is it possible to carry the heavy burden of being a teacher and be responsible for spreading the seeds of knowledge and still be silent? Is it possible to see the lumps in the throats of the students and witness their thin and malnourished faces and keep quiet? ... I cannot imagine witnessing the pain and poverty of the people of this land and fail to give our hearts to the river and the sea, to the roar and the flood."

Mr. Kamangar wrote, "The Little Fish calmly swam in the sea and thought: Facing death is not hard for me, nor do I regret it."