The Kurdish opposition parties in Iran. MERI Forum 16, S2

Date: 25th October 2016

MERI Forum 2016

In this Panel

Ibrahim Alizada, Iranian Communist Party (Komal)
Khalid Azizi, Kurdistan Democratic Party (Iran)
Mustafa Hijri, Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan
Omar Ilkhanizadeh Iranian Komala Party of Kurdistan
Abdulla Mohtadi, Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan
Dlawer Ala’Aldeen, President of MERI (Chair)

This is a summary of the panel discussion, please find the full video of the debates and Q&A below.

The purpose of this panel was to discuss the state of affairs among Iran’s Kurdish parties and to weigh their aspirations against their political fragmentation in this new political climate, and against Iran’s recent internal political developments. Iran’s Kurdish parties have been unable to present a single common roadmap on resolving the Kurdish issue in Iran and differ greatly on the way forward. An example of this disagreement is over the resumption of armed activities by the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, or calls for negotiation with Tehran. The key interconnected questions this panel aimed to address were whether or not the aspirations of Iran’s Kurdish parties are realistic considering their lack of unity and common vision? What are the aspirations of these parties and what have they done to unify their aims for future negotiations? Do their aspirations match their political organisation in terms of unity?

All speakers acknowledged that the fragmentation between Iran’s Kurdish parties needs to be addressed to make them a viable opposition to the Iranian government. Khalid Azizi stressed that “day by day we are getting more fragmented and we need to find new approaches to represent the people”. He suggested that the reason Iranian authorities are not worried about these parties is that “we are not a threat, this is because we are not united”. Mustafa Hijri agreed that the opposition needs to become more powerful and obvious in Iran against a regime he said was characterised by its own definition of human and national rights, subject to its own ideology. He, however, suggested that the civil and military struggle should be united, stating the need for a military presence in Iran “to give hope to the people so they know the Peshmerga are among them”. He hoped that the opposition would be followed by the fall of the Islamic regime in Iran and would therefore allow the development of democracy.

Omar Ilkhanizadeh concurred that they “need to prepare the ground for military struggle” as “up to this moment we are not able to (…) bring about political changes through a political role in Iran” although differed in the end goal: “we cannot bring down Iran, and we do not want to, we need to bring change”. He also emphasised the importance of ties with international actors. Establishing a united front was proposed as the “first priority” by Abdulla Mohtadi to act as “one voice of the Kurdish people” including the diaspora. On the other hand, Ibrahim Alizada warned that “today or tomorrow there will be a revolution in Iran” and that “mature steps” need to be taken to prepare for this, including supporting the civil lobby.

The questions following the panel aimed to highlight what could be done to bridge the differences and achieve unity in the fractious Iranian Kurdish political scene. It was noted that the problem does not actually stem from the different ideologies of the political parties, since they continue to communicate  and coordinate with each other. However, they differ in their view as to who they should partner with at the national level and thus the division is more about strategic differences. It was argued that by finding a common strategy, a united front of Kurdish parties could be established. On the other hand, it was   acknowledged that so far no agreement has been reached on the details of such a cooperation.


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