From A World to Win News Service. In late July and early August, many cities and towns in the Kurdish province of Iran was shaken by a series of rebellious demonstrations. They started in Mahabad, in the northern part of the section of Kurdistan located in northeastern Iran, and quickly spread. Shouting anti-regime slogans and burning government buildings and banks, the protestors targeted the system, one of whose pillars is the oppression of minority nationalities.
The protests were sparked by the brutal torture and death of Kamal Asfrim, known as Shawane Ghaderri. Though a youth, Shawane was a well-known figure in Mahabad because of his involvement in the boycott of the presidential election last May. Perhaps this is the main reason that outraged the regime thugs who kidnapped him in June after the second round of the elections. They tortured him and then murdered him. The Islamic regime must have been irritated by the success of the election boycott movement in Kurdistan. According to the regime’s own figures, only a small percentage of the people there voted – in Mahabad, a mere 15%. According to some alternative sources the total was only 3,000 people, many of them members of the military and security forces. This was despite the frenzied electoral campaign launched by the regime, including harassment to drag people to the ballet boxes.
The security forces at first did not hide their criminal act and returned the severely tortured body of Shawane to his family in order to terrorise the Kurdish people and especially anyone who dares do anything against the regime. But the regime has a problem: the people of Kurdistan have never been intimidated by any reactionary government. Instead, this vicious act made their anger boil over. Determined not to let this outrage go unanswered, they gave the regime the response it deserved. The roar of “Death to the Islamic Republic of Iran” and “Death to murderers” was heard loudly in the streets of Mahabad soon after word of Shawane’s tortured body spread. In the very first days of the upsurge, protestors killed one of the regime’s mercenaries and injured many more.
The people closed their shops in protest and took part in demonstrations. The regime panicked and responded with greater repression. The military occupied Mahabad and its suburbs. Groups of Pasdaran (the so-called revolutionary guards) and special repressive forces were sent in from Tehran, Zanjan and elsewhere. Pasdaran were stationed every few steps around all government buildings, including the radio and television facilities and the offices of the security forces. Gatherings of more than three people were prohibited. The security forces arrested quite a few youth and other townspeople. Many of the detained and injured were transferred to an unknown location. This poured more fuel on the people’s anger. Following the Mahabad rebellion, people in other Kurdish cities came out in support, and Marivan, Sardashat, Makou, Baneh and Sanandaj, Saghez, Piranshar and many other cities and towns in Kurdistan witnessed demonstrations and clashes with regime forces.
In Sanandaj, the capital of Kurdistan province, on 1 August most shops closed to protest the regime’s repression and in solidarity with Mahabad. Demonstrators attacked government buildings. The people of Saghez challenged the regime’s mercenaries the following day. Clashes there started around 10 am at Halou square, Azadi (Freedom) square and Garage square. In a matter of hours, dozens of people were killed and injured and hundreds arrested. According to reports, angry demonstrators set fire to the courthouse, the banks and the state tobacco company building and burned many security vehicles. In Marivan as well, intense clashes between regime mercenaries and groups of youths took place on Zaribar road. Security forces filmed the fighting in order to pursue the youth later. The regime transferred its forces from Kermanshah and Hamedan to Kurdistan and tried to control everyone intending to travel to Kurdistan. A military atmosphere enveloped the province.
The uprising of the Kurdish cities is a reminder of the days before the 1979 revolution that led to the overthrow of the US-backed Shah’s regime. The people of Iranian Kurdistan had been fighting for their national rights for years and even decades before then. The most outstanding was the achievement of the Democratic Republic of Mahabad in 1954 under the leadership of Ghazi Mohammad. That republic held out for a year before its brutal suppression by the Shah’s army with the support of various imperialist countries, especially Great Britain. After the 1979 revolution, the Kurdish people, who thought they would now gain their national rights, found themselves facing a new enemy, the Islamic Republic led by Ayatollah Khomeini. The Kurds were among the first people to launch armed struggle against the Islamic Republic. Even after Khomeini’s suppression of the revolutionary and democratic movements throughout Iran in June 1981, Kurdistan continued to fight. It became a trench for revolutionaries all over Iran who supported the national rights of the Kurdish people and in turn enjoyed their support.
The current uprising of the people of Kurdistan led to a call by Komala (the Kurdistan organisation of the Communist Party of Iran) with the support of progressive and revolutionary parties and organisations, including the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) and other personalities and anti-regime forces, for a general strike in Kurdistan to protest the recent crimes of the Islamic Republic of Iran there. Most of Iranian Kurdistan’s cities and towns in Kurdistan were involved in the general strike. The BBC’s Persian service reported, “Following the tension and unrest in the Kurdish cities in Iran, on Sunday (7 August), most of these cities went on strike. According to Jaffar Aiin-Parast, Mahabad’s representative in Parliament, the people of Kurdistan, including the towns of ‘Oshnavieh, Piranshahr, Sardasht, Sanandaj, Divandareh, Kamyaran and Saghez’ went on strike to protest recent events, and all the shops were closed.”
The demands of this general strike were: The identification and punishment of those responsible for the crimes in Mahabad and other cities in Kurdistan, the unconditional release of all those arrested and the end of unofficial martial law, the return of the military forces to their bases, and the recognition of the Kurdish people’s right to hold marches, protests and rallies aimed at winning their rights and demands.
In the morning of 7 August regime thugs murdered the 16 year-old youth Zanbar Ashtiani while he was distributing the strike call in the city of Sanandaj. The regime’s mercenaries tried to harass and threaten the people in order to force them to return to business as usual and break the strike, but they did not succeed. Instead, there was a wave of solidarity and joy among the revolutionary people of Kurdistan and other regions. The morale of the women and men, old and young, was high. They felt they were on the offensive and that the hated regime had shown weakness. The role of women in the uprising was outstanding. Many of those arrested in Mahabad were women. According to reports, about half of the 400 arrested in Sanandaj were young women. The notion of revolutionary violence spread more broadly among Kurdish youth.
The irony is that the security forces and former jash (the Kurdish word for national traitor – a Kurd who collaborates with the enemy) have come back wearing the mask of reformism. When threats and terror could not work, the hapless regime tried another trick: They sent a delegation to the region to investigate the Mahabad incident and identify Shawane’s killers. This is the same tactic they tried when they promised to identify and punish the perpetrators of the attacks on the Tehran University dormitory that triggered the student uprising in July 1999 – and they failed there too.
A CPI(MLM) statement on the August events said, “The Kurdistan rebellion was not only a reaction to the brutal murder of Shawane Ghaderi in Mahabad. It was a response to all the factions of the Islamic regime and their electoral game offering the choice between bad and worse. It was a reply to all double-dealers who want to convince the people to follow this or that regime faction. It was a reply to the entire system that deserved a petty Pasdar [Mahmoud Ahmadinejad], a member of a terror committee, as its new president.”
The Kurdistan uprising coincided with a new wave of protests demanding the freedom of political prisoners that started a few days before the presidential election with a gathering in front of Evin prison (built for political prisoners under the Shah and now used by the Islamic Republic). But, the CPI(MLM) statement continues about the prisoner protests, “The hunger strike of Akbar Ganji and a few other prisoners changed the direction of this wave of struggle.” (Ganji, imprisoned since 2001, is a journalist who belongs to the so-called reformist faction of the Islamic regime. He recently ended a two-month hunger strike aimed at securing his unconditional release.) “There is a carefully calculated plan inside and outside of the country to create a ‘hero’ in order to promote the strategy and tactics identified with Akbar Ganji. His Republican Manifesto, a published plan for the future of Iran, is a manifesto of greater and more obvious dependence on imperialism,” the statement said.
It is significant that in Iran and abroad international voices defending Ganji (among them George Bush) were silent on the Kurdistan rebellion – as if nothing had happened and dozens of people had not been killed and thousands imprisoned – as if no human rights had been violated in Kurdistan… Iran’s ruling class and reactionaries outside the ruling circles share the view that the struggle of the Kurdish people is destabilising and against their interests. For the same reason, the US and British and other European imperialists supporting Ganji and pretending to defend the rights of the Kurdish people in Iraq also preferred to stay silent while the Islamic regime was suppressing the Kurds in Iran. They paid no attention whatsoever when some Kurdish organisations abroad held demonstrations in recent weeks. For instance, in London on 21 August there was a picket line in front of British Prime Minster’s residence calling for British intervention and for pressure on the Iranian regime. These imperialists don’t need to be pressurised – they will build a false case when they need it and ignore a real case when they don’t need it.