A DESCRIPTION OF HAJI AHMADI / PJAK
“I interviewed a PJAK delegation in the European Parliament several years ago, and was surprised by its leader, Abdulrahman Haji Ahmadi. He did not have the usual rigidity of the PKK leaders and was very polite, intelligent and very well informed,” Martorell recalled.
Written by Welat Kurdistan – 24-1-2014 – BARCELONA, Spain – Among Kurdish groups fighting for greater rights from Middle Eastern governments, the Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK) in Iran remains an anomaly: It is the only one still waging an armed struggle.
That may be because, while Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iraq have gained some rights or autonomy, in Iran they have made little progress: Iran’s Kurdish regions remain among the country’s poorest and least developed, and the Islamic Republic executed Kurdish activists as recently as November.
“Iranian Kurds are profoundly repressed and have few opportunities for political or cultural expression,” noted Vera Eccarius-Kelly, a researcher on Kurdish Diaspora politics and professor of comparative politics at Siena College in New York state.
“The Iranian regime tortures and executes Kurdish activists and focuses on eradicating PJAK guerrilla members in particular,” she told Rudaw.
Last October, Iran executed two PJAK members, one of them prominent leader Habibollah Golparipur, following that up with another Kurdish execution the month after.
But what is PJAK, and what led to its creation a decade ago?
Analysts note that the impetus for PJAK, an offshoot of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey, began after disappointment among Kurdish-Iranian youth with the traditional Kurdish parties, the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran and the Kurdish brand of the Iranian Communist party, Komala. “PJAK is the result of two parallel dynamics,” said Jordi Tejel, professor of international history at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva and author of several books and articles about the Kurds.
“On the one hand, Kurdish youth were disappointed with the traditional Kurdish parties because they left Iranian territory in the 1980s to take refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan,” he told Rudaw. “The two parties were forced to renounce attacks against the Iranian military to avoid possible reprisals against Iraqi Kurdistan. That created a vacuum that was filled by PJAK.”
“On the other hand, after the arrest of Turkish-Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1999, his party held a meeting and decided that the organization had to diversify in every Kurdish territory and to create new parties linked to the PKK,” said Tejel.
He noted that the decision led to the creation of the Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party in Iraq in 2002, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria in 2003 and PJAK in Iran the year after. PJAK says it is fighting for autonomy within Iran for the country’s estimated eight million Kurds.
Iran has deployed 5,000 soldiers in the northwest of the country along its common border with Iraq’s Kurdistan Region where PJAK operates. PJAK, on the other hand, claims to have some 3,000 armed guerrilla fighters, half of them women.
It has taken responsibility for killing a number of Iranian border guards and soldiers over the past several years. It claimed to have killed seven Iranian soldiers near the Iraqi Kurdish border in August.
According to Eccarius-Kelly, “Estimates seem to suggest that a mere 1,000 fighters remain loyal to the guerrilla forces and will no longer receive significant Western protection now that the Iranian regime engages in nuclear negotiations.” Iran reached a deal last year with a US-led group of five other countries, whereby the Islamic Republic agreed to increase access to its nuclear sites in exchange for the lifting of some international sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.
“PJAK needs to change now that Washington and Tehran share common interests in Syria and engage in talks,” said Eccarius-Kelly. “The armed option is doomed to fail,” she predicted.
Even Ocalan, who remains jailed on Turkey’s Imrali island, was quoted as saying last October that PJAK should try to resolve the Iranian Kurdish question through political negotiations with Tehran.
“At the present moment, PJAK’s fight in Iran can have two main consequences: more repression of the Kurdish population of Iran and consequently more resentment towards the regime,” said Tejel. “But in any way, the military strategy in Iran is due to fail,” he added. PJAK’s leader, Abdulrahman Haji Ahmadi, is based in Germany, which until now has resisted repeated demands by Tehran for his extradition. PJAK needs to change now that Washington and Tehran share common interests in Syria and engage in talks, right-quotes.png
“In March 2010, he was arrested by German police, but it is unclear why he was released so quickly,” said Eccarius-Kelly. “The Iranian regime demanded extradition, but since he is a German citizen and would face execution in Iran, it is obvious that he would never be sent there,” she said, adding that Ahmadi regularly travels to the Kurdistan Region.
“There may have been a deal between the German/European and US intelligence bureaucracies regarding PJAK and its activities inside Iran,” she suggested.
Manuel Martorell, a journalist and writer of several books about Kurdistan who years ago interviewed Ahmadi in Europe, said he did not believe that PJAK reflects the aspirations of Iranian Kurds.
“We should not mix up the media reports of PJAK actions and the sympathies they generate among the young with the social and more complex reality of Iranian Kurdistan, where besides fighting the regime there are other religious, tribal, territorial and political factors,” Martorell told Rudaw from his base in the Spanish city of Pamplona.
He believes that the other traditional Iranian Kurdish parties will recover their old influence over the population once Iran opens the door to greater freedoms, expected under President Hassan Rouhani, who was elected in June. According to Eccarius-Kelly, “PJAK is perceived as extremely aggressive by many Iranian Kurds, who fear that Tehran is entirely focused on a military solution to ethnic challenges.”
“Iran’s brutality has provided PJAK with a level of legitimacy among younger Kurds, but the current thaw in relations between the US government and the Iranian regime signals an extremely difficult future for Kurdish militants in Iran,” she says.
Meanwhile, Martorell remembered Ahmadi as intelligent and very unlike the inflexible leaders of the PKK. “I interviewed a PJAK delegation in the European Parliament several years ago, and was surprised by its leader, Abdulrahman Haji Ahmadi. He did not have the usual rigidity of the PKK leaders and was very polite, intelligent and very well informed,” Martorell recalled.
There is little public information about Ahmadi, except that he was born in 1941, holds a degree in agricultural engineering and directs his group from an inconspicuous apartment in the German city of Cologne whose walls are covered with pictures of Kurdish martyrs.