Why Does the Islamic Republic of Iran Fear its Kurdish Population?
On September 16, a young Kurdish girl named Jina (Mahsa) Amini died in the hospital after being beaten to death in the custody of Iran’s morality police.
In a widely shared video of Jina’s funeral, her father cries out, “This is the daughter of Kurdistan, the child of those who demand freedom. She is the symbol of resistance. Today, the women of Kurdistan are a symbol of resistance for the whole world.”
Her death and the words of her grieving father ignited a women and youth-led protest movement in Kurdistan that swept all of Iran and initiated a global solidarity movement for women, life and freedom. The violent response of Iran to the protests has resulted in the death of over 248 protesters and the arrest of more than 12,575 others, reported HRANA human rights group on October 23.
Iran Attacks Kurds Yet Again
A few days after the protests began, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) took military action across the border by launching missiles and drone attacks against Kurdish opposition camps. The strikes wounded 58 people and killed 13 others, including children, an infant, and a pregnant mother.
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According to Reuters, Iranian officials and state media have justified the brazen attack on the grounds that Kurdish opposition groups are using Amini’s case as an excuse to separate Kurdistan from Iran.
The continued militarization and economic impoverishment of Kurdish cities by Iran and its imprisonment and execution of Kurds are rationalized based on this accusation of separatism.
Many analysts were surprised that Iran was blaming the Kurds and resorting to unjustified military force against them. However, to Kurds, this attack was expected, as it has been their ill-fate to be the target and scapegoat of the Iranian state: a state that continues its onslaught on Kurdish lives through unjustified imprisonment, execution and assassination.
The story of the Kurds in Iran is similar to that of their brethren in Iraq, Turkey, and Syria. Being Kurdish in Iran is tantamount to being a criminal. Standing for your identity and advocating for your linguistic, political or economic rights can get you imprisoned and often executed. With few rights and little economic opportunity, the Kurds have few options but to stand defiant against the regime at the risk of death.
A Brave Story of Resistance
The crimes of the Islamic Republic of Iran against the Kurds in Iran are extensive because the Kurds have always been the most outspoken critics of the establishment in Tehran. They have paid heavily with their lives for their stance against the tyrannical rulers in Tehran. They even engaged in a full-scale rebellion against the Khomeini regime after his fatwa against the Kurds in 1979.
Revolution Erupted in Iran Because of Mohammad Reza Shah
The Kurds defied the regime and stood against Khomeini’s government from the inception of the Republic. In 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini feared the Kurds so much that in his first week as supreme leader of Iran he offered them over $75 million in oil revenue to buy their loyalty and ward off a Kurdish rebellion. When the Kurds refused to join his so-called Islamic Republic, he declared a fatwa against them and went to war with Kurdistan.
The shocking part of this tragedy is that this phobia of Kurds that informed Khomeini’s fatwa and war against Kurdistan is a significant part of the Persian psyche today.
Outside of Iran, Persian media outlets and even many protesters who struggle for human rights and an end to the regime, share this fear of the Kurds. They often attempt to intimidate and strong-arm Kurds into taking down their Kurdish flags, and when Kurds insist on talking about their rights, they are told not to speak of this and to stand in unity. This attempt to silence Kurds even in the diaspora, where freedom of expression and other democratic rights are guaranteed and protected by law, illustrates how irrational but deeply rooted this phobia is in the Persian psyche.
This irrational phobia of Kurds and Kurdistan is very much what governs the Persian perspective on the Kurds in Iran. It is a phobia that oppressors across the Middle East share and use as justification for denying Kurdish rights and identity. This phobia informs the forced assimilation, extrajudicial killings, unlawful detention and increased securitization of Kurdistan.
It is thus, fundamentally important to deconstruct and debunk this phenomenon in order to end the intentional, irrational and unjustified persecution of the Kurdish people. It is only through overcoming this phobia and ending the negative connotations of the label of separatism that Iran’s Persian population can build lasting unity and understanding with Kurds, Baloch and other ethnic communities in Iran. This unity is essential in overthrowing the theocratic state of the ayatollahs and establishing an inclusive and truly democratic Iran.
[The Washington Times published a version of this piece earlier.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.