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The severity of the official response to protests is more significant in Kurdish areas.

Recognition of Kurdish rights by Persian protestors key to fundamental change in Iran

Fundamental change in Iran is only possible if there is recognition of Kurdish rights by Persian communities, an expert has said.

Any attempt at democracy in Iran without this would equate only to another failed revolution similar to that of 1979, according to Dr Allan Hassaniyan from the University of Exeter’s Institute of Arab & Islamic Studies.

Dr Hassaniyan believes participation in protests following the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Jina (Mahsa) Amini in September is much higher in smaller cities in non-Persian regions, such as Sanandaj and Zahedan. He has said the severity of the official response to protests is more significant in Kurdish areas.

Dr Hassaniyan said: “The mutual distrust among Iran’s Persian and non-Persian national communities is immense. The evolution and spread of the current protests across Iran testify to the reality that Iran’s national communities differ not only in their cultures and languages, but also in their socio-political outlook and demands for how a future Iran should look.

“Historically, every demand for rights and equality raised by Kurds has been branded as a threat to Iran’s territorial and national integrity. From a Kurdish point of view, because of the marginalization that Kurds face and their history of struggle, the recognition of Kurdish concerns by progressive forces is an important precondition for fundamental change in Iran. Any attempt at democracy in Iran which disregards the urgent and unconditional needs of subaltern groups and communities will not last long, and would equate only to another failed revolution similar to that of 1979, which failed to live up to popular expectation for democratic change.”

The Kurdish region of Rojhelat/East Kurdistan has been among the country’s most militarised and securitised regions since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979. Kurdish cities and provinces have been transformed into military zones. Kurds in Iran have been the subject of systematic and multifaceted discriminatory and exclusionary state policies.

Dr Hassaniyan said: “While the protests are continuing, they have shown signs of diminishing in attendance and frequency. If the protests lose momentum and the regime succeeds in suppressing them, not only will a historical moment for change have been wasted, but the collective punishment will be severe, particularly in Kurdistan as the epicentre of these protests.

“The regime has proven that when its survival is threatened, it is capable of horrifying cruelty. The regime’s proven capability in exercising excessive brutality gives reason to fear a new level of state terrorisation of the population of the worse sort if the burdens of resistance and revolt are not shared equally across the country.

“The rigid and perhaps unreformable structure and institutions of the state indicate that only regime change can enable a democratic and inclusive political system in Iran, providing equal rights to one and all.”



Date: 22 November 2022

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