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Iranian Government Focuses its Fury on the Kurds



Iran may be thought of not so much as a country as an empire. The rulers of this empire are the Persians, who make up about 60% of the population. The other 40% consists of four minority groups: the Kurds (13 million), the Azeris (14 million), the Arabs (2 million), and the Baluchis (3 million). The Kurds have always been the most cohesive group, and the most restive under Persian rule, with close ties to fellow Kurds in Iraq, who already enjoy a considerable measure of autonomy, and even with Kurds in Turkey. The woman whose death prompted the current nation-wide protests in Iran was Masya Amini, a Kurdish woman. And the protests prompted by her murder first broke out in Iranian Kurdistan. Though there are protests continuing throughout the country, the Islamic Republic has decided to focus on suppressing Kurdish protesters. A report on this decision can be found here: “Iran continues to attack Kurds in response to protests,” by Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, October 5, 2022:

Iran has continued to target Kurds in response to protests in Iran. As the protests continued undiminished across the country for weeks, the regime decided to try to placate some of the protests at home; while striking out at the Kurdistan region of Iran and the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The Kurdistan region of Iraq is an autonomous region and Iran is seeking to destabilize it and also target Kurdish opposition groups.

By attacking Kurds in Iraq, the Iranians hope to weaken them sufficiently so that they are unable to help their Kurdish brothers in Iran. The Iranian government also knows that many of Iran’s Kurds have fled over the years to Iraq, to escape the repression of the Teheran regime. In Iraq some of these exiles naturally plot against the Islamic Republic, and it is these opposition figures whom the Iranians are most interested in locating and crushing.

Iran has used the protests as an excuse now to carry out 12 days of bombardment of Kurdish areas in northern Iraq. This has included the use of ballistic missiles and drones, but it is mostly now confined to artillery strikes. There are also fears of a land incursion from the border region.

Instead of trying to subdue all protests equally, the Iranian government has selected one group – the Kurds – to receive the most punishment. It is using the protests as an excuse to bombard the country’s Kurdistan, not only because it perceives the Kurdish separatists as the most likely to rebel against the theocratic central government, but because crushing the Kurds can serve as a warning to the other minorities – the Azeris, Arabs, and Baluchis – not to attempt any separatist revolt of their own.

Halmat Palani, a Kurdish human rights activist, English teacher, and freelance writer, notes that it is important to remember that Amini was Kurdish. “While the death of Jina [her Kurdish name] Amini was undeniably an example of violence against women in Iran, her ethnic identity was an equally important factor in what led to her murder. Many Kurdish activists believe strongly that she was beaten to death because of her Kurdish identity.”

Was Amini a murder victim because she was seen as an insufficiently submissive woman, as many of Iran’s women seem to think, or was she murdered because the police who took her into custody thought she was an insufficiently submissive Kurd, even possibly a dangerous separatist? The answer is that she fell into both categories of insubmission.

He [Halmat Palani] argues that “there is a campaign of cultural genocide against the Kurds in Iran and this campaign took on a new life when the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Regime of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, declared a Fatwa against the Kurds back in the 1980s and unleashed a bloody campaign against the Kurdish people of Rojhelat (Iranian Kurdistan).” He notes that while the Iranian constitution guarantees minorities like Kurds, Baloch, Ahwaz Arabs, Azeri Turks and other minorities, cultural rights such as the right to teach and learn in their mother tongue, in practice there is a policy of forced assimilation. “The Kurds in Iran, have been facing cultural genocide for over a century,” he asserted in a recent article.

Here is how the Iranian government thinks: The Kurds must be crushed so that the Persians won’t have to crush the Azeris, Arabs, and Baluchis. The Kurds in Iran must be crushed because they have brothers in Iraq ready to help them, and the Kurds in Iraq must be crushed because they might help the still other Kurds – nearly 20 million! — in Turkey who also dream of an independent Kurdistan. The Kurds in Iran must be crushed because they persist in keeping vividly alive their Kurdish language and culture, despite the many decades of attempts by the Iranian government at forced assimilation. The Kurds must be crushed now because back in 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini ordered the army to crush Kurds who had then risen In revolt against the central government, for Khomeini was, in addition to being a fanatical Muslim, a fanatical Persian nationalist as well, contemptuous of all the country’s minorities.