MESOP FOCUS : Rouhani sends delegation to Iranian Kurdistan amid growing public discontent

1 Oct 2016 – SNE, Iranian Kurdistan,— Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has sent a delegation to the Kurdish provincial capital of Sanandaj (Sne) in the west of the country to rally renewed support for the president in next year’s June elections, Kurdish activists told Rudaw. The delegation has already met with a number of social and political activists in the city and called for continued support for Rouhani who announced in September that he will run for a second term in 2017.

Despite the optimism that followed the election of the moderate Iranian president, Kurdish activists say they have seen “no real sign of change so far” as Kurdish provinces in Iran continue to suffer from mass unemployment and poverty compared to other areas in the country.

Officials from Rouhani’s government have said their policies in the past three years “have brought back hope to people” and promised to carry out the financial investment plans in the province which the president had announced as his top priority for the Kurdish areas.

“The Rouhani administration’s record in Kurdistan is not an impressive one and I predict that his votes will decline there,” lawmaker Ahsan Alawi, who represents Sanandaj in the Iranian parliament, the Majlis, told Rudaw.Alawi said Rouhani’s promises regarding the rights of ethnic and religious groups have been abandoned and the economic condition has not improved in the past three years.

“The infrastructure in Sanandaj has not seen any development and the government has failed to make use of local expertise and labor,” Alawi explained.Rouhani, who is seen as representative of Iran’s moderate forces, came to power with considerable support from Kurdish voters. The president has made numerous official trips to Kurdish cities and shown solidarity with their grievances. He has also promised to improve Kurdish language education in Iranian Kurdistan and help to promote Kurdish culture.

But his promises have not turned into concrete change, some complain.

“Rouhani’s promises about the ethnic groups have not been realised and civil society has been largely ignored during his time,” Kurdish activist Hamid Farazi told Rudaw.Farazi said people in Kurdish cities had “high hopes” for the new president to confront the “totalitarian tendencies” in the country, something Farazi said the government has failed to do.

Ever since its emergence in 1979 the Islamic regime imposed discriminatory rules and laws against the Kurds in all social, political and economic fields.

The Kurds in Iran experience discrimination in the enjoyment of their religious, economic and cultural rights. Parents are banned from registering their babies with certain Kurdish names, and religious minorities that are mainly or partially Kurdish are targeted by measures designed to stigmatize and isolate them.Kurds are also discriminated against in their access to employment, adequate housing and political rights, and so suffer entrenched poverty, which has further marginalized them.

Several Kurdish groups took up arms to establish a semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Iranian Kurdistan or Kurdish federal states in Iran. Estimate to 12 million Kurds live in Iranian Kurdistan.