The Kurds are a major factor in the uneasy politics of Turkey and Iraq, and they have been holding the front lines against ISIS in Syria. There are Kurds in Iran, too, and they are nervous about the end of sanctions against Tehran, fearing the mullahs will use their increased wealth and power to further oppress the Kurdish minority.
“Although those living in Iran see this as an opportunity to live under less economic pressure, the rest, mostly expatriates, are worried that as Iran becomes friendlier with the West, the government will be more violent in suppressing dissidents,” journalist Shahed Alavi explained to the Kurdish Rudaw news service. “This is a reasonable concern. Soon after clinching the nuclear deal, Iranian government launched two potential attacks against Kurdish political parties outside Iran, executed five Kurdish political prisoners, and detained several activists and journalists.”
Combined with Iran’s crackdown on Christians, this does not paint a picture of a reformed Iran eager to impress its Western “partners.” On the contrary, Iran seems to be intensifying its repressive nature. Perhaps this is a means of demonstrating Iranian dominance over the Obama Administration and other Western powers: deliberately taking actions Tehran knows the pluralistic democracies of the world severely disapprove of, daring them to do more than ineffectually whine about it.
It is also a way to inoculate Iran’s grim theocracy against civilized ideological contagion, and crushing any hopes oppressed minorities might have about liberation in the “new” and “open” Iran.
Rudaw quotes other activists and analysts who worry that Iran’s appalling human-rights record has been whitewashed, or even validated, by the Obama nuclear deal, and who suspect all of these concessions to the ugly regime in Tehran will ultimately be for nothing, because the Iranians will cheat on their end of the deal.
Adreshir Rashidi, president of the California-based Kurdish American Education Society, tried to put a hopeful spin on the Western world’s abandonment of its moral duty. “The West due to its nuclear deal with Iran, in essence has delegated the need for internal change to the people of Iran,” he said. “To bring about fundamental change to Iran internally, disfranchised religious and national minorities must impose their own sanctions on the regime, until the time the people of Iran are free to determine their own future peacefully.”
It is difficult for oppressed minorities to “impose their own sanctions” on a regime bristling with guns, flush with cash, boasting enhanced regional prestige, and soon to deploy its own nuclear umbrella. One of the most disturbing features of a nuclear umbrella is that it takes “regime change” completely off the table, even as a rhetorical point or faint hope for the downtrodden. The Iranian theocracy already cares very little for the civilized world’s opinion of its actions; when it has nuclear bombs, it will no longer need to pretend it cares at all.
Iranian Kurds will have a difficult time effecting change through the political process if they are not even allowed to run for office. Aspiring Kurdish parliamentary candidate and dentist Dr. Rauf Karimi has been trying to get the Iranian government to negotiate with Kurdish opposition parties, including his own United Kurdish Front, but he cannot get the Interior Ministry to officially recognize them, not even after offering to change the potentially provocative name of the party.
“After the Iranian revolution there have been many requests for legal permission to be given to Kurdish political organizations but each time the Interior Ministry has refused them, each time on a different excuse,” Dr. Karimi told Rudaw. “We as the United Kurdish Front have been applying for official recognition for about 10 years. While in the same period many other state-affiliated organizations have been recognized by the state, we have been not given any negative or positive responses.”
When Rudaw asked if Iranian officials have shown any interest in talking with Kurdish political parties, he replied, “there have been talks of Iranian officials having met a Kurdish political opposition, which is good. But I believe until now the issue has not been taken seriously by the Iranian government.”
At least Tehran seems to have graduated from denouncing Kurdish politicians as a threat, to merely ignoring them. Further progress may be slow, if the Iranian government worries about opening the door to Western ideals and money too far, and giving restless minorities dangerous ideas.