Kurdistan of Iran: From upcoming presidential election to post-elections

 By Ramyar Hassani: Kurdistan Tribune – 4.6.2013 – In a few days’ time, on June 14, the eleventh presidential election in Iran will be held and millions of people will come in front of ballot boxes, mostly by force and intimidation so as not to lose their jobs and positions.

This scenario has been repeated for the previous 10 presidential elections but this time is somehow different because of Iran’s current global position, sanctions, nuclear talks, highest rate of repression in recent years and …

While the majority of the voters are from both ethnic and religious minorities there is almost no candidate from the minorities and, according to Iranian constitution, the president should be a convinced man from the official madhhab of Iran, which means the Shi’a Twelve sect, and it means many of the citizens, such as Balouches, Kurds, Arabs and even Torkmen, are not eligible for this position,  including all the women.

The Iranian regime has used the votes of these minority groups for more than three decades in the past 10 presidential elections. Kurds are a big part of this minority population, with almost 12 million people. They are among the most suppressed and deprived groups, with a huge number of political prisoners and executed activists and a high number who have sought political asylum. They are deprived of their basic rights of a nation, such as the right to study in Kurdish, they live in undeveloped cities and they have been accused of being subversive for more than 30 years.Apparently the best option for the Kurds is to boycott the elections, since there is no hope of getting involved in the competition for this position or of getting any benefit for the Kurds and the entire process is just a deceptive scenario to hand over the position from the current one to another who is confirmed and trusted by Ayatollah Khamenei and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to achieve whatever both of them are demanding. But, of course, this is not so easy as it is recorded on paper and, even if the entire Kurdish population decided to boycott the elections and not vote, still the regime have pressure cards such as intimidating governmental clerks and bringing them in front of the ballot boxes.

On the other hand, all of the presidents in Iran – reformist or conservative, embellished by mullah’s clothing or diplomatic suit – have dealt with the Kurds in the same way. All the Iranian presidents since the 1979 revolution have just tried to suppress the Kurds, deny the identity of this nation and sent troops to kill them under the cover of confronting ‘enmity against god’ and ‘subversives’.

Kurds have around 22 representatives in the Iranian parliament but do they have any power? Are they really the ones Kurdish people want as their representatives? And, even if these representatives want to do something to benefit Kurds and diminish their problems, can they? Of course, inside the system, it is almost impossible to do anything beyond the supreme leader’s and revolutionary guards’ policies; at the same time it is clear that the representatives must pass the regime’s criteria before getting into parliament, which means obedience to the regime.

The current situation in Iran somehow reminds us of the history of the Saddam Hussein regime: There were Kurdish representatives but they were working as Saddam’s bootlickers, rather than being real representatives, or else their fate was clear. But, with the collapse of the regime, Kurds became an irremovable part of the government, even holding high positions in Iraq such as the presidential position. Undoubtedly the geopolitical situation and ethnic-religious diversity of Iran is different compared with Iraq, but still the post-regime situation will be or, better to say, should be similar and Kurds should be in a much better position. There is also the economic situation of the country, with highest rate of inflation in the history of the Islamic regime, the sanctions by the EU and U.S. and the excruciating life of people, repeating the history as it was in Iraq before 2003.

Let’s come back to the presidential election: All the eight candidates have high rank positions in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Forces and are obedient to Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader, and there is no doubt that the one who will become the president will continue in the same way in favor of the revolutionary guards and supreme leader and with no reforms. Therefore, the situation of Kurds as a minority in Iran will not get better and it will even get worse.

Once more the only conclusion is for Kurds to boycott the presidential election as much as possible. But the boycott is not enough because it is clear that the regime will do anything to bring the fair-headed boys of the revolutionary guards and their supreme leader to the presidential palace and so the important point for the Kurdish leadership is to strategize more clearly and develop a united agenda about a post-regime period because it is clear that the regime is getting weaker every day and perhaps Iran will get out of control with a spark and then the only thing which could rescue Kurdistan is a well prepared, united leadership to deal with the ad-hoc, messy, post-regime situation – or else the Kurdish people will face a catastrophe and, of course, the result of a catastrophe in a messy situation will be thousands of killed and displaced people.And the second step for the Kurdish leadership will be how to get involved in post-regime high positions and achieve certain definite rights for the Kurds in a federal framework.

Ramyar Hassani was born in 1987 in Sanandaj – Sena. He has worked as a journalist and also as a human rights advocate in Latin America and Kurdistan in the field with CPT, an international human rights organization. He is an integral member of English section of Human Rights Activists News Agency – HRANA – which covers current human rights violations in Iran.