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Kurdish political leader:

Iran supports sectarianism, anti-semitism, and state and international terrorism.

Washington Kurdish Institute

May 26, 2017

On May 25, The Kurdish Policy Research Center held its second annual conference, “The U.S.-Kurdish Collaboration in the Course of Reshaping the Middle East.” The day-long conference involved panel discussions — comprising think tank experts, Kurdish lawmakers, and other public figure — on the situation of the Kurdish people in Iran, Syria, and Turkey.

Iran’s Internal Repression Overshadowed by Its Interventionist Foreign Policy

During the Iran-focused panel discussion, Rebuar Reshid, co-president of Kurdistan National Congress,  said that “the Kurds in Iran constitutionally and structurally are deprived from power,” adding “the Kurdish people are completely excluded from decisionmaking.” Reshid described the Iranian regime as a “totalitarian government.” In regards to the political environment in Iran, Reshid said that “there is no political freedom, political parties or organizations.” He elaborated that the Iranian regime only allows the “Party of Allah” (i.e. political parties that are Shia extremist in ideology) to freely operate in the country. Because of this the mostly secular Kurdish parties are viewed and treated with animosity by the regime and its affiliates — thus leaving the Kurdish people with limited human rights. He further described the principles of the Iranian regime as “sectarian, anti-semitism, practicing state terrorism, and international terrorism.”

In regards to the recent presidential elections in Iran, Reshid said that they were “not held in a democratic environment,” and that “there are no political parties [to compete] so people will have a choice.” Reshid criticized the elections, which he described as “so-called elections,” for only letting candidates run for office after they have been chosen and vetted by the supreme leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei. Reshid concluded his speech by asking the United States and the International Community to assist the Kurdish people in their struggle.

This panel also included Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Rubin criticized the major media networks in the U.S. and U.K  for the way they reported on the results of the recent Iranian Presidential elections.“Last week we had the election inside the Islamic Republic of Iran for the presidency and Hassan Rouhani won the second term,” Rubin said. “I certainly agree with my colleagues here that the elections in Iran needs much to be desired. When I look at the New York Times headlines  or the Washington post headlines or the Guardian headlines, they all talked about overwhelming voter participation and how that legitimizes the Islamic Republic of Iran. When one looks at the supreme leader’s statements, he emphasizes the importance and the duty of Iranians to get out and vote.”“Now when I look at the New York Times article, Thomas Erdbrink the Tehran based columnist,  [he] was reporting from northern Tehran,” Rubin continued. “To report the Iranian elections from Tajrish [Northern Tehran], for example, is like reporting elections in upstate New York from the lower and west side of Manhattan: it simply can not be done. Manhattan is very different from Albany, from Buffalo, or Watertown New York. This creates problem. I do not know in any other country where reporters will accept  the government’s own voter statistics at face-value without confirming them. Now, arguably the duty of a reporter is not simply to report from Northern Tehran. For those of you who have been in Tehran, you know what I am talking about. It’s one of the most affluent areas and where many people might identify themselves as reformers but they are also among the Islamic Republic’s most affluent and seem to have benefited a great deal in life under the Islamic republic.  If the reporter goes to a place like Kurdistan or Baluchistan it might be interesting to see whether, for example, this last election if the Kurds boycotted or Baluchs boycotted.  If voter participation is a metric of legitimacy of the Islamic Republic then the conclusion, if one bothers and goes to Sanandaj or Marewan in Iranian Kurdistan, would be that the Kurdish population in Iran no longer sees the Iranian government as legitimate. On the other hand, as I suspect the Iranian Government would not allow the journalists to fly to Kurdistan of Iran or Baluchistan then that itself is a news story.  Because it raises a question: what they are trying to hide?”

Rubin also argued that reporters should travel to Kurdish-dominant and other areas of Iran to get an accurate picture of the results. “If Kurdish groups inside Iran would actually record and send out press releases with regards to the voter participation rates in their counties, then those reports in the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Times of London and the Guardian will not take the Iranian statistics at face-value.” Rubin explained.  “If they were to have a report  from civil society organizations coming from Iranian Kurdistan saying that ‘voter participation in our district was 15%,’ I bet they would actually include that. If not corresponded in Tehran, if it is sent via email or fax or WhatsApp back to contacts in London and New York, it will probably finds its way in the the papers. If it doesn’t that’s what letter writing is about: not for Kurdish publication, but if one can write a hundred-word [piece] in a memoir-style letter, that’s how you can get it to be released in the New York Times or the Washington Post, correcting this notion of the enthusiasm about the elections in Iran.” Rubin also spoke about the role of Iran in attempting to hinder the Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum.

“The reality is that the biggest impediment to any sort of referendum, let alone the aftermath of the referendum leading towards an independent Iraqi Kurdistan, isn’t the United States, but actually is the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Rubin said. “The reason for that is obvious: when one looks at what’s going on in Rojava [northern Syria] in Syria or what’s going on in Iraqi Kurdistan, the fact of the matter is that they are shining in comparison to what existed there before. That’s a testament to what’s happened, to why Iran does want this to happen.”

The third member of the panel was Ardishir Rashidi, founder and president of the Kurdish-American Education Society. Rashidi spoke about the internal repression tools of the Iranian regime, saying “today, unfortunately, this regime has created other layers of these forces to repress the people like, Hezbullah, Pasdaran, the regular army, and the police forces.” Rashidi explained that “these are all elements that are used by this regime to keep Iran together,” despite the fact that Iran remains a part of the United Nations and is signatory to many human-rights treaties and conventions.

Rashidi described Iran’s constitution as both religious and nationalist, saying “Iran’s constitution is based on sharia [Islamic law] and Persian nationalism.” He added that Iran’s “fascist policies” stood in stark contrast and violation of international law. “Unfortunately Kurdistan traditionally is the place where most of these human rights violations occur,” Rashidi said. “Whether it’s based on ethnic differences or its based on Sunni-Shiite differences.”

The original article appeared here.

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