Refugees walking along railway lines on the Serbia-Hungary border. Rudaw photo
Despite decades of hard struggle to achieve some autonomy, Iranian Kurds have only gained a few short-lived victories between 1946 and 1979. The Kurdish opposition is divided. The religious—who are growing in number these days—dismiss democratic and socialist parties. The Leftists think nationalism is backwardness, and nationalist groups argue that the Kurdish struggle is bigger than class struggle.
But these parties have one powerful enemy in common: the Islamic Republic, which equally persecutes them all. In August, shortly after signing a nuclear deal with the West Iran hanged Behruz Alkhani, a 30-year-old Kurd, while he was waiting for the outcome of an appeal. Six other Kurds were also killed in May in Rajaei Prison: Hamed Ahmadi, Kamal Mollaei, Hadi Husseini, Sedigh Mohamadi, Jamshid Dehghani and Jahangir Dehghani. The list goes on.
No wonder there are many members of Kurdish opposition parties among the flood of migrants and refugees making the perilous journeys to Europe. They are running for their lives. But they are not the only ones braving the dangerous seas to reach freedom.
Scientists, activists, writers, and artists find it increasingly difficult to live in Iran. Kurdish journalists Mohammad Sediq Kaboudvand and Adnan Hassanpour are in prison. Two brothers from Kermanshah, Arash and Kamyar Alaei who worked on treating HIV/AIDS, were charged with “plotting a velvety revolution to overthrow the Iranian government” and were imprisoned for three years. Women’s rights activists are constantly watched and harassed. The fate of such individuals terrifies other intellectuals into apathy or compromise.
Despite a proud history of prominent women leaders and activists among Kurds the Islamic Republic’s misogynistic laws have affected the Kurdish regions, too. Villages in Kermanshah province have strikingly high rates of self-immolation. Most uneducated and powerless women find no means to decide their lives other than through self-immolation.
Even educated urban women find themselves at a dead end. Women in Iran make up about 10 percent of the work force and are not protected against constant sexual harassment. Often exploited and mistreated in their secretarial positions, university graduates end up quitting their jobs.
Nowadays even the most politically detached Kurds are fleeing Iran. Their main motivation is the crippling economy. The Kurdish areas of Iran are impoverished and underdeveloped. The average 14.10 percent inflation, as reported by Trading Economics, hits the Kurds harder than other Iranian cities such as Mashhad and Isfahan. Prices rise unpredictably. People get into fights over cab fees and vegetable prices which increase at a whim. These daily arguments exhaust the people and add to the overall uncertainty that has gripped the country.
In addition to feeling trapped in a deteriorating financial, educational, cultural, and healthcare system, the Kurds are also under the lash of the Islamic police on the street and public parks who punish non-Islamic behaviour which include music, dance, mix-gender parties or the innocent stroll of a young couple.
The ethnicity and religious faith of most Iranian Kurds is by default a crime. Political, social, or cultural activity is punishable by imprisonment or execution. Even those who accept the oppression and want to make a living and raise a family find it impossible to stay and live a life remotely normal or happy.
The article was originally publisher in Rudaw