News / Middle East

Iranian Kurds Fight Discrimination, Hope for Change

Iranian Kurds Fight Discrimination - Hope for Changei
|| 0:00:00
X
Meredith Buel, Ali Javanmardi
November 19, 2012 2:50 PM
The Kurdish minority in Iran has for decades suffered discrimination and many Kurds have been thrown into prison and executed for seeking equal rights from the Islamic government in Tehran. VOA's Meredith Buel and Ali Javanmardi report that 'Arab Spring' uprisings in the Middle East and threats of military attacks to stop Iran’s nuclear program, however, have given some Iranian Kurds hope for change.

Iranian Kurds Fight Discrimination - Hope for Change

Meredith BuelAli Javanmardi
The Kurdish minority in Iran has for decades suffered discrimination and many Kurds have been thrown into prison and executed for seeking equal rights from the Islamic government in Tehran. 
 
But "Arab Spring" uprisings in the Middle East and threats of military attacks to stop Iran’s nuclear program have given some Iranian Kurds hope for change.
 
An estimated 12 million Kurds live in Iran, mostly in the northwest of the country bordering Kurdish-majority areas of Iraq and Turkey.
 
Tehran says it has generally improved living conditions and education for Iran's Kurds and they are integrated into the political process. 
 
But Kurds say they have lesser rights and a rebel group, known as PJAK - the Free Life Party of Kurdistan - has been waging an insurgency based in the Qandil Mountains. 
 
Bloody history
 
Kurdish Areas of Turkey, Iran, Syria and IraqKurdish Areas of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq
x
Kurdish Areas of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq
Kurdish Areas of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq
Shortly after the 1979 Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declared war against the Kurds, who are mostly Sunni Muslims in a predominantly Shi'ite country.
 
Kurdish fighters known as Peshmerga were crushed by Iran's military.  Thousands of Kurdish villages were flattened. Many Kurds were killed. 
 
“After they took over the cities, they started executing, mass executions in the Kurdish area," said Kamran Balnour, a Kurd who fled Iran during the repression.  "I remember in my small town, which is Mahabad, we had 59 people executed in one day.”
 
Balnour, 43, was arrested by Iranian authorities while in college some two decades ago. He says he was repeatedly tortured and he fled the country.
 
“Sometimes in the middle of the night, I wake up and start screaming," Balnour said in an interview from suburban Washington, where he now lives. "I still think that I was in prison and I have these bad dreams and all that.”
 
New hopes
 
Kurdish Percentage of Population
 
Iran 10%
Iraq 15 to 20 %
Syria As much as 9.7%
Turkey 18%
 
Source: CIA World Factbook
 
Iran's Kurds are keenly watching the fallout from the Arab Spring in neighboring countries where Kurds also live. They see how the uprising against Syria's government has given Syrian Kurds a new autonomy to control their own affairs.
 
Some Iranian Kurds are hoping for a military confrontation between Tehran and the West over the nation’s nuclear program. They hope an attack would lead to an uprising against Iran’s Islamic government and to better treatment of Kurds from a new government.
 
“I would think a majority of Kurds would be more interested in having some sort of a military intervention to resolve this situation,” said Bruce Freeman, a Kurdish activist in the U.S. who fled Iran and Americanized his name.
 
Until that happens, the Kurdish guerrilla group PJAK vows to continue fighting government forces. 
 
PJAK has been declared a terrorist organization by Iran and the United States but has assumed the role of armed guardian of the Kurds in Iran.
 
“We believe the legitimate rights of the Kurds have been trampled on by Iran’s central government, that their ethnic identity has been destroyed and they have been subjected to discrimination by Tehran," Rezan Javid, a PJAK commander, said in a recent interview with VOA.
 
"We have been engaged in this fight in order to bring about freedom and social justice for the entire Iranian nation,” he said.
 
Border skirmishes
 
Relying on bases across the border in Iraq, the rebels have frequently clashed with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
 
Recent amateur video, which cannot be verified, appears to show Kurdish rebels attacking an Iranian military convoy.
 
Last year, Iran rejected a cease-fire offer from PJAK.
 
“We demand peace among all peoples," Javid said. "We have never demanded secession from Iran or called for an autonomous Kurdish government.
 
"All we want is for the Kurds to be recognized as equal and enjoy the same rights as other Iranian citizens,” he said.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: a from: IRAN
November 22, 2012 5:05 PM
Don't fuss over where people come from; what we should care about is how we're now behaving. Having a different originality, language or even been discriminated against doesn't entitle us to break peace and stability in some countries which will do nothing rather than providing third parties' benefits.


by: Khmerkrom from: Kampucheakrom
November 22, 2012 12:30 AM
Long life the Kurd, down to suppressive Iranian government of extremist. Buddha bless you all


by: Astam from: Iran
November 20, 2012 11:43 AM
i don't understand why Iranians are allied with Arabs..?? why...?? Iranians have so much hate for Arabs that it is difficult to put into words... Arabs are loathsome to us... why do you confuse us with Arabs??

In Response

by: sanea from: Erbil
November 22, 2012 6:00 AM
Astam,,, You are a racist,, first because u said these , second because what Iranian government do against Kurdish ppl. No kurdish or turkish school in Iran despite existing of many of these two ppl in Iran,, and many many other rights for these two ethnicity group in Iran,


by: John Trand from: England
November 20, 2012 8:14 AM
Recent studies in so-called Kurdish languages shows that there has never been a Kurdish nation in the area or on earth. The identity of a nation lies in the first person pronun which Kurds use as "Ez or Min". They are both Turkic. The so-called Kurd is a variation of the word "Turk" in the area. The so-called Kurds are a blend of Turks and Sogds that lived together and affected one another for more than a thousand year in Central Asia.

In Response

by: Aso from: Oslo
December 01, 2012 6:44 AM
Hey dude,
First of all, I'm sure you're either Turkish or Iranian and you've chosen the name "John" because you are ashamed of revealing your identity. Second, whenever you want to mention studies as support for your so-called comments, you are expected to refer to them, which studies?
Third, you said both Ez or Min are Turkish, then why don't you use them in your own language? if you are Turkish this doesn't make me surprised because you have a long tradition of stealing the culture of other nations for example you claim that "Rumi" has been Turkish but ironically all his works are in Persian.
The era of you calling Kurds the Mountain Turks is over, whether you and other fascists like you like it or not, the Kurds will not accept your hegemony anymore, it is up to you to choose peace or bloodshed.

In Response

by: lol from: Studies
November 22, 2012 8:53 PM
studies
lol


"John Trand" from England
lol

You are making me laugh out loud, buddy
lol

In Response

by: sanea from: Erbil
November 22, 2012 6:04 AM
Dear John, Kindly go and study some history book about kurds then do Bla bla,,, if you hate reading book you can look in wikipedia and see who is kurdish ppl?? Kurds are originally belong to the area they living,,, Please if you don't know any thing keep silent

In Response

by: Gozmol from: Turkey/Germany
November 20, 2012 1:32 PM
as a Turk, i take offense to that!!! Turks are Turks and Kurds are a mutation of Arabs... we hate Arabs!!! Arabs to us are loathsome despicable dogs


by: m from: iran
November 20, 2012 6:40 AM
you dont know anything aboat iran and Kurdish people and their history.Kurdish people are old irainian.

In Response

by: sanea from: Erbil
November 22, 2012 6:06 AM
hey bro, you are totally wrong,, the Maddian Government was kurdish ppl when you Iranian ppl was living in a area which now known as Fars ( shiraz)... try to understand that Kurd is kurdddd, no fars, no turk and no arab,,,, kurd is kurd....

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid