In his blog titled *Neither My Type or that of Yours, writer Shahabaddin Sheikhi reviews the history of executions and massacres of the Kurdish population in Iran post 1979 Islamic Revolution. [*the title of the blog is a direct translation. The name of the blog in Persian is "Na Az Jense Khodam Na Az Jense Shoma"]
Persian2English will present Sheikhi’s research in a **three-part series. The first part deals with the course of events that led to the armed conflicts between the revolutionary central government and the Kurdish parties. In the second part, Sheikhi looks into the village of Gharna massacre, the worst of the many massacres that targeted defenseless civilians of the Kurdish region. Finally, in the third part, a chronological account of executions and massacres is given. [**The titles for parts 1-3 are added to the report by Persian2English and not the original author]
30 Years of Massacres and Political Executions in Kurdistan, Iran
By Shahabaddin Sheikhi |
Translation Siavosh Jalili for P2E
Part I- Revolution Yes, *Devolution No!
[*Devolution is the transfer of power or authority from the central government to local and regional governments)
In autumn 2009, when warnings were announced of the imminent execution of Kurdish political prisoner Ehsan Fattahian on the charges of waging war against God (Moharebeh) and membership in a Kurdish opposition party, a wave of opposition [protests] were launched in Iran and abroad.
Attempts by national and international organizations to halt Fattahian’s execution failed and human rights activists turned their attention to save the lives of 14 other Kurdish prisoners on death row. Some may believe that mass trials and executions is a new and isolated occurrence in Kurdistan’s history, however, in an attempt to shed light on this painful story that has lasted 30 years, this report will deal with the history of executions and massacres in the Kurdistan province.
There are two accounts on how conflicts were shaped in the wake of the 1979 Islamic revolution. The common account, which is the one that the state presents, claims that the Kurds took advantage of the revolution’s instability and the central government’s weakness to separate the Kurdistan province from Iran. That is why the government, in order to protect the territorial integrity of Iran, uses full force against the separation of a part of its land, thus conflicts occur between Kurds and the central ruling establishment.
The Kurds, however, present a different account. Kurds believe that in the negotiations that took place before the revolution outside Iran between Kurdish parties and other groups involved in the revolution against the Pahlavi regime, the Kurds were promised the right to self-determination and autonomy. Nevertheless, once the revolution succeeded, and in the course of post-revolutionary turbulences and events, those promises, which were never formalized in the form of an official resolution or agreement, were forgotten. The Kurds, however, insisted on their historical demand of “democracy for Iran and autonomy for Kurdistan”. The autonomy that the Kurds had in mind involved political, cultural, and regional leadership of Kurds over Kurdish regions: Governors and other political officials would be elected by residents of the Kurdish region; the Kurdish language (and mother tongue) would be taught in schools; the content of school books would be determined based on Kurdish culture and customs; Kurds would be entitled to a certain funding and budget; and they would have the right to use and distribute this budget. Kurds insisted that they will remain Iranian, and in matters like national security, military, and border disputes, it was agreed upon that the central government would be the decision-making authority.
Abdolrahman Ghassemlou, then secretary general of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan, had repeatedly stated that the Kurds wanted their national rights to be guaranteed and were not after an independent government (E’tela’at daily, March 8, 1979). ”What people of Kurdistan demand includes securing the national rights within the country of Iran and not separating Kurdistan from Iranian soil as claimed by reactionary and opportunist elements. In our view, issues concerning financial and banking affairs, particularly the design on banknotes and long term economic plans deemed important on national and economic levels, are within the jurisdiction of the central government. Other issues (E.g. cultural, bureaucratic, and social) pertaining to the autonomous region are run by the autonomous government. While the military and army are managed by the central government, local police forces are controlled by the self-governing authority.” (Kayhan Daily, March 10, 1979). While the Democratic Party of Kurdistan is fighting for autonomy for Kurdistan, it also supports freedom and independence for Iran. Autonomy is a demand that can be realized within a democratic Iran. Our demands, be it national, political or social, are expressed as part of and within a united Iran (E’tela’at daily, April 5, 1979).
Despite such a clear and explicit stance, and while army posts and other government offices were liberated by Kurdish fighters and partisans, the central government broke its promise and did not agree to grant autonomy to Kurdistan. The nearly one year-long negotiations between the Kurds and the central government, that were even published in newspapers at the time, failed and did not bear any results. The Kurds, in turn, refused to accept the authority of the newly installed government and declared that they will either control their own areas or the government will agree to their plans that consist of several terms. After this declaration, the government adopted a military approach and launched an unprecedented military campaign proportionate to a full-scale war. Many Kurdish analysts view the reactions of the Kurds to the government’s campaign as legitimate self defense.
Regardless of whether the former or the latter account is the correct one, the reality is that the wars and conflicts, unfortunately, resulted in bloodshed and caused the death of countless innocent youth, women, and children.
One has to consider that the new regime took power through one of the more violent social-political means of change, a revolution. The events that unfolded as a result of face offs between the ruling establishment and the Kurdish resistance were armed with revolutionary propaganda.
Consequently, people who lacked experience and competence and who were only revolutionary by name were granted a large amount of responsibility [in the government] and held important positions. The impact of the actions of these officials was far more significant than other elements.
It is noteworthy that before the various waves of executions in Kurdistan, a lack of structure that supported detentions and trials formed into continuous bloody conflicts that inevitably led to a trend of massacres. This does not mean that the Kurds and Kurdish partisan and guerrilla groups did not kill anyone from the other side, but government forces were attacking populated areas, which intentionally or not, resulted in the killing of civilians.
Part 2 coming up