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A Kurd and former refugee from political persecution, he is a spokesperson for issues of human rights, minority rights and international law. Rating details.

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The Kurdish people would maintain the right to travel freely and choose their profession. The autonomy programme was ignored, as Khomeini saw the demands of ethnic minorities along with many other groups that had supported him as superfluous to an Islamic state. In fact, the Kurds were asking for autonomy for Kurdistan meaning control of domestic policies and regional administration and democracy for wider Iran.

As noted, issues of finance, foreign policy and defence would have been left to the central government. Unsurprisingly, fighting soon began between the peshmerga and the pasadran the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. There were three major forces in the fight for the Kurdish cause in , which by this time had reached the stage of a fully mature national movement.

The Komala, conversely — a more radical, Marxist organisation concerned with class conflict — operated from, and had a strong base of support in the south of Iranian Kurdistan. Born in , he left Iran after the fall of Mahabad, yet returned in the s and was arrested and imprisoned for two years for his involvement against the Shah.

Kurdistan Oil: The Past, Present and Future

He left for Prague in , where he obtained a PhD in, and later taught, economics. It is at this time that the KDP-I was transformed from a small underground movement to a mass party with a clear programme for autonomy in Kurdistan. Furthermore, the KDP-I maintained a strong military presence in the form of the pesmerga, which began as an independent military force in Despite many clashes, the leaders of the KDP-I were not overtly hostile to tribal leaders, who often caused difficulties.

The tribal leaders, who saw the agenda of the urban leaders as anathema to their authority and economic standing, did not present a united response to the Islamic Revolution. Some, who had enjoyed the patronage of the Shah, as stated earlier, actively opposed the revolution. Others used the general chaos to their advantage, attempting to secure influence for themselves — working with the KDP-I when it suited them; deserting the nationalistic forces at other times.

These tribal leaders found themselves on the wrong side of both the KDP-I and the Komala, as they actively pursued a policy of attempting to extract dues or tithes from peasants in the Mahabad region. Some of these chieftains were actively allied with the government, and used military assistance from the central government to fight the nationalist forces.

Unity, Betrayal, and the Future of the Middle East

Still other tribal leaders showed their support for the nationalist movement. The Komala, on the other hand, were founded as an underground radical Marxist organisation in and became truly active after the revolution. Furthermore, the Komala took a much more confrontational approach to the tribal chieftains and landowners. The Komala and the KDP-I have had their fair share of differences, but managed to provide a fairly unified front throughout the fighting that took place against the central government after the Islamic Revolution.

Finally, Sheikh Izzeden Husseini, a Sunni cleric, more a personality than an organisation, was seen mainly as a unifying force. He was a member of several Kurdish organisations, was outspoken in his criticism against Khomeini, and acted as a staunch defender of democratic values and Kurdish autonomy. The Iranian government responded with a brutal crackdown, justified on the basis that the Kurds were attempting to break away from Iran, a charge denied by the Kurds. The cost to the civilian population of Kurdistan was high, with large numbers of civilian casualties resulting from massacres in various villages.

Peshmerga, students and workers seized supplies and weapons from the Iranian military, and the peshmerga engaged in both direct combat at military bases and guerrilla-style warfare in the mountains.


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In the rural areas, peasants and militarised students, organised primarily by the Komala, seized land from the aghas and sheikhs after the revolution. Throughout , clashes occurred between the Kurds and government forces. In August, the Kurds took the town of Paveh near the Iraqi border, marking the beginning of an especially violent period of clashes, conflict and negotiation between the Kurds and the central government that lasted several years.

A great number of Kurds were summarily tried then executed, most trials lasting only a few minutes. Vicious fighting continued throughout the post-revolutionary period, a topic that will be explored in further detail in the next chapter. Towns and villages in Iranian Kurdistan came under massive artillery attack from both fronts, resulting in great loss of life. In the Iranian government launched a massive offensive against the Kurds, clearing an area of over 2, square kilometres of Iranian Kurdistan.

Major casualties ensued as over 70 villages and towns came under the control of the Iranian military.


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Furthermore, beginning in , the Iraqi military engaged in extensive chemical weapons attacks, targeting not only military outposts but also the towns and villages of the border regions, most of which were Kurdish. More than 30 chemical attacks against Iranian Kurdish residential areas occurred, sometimes affecting 20 or more villages in each attack.

Many Kurdish civilians died in these attacks, and thousands more still suffer horribly from the effects of exposure to the chemical agents, which included mustard gas, a particularly persistent chemical agent whose toxic effects last for years. However, he did make several attempts to negotiate with the government, despite the heavy casualties suffered by the Kurds. Tragically, Ghassemlou was assassinated on 13 July while in negotiations with the Iranian government.

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His successor, Sadeq Sharafkandi, met the same fate in Although Tehran has denied involvement in the murders, it is widely believed that it is responsible. After the deaths of Ghassemlou and Sharafkandi, the situation of the KDP-I and the Komala worsened, with many members taking refuge in neighbouring countries. The Islamic Republic of Iran entered a period of reform and more open government and cautious reconciliation with the West after the election of reform-minded President Sayyed Mohammed Khatami, who was elected in a resounding victory over the conservatives in This shocked the establishment of conservative technocrats who had been in control of the government since the revolution, and still held on to most of the key positions or power within the government.

The Kurds, along with the majority of Iranians who felt deeply unhappy with the hard-line Islamic regime, supported Mohammed Khatami and his reform movement, which promised greater social and political freedom for all Iranians, including ethnic and religious minorities. While Khatami enjoyed unprecedented support in the Iranian populous, the promised changes of his campaign did not, for the most part, materialise.

Kurdish Americans

This is due in large part to the extremely complex nature of the Iranian political system, which will be discussed in further detail in the next chapter. Khatami must answer to the Rahbar, or supreme religious leader, who wields a large amount of power. Ali Khamenei, a notorious hard-liner who had been moving his way up in the religious and institutional political power circles for decades, was appointed Supreme Leader in , a position he will hold for life.

While Khatami enjoyed unprecedented public support and was a favourite among the people and within the political arena for decades, he was severely constrained in his actions and was thus unable to implement the vast majority of the reforms he envisioned. Furthermore, Persian ethnicity is the defining identity of the state and civil society. While religious minorities are recognised, only Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians are identified, thus the protection of minority rights guaranteed under Article 13 of the constitution does not apply to the large population of Sunni Kurds.

The Iranian government maintains that Kurds enjoy their rights as full members of society, as evidenced by the members in the Iranian parliament and the presence of Kurdish-language TV and radio stations. However, in reality the government maintains a discriminatory policy against the Kurds, denying them high government posts, overlooking Sunni candidates, and denying public school education in Kurdish.

Kurdish political organisations are banned, and the Iranian government regularly jails and sometimes executes members of banned Kurdish political organisations, such as the KDP-I and the Komala. Although there are a number of Kurdish MPs in parliament, they must operate under Iranian state policy that denies difference and does not allow the Kurds an open and democratic platform through which to express their views freely.

While some space exists to assert Kurdish cultural identity, there is no space given for them to operate as Kurds politically.