Nearly 100 Academics, Including Noam Chomsky, Call for the Release of A Kurdish Activist Convicted for Teaching Kurdish Language by the Iranian Regime


A Statement in Support of Zara Mohammadi


On July 14, 2020, an Islamic Revolutionary Court in Iran sentenced Zara Mohammadi to 10 years imprisonment for teaching Kurdish language on a voluntary basis. Zara Mohammadi is a co-founder of the Nojin Cultural Association, a civil society organisation focused on societal and educational initiatives, including teaching the Kurdish language and literature.

The Islamic Revolutionary Court’s verdict insinuates that Zara Mohammadi’s Kurdish instruction threatened Iran’s “national security.” It is worth noting that the Revolutionary Courts are not constitutional. According to Article 61 of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, “the judiciary power is exercised by the Public Courts of Justice [dādgostarī] ….”.

Moreover, while Iran’s constitution explicitly privileges the Persian language as the country’s official language and language of education and therefore marginalises other languages spoken in Iran as “tribal” and “local,” it does explicitly allow the instruction of non-Persian languages (Article 15). Despite this clear stipulation regarding the legality of the use of non-Persian languages, over the past 40 years the Islamic Republic of Iran has refrained from implementing Article 15 of the constitution and consistently treated non-Persian languages as threats to Iran’s national security. The Revolutionary Court’s latest ruling against Zara Mohammadi is therefore only the latest instance of the Islamic Republic’s securitization of the promotion, even by private individuals, of non-Persian languages.

To make matters worse, in 2019 the Islamic Republic’s Ministry of Education declared that pupils’ lack of Persian proficiency in preschools would be categorized as “abnormal” to be treated with special measures. The Iranian state has thus pathologized a lack of Persian proficiency turning it into a biological issue for non-Persian preschoolers.

The Islamic Republic of Iran’s clear and systematic discrimination against non-Persian languages are in clear violation of several international conventions and covenants, including the United Nations’ International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, of which Iran is a signatory.

We, the undersigned, condemn the Islamic Revolutionary Court’s unlawful verdict, call for immediate acquittal of Zara Mohammadi and an end to discriminatory policies in Iran against non-Persian languages.


  1. Noam Chomsky, Emeritus Professor of Linguistics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology / Cambridge, MA
  2. İsmail Beşikçi, Emeritus Professor of Sociology / Turkey
  3. Gil Anidjar, Professor, Department of Religion & Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, Columbia University / New York, NY
  4. Abbas Vali, Emeritus Professor, Political Theory, Boğazici University / Istanbul, Turkey
  5. Owen R. Miller, Assistant Professor of History, Bilkent University /Ankara, Turkey
  6. Kamal Soleimani, Professor & Researcher of Middle Eastern Studies, El Colegio de México / Mexico City, Mexico
  7. Anthony K. Shin, Ph.D. student, Department of History, University of Minnesota / Minneapolis & St. Paul, MN
  8. Barzoo Eliassi, Associate Professor, Department of Social Work, Linnaeus University /Småland, Sweden
  9. Kamran Matin, Associate Professor, International Relations, Sussex University / Sussex, U.K.
  10. Sona Kazemi, Postdoctoral Researcher of English, Mershon Center for International Security Studies, Ohio State University / Columbus, OH
  11. Patrick Lewis, Ph.D. student, Anthropology, University of Chicago / Chicago, IL
  12. S. Mofidi, Research Fellow, Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study / Amsterdam, Netherlands
  13. Ahmad Mohammapour, Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts / Amherst, MA
  14. Sherko Kirmanj, Assistant Professor, International Relations, University of Sharjah / Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
  15. Allan Hassaniyan. Lecturer, Middle East Studies, University of Exeter / Exeter, U.K.
  16. Muslih Irwani, Professor, Public Policy, Salahaddin University / Erbil, Iraq
  17. Haidar Khezri, Assistant Professor, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, University of Central Florida / Orange County, FL
  18. Amir Sharifi, Ph.D. Lecturer/ Department of Linguistics, California State University / Long Beach, USA
  19. Ebru Ilhan, Ph.D. student and Academic Advisor, Minnesota State University / Mankato, MN
  20. Shadi Rohana, Language Professor/ El Colegio de México / Mexico City, Mexico
  21. Benjamin Priest, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Central Eurasian Studies, Indiana University / Bloomington, IN
  22. Djene R. Bajalan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of History, Missouri State University / Springfield, MO
  23. Benjamin Priest, Ph.D., Visiting Assistant Professor /Central Eurasian Studies Department, Indiana University / Bloomington, IN
  24. Autumn Cockrell-Abdullah, Ph.D. Research Fellow/Anthropology, Global South Research Consortium, Kennesaw State University / Kennesaw, GA
  25. Michael Chyet, Ph.D., Cataloguer of Middle Eastern languages, Library of Congress / Washington, D.C.
  26. Ibrahim Sirkeci, Ph.D.  Professor, Transnational Studies, Regent’s University / London, U.K.
  27. Saladdin Ahmed, Visiting Assistant Professor, Union College / Schenectady, NY
  28. Hawzhin Azeez, Ph.D., American University of Iraq, Sulaimani / Sulaymani, Kurdistan Region of Iraq
  29. Mihemed Rêzan Alikan, Ph.D., North Kurdistan (Southeast Turkey)
  30. Jesse Benjamin, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice, School of Conflict Management, Peacebuilding and Development, Kennesaw State University / Atlanta, GA
  31. Cavlan Erengezgin, Ph.D. student of Geography, University of British Columbia / Vancouver, BC
  32. Choman Hardi, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Gender and Development Studies/ the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani / Sulaymani, Kurdistan Region of Iraq
  33. Hawre Hasan Hama, lecturer, Politics and International Relations, University of Sulaimani / Sulaymani, Kurdistan Region of Iraq
  34. Mansour Sohrabi, Ph.D. Guest Researcher, Department of Soil and Plant Microbiome at Institute of Phytopathology at the Christian-Albrecht’s-University / Kiel, Germany
  35. Seevan Saeed, Associate Professor, Middle East politics, Shaanxi Normal University / Xī’ān, China
  36. Nevzat Keskin, Journalist, Ph.D. candidate / Toronto, ON
  37. Erdem Ilter, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of California / Los Angeles, CA
  38. Naif Bezwan, Institut für Politikwissenschaft, Department of Political Science, University of Innsbruck / Innsbruck, Austria
  39. Hashem Ahmadzadeh, Ph.D. Author-Researcher / Uppsala University / Uppsala, Sweden
  40. Erol Köroğlu, Associate Professor, Modern Turkish Literature, Boğazici University / Istanbul, Turkey
  41. Mucahit Bilici, Associate Professor of Sociology, John Jay College and City University of New York Graduate Center / New York, NY
  42. Alan Fotoohi, M.D., Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Karolinska Institutet / Stockholm, Sweden
  43. Nurullah Hergul, Ph.D. Student, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN
  44. Stanley Thangaraj, Assistant Professor, Anthropology, City College of New York / New York, NY
  45. Sevgi Arslan, Ph.D. candidate, University of Toronto / Toronto, ON
  46. Hanifi Barış, Ph.D., University of Aberdeen / Aberdeen, Scotland
  47. Ibrahim Malazada, Ph.D. Researcher, lecturer/ Sociology, Soran University, Iraqi Kurdistan
  48. Cengiz Gunes, Associate Lecturer, The Open University, UK.
  49. Ceren Şengül, Researcher, Centre Maurice Halbwachs, Ecole Normale Supérieure, France
  50. Rahim Surxi, Ph.D., Adjunct research professor, Linguistics, and Language Studies, Carleton University
  51. Murat V. Ardelan, Professor, Faculty of Natural Sciences,  University of Science & Technology, Norway
  52. Roni Demirbağ, Ph.D., Western Sydney University / Sydney, Australia
  53. Mehmet Rauf Kesici, Ph.D., Associate Professor / Kocaeli Academy for Solidarity, Turkey
  54. Behrooz Shojai, Linguist/ Uppsala Universitet, Sweden
  55. Khalid Khayati, Senior Lecturer, Political Science (STATSV), Linköping University / Linköping, Sweden
  56. Mesut Yegen, Professor, Sociology, Istanbul Şehir University / Istanbul, Turkey.
  57. Shekoufeh Mohammadi Shirmahaleh, Ph.D., Professor-Researcher, Institute for Philological Studies, National Autonomous University of Mexico / Mexico City, Mexico
  58. Silvana Rabinovich,Ph.D., Professor-Researcher, Institute for Philological Studies, National Autonomous University of Mexico / Mexico City, Mexico
  59. Michael Sims, Ph.D. Candidate, Near and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Washington / Seattle, WA
  60. Najmadin Wavi, Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Trieste / Trieste, Italy
  61. Shahrzad Mojab, Professor, Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education and Women and Gender Studies Institute, University of Toronto / Toronto, ON
  62. Fahri Seker, Linguist, Colorado State University / Fort Collins, CO
  63. Sara Kermanian, PhD Researcher, International Relations, University of Sussex, UK.
  64. Khaled Sulaiman, journalist, Montreal, QC
  65. Vera Eccarius-Kelly, Professor of Political Science, Siena College / Loudonville, NY
  66. Ava Homa, novelist, journalist, activist / Toronto, ON & San Francisco, CA
  67. Hossein Kamaly, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies & Holder of the Imam Ali Chair for Shiʿi Studies and Dialogue among Islamic Legal Schools, Hartford Seminary / Hartford, CT
  68. Seyed Mohsen Emadi, Ph.D. Student, National Autonomous University of Mexico / Mexico City, Mexico
  69. Umut Tümay Arslan,  Professor,  Sociology Department, Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Turkey
  70. Aziz Yağan, Professor, Department of Science and Mathematics Education,  Dicle University / Diyarbakır, Turkey
  71. Meredith Tax, writer & political activist / Milwaukee, WI
  72. Jon Bullock, Ph.D. candidate, University of Chicago / Chicago, IL
  73. Janroj Yilmaz Keles, Senior Research Fellow in Politics, Law School, Middlesex University / London, U.K. &  Editor of Work, Employment & Society (an ABS4-ranked journal of the British Sociological Association)
  74. Mehdi Dehnavi. Contributing Writer at  Islamic Theology of Counter Terrorism (ITCT) / London, U.K.
  75. Kazhal Mohammadi, Ph.D. Candidate, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON
  76. Estella Schmid, Peace in Kurdistan / London, UK
  77. Anya Briy, PhD student, Binghamton University State University of New York / Binghamton, NY
  78. Dana Pietsch, Ph.D., Asylum Centre Tübingen & University of Tübingen / Tübingen, Germany
  79. Frieda Afary, Producer of Iranian Progressives in Translation and member of Alliance of  Middle Eastern and North African Socialists.
  80. Kariane Westrheim, Chair of E.U. Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC); Professor, Department of Education, Faculty of Psychology, University of Bergen / Bergen, Norway
  81. Yasser Munif, Associate Professor, Emerson College
  82. Mona Afary, Ph.D., Executive Director, Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants.
  83. Deniz Ekici, PhD. Independent Researcher
  84. Deniz Cenk Demir, Ph.D. Student, Department of Anthropology, Stanford University
  85. Ümit Kurt, Ph.D., Polonsky Academy, Van leer Jerusalem Institute
  86. Said Shams, Professor of Sociology, Soran University, KRG
  87. Behice Yildiz, Philosophy Master Student, Institute of Social Sciences, Uludağ University, Turkey
  88. Hardy Mede, Ph.D., Researcher at University of Sorbonne, France
  89. Joanna Bocheńska, Ph.D., Department of Iranian Studies, Jagiellonian University, Poland
  90. Shamal Kaveh, Ph.D., History of Ideas and Sciences, Stockholm University, Sweden
  91. Idris Ahmedi, Ph.D., Political Sciences, Karlstad University, Sweden
  92. Kaveh Ghoreishi, Researcher,  Journalist at Nawext, Berlin

25 Aug, 2020