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Fatherland. Kurds of Iran

Iranian Kurdistan, Hawraman mountains. March 2016. The Zagros Mountains separate the Islamic Republic from Iraq. Iranian Kurdistan is only a small area within what Kurdish nationalists understand to be “Eastern Kurdistan”

Fatherland. Kurds of Iran, photo essay by Linda Dorigo

Iranian Kurdistan, called also Eastern Kurdistan, is an unofficial name for the north western part of Iran inhabited by Kurds, at the border with Iraq and Turkey. They make a living in the mountains mostly from agriculture and pastoralism since the region lacks the investment that goes to other areas of Iran. These areas witnessed clashes in 1979 between the newly proclaimed Islamic Republic of Iran and Kurdish fighters of the PDKI- Democratic Party of Kurdistan Iran before their exile to Iraqi Kurdistan. But fighting continues nowadays and Iranian Kurds broke the two-decade cease-fire as PDKI announced. For over ten years, the Tehran government has been creating collective villages, modifying their traditional nature, to prevent people from moving in masses to the cities.

Iran, the old city of Marivan. Marivan is a small city in the west of Iran, close to the Iran-Iraq border. It has earned a reputation for embracing popular environmental and social causes.
Hawraman mountains. March 2016. Ali is a businessman from Sanandaj. Since September 2015 the university of Sanandaj is allowed to include the Kurdish Language and Literature in the college curriculum.
Saoji village. Iranian Kurdistan. June 2016. Since the border with Iraq has been closed not even the traffickers attempt it.

Kurds, part of the Sunni minority in a Shiite country, are treated as second class citizens. They are denied to be educated in their mother tongue and are subjected to discrimination and exclusion. In the four Kurdish provinces the rest of the Sunni Kurds (and non-Kurds) are also provided limited financial support by the state. In the area the unemployment rate is the highest of the country. In terms of religious liberty, the Kurds who are mainly Sunni Muslims, are also denied the right in having a Sunni mosque in Tehran, even though there is about a million of them in the capital. In the last months Iranian Revolutionary Guard artillery intensely shelled borderline villages belonging to the Iraqi Kurdistan region where the PDKI- Democratic Party of Kurdistan Iran is based.

Founded in 1945 by the Kurdish leader Qazi Muhammad, the PDKI is one of a number of Iranian Kurdish opposition parties currently based in Iraqi Kurdistan. With the exception of PJAK, which is affiliated with Turkey’s PKK, the PDKI and other groups have silenced their guns for the past couple of decades largely out of consideration for Iraqi Kurdistan’s relations with neighboring Iran. Simultaneously the repression towards the Kurdish population by the government has been increased. Clashes and hangings have been registered in many Kurdish cities like Mahabad and Sanadaj. Kurdish activists are accordingly sentenced to life in prison and given the death penalty. Recently the Kurdish prisoner Shahram Ahmadi was hanged for activism as a Sunni Muslim and Kurd, despite assertions that his confession was made under torture. Iran is second only to China in the number of executions carried out annually. According to Amnesty International 977 people were put to death by the Islamic Republic in 2015.

(by Linda Dorigo)

Iranian Kurdistan. Sanandaj. March 2016. Celebrations for a funeral in the cemetery. Relatives will come back after a week to keep the memory of the deceased alive.
The fields around the city of Saqqez. Iranian Kurdistan. June 2016. Sheafs of wheat. Kurds make a living in the mountains mostly from agriculture and pastoralism since the region lacks the investment that goes to other areas of Iran.
Mahabad. Iranian Kurdistan. June 2016. During the season of chickpeas, the families gather after dinner to eat the beans with tea.
Lake of Urmia. Iranian Kurdistan. June 2016. In the late 1990s, the lake was twice as large as Luxembourg and the largest salt-water lake in the Middle East. Since then it has shrunk substantially, and was sliced in half in 2008.
Mahabad. Iranian Kurdistan. June 2016. Praying at the ancient mosque of the bazaar.
Saqqez. Iranian Kurdistan. June 2016. A traditional madrasa (religiuos school) for girls.
Mahabad. Iranian Kurdistan. June 2016. Farmers bring their cattle to the lake of Mahabad to freshen up.
Outside Belo village. Iranian Kurdistan. June 2016. “Don’t leave our village… or can we come with you?”.
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