News / Middle East

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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

ILO: Women Still Losing Out in Global Work Place

International Labor Organization says women are marginally better off now than they were 20 years ago 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.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More