Mar 13, 2018

Iranian Kurdistan: Killing of Two Kurdish Activists Reaffirms Iran's Return to Tradition of Political Assassinations

Mr Qader Qaderi, a military commander of the Kurdistan Democratic Party has been shot and killed on 6 March 2018, five days after another leader of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, Sabah Rahmani, had died in an explosion. As Iranian authorities are strongly suspected of being behind these assassinations, the resurgence of such an unacceptable and archaic modus operandi raises concerns about the country’s ability or even willingness to change the current status quo and stem the wave of killings of Kurdish people.

This article has been published by Al Arabiya English.


In less than a week, two military commanders of Iranian Kurdish opposition parties, Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (DPIK), were assassinated in areas controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

On March 6 [2018], the car of Qader Qaderi, one of prominent military commanders of the KDP, was shot more than twenty times in Iraq’s Sulaymaniyah.

Only five days prior to the assassination of Qaderi, Sabah Rahmani a veteran military commander of DPIK)was killed along with his son as a result of a car bomb explosion in Erbil. Both of the Kurdish parties attributed these assassinations to Iran, which has both the motive and a strong presence in the areas controlled by the KRG.

In an interview with Keyhan London on the matter, Hasan Sharafi, a DPIK deputy said: “Since al-Hashd Al-Sha’abi (Popular Mobilizition Militia units – PMU), the militant group backed by Iran have been mobilized in areas such as Kirkuk and Khanaqin which the Iranian government has been employing to carry terrorist activities. Conflict between KRG and Baghdad has become a pretext for the expansion of Iranian terrorist activities.”

 Iran has a long history of assassinating its political opposition. The word assassin in English originates from al-Ḥashāshīn, a secret order established during 11th century Iran which carried out assassinations of influential characters for political purposes.

In the years following the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the Iranian regime has been involved in assassination attempts of those opposed to them both inside and outside of the country.

In July 1989, the government in Iran at the time decided to negotiate with Dr. Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, the KDPI leader in Vienna and one day after the meeting, the latter was killed by three bullets fired at very close range along with his party comrade Abdullah Ghaderi Azar and Fadhil Rassoul the Iraqi professor who was the mediator.

The second and the most known Iranian attempt in modern history to date is the “Mykonos restaurant assassinations”. On September 1992, Sadegh Sharafkandi, who succeeded Ghassemlou as KDPI’s secretary general was assassinated in a mafia style attack along with three other of his comrades.

Through pressures from Western countries, Iranian government had to stop its assassination plots against its opponents in diaspora. However, recent reports confirm that Iran’s government has again retuned to its previous trend of physically eliminating its opponents outside its borders.

This of course is not exclusive to just their Kurdish opposition. In 1991, Shapour Bakhtiar the last prime minister of the Shah regime, was killed in Paris the same year in which Hussein Mazi, the general secretary of “Arab Front for the Liberation of al-Ahwaz was assassinated.

Fast forward to November 2017, Ahmad Mola Nissi, the leader of “Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz” was shot in front of his house in The Hague. In an interview with Reuters, Nissi’s daughter Hawra said: “We came here to be safe but we don’t feel safe. European governments should do more to secure the safety of activists”.


Photo Courtesy of KDP Press