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.
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)