In a recent interview with Wala Press, PDKI General-Secretary Mustafa Hijri addressed matters related to armed struggle, international dynamics and the future of Iran.
According to Mr. Hijri, the PDKI has halted its decades-long armed struggle due to geopolitical constraints. At the moment, according to the Kurdish leader, armed struggle is not feasible but may very well become an option if circumstances change.
In his analysis, international dynamics are as important as internal factors in facilitating change in Iran. Ultimately, Hijri argues, a coalition has to be formed in pursuit of liberty and democracy inside Iran. To this end, Mr. Hijri calls on outside powers to keep pressure on the Iranian regime in order to aid those opposition forces favoring democratic regime change.
Asked about his party’s position on armed struggle, Mr. Hijri reiterated in the interview with Wala Press that the PDKI has not abandoned armed struggle, but has halted guerilla warfare because regional conditions no longer favor it. He said that they still believe in armed struggle, yet at the same time emphasized that the Kurds are in a minority position in Iran and that if the goal is regime change through armed struggle, other nations and political forces would have to join the Kurds in that effort.
“If we were to take recourse to armed struggle again, we would need a strong backing [in terms of logistics], something which we do not have currently,” Mr. Hijri said. “In a big and multinational country like Iran, where the Kurds are the third largest nation and considering the fact that the Kurds are economically in one of the most disadvantageous positions, it is not possible for the Kurds to embark on armed struggle alone and make sacrifices [alone],” he emphasized. “While the other nations in Iran are discontent with the government in significant measures, so far they have not shown any readiness for [waging armed struggle]; hence, favorable conditions need to exist,” he added.
Nevertheless, if internal and international conditions were to change in favor of armed struggle, the PDKI will be in the forefront and make the necessary sacrifices – as in the past – to bring about a secular, democratic and federal government that recognizes the rights of the Kurdish nation, the Kurdish leader emphasized in the interview.
“Such favorable conditions present themselves when the Islamic Republic of Iran, which for a very long time has been in a process of decline internally as well as internationally, would reach a point in terms of weakness and lack of room for maneuver that not only the Kurds, but also other nations would muster the courage to wage armed struggle – provided that peaceful means were to prove futile,” he elaborated. It is for this reason the PDKI even to this date recruits and trains Peshmergas, he explained.
Mr. Hijri also emphasized the importance of regional and international factors in facilitating change in authoritarian states in the Middle East. In his opinion, the weaker the Iranian regime becomes, the greater the chances for opposition forces committed to democratic regime change in Iran to achieve their goals and objectives. Therefore, he calls on world powers to keep pressure on the religious dictatorship in Iran since a democratic Iran would be in the interests of the different nations in Iran who are yearning for democracy and the international community alike.
The future of Iran, he emphasized, should ultimately be determined by the various nations living within the borders of this country. In his opinion, a coalition consisting of all those forces committed to liberty and democracy has to be formed in order to replace the current repressive regime with a secular, democratic and federal government that is at peace with its own citizens as well as the outside world.
The PDKI is the oldest, most experienced and influential political party in Iranian Kurdistan. Founded in 1945, the party established the Republic of Kurdistan in 1946, which also marked the creation of the Peshmerga Forces (those who face death in Kurdish) as the national army of the republic.
The Republic of Kurdistan was short-lived. After 11 months, the Iranian army – which had lost control of Kurdistan during World War II – regained control of the territory under the Kurdish government after several clashes with the Peshmerga Forces. Iran then executed Qazi Mohammad, the first leader of PDKI and president of the republic, as well as Mohammed Hossein Saif Qazi, Minister of War and a number of other Kurdish ministers. The PDKI was subsequently forced underground and into exile in Iraqi Kurdistan.
After several years in exile, a new generation of PDKI Peshmergas, under the leadership of Suleiman Moeini and Mala Aware, decided to launch an armed uprising against the Pahlavi regime in 1967-68. For 18 months, the Peshmerga Forces managed to inflict serious losses on the Iranian army. However, both Aware and Moeini were killed and the uprising failed due to lack of logistical support.
In 1973, the PDKI officially endorsed armed struggle as a legitimate method of struggle in pursuit of Kurdish national rights and in the face of government denial of Kurdish national identity and suppression of any form of organized Kurdish resistance. To Dr. Ghassemlou, armed struggle was a means to pressure the central government to listen to the demands of the Kurdish people. “We wage war in pursuit of negotiations,” he used to say repeatedly.
Following the 1979 revolution, the charismatic leader of PDKI, Dr. Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, turned the party into the leading Kurdish organization with millions of followers and tens of thousands of Peshmergas.
In spite of the brief opening of the political space and electoral victory of PDKI in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution, the post-revolutionary regime proved to be identical to the old one in denying Kurdish national identity and rights. The Islamic regime embarked on a military offensive against Iranian Kurdistan in 1980.
The Kurdish Peshmergas defeated Iranian military forces after three months of intense fighting. Ayatollah Khomeini reluctantly sent a delegation to Kurdistan for negotiations. It proved to be tactical ploy. Once regime forces reorganized, they continued with the offensive.
Considering the interests and tenuous position of the Kurdistan regional government in Iraqi Kurdistan, PDKI has since the mid-1990s halted its armed struggle. The PDKI has not abandoned armed struggle, but has halted guerilla warfare because regional conditions no longer favor it. If domestic and international condition were to change in favor of armed struggle, the PDKI will be in the forefront and make the necessary sacrifices to bring about a secular, democratic and federal government that recognizes the rights of the Kurdish nation. It is for this reason the PDKI even to this date recruits and trains Peshmergas.