Saturday, January 22, 2011

Iran: a Panicked Regime

Ever since the election protests of the summer of '09, the Iranian regime is in a state of panic. Although still running strong, the displays of anger on the streets of Tehran and other cities had made the regime less conciliatory and more brutal than ever. 30 years after toppling an unpopular regime and promising to usher an era of freedom seems to have run its course. Coupled with the recent events in Tunisia, the economic sanctions and the end of subsidies to many daily staples of existence had made the regime very weary of any expression of discontent.

The JPost reports Iran is going through what can only be described as an 'execution binge', this time targeting the country's Kurdish minority in particular:  
In the early morning hours of Saturday, January 15 in the isolated and overcrowded Urumiya prison in western Iran, the authorities hanged one of their opponents.
Hossein Khazri, an alleged activist with the Party for Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), was 29. He had been in custody since early 2009. His crime, of which he was convicted on July 11, 2009, was that of being an “enemy of God” in the eyes of the Islamic Republic.
Khazri’s specific activities against the deity worshiped by the rulers of Iran appear to have consisted of political agitation for democracy and federalism in the country of his birth.
In the course of his incarceration, in prisons administered by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and the Intelligence Ministry, Khazri had been severely tortured, according to human rights organizations. His hanging was the latest in a wave of executions of Kurdish activists and other opponents of the regime carried out in recent weeks. Fourteen other Kurdish activists are currently on death row, condemned for their political activities.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran this week described the authorities as on an “execution binge,” orchestrated by the intelligence and security agencies.
Of course the Kurdish minority are not the only people in Iran which are currently being brutally handled, but it brings up the very interesting issue of treatment of minorities, as well as of dissidents. The Kurds in particular are routinely mistreated in whichever state a particular province of their homeland falls. In Iran:
THE IRANIAN system is dominated by ethnic Persians, but the Islamic Republic does not define itself officially according to ethnic identity. Rather, it rules in the name of religion. As such, the regime constitutionally recognizes the Kurdish language. In practice, however, discrimination against Kurds and other minority ethnic and religious communities is widespread and of long standing.
Around 5 million Kurds live in Iran, concentrated in the provinces of West Azerbaijan, Ilam and Kurdistan. Separatist sentiment is particularly strong among Sunni Muslim Kurds, who constitute just over half the total. In the earliest days of the regime, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declared a jihad against Kurdish separatism, and 10,000 Kurds were killed as the Revolutionary Guards fought to establish regime control in these areas. 
 In Turkey their situation is pretty grim as well. The only place where the Kurds are able to lead lives that reflect their unique heritage in in the State of Kurdistan, part of federal Iraq. Of course they were able to do that only after the US lead toppling of Saddam's regime.

I know that Israel has been having intelligence connections with the Kurds in Iraq for quite some time. I wouldn't be surprised if those connections extend beyond the border to Iran. It's my opinion that Israel should actively assist the Kurds in securing, if not outright independence of Kurdistan, at least a more equitable federative arrangement from their home states.

Needless to say, I think the Human Rights folks, as well as the UN need to start looking at the situations of other middle eastern minorities besides the Palestinians. I think the Kurds, Lebanese Christians and Egyptian Copts need quite a lot more protection from the international community.


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