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Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI)

Geography, politics and history have conspired to render 30 million Kurds the largest stateless people in the Middle East. The Kurds in Iran are believed to number approximately five million. Their situation in Iran is said to be far from stable, with the area in Northwestern Iran that they inhabit being under Iranian government control (living conditions are described as primitive, at best).

The PDKI is a social democratic party and is a member of the Socialist International (SI). Democratic socialism entails the belief that all human beings, whether as individuals or as members of nations, should be free and equal in all spheres of life. The PDKI’s policies on economic, political and social issues are based on these beliefs. It has since 2004 called for a federal democracy that reflects and constitutionally protects the rights and interests of the various ethnic, national and religious communities within the borders of Iran. A federal and democratic Iran, Mr. Hijri has argued, could ensure that Iran is at peace with itself and the plays the role of a constructive member in the international community.

The KDPI's military operations and confrontation with the Iranian regime surged following the 1989 assassination of the party's leader, Abdol Rahman Ghassemlou. Since April 1993, Iranian government forces reportedly launched aerial attacks against Iranian Kurds, even those operating inside Iraqi territory, while Iraqi forces made armed incursions into the "protected zone" inside Iraq above the 36th parallel. But the group, whose fighters are mostly based in northern Iraq, announced a cease-fire in 1997.

Fresh clashes in July 2016 followed an announcement by the KDPI's secretary-general, Mostafa Hejri, urging Kurdish youths to join its ranks and unite "the struggle in the cities and in the mountains." Hejri's statement, made in March to mark the Persian New Year, Norouz, was interpreted as a call to renew the armed struggle against Iran. But KDPI officials have suggested that the group is merely trying to expand its contacts with Kurds inside Iran and recruit new forces. The leaders of this party believe that military activities -- which according to their interpretation are defensive actions against Iranian forces -- is a sign of a party's dynamism that could strengthen their base within the population.

The Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) was founded after World War II, as a splinter of an Association for the Resurrection of Kurdistan. Left-leaning Kurdish activists formed the Komala Party in Mahabad in the 1940s. In July 1945, Komala changed its name to the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI). The party was practically liquidated when a Kurdish rebellion was crushed in 1966-67. It was reinstituted after 1973, when Dr. Abd ar-Rahman Qasemlu was elected the party's Secretary-General. Following the assassination of the PDKI leader Dr. Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou in 1989 by Iran, during peace negotiations, in Vienna, Austria, Dr. Sadegh Sharafkandi was elected as the new leader of the party and Mr. Mustafa Hijri as his deputy. In September 1992 Dr. Sharafkandi was also assassinated by Iranian agents in Berlin, Germany. . Unlike the Austrian authorities, who released the Iranian diplomats-cum-terrorists who assassinated Dr. Ghassemlou, the German authorities acted courageously by arresting and subsequently prosecuting the terrorists who murdered Dr. Sharafkandi and his aides.

Since 1984 the party had been based in Iraq. Subsequently the International Office was located in Paris.

Mustafa Hijri is the current leader of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI). In September 1992 Dr. Sharafkandi was also assassinated by Iranian agents in Berlin, Germany. After the assassination of Dr. Sharafkandi, Mr. Hijri became interim party leader until the 10th congress of the PDKI in 1995. Between the 10th and 13th congress of the PDKI, Mr. Hijri was deputy party leader and since the 13th party congress in 2006 he was elected to lead the party. In the party’s 15th congress in 2012, Mr. Hijri was reelected to lead the party for four more years. Mr. Hijri himself has survived several assassination attempts. The latest attempt on his life was as recent as 2007.

The KDPI was the largest and best organized of the Kurdish opposition groups, and sought autonomy for the Kurds in Iran. It operated from its bases in Iraq against the Islamic regime. In the early 1980s a measure of autonomy in the Kurdish areas of western Iran were achieved following clashes between KDPI guerrillas and Revolutionary Guards, resulting in the latter's withdrawal from Mahabad, Sanandaj and Kamyaran, until a renewed government offensive, which allegedly left 1,000 Kurds and 500 government troops dead. In the 1990s armed clashes continued between KDPI and government forces, including bombing attacks against Iranian Kurds, both in western Iran and inside Iraqi territory.

Attempts made outside the country by the KDPI to negotiate a settlement on Kurdish autonomy with the Government of Iran resulted in the assassination of the KDPI's previous leadership. On 18 September 1992, the Iranian Kurdish leader, Sadik Sharafkindi and three others were assassinated in a restaurant in Berlin, where Mr. Sharafkindi had gone to hold secret autonomy talks with Iranian government representatives. A previous attempt in 1989 also ended with the assassination of then-KDPI leader Abdul Rahman Qassemlou in Vienna.

The KDPI had long been subject to attacks by the Iranian regime. In 1992, an Iranian and four Lebanese were accused of killing Iranian Kurdish dissidents, one of which was then Secretary-General of the KDPI. On 28 July 1996, Iranian forces fired shells at the KDPI's base and at an Iranian Kurdish refugees camp. Tehran conducted at least 13 assassinations in 1997, the majority of which targetted members of the KDPI. These are just a few of many reported attacks to have taken place against the KDPI through 2006.

Iranian Kurdish parties have consistently fractured. Since 1994 there had been reports of internal problems existing within the KDPI that weakened their political strength. These problems culminated in the separation of the minority wing of Mala Abdualla Hasanzada from the majority wing of Moustapha Hedjri in December 2006. Reports suggested that such a split would either assist in leading the KDPI out of its political stagnation or cause further disfunction. There have been major splits in both the KDPI and Komala since early 2007. In December 2006 a significant number of members in the KDPI broke away, renaming themselves KDP (removing Iran from the name of the Party and returning to the original name as established in 1945). The change of name not only distinguishes the new party from the old but also relates to its more broadly nationalist approach. The split also appeared to stem from personal, rather than ideological differences, between the two groups.

Kurdish opposition groups suspected of separatist aspirations, such as the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI), are brutally suppressed. At least 28 Kurdish prisoners convicted of national security charges remained on death row at the end of 2012.

Jane‘s Sentinel Security Assessment, updated 30 January 2013, stated, "There are two distinct wings of Komaleh: the Komalah Communist Party of Iran (Komalah-CPI); and the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan (Komala-PIK).... The First Secretary of Komalah-CPI is Ebrahim Alizadeh. The Secretary-General of Komala-PIK is Abdullah Mohtadi.... The Komalah Communist Party of Iran (Komalah-CPI), led by Komaleh founder Ebrahim Alizadeh, retained the group's original Marxist-Leninist outlook, and operates as an autonomous Kurdish arm of the CPI; while the breakaway Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan (Komala-PIK), led by Abdullah Mohtadi, adopted a more moderate socialist ideology, and emerged as the larger faction."

Kamran Matin, a senior lecturer in international relations at the University of Sussex, said in July 2016 that the KDPI claimed it no longer had to sacrifice its own interests -- meaning Iranian Kurds' interests -- to ensure the security of Iraq's Kurdistan regional government. "The KDPI doesn't have that level of force to conquer territory and hold it or to inflict massive casualties on Iranian troops, simply because of the demographic proportion of the Kurdish population in Iran. Also because they have not been engaged in military activities for almost two decades, so even on a very simple military training [level], they're not really ready to cause any large-scale problems for the Iranian state..."

The Zagros Eagles, a clandestine military organization operating in eastern (Iranian) Kurdistan, conducted three operations in different Kurdish cities in 2016. On August 22, the Zagros Eagles carried out an operation on the main road to the city of Bane. Four members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were killed or injured in this operation. Their names are as follows: IRGC Major Abdullah Mohammadi, IRGC Sergeant Daoodi, IRGC soldier Ghafari, and IRGC soldier Kamal Anjinai. On August 26, the Zagros Eagles carried out an operation in the city of Bokan, killing Iranian Intelligence agent Jafar Lootfpoorian. And on September 6, the Zagros Eagles carried out two different operations in Bokan, killing two Iranian Intelligence agents by the names of Abdulla Karbalai and Osman Khebat. “We will defend the impoverished and hardworking people of Kurdistan and we will not allow the plundering of Kurdistan’s resources by the occupying forces to go unpunished,” the Zagros Eagles aver in a statement regarding the operations.

The violence inflicted on the Kurdish people by the Iranian state occurs in various forms and contexts. In this report, it is the violence in the context of the economic underdevelopment of Iranian Kurdistan in comparison to the central parts of Iran that is highlighted. This kind of violence manifests itself in the indiscriminate killings of the Kurdish civilians who work as Kolbars (porters), i.e. individuals who carry goods on their backs across the border regions between Iraqi, Turkish and Iranian Kurdistan. The economic underdevelopment of Iranian Kurdistan, combined with deliberate and sustained state policy, and the lack of employment opportunities have forced the people of Kurdistan into what in Kurdish is known as “Kolbari” (porterage) as a means of survival. The Kolbars or porters, young and old, including those that are highly educated, carry goods as heavy as 220 kg on their backs across mountainous regions. In recent years, the number of university students and university graduates have also been on the rise. These university students reportedly receive about 150 to 200 thousand Toman (equivalent of 30€ to 40€) each time for porterage. Figures from various human rights organizations show that since the year 2014, the number of Kolbars killed and injured by Iranian paramilitary forces and the terrorist Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has increased annually. In 2018 alone, at least 231 Kolbars were either killed or seriously wounded due to indiscriminate shootings from the regime’s paramilitary and so-called border security forces.

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Page last modified: 19-07-2019 18:54:55 ZULU