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Iran’s Kurdish party and the challenge of ethnicity

For the people of Iran, irrespective of what religion or ethnicity they belong to...

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Published: Updated:

The Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), which kept its armed struggle with the government in Tehran suspended for 27 years, has suddenly announced the resumption of their “armed action”. Clashes during the last few weeks between KDPI members and Iran’s Security Forces have left several dead on both sides. The armed members of KDPI even crossed borders from Iraq’s Kurdistan in Erbil and entered into Iranian territories.

Considering the fact that Masoud Barzani, the leader of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, has good relations with Tehran there are questions over whether he would have allowed the armed KDPI men to enter Iranian territory. This has also surprised political leaders, especially commanders of the Revolutionary Guards, who are said to be close to Barzani and have reportedly assisted him in the fight against ISIS militants.

In what was clearing a warning, veteran IRGC commander Mohsen Rezaee, the Secretary of the Expediency Council, called Barzani to act against terrorists during a live interview to Iran state TV. “If Mr. Barzani doesn’t act against the anti-revolutionists who enter into our territories, we will destroy them all,” Rezaee is quoted to have said on July 17.

Some Iranian officials blame “external powers” for being behind the KDPI while others see it as a response to what they deem religious and ethnic discrimination. It is widely known that the dominant Shiite ruling system doesn’t generally coexist with other faiths and ideologies. Yet, most people in Iran are more or less treated the same way regardless of their faith. This also applies to Sufis or Dervish, which is a sect of Shiism.

Iranian Kurds are not excluded from this even though many of them have been reportedly executed in recent years on what many say were baseless charges. Moreover, the deep public sympathy for a young and unarmed Kurd teacher, Farzad Kamanghar, who was executed without a fair trial hasn’t been forgotten.

However, the important factor is the nation’s condemnation of any oppression, which may be carried out against anyone regardless of religion or ethnicity.

Armed struggle

It is true that the right to practice one’s faith and upholding ethnicity is a sensitive subject and many activists have risked their lives to defend others and tried to champion the cause of an open society. However, in any civilized country, the public cannot tolerate an armed struggle and violence of any form.

For the people of Iran, irrespective of what religion or ethnicity they belong to, reforming the system to ensure legal rights is extremely important

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Armed clashes with Security Forces eventually lead to the violation of human rights and political activists and cause more restrictions in the society. Iran has changed a lot since the revolution in 1979. Today it has among the largest educated population in the region and the Middle East. For the people of Iran, irrespective of what religion or ethnicity they belong to, reforming the system to ensure legal rights is extremely important.

A good example is the people respect for someone like Molavi Abdul-Hamid, a Sunni Iranian mufti in Sistan and Balochistan. He has been appreciated for what he has done for his country regardless of the background he comes from. On April 15, 2014 he touched the heart of the nation when he negotiated with an armed group to secure the safe release of kidnapped soldiers.

Molavi Abdul-Hamid’s achievements, his mannerism and wisdom, have made this rather humble man a national hero. His popularity and influence goes beyond his religion and ethnicity and reaches all Iranians. This is something rebel groups can never achieve with their armed struggle.

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Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.