ANALYSIS: Revealing the brutal repression of Kurds in Iran

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Acts of brutality against the Kurdish population in Iran is a regular occurrence. For instance, just a few days ago (September 4, 2017), soldiers of Iran’s dreaded Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp of Iran (IRGC) shot dead two porters in cold blood in the western city of Baneh.


In protest against the killings, demonstrations broke out in the Kurdish city and a large number of residents gathered outside the governor’s office on Tuesday (September 5) demanding an end to the ongoing attacks against workers.

According to reports by opposition groups, a number of shops and markets were closed in support of the protests, even as the regime’s security forces clashed with protesters. Video recordings of these clashes have also been released by certain opposition groups.

Khomeini’s repression of Iranian Kurds

The Kurdish workers killed by the IRGC, were porters who made a living by carrying heavy loads on their backs across the border with Iraq and Turkey. Since the overthrow of Shah’s dictatorial regime by a social revolution which was hijacked by Khomeini in 1979, the oppression against Kurds — like other minor communities in Iran — increased dramatically. The living condition of Kurds is reminiscent of the era of slavery because of the rampant poverty, unemployment and injustice.

In August 1979, just five months since the fall of the Shah, Khomeini had ordered a military assault on Iranian Kurdistan. The people of Kurdistan were only demanding basic rights and freedoms for themselves and for all the people of Iran. But Khomeini's response to these demands was a military campaign and the massacre of people. He sent a special judge and Representative Sadeq Khalkhali to Kurdistan to carry out mass executions and send out a gruesome message of coercion.

Khomeini, who was himself the son of an Indian immigrant, called the Kurds separatists and counter-revolutionaries, while they are legitimate Iranian citizens! This was the beginning of his betrayal of the Iranian people, who trusted him without fully knowing him.

Criminal economy

Nearly 40 years have passed, but the achievements of the Khomeini regime in the age of great industrial and technological development is evident from the kidney selling, bone selling, infant selling and in the proliferation of porters.

Why do Kurdish people work as porters? Why are people from different generations, including educated people and academics, engaged in this menial and life-threatening work?

In the political theory of velayat-e faqih, there is no place for the welfare of people. Accordingly, no thought is given to their livelihood and sustenance. This flaw lies at the root of the social and economic malaise that afflicts the country. The regime only knows how to use the wealth of the Iranian people to suppress them and for exporting fundamentalism and terrorism abroad.

For a regime whose ideology and politics are based on hostility towards it people and which has seized control of the immense wealth of Iran, which earns income from oil and gas and is systematically involved in the smuggling of weapons and narcotics, industrial production and business entrepreneurship have virtually ceased to exist.

According to some Iranian media estimates: “The volume of smuggling operations stands at $25 billion, three times the country's development budget” and “[t]he smuggling of goods and currency has left 800,000 people unemployed. Smuggling destroys 1,75 million job opportunities a year”.

Workforce of porters

In the absence of industrial production, everything is under the discretion and control of a mafia system, as most Iranians live below the poverty line. In Kurdistan, the situation is even worse. Therefore people are forced to take menial and unskilled jobs and become porters to meet their basic needs.

An Iranian newspaper writes: “Becoming a porter is not an occupation because it compromises with human dignity, and the debate is how much a person can take to make 70-80,000 Tomans ($20). In Sardasht, there is no industry, few factories, no jobs and there are over 8,000 injuries because of hazardous chemicals used in factories”.

Some reports indicate that there are more than 68,000 porters working in Iran's outlying provinces. A porter sometimes has to lift about 100 to 150 kilos in the mountains and endure extreme heat, cold, rain and snow. They face a lot of dangers and physical hazards, the most threatening beingthe regular shooting by Iranian security forces who target them on an almost daily basis.

According to human rights groups, a total of 212 porters were killed and injured by IRGC guards between 2013 and 2015. Iranian opposition groups have repeatedly called on international organizations to condemn the killings of these poor workers by the IRGC and other security forces.

Regime on a powder keg

After the latest shooting deaths of porters in Baneh, an activist said: ‘‘Let’s call for the withdrawal of all IRGC forces from Hamadan, Sanandaj, and so on. The governor must go, the killers must be punished. We have sent letters and reports to international human rights organizations for years, but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Now we will defend ourselves for the rights of porters and we want the stop their killings.”

Kurdish protest are not only against inequality and discrimination, they also reveal the growing anger and discontent of the people with the regime. It sends out a message to the world that the Iranian regime is sitting on a powder keg. People want to change this regime. They need to be supported by the international community by putting pressure on the Iranian regime to stop its violation of human rights.

F. Mahmoudi is a Kurdish-Iranian political and human rights activist.

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