The Kurds, June Pres Elections and the Aftermath
The Kurds, June Pres Elections and the Aftermath
January 16, 2010
Well before the presidential elections for the tenth president in Iran, on June 12, 2009, the issue of participating or not in the elections was a hot question among the Kurds leading to debates and discussion among their political and social circles. These discussions grew in intensity after candidate Mehdi Karoubi issued a statement on the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, and candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s green light regarding the importance of the participation of “ethnic groups,” along with his references to this in his talks, and also the presentation of a plan to Iran’s Supreme Cultural Revolution Council proposing that native local languages be used in schools as the instruction media, which was attributed to Mr. Ahmadinejad’s campaign activities. The question at the time of course was why were the presidential candidates, who did not have very good relations with the ethnic groups and particularly the Kurds, suddenly focusing on them and stressing their rights and also the implementation of constitutional provisions in this regard that had not been implemented. Was it that the ethnic and religious minorities of Iran, of which the Kurds are a clear example, had finally succeeded in convincing their importance in the political calculations of those in power in the capital? Or was it that the candidates were simply doing what earlier candidates had done, which was to use the old issues of “education through native languages”, “ethnic groups,” “sub-national and religious minorities,” to get the attention and votes of those Iranians living in the border and outlying regions – groups that incidentally always were the key determinants of the outcome of previous elections? Or to be even more optimistic, was it that these individuals had come to understand and accept the important of the presence of sub-national and religious minorities because of history and the conditions that the pro-reformists were in?
Regardless of what the answer to these questions is, we can conclude one thing: Disregarding the sub-national, cultural, and religious diversity in Iran, and without accepting that the rights of these groups had been ignored in the last 30 years, no political plan or program would be complete and at least one of its aspects would always fall short.
But the fact that these issues were raised by the candidates among the Kurdish public opinion, forced political groups inside and outside Iran to take positions regarding them in the campaigns for the presidential elections. And in view of the historic sensitivities about the Kurdish issue in Iran in regards to the central government, it was clear that different groups and parties would take different positions on the issue. And so the issue of participating in the elections or boycotting them depended on the group or their perspectives. Here are some observations on the groups.
First Group. Political groups in Iran among whom are the Shoraye Hamahangie Eslahatalaban (Coordinating Council of Reformists) and the Jebhe Motahed Kord (the Kurdish United Front), are the key Kurdish groups which had decided, based on their past experience, to participate in the elections. And while a month into the election day, some 76 political and civil activists – which represented a wide spectrum of Kurdish groups and views – announced their support for specific candidates on certain conditions which was that the candidate would support and promote their demands, they failed to get such a commitment from the candidates. Then, this coalition that included Kurdish representatives in the sixth Majlis, members of Advar Kord, Jame Demokratic Daneshjuyan Kord (Democratic Society for Kurdish Students), and some reformists, presented their demands again and announced their categorical support for candidate Mehdi Karoubi, whose bombastic declaration of support for the rights of the sub-national groups had been welcomed by the Kurds. However, most of the members of the Coordinating Council of Kurdish Reformers (Shoaraye Hamahangi Eslahtalabane Kord) who were staunch supporters of Mohammad Khatami’s candidacy, threw their weight behind Mir-Hossein Mousavi when the former announced his withdrawal.
Second Group. This block includes those political parties who since the 80s had left the country because of the pressures on them and who mostly lived in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Kurdish Democratic Party led by Khaled Azizi and the Part Azad Kurdistan group are the examples of this who invited their supporters to participate in the elections and supported Karoubi in the race. In their reasons for support, they cited the programs that Karoubi and Mousavi had advanced in their campaigns regarding the rights of sub-national minority and religious groups. They argued that despite the undemocratic method and election process in Iran, they views the elections as an opportunity to demand their rights. At a press sitting on 5/31/2009, in Iraq’s Erbil, they explained their positions and rationale for participating in the elections. It should be noted that this was the first time, with the exception of the race for the first Majlis of the Islamic Republic) that the Kurds were officially announcing to participate in the national elections. Another exception was the race in 1997 that led to the election of Mohammad Khatami as president. While the groups supported participation, there were powerful individuals such as Jalil Gadani, who disagreed and advocated boycotting the presidential race.
Third Group. This the block that never supported participating in any elections in Iran. Komeleh Party of Kurdistan, Iran’s Kurdish Democratic Party and the Komeleh Zahmatkeshan Party all separately issued statements asked the Iranian nation, and particularly the Kurds, not to participate in elections and boycott the voting. They viewed this as a “national duty and a democratic step towards freedom.”
After the elections, Kurds took differing positions on the outcome. Here are some observations and how they can be categorized.
First Group. Since this block staunchly supported participation in the elections, it would appear that they would be the first to cry fault and support the idea of the “electoral coup”. But in reality they only issued a few statements regarding the announced results, the arrest of Abdollah Ramezanzadeh – who is referred to as the leader of the Kurdish reformists – and the call for the Kurds to participate in a national strike – which is what other Kurdish groups did as well. Other than that, there was silence and the groups preferred to be independent observers of the crisis that ensued. Mr. Khaled Tavakoli, a Kurdish reformist and the editor of a Kurdish newspaper in London, wrote that the reason for this silence by Kurdish reformists was the arrest of Ramezanzadeh. The members of this group remained silent even though the group issued a statement asking the people of Kurdistan not to be fearful in their drive to demand their rights.
Second Group. While the final outcome of the voting remain unclear till today and those who have access to the counts and statistics have not published them, some members of this groups, including the Hezb Demokrat Kordestan (Kurdistan Democratic Party) claim that according to the statistics they have received, the candidate of their choice in Kurdistan received the highest votes. This group then announced its support for what it calls the “liberation movement” of Iran, and a general national strike across Iran. This group demonstrated its uncertainty in supporting the “Where is my vote” movement but at the same time was the only group that insisted on its position prior to the elections and continued its media support.
Third Group. This block, which advocated a complete boycott of the elections, was the only one that separated its direction the very day after the elections. Hezbe Democrat Kordestan Iran led by Mostafa Hajari, not only chose to remain silent over what had happened in the elections, but according to some sources had said in front of television cameras that the “movement that had sprung up in Tehran had nothing to do with the Kurds and their demands,” and concluded that the issues were the results of “international differences within the ruling circles” in the country. This posture resulted in that some opposition groups and associations inside the country asserted that the group had “taken a softer position regarding the Islamic Republic, particularly under the current conditions.” In a recent statement, this block rejected this accusation and said that it stood side by side with the freedom lovers across Iran and that it would continue to take steps to topple the Islamic Republic until victory. It should be noted that this statement was challenged by some Kurdish journalists who asked for greater clarity of their position and policies regarding the current protest movement in Iran.
Unlike the other groups, the Hezbe Komeleh Kordstan led by Abdollah Mahtadi, declared through a televised message, its support for the protest movement the very day after the elections. In his statement, he said that the Kurdish people had for more than thirty years been the victims of the type of suffering, despotism, disregard for rights, and discrimination that had risen the Iranian nation and “we view ourselves in the same barricade as them.” This declaration was followed by other statements that supported the protest movement that has shaped up in Iran since the June 12 electoral coup.