The situation of the Kurds
in a drastically changing Middle East has received little attention in
academia and less in the media despite their growing impact on regional and
international politics. The biggest stateless people living in the Middle East
are on the verge of a new status, not only in Iraqi Kurdistan, where a
referendum for independence takes place on September 25, 2017, but also in
Syria and Turkey. Then there are the Iranian Kurds. Their stories and the conditions
they live in are the least known, not only by the international community but
also by fellow-Kurds living in three neighbouring countries, due to an intense
isolation. This week’s short series looks at current political
struggles of the Kurds in four neighbouring countries or in a country that does
not exist on the world map but in the hearts and mind of 40 million
people. Mehmet Kurt, series editor.
by the Kurdish movement in the north and Rojava (in Turkey and Syria), PJAK
(the Kurdistan Independent Life Party affiliated to the Kurdistan Workers’s
Party (PKK) or Iranian branch of the PKK) and recently KODAR (the East
Kurdistan Democratic and Independent Party also founded by the PKK, to replace
the PJAK) were established to fill the gap of the Kurdish struggle in
Iran. Yet, this new attempt has faced several serious obstacles. Can Kurdish
politics in Rojhelat, (Rojhelat,
literally means East, and refers to the eastern part of Kurdistan which is located
within Iran’s current borders) look for a change of course to take it out of
its current stagnation? Or will it continue to waste the time, resources and patience
of a disappointed Kurdish people?
Islamic state of Iran executes at least seven people every day. Tens of
thousands of political prisoners and thousands of other prisoners accused of multiple
crimes spend their lives behind bars inside the regime’s prisons. A large
proportion of these are Kurdish people accused and tortured on the basis that
they are the enemy of God and his Islamic regime in Iran.
to their hardship and terrible oppression, there is a huge discrepancy between
the living standards, economic mobility, cultural activities, social status and
freedom of movement of those who dwell in the Kurdish areas and those from areas
that are loyal to the regime. Moreover, the Islamic regime has drawn up a
concerted plan to spread social crises, and promote drug addiction and other
crimes, particularly in Kurdistan. The state has ravaged the Kurdish people
with huge rates of unemployment and criminalised most of their economic
activities to such an extent that is very hard for the majority to attain the
lowest level of a standard of living.
to the other parts of Kurdistan, the Kurdish liberation movement in Iran
suffers from inactivity and defeatism. These parties never have been and they
will never be a threat to the Islamic state. The justification for this lack of
strategy given by the Kurdish political parties is that the state is so strong
that it doesn’t leave them any room for progress. But Kurds are suffering
elsewhere under regimes as harsh and strong as the Islamic state. Why in the northern
part of Kurdistan, can the Kurds have strong political parties and a multi-dimensional
movement with a range of activities that must be perfectly visible to the
Turkish state? How is it that in Rojava, in war-torn northern Syria, the Kurds
have started to establish a democratic and autonomous status that offers a
positive example for all to take lessons from?
clear that the eastern part of Kurdistan also has a long history of struggle
and well-known leaders who could still inspire people and their parties up to
this day. However, the fact is that those leaders and their political parties have
never been grounded in a systematic philosophy with perspectives that can
mobilise the Kurdish people towards freedom and autonomy. These rather traditional
parties have always built their hopes on external powers to make some changes
in Iran, despite the lack of evidence that these external powers have ever
given a thought to the interests and rights of the Kurds in Iran. It is not an
exaggeration to say that since the establishment of the short-lived republic of
Kurdistan in 1946, the Kurdish parties have always been waiting for the superpowers
to attack the regime in Iran and thereby create their long-awaited window of
opportunity for freedom. But it is all too obvious that in such circumstances,
the superpowers will never neglect their own economic and political interests
to support the Kurds, even if the Kurdish cause in terms of human rights and justice is beyond question.
the Iran-Iraq war in 1981, the traditional Kurdish parties of eastern Kurdistan
have fallen into the self-defeating trap of what can be called a proxy war.
They are almost always used as proxy forces between Iraq and Iran. Following
the uprising of the Kurds in Iraq in 1991, these parties became refugees in the
Kurdish region of Iraq in order – so they said – not to disturb the plan and
friendship between the KRI and the Islamic regime, and to protect the interests
of the newly born Kurdish entity in the south.
due to personal and fractional interests within the leadership of both traditional
Kurdish parties in the east, both parties allowed themselves to be divided into
several little parties under the same name and with the same approach and
programmes. Currently there are two parties under the name of ‘Democrats’ and
four groups under the name of ‘KOMALA’ all of whom are settled into inactivity
on campsites in the southern part of
Kurdistan. These parties are running very negative campaigns against each other,
not over ideological and strategic differences, but arising out of battles for
personal leadership and economic interests. As a matter of fact, the conflict
between these parties renders them perfectly harmless. They live in deep chaos
without any ideological clarity or future plans.
2003, it seems these parties are really counting on the USA to attack Iran and
destroy the Islamic regime in the same way that they have created havoc and
destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan. In that case, these parties could go home
and take their share in the new
pro-western government, running the Kurdish areas within Iran.
parties seem to entertain no other options and are not even working hard to
achieve this aim. Currently one can see that Iran’s nuclear deal with the
states of the five plus one have had a positive impact for the Islamic regime and
the possibility of this regime collapsing from within is very slight.
this weak political thinking and ideological poverty has had a long history
within the struggle of these traditional Kurdish parties. But in the old days,
if these parties put out a call for people to go to the streets or at least
boycott some of the state’s activities and close their shops in certain cities
on special days like the anniversary of the martyrdom of Abdul Rahman Qasimlo or Foad
Soltani – the Kurdish people would positively answer that call. But how about
now? Would the people positively respond? In fact, people from the east part of
Kurdistan no longer believe in the policies and programmes of these parties.
matter of fact, these parties are stuck with a dangerously profound identity
crisis. While not adapting any policy and approach to show that they are
struggling for Kurdish independence, they do not tackle the notion of
Iranianness either, with a view to having positive links with other Iranian
forces and groups and struggling for a democratic Iran, in which one day, we
might see an autonomous and free Kurdistani region. In other words, while they
have no any practical effect on reality, nor is there any strategy or plan.
claim that after the uprising of the Kurds in the south of Iran in 1991,
hundreds of leaders, senior members and cadres of these parties have been
assassinated and terrorised by the Islamic regime. However, all this terror has
failed to motivate the parties to revive and reorganise themselves, setting aside
their internal problems and thinking of a solution for this very passive
condition. Instead, it is this very negativity that leads to ever-increasing
factionalism and conflict. It would be an honourable act for the parties to bring
to an end their role in the eastern part of Kurdistan.
all these limitations and problems, even if their numbers are not so many, there
are some truly loyal people, “peshmerga” guerrillas and other cadres scattered
among these political parties. Moreover, inside eastern Kurdistan, ‘Rojhelat’,
the Kurdish people still have a positive potential that can be used and
mobilised to revive the revolution.
It is surely time that organisations
that are internally active should dedicate their efforts to organising people again and
giving hope to the people. They might then be able to advance a new pathway to
bring about a different result from the last seventy years. The first thing to
be avoided is a
repeat of the focus on
power-seeking. Political leaders in our recent past were mainly thinking about
how to strengthen their own personal political powers and promote internal
conflict in order to defend and advance their own personal powers and
interests. In this way, the party leaders did not hesitate to collaborate with
enemies and seek support from states which have Kurdistan under their control. For
example, they sought support from Iraqi regimes to confront the Iranian regime.
And in the process, they ended up promoting the same mentality as the occupiers
of Kurdistan, rather than working in pursuit of a new struggle with a free and
democratic mentality. This led only to a crisis in identity.
further problem. To copy and paste the ‘Ideas of Ocalan and KCK’ into
conditions in Rojhelat without fully understanding the social, cultural and
political condition of Iran, the Iranian nations and the history of the Kurds
in Rojhelat is likely to bring only more chaos rather than help Kurds to
construct a positive and effective alternative. It is indeed far too soon to
fully assess what KODAR and PJAK can or cannot do in the social and political
arena of Rojhelat.