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People protest in Tehran, Iran December 30, 2017 in this picture obtained from social media.(Photo by: REUTERS)
Kurdish-Iranian groups support protests for democracy in Iran
By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
01/01/2018
Kurds complain of ethnic, political and economic oppression.
Three Kurdish parties have called on their supporters to join the demonstrations in Iran.
 
Many thousands of Kurds in Iran have been protesting over the last several days, clashing with security forces. Over the weekend video from numerous Kurdish towns and cities showed protesters in the streets and scuffles with police.
 
Since the Iranian protests began on December 28, the Kurds have joined other Iranians in the streets protesting against the regime. Kurds make up around 10% of Iran’s population and are thought to number between 6 and 8 million people.
 
They mostly live in Rojhelat, or East Kurdistan, including the provinces of Kermanshah, Kurdistan and West Azerbaijan. Protests have taken place in Kermanshah, Sanandaj and on the border near Baneh.
 
Kurds complain of ethnic, political and economic oppression.
 
The Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) has called on Iranian people to stand together in a struggle for democracy in Iran. PJAK, which is often described as an off-shoot of the Kurdistan Workers party (PKK), released a statement Sunday, saying that the protests spreading in Rojhelat “have the potential to lead to great changes. They could lead to a democratic transformation for the whole of Iran.”
 
The statement acknowledged that the protests relate to economic reasons, “but one must know that at the root of all issues there are political reasons. Without a democratic solution and without applying methods of democratic politics, no issue in Iran will be solved.”
 
It accused the regime of slandering the protests by accusing “outside forces” of involvement as an excuse to suppress the people. It emphasized that PJAK was calling on Kurdish people and “all the peoples of Iran” to join the “ranks of the struggle for freedom.”
 
The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI), which has been struggling for Kurdish rights since its founding in 1945, fighting against both the Shah’s regime and the Islamic Republic after 1979, also released a statement calling on people to take part in the demonstrations. “We urge people to demonstrate peacefully and not use any violence except in cases you need to defend yourselves,” the party tweeted.
 
PDKI has been sending male and female Peshmerga, or armed fighters, into Iran over the last several years but it has avoided major clashes with the regime. Like other Kurdish parties, it knows the regime is in a strong position to retaliate against civilians if there are clashes.
 
PDKI leader Mustafa Hijri says the party is struggling for a “federal democratic state. We want each nation to have their autonomy and each nation should have its own representatives in the central government.” Under the current regime, minority groups have felt ostracized by the Shi’ite Islamist nature of the regime as well its sidelining of non-Persian ethnicities.”
 
The Kurdish Komala party has also published a statement from its secretary- general, Abdullah Mohtadi, warning the international community that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps “will do everything in its powers to suppress the Iran protests, despite the legitimate claims of Iran’s people to get rid of this dictatorship.”

The Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDP-I), which split off from the PDKI in 2006, also supported the Komala statement and has been supporting the protests since they broke out.

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