Journalist, human rights activist and Kurdish ethnic activist
Acting against national security
Disturbing public opinion
Insulting the Supreme Leader
Moharebeh (waging war against God)
Spreading propaganda against the holy Islamic Republic
Five years in prison and two years in exile
Date of Birth
Place of Birth
Bukan, West Azerbaijan province
Khosro Kordpour, a Kurdish journalist, human rights activist and founder of the Mukerian News Agency, was arrested in March 2013, along with his brother Masoud Kordpour, a journalist, human rights activist and teacher. After spending several months in “temporary detention” without access to a lawyer, the Revolutionary Court sentenced Khosro Kordpour to five years in prison and two years in exile.
On March 7, 2013, agents from the Intelligence Bureau of Mahabad, a Kurdish town in the province of Azerbaijan, arrested Khosro Kordpour while he was at his dentist’s office. They then took him to his home, searched his home, beat him during the search and confiscated his laptop and cellphone. Two days later, on March 9, Masoud was arrested when he went to the Intelligence Bureau to inquire about his brother.
“Kidnapping, Not Arrest”
Jafar Kordpour, the brother of the two arrested journalists, told Deutsche Welle [Persian link] that when the family went to the prosecutor’s office to ask about them, the prosecutor told them he was unaware of their arrest. In other words, the agents had taken the two into custody illegally and without warrant. Jafar described it as “a kind of kidnapping.”
The two brothers spent more than four months in detention without being formally charged. At one point, Khosro went on hunger strike in protest against the situation. On June 27, 2013, officials informed them about charges against them, but without a lawyer present. Khosro Kordpour was charged with “activities against national security,” “disturbing public opinion,” “insulting the Supreme Leader”,” “Moharebeh [waging war against God]” and “propaganda against the Islamic Republic”.
Both were tried in three sessions held in August, September and October 2013 before Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court of Mahabad. According to Kamal Hosseini, a reporter for Mukerian News Agency [Persian link], who was present at the first session of the trial, the brothers were brought to the courtroom wearing prison uniform, handcuffed and shackled. Their lawyers objected to this treatment, arguing that it was unlawful, but the judge disregarded the objections.
Khosro argued in his own defense that his actions as the editor of Mukerian were legal according to Iranian Press Law and that everything published on the site was both true and published without malicious intent.
But the judge rejected his defense and on November 9, 2013 convicted both Khosro and Masoud. Khosro was sentenced to five years in prison for conspiracy against the regime and two years of exile for propaganda against the regime. The judge also ordered that he must serve out his sentence in Tabriz, the capital of East Azarbaijan province, for “security reasons.” Osman Mozayan, one of the brothers’ lawyers, objected to the verdict on the basis that exile would hurt the whole Kordpour family, thereby violating the principle that only the guilty individual should be punished. The appeals court, however, upheld the verdict, even though Kordpour does not speak Turkish, which is the most widely-used language in Tabriz.
No Lines of Communication
In an open letter to the government authorities, Masoud Kordpour questioned the sentence imposed on him and his brother. “Your Excellency President Rouhani,” he wrote, “In my view, in order to resolve the problems and difficulties of the country, there should exist open paths between the government, civil agencies, and brave, critical and even opposition journalists. This way, problems are identified at their root and solved openly for the good of democracy and human rights. In a world where information technology has advanced so much, without the participation of literate people of conscience, no progress can be achieved or sustained.”
The letter went on: “What is the crime of people who are not allowed to carry out their political activities even within the framework of the existing legal system? These prisoners, who are here because of political, social and economic circumstances, are here as a result of inefficient management of the political and security aspects of running the country. They have not committed any crime except being born in Kurdistan. Hence, I ask you, please, to order the review of our cases in order that our freedom is secured and we can return to our families.”
A Variety of Violations
On November 20, 2013, the United Nation’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) called for the release of the Kordpour brothers. WGAD found that their trial was “flawed in a number of respects from an international human rights law perspective” and pointed out a variety of violations, including “the inordinate delay in according them access to a lawyer, the 45-day delay in commencing interrogation and the jurisdiction of the court” before which they were tried.
The UN Working Group found more generally that “a number of Iranian laws and policies, including the 1986 Press Law, the 2009 Computer Crimes Law and the 2010 Cybercrime Law are not in conformity with the right to freedom of expression and access to information under international law,” that the “charges against the Kordpour brothers are vague and ambiguous and therefore difficult to substantiate,” whereas international law provides that “restrictions on the freedom of expression must be unambiguous, narrow and accompanied by adequate safeguards against abuse.”
On March 19, 2014, security agents quickly transferred Kordpour to Tabriz without informing his family or lawyers and without allowing him to gather his personal belongings. While in detention, Khosro Kordpour was known as “the father of Kurdish political prisoners” by the families of other inmates because he stood up for them and tried to improve their living conditions.
“Person of Interest”
As with his brother Masoud, this was not the first time that Khosro had been imprisoned by the Islamic Republic.
As a young man Khosro was a follower of Dariush Forouhar, a pan-Iranist and a nationalist leader and often traveled from his city, Bukan, to Tehran to participate in Iranian nationalists’ gatherings [Persian link]. In 1998, during a series of opposition murders that came to be known as the “Chain Murders,” intelligence agents cut Forouhar’s throat and that of his wife Parvaneh. Their murders led to protests, during which Khosro Kordpour, who had been reporting for a nationalist news agency at the time, was arrested. He was then 23 and spent only a few days in detention, but the incident made him a “person of interest” to Islamic Republic security agencies.
Then, in 2001, he was charged with “waging war against God” and was sentenced to eight years in prison, but the appeals court reduced the sentence to two years and he was released in early 2004 after serving his sentence.
After his release Kordpour continued his work as a journalist, covering Kurdish areas of Iran. In 2005 when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president, he launched Mukrian News Agency to report on the violations of human rights in the Kurdish regions. The families of political prisoners often trusted Mukrian with news that most other domestic websites and news agencies did not dare publish. Eventually, the regime pushed back and sent him and his brother Masoud, who was also working with Mukrian, to prison.
Khosro Kordpour was released on September 6, 2017, having served his five-year prison sentence. It is not yet clear whether the two-year sentence regarding exile will be enforced or suspended.
Updated: October 23, 2017
Radio Farda, August 5, 2013 (Persian)
BBC Persian, November 10, 2013 (Persian)
Deutsche Welle (DW), December 3, 2013 (Persian)
Worldwide Movement for Human Rights (FIDH), May 2, 2014
Kurdistan Press Agency (Kurdpa), December 13, 2015 (Persian)
Tavaana, Unknown Date (Persian)
Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), September 7, 2017 (Persian)