The Kurds and the Green Movement

Translator’s note: On May 9, five political prisoners were executed by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Four of these prisoners were Kurds, including the young teacher, poet and writer, Farzad Kamangar, and a young woman, Shirin Alamhouli. Following these executions, a general strike took place in Iranian Kurdistan on May 13. Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and many activists of the Green Movement also condemned the executions. Three months prior to the May 9 executions, Abdullah Mohtadi, secretary general of the Kurdish Komala Party, had issued a statement aimed at forging solidarity between the Kurds and the Green movement. Large translated excerpts follow. My glosses are interpolated in square brackets. This translation was originally published by Tehran Bureau on June 7.

The Kurds and the Green Movement
Author: Abdullah Mohtadi
Translated by Frieda Afary

The Kurdish people have never called for violence to solve social and political problems. Today, more than ever, they refuse such solutions. Let’s not forget that the good will of the Kurds and their belief in dialog and peaceful solutions have time and again cost them the lives of their leaders.

Dr. Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, a famous Kurdish leader, lost his life while he was engaged in negotiations. Why? Because the “negotiators” of the Islamic Republic suddenly turned out to be terrorists. They personally murdered him and his accompanying negotiating team in the heart of Europe. [Reference to the assassination of the leader of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, and two other Kurdish delegates in Vienna on July 13, 1989.]

We demand a free and democratic civil society in which social and political problems are resolved through freely conducted discussions in the media, in society and ultimately through the ballot box. We demand a tolerant and pluralist society in which religious, linguistic, cultural and philosophical diversity is not a pretext for prejudice, repression and deprivation but the source for the richness and beauty of our country.

In particular, I would like to address the young generation of our country, the awakened generation which is courageously standing up to dictatorship, the generation which is soberly inspecting the imposed presuppositions of the past several decades. I would like to share some realities about Kurdistan with them.

One of the most obvious lies of the Islamic Republic concerns Kurdistan and the Kurdish people. These lies must be questioned and re-examined by you. The generation which has tested the lies and malicious propaganda of this regime must know that the Kurds have been bombarded by the regime’s propaganda for the past 30 years.

During the past 30 years, the Kurds have faced the dictatorship and brutal suppression which you face today in the streets and detention centers. The justice-seeking, freedom-loving and humanitarian demands which you have today, have been theirs as well.

A regime which has branded you as “enemies of God” because of your demands, has declared the people of Kurdistan to be “enemies of God” for the past 30 years. [This designation] has been used as a pretext for imprisoning and torturing Kurds or putting them in front of execution squads without any recourse.

Do you know how many young Kurdish women were raped in the “luminous era” of the Islamic Republic? They were raped by the “unknown soldiers of the Mahdi” in order to not be sent to paradise as virgins. Do you know how many were executed or hanged without any court of justice or due process?

Kurdistan was decimated. Families lost loved ones. Imprisonment, exile and deportation became the norm. Parties that had roots in the history, struggles and hearts of the Kurdish nation were remunerated with the bullet or the scaffold.

The real reason for the siege of Kurdistan and its demolition with tanks was not any violence or beheadings committed by the Kurds, or any Kurdish collaboration with foreigners, or any other outright lie fabricated by the regime. It was the fact that the Kurdish people did not participate in the referendum on the Islamic Republic. [A referendum on creating an Islamic Republic was held in Iran on March 29-30, 1979. The people were offered a simple yes or no vote on the formation of an Islamic Republic]. The reason for their non-participation was that the Kurdish movement and its political organizations were secular and democracy-seeking. They were not willing to be subsumed by a monopolizing fundamentalist political Islam.

In the beginning of the revolution, when not only the clergy but today’s religious revisionists were smitten by the government of religion , Shaikh Izz al-Din Husayni, the vanguard of religious revisionism in Kurdistan and the religious and spiritual leader of the Kurdish people, openly called for the separation of religion from state. He defended democracy, the rights of dissidents and equal rights for women. Did you know that?

Did you know that we took a position against the hoopla over the takeover of the U.S. Embassy at the very time it occurred, and called it a weapon for leading the dissidents astray and subsequently suppressing them? [In November 1979, a group of Ayatollah Khomeini’s followers took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held 52 American staff members hostage until January 1981. Many progressive critics of the regime supported the hostage taking as an “anti-imperialist” act. The regime used the embassy takeover to divert attention from growing domestic repression.]
Did you know that there was no compulsory veiling and no Hezbollah organizing in the free Kurdistan? Political and cultural organizations mushroomed everywhere. There was press freedom, and guaranteed security for all. Did you know that back then, Kurdistan had turned into a haven for freedom seekers from every corner of Iran?

Yes indeed, those wielding power and wealth in the Islamic Republic, hold a grudge against Kurdistan for the above reasons. They could not tolerate the presence of freedom in Kurdistan. That is why they have been crushing Kurdistan with bullets and fire since August 17, 1979.

Do not believe the lies of the Islamic Republic concerning the people of Kurdistan. The lies of the rulers and the regime’s media are not limited to the past six months. For the past 30 years, we have been suffering not only from direct violence and suppression but also from the weight of a mountain of false and divisive accusations. Discard the predominant superstitions concerning the Kurds. Update your views on the people of Kurdistan and their demands.

Let me add that we have never capitulated during these dark decades. We have not genuflected but we have also never resorted to blind and terrorist tit for tats. We have kept our moral high ground vis-à-vis the enemies of freedom. Today’s young generation needs to know that in Kurdistan, young people have lost their lives, but they did not capitulate. Many defiant heads were beheaded. The picture of the mass executions of Kurds, a picture which won the most prestigious award for best photo of the year, did not only prove the brutality of the soldiers of the Guardianship of the Jurisprudent. It also made everlasting, the image of the pride and honorable resistance of the people of Kurdistan. [Reference to the picture of a firing squad in Kurdistan in August 1979, taken by Iranian photographer Jahangir Razmi. It won an anonymous Pulitzer Prize in 1980.]

Today’s young generation in Kurdistan fully believes in the popular political and civil struggle, and is ready to join hands with you for our common freedom. Let us comprehend each other better in order to forge a stronger unity of youth throughout Iran for freedom and prosperity.

The demands of the Kurdish people in the past few decades have not been unknown, ambiguous, unusual or unjust. During the first few years after the revolution, these demands were presented to the delegations of the Islamic Republic by representative councils of the Kurdish nation.

The people of Kurdistan do not demand special rights or benefits for themselves. They do not demand separation from Iran. Their demands are not outside the common framework of contemporary democratic regimes and recognized standards of human rights. The people of Kurdistan rightly demand that the effective leaders and political and cultural figures of the Green Movement and the practical activists of the movement, approve and support the demands of the people of Kurdistan, and in so doing allay their rather legitimate fears.

A new understanding of the history of the past 30 years is being shaped in many areas, and former false and misleading interpretations have been replaced by objective and clear interpretations. It is expected that writers who are effective in shaping public discourse, will further explore and discuss the conditions of the people of Kurdistan and what has happened to them.

Once again, I would like to express my solidarity with the democracy-seeking movement of the people of Iran and support the minimum demands of the movement, i.e. free elections, as well as immediate demands such as stopping executions and brutality, freeing all political prisoners and prisoners promoting various belief systems, freedom of speech, assembly, and association, as preconditions for a truly free election. I would like to warn against the danger of conciliation aimed at silencing the movement and the loud voices of the people who demand changing the political system of the country.

Once again, I would like to emphasize that the Kurdish people have suffered the most from dictatorship. They stand to gain much from the democratization of Iran. Therefore, any achievement of the popular movement against dictatorship will be warmly supported by them.

In conclusion, I consider it necessary to list the following as my understanding of the minimum demands of the people of Kurdistan. I hope that under the present circumstances, these demands will become the basis for unity within the popular justice-seeking movement in Kurdistan.

1. The annulment of execution orders, and in general, an end to political executions in Kurdistan. Freedom for all political prisoners and prisoners promoting various belief systems.

2. The dismantling of the repressive environment in Kurdistan. An end to the brutality of the military, security and police forces. An end to arbitrary arrests and any type of torture and abuse in prison. An end to arbitrary harassment, intrusions and searches conducted by government agents in Kurdistan. An end to the irresponsible shootings of civilians by the police.

3. Freedom of speech, publication, press, association, assembly.

4. Freedom for civil organizations such as trade unions and organizations of workers, teachers, university students, high school students, and non-governmental organizations.

5. Freedom for independent women’s organizations in Kurdistan, and organizations that strive for women’s equal rights. Freedom to choose one’s clothing.

6. Complete freedom for political activity in Kurdistan, including unconditional freedom for activities of Kurdish political parties.

January 25, 2010

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