Extremist Sunni Groups Finding Recruits in Iranian Kurdistan

By FUAD HAQIQI 9/8/2013 – ERBIL, RUDAW –  Dozens of Sunni Kurds from Iran have been recruited by Al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups, according to media reports and other evidence.

Last month, Omid Mustafai, a young Iranian Kurd from Jiwanro who was recruited by an extremist Sunni group, blew himself up in a suicide mission in Afghanistan.Earlier this year Hiwa Mohammadi, another Kurd from the same town, was killed in Pakistan’s Waziristan region in an US drone attack. “Iran’s Shiite authorities have stopped every Sunni activity and they suppress the ethnic or religious tendencies of young Kurds,” Hassan Amini, the head of Maktabi Koran, told Rudaw in a recent interview.

He said that because of such repression, it was natural for young Sunni Kurds to seek other ways of expressing their frustrations. The Islamic group Ansar al-Islam, whose members fled the Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq for Iran in 2003, are also believed to be behind the recruitment of young Iranian Kurds. Iranian Kurds are no strangers to Islamic ideology and puritanical groups. Maktabi Koran, the group of Nasir Subhani and Ahmed Muftizada, is among organizations that were founded in the late 1970s and still have followers. But the extremist Taliban-type and Al-Qaeda ideology is new and dates back to the arrival of former Ansar al-Islam fighters in Iran’s Kurdish provinces. Radical Islamic groups are most active in the Kurdish-Iranian cities of Ravansar, Jiwanro and Saqiz. A recent article on news website KURDP claimed that, “hundreds of young Kurds from Jiwanro and Saqiz have taken up arms for extremist Islamist groups,”

Leaders of more moderate Islamic groups in Iranian Kurdistan say that despite years of activity, they have not encouraged anyone to join armed jihad. A Saqiz-based media group claimed earlier this year that in 2012, more than 140 people from Saqiz had joined Al-Qaeda and traveled to Afghanistan, Iraq and Chechnya for jihad.