Feb 29, 2012

Iranian Kurdistan: Prominent Iranian Kurds Not Allowed To Run For Election

Kurdish politicians see stronger restrictions than other regions, while Kurdish election turn-out is expected to be low.

Below is an article published by Rudaw:


A number of Kurds who wanted to run in Iran’s upcoming parliamentary elections, including former MPs and some notable figures, have been disqualified by a government committee in charge of assessing election candidates.

Iran’s ninth parliamentary -- or Majles -- elections are scheduled to take place on March 2 [2012]. The polls come three years after the highly controversial elections that led to large-scale protests when current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won by a landslide.

Dozens died and many more were wounded as government forces met protesters’ demands for new elections with violence.

Turnout among Kurdish voters has usually been low, except for the years when reformists were in power in Tehran. The reformists renewed hopes among many Kurds who thought they might get a better chance at realizing their rights within the Islamic Republic system.

Exiled Iranian Kurdish opposition groups have unanimously boycotted the parliamentary elections. The United Kurdish Front, which includes a number of Kurdish activists within Iran, fielded nominees to run but they were rejected by the powerful Guardians Council. Many of the rejected Kurds are current or former parliament members, disqualified mostly on the grounds of not been committed to the Islamic Republic.

Abdullah Sohrabi, a former Kurdish MP from the western town of Mariwan in the Kurdistan province of Iran, was recently disqualified by authorities.

“We, as the United Kurdish Front, see elections as an opportunity for political and civil struggle and to demand the legitimate rights of Kurds,” Sohrabi told Rudaw. “We do not have a share of political power in Iran and can only use the parliament for demanding our rights, but the Islamic Republic’s system does not allow those who are trusted by the people to run for the elections.”

 He said the UKF will also not participate in the elections as its candidates have not been approved by the regime.

“Iran’s elections are not free and democratic,” said Sohrabi.

The country has been in a state of crisis since the presidential elections, with political rifts coming to the surface.

Jalal Jalalizadeh, a two-term Kurdish MP in Iranian Parliament, says the only free elections were the sixth parliament’s elections under reformists.

“Elections as practiced in democratic and free nations do not exist in Iran. The Guardian Council can veto anybody they don’t like,” said Jalalizadeh.

He noted that, apart from the exiled opposition groups, this time even reformist groups based inside Iran will boycott the polls. Jalalizadeh predicted a low turnout in the Kurdish areas of the country.

Although there are no accurate figures, the population of Kurds in Iran is estimated to be around seven millions, with most residing in the western parts of the country close to the border with Iraq and Turkey.

Massoud Shamenzadeh is a young Kurdish lawyer and lecturer at Orumiyeh University in northwestern Iran. He represents imprisoned Kurdish political prisoners.

Shamenzadeh registered to run in the parliamentary elections but was disqualified by the Guardian Council.

“Many Kurdish candidates and I were disqualified based on Article 30 of Iran’s elections law, on the grounds of our assisting anti-government organizations,” said Shamenzadeh in a phone interview from Iran. “The authorities know very well that I am not a member of any political party but am not with those in power either. They want only those who are within their framework of thought and move within their circle to go to parliament and state institutions. I wanted to participate as a representative of the people and not the government.”

Shamenzadeh said the restrictions on Kurdish candidates in Orumiyeh are even more severe than those on candidates in most other parts of the country.

Orumiyeh, in the Western Azerbayejan province, has a mixed population of mostly Azeri Turks and Kurds.

The election campaign kicked off on Feb. 23 [2012] and 3,444 candidates will compete for 290 seats in Iranian Parliament. The number of seats is expected to increase to 310 after the elections.

Iranian Parliament is authorized to monitor the government and regulate the country’s foreign relations. But, in effect, the institution has been reduced to a rubber-stamp body tightly controlled by the ruling conservatives.

Abdulaziz Mawludi, a Kurdish activist and author from Mahabad, the center of Kurdish nationalism in Iran, says people view the elections with suspicion as freedoms have been reduced significantly.

“The elections are only free for conservatives. They can run and participate. But free and independent candidates are deprived of that right,” said Mawludi. He said the country’s election laws need fundamental change in order to provide “free” elections.

He said independent Kurds should not have decided to run in the elections in the first place because “the Iranian government authorities made it clear before the start of the elections that those who were not well within their framework of thinking and worldview would be rejected.”