ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — A Kurdish former member of Iran’s parliament filed a lawsuit against President Hassan Rouhani this week, accusing him of failing to keep promises he made during the 2013 election campaign.
“What made us file a lawsuit now, after eight years, was because we called on him tens and hundreds of times to fulfill his promises, but he failed to do so,” Abdullah Suhrabi told Rudaw’s Jaafar Mubasher on Thursday.
Suhrabi said he held tens of meetings with officials from Rouhani’s cabinet, but they achieved nothing. Going to court was a “final option… to show the world and Iran, especially the people of Kurdistan, that we voted [for Rouhani] for the sake of obtaining our rights,” he explained.
Rouhani was twice elected to the presidency with the support of Kurdish voters on a campaign platform promising to advance Kurdish issues. In the 2013 election campaign, a number of Kurdish activists and politicians, including Suhrabi who was then a member of parliament, joined with Rouhani to issue a statement outlining 10 Kurdish demands as part of his political agenda. Key points included education in their mother tongue, pledges to employ Kurds in senior positions, and ending oppression against the minority group.
“Our voting for him was conditional” on Rouhani’s support for the Kurdish demands, Suhrabi said.
Four years later, Rouhani was back asking for the support of Kurdish voters who were upset the president had failed to live to his promises. But options were limited and Rouhani’s electoral rivals were less appealing to Kurds.
“Under current conditions, and out of the available choices, Rouhani is more suitable than others,” Dr. Kareem Fatahpur, a former lawmaker from Urmia, said in 2017.
Suhrabi said his court case may not succeed, Rouhani “may not be convicted, but this will not reduce the importance of the lawsuit. This is an important political and legal message against their failure to implement promises.”
He believes this is the first time a lawsuit has been filed against an Iranian president for failing to keep electoral promises. The former MP said he has documents and records of Rouhani’s speeches, which prove he has failed to keep his promises.
Suhrabi, who represented Mariwan, said he faced years of criticism from voters after he urged them to cast ballots for a president who did not live up to his word.
Minority groups, including an estimated eight million Kurds, are “disproportionately targeted” by the Iranian government, the US State Department said in its recent report on human rights in Iran.
“The government continued to use the law to arrest and prosecute Kurds for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association. The government reportedly banned Kurdish-language newspapers, journals, and books and punished publishers, journalists, and writers for opposing and criticizing government policies,” the report stated.
“Authorities suppressed legitimate activities of Kurdish NGOs by denying them registration permits or bringing security charges against persons working with such organizations. Authorities did not prohibit the use of the Kurdish language in general but did not offer education in Kurdish in public schools.”
Kurds are also discriminated against in terms of access to economic aid and job opportunities, the report added.