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.

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    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....

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