Aug 20, 2019

Iranian Kurdistan: Open Letter to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Finland, Sweden and Norway

On the 17th of August 2019, UNPO Member the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) has sent an open letter to the Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian Ministries of Foreign Affairs on the occasion of a planned visit of the Iranian Foreign Minister to these countries. The letter calls upon Finland, Sweden and Norway to take a firm stance against the Iranian regime’s systematic violations of the human rights of the Kurdish people, which has manifested itself in various ways. This is an issue that should be of interest to the Scandinavian countries themselves, as Iran’s internal human rights violations have also extended outwards to European countries, where the Kurdish diaspora, many of whom reside in Scandinavia, continues to be the victim of intimidation, targeted attacks and assassinations. In addition, Iran, alongside other repressive regimes, continues to target activists engaged at the United Nations.


Below is an open letter released by the PDKI:

It is high time for Finland, Norway and Sweden, important actors committed to human rights and lasting peace and stability, to consider the fact that the Iranian regime’s internal and external policies are linked and cannot be separated. Western policy has aimed at changing the “behavior” of the Iranian regime. This has almost exclusively aimed at the Iranian regime’s external behavior. For example, it seems to be current EU policy to separate the nuclear issue from the broader and interconnected internal and external problems emanating from the Islamic Republic. However, systematic human rights violations at home, the quest for nuclear weapons, support for various terrorist groups, interference in the internal affairs of other countries, destabilization of important parts of the Middle East and so on are interconnected and need to be addressed as such.

Iran has during the past four decades systematically targeted the non-Persian communities and subjected them to all sorts of oppression and violence, ranging from systematic linguistic, cultural, economic, social and political oppression to forced demographic change as well as forced assimilation.

However, the political and security situation in Iran has in many respects even worsened during the past couple of years, especially when it comes to the status of the different non-Persian nations and human rights violations. The 2013 election of Hassan Rouhani, painted as a “moderate”, was expected to result in a reduction of human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Yet, the human rights situation in Iran has worsened dramatically. For example, according to the Iran Human Rights Organization (IHRO), the Islamic Republic has executed at least 110 people between January 1 and June 30, 2019, in prisons or in public. However, the unofficial figure is estimated to be much higher. It is also worth mentioning that a disproportionate number of prisoners to have been executed are Kurds.

At the same time, the human rights violations in Iranian Kurdistan are systematic and manifest themselves in other ways than in the execution figures. The Iranian state extracts the natural resources of Kurdistan and at the same time pursues a deliberate policy of keeping Kurdistan in a state of economic underdevelopment. Thus, poverty and unemployment have forced a growing number of Kurds to carry goods on their backs from Iraqi Kurdistan to Iranian Kurdistan as their only source of income. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) targets these individuals, known as “Kolbar” (meaning those who carry goods on their backs) in Kurdistan.

Figures from various human rights organizations show that since the year 2014, the number of Kolbars killed and injured by Iranian paramilitary forces and the terrorist Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has increased annually. In 2018 alone, at least 231 Kolbars were either killed or seriously wounded due to indiscriminate shootings from the regime’s paramilitary and so-called border security forces.

Furthermore, according to Iranian authorities more than 2.2 million Iranians are drug addicts. The situation in Iranian Kurdistan is so alarming in that regard that activists as well as the general public describe it in terms of a “white genocide” since Iran’s intelligence agency is widely suspected to facilitate the distribution of narcotics among Kurdish youths. It should be mentioned that 70 percent of the population in Iranian Kurdistan are under the age of 40. Experts believe Iran intends to destroy the fabric of Kurdish society by facilitating the distribution of drugs among Kurdish youths as part of its strategy to undermine the Kurdish national movement.

Alongside the various forms of human rights violations, oppression and discrimination are constant elements in Kurdistan and other non-Persian regions in Iran. Numerous reports, compiled by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, have documented that the non-Persian nations, including Kurds, Baluchs, Ahwazi Arabs, Azerbaijani Turks, and Turkmen, are subject to entrenched oppression and discrimination, curtailing their access to employment, political office, and their exercise of cultural, civil and political rights. Members of these nationalities who spoke out against violations of their rights face arbitrary arrest, torture and other ill-treatment, grossly unfair trials, imprisonment, and in some cases the death penalty.

The international community has over the years remained silent in the face of these human rights violations carried out by the Islamic Republic of Iran against the Kurdish people. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) calls on the Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish governments to take a firm stance against the Iranian regime’s repeated and ongoing violations of the human rights of the Kurdish people.


Picture courtesy of David Holt @Flickr