Mustafa Hijri: “We believe the independence of Kurdistan is a right”

In an interview with Reese Erlich of the Global Post Mustafa Hijri, PDKI’s leader, sheds light on the purpose of his latest visit to Washington DC and the PDKI’s view on the nuclear ambitions of Iran and the rights of the Kurdish nation in Iran. Below is an excerpt of the interview:

As the June 30 deadline approaches for a possible nuclear deal between the US and Iran, opponents of a settlement have picked up support from an unusual source: Iran’s largest Kurdish political party.

Kurds make up about 10 percent of Iran’s 81 million people. An ethnic group that is spread across Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran, the Kurds are sometimes referred to as the world’s largest stateless minority. In Iran, they face discrimination and complain of a second class citizenship.

Mustafa Hijri, general secretary of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI), just concluded a visit to Washington in which he met with conservative congressmen and think tank analysts to oppose a deal with Iran.

A framework agreement reached in April calls for intensified inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities in return for lifting sanctions imposed by the US and European powers.

“If sanctions are lifted,” Hijri told GlobalPost, “Iran will get resources to continue support for terrorists and dictatorships that sponsor terrorists such as [Syria’s] Bashar al Assad. They will get more resources to make more turbulence in the Middle East.”

The PDKI is the largest of three Kurdish parties operating underground in northwestern Iran. All the groups believe in armed struggle against the Iranian government.

“There is no doubt that Iran is enriching uranium for a nuclear weapon,” said Hijri. “That’s why Iran has put up with these political and economic pressures. The master plan was to get a nuclear weapon no matter what happens.”

Hijri says any US-Iran deal must also include protections for Iranian human rights, particularly Iran’s ethnic minorities. “There could be a better deal,” he said.

Today, Kurdish anger periodically explodes against the government.

In May, thousands of Kurdish protestors clashed with police in Mahabad when a security official tried to rape a Kurdish maid, and she jumped out a hotel window. Demonstrators torched the hotel and dozens were injured on both sides.

Such protests prove “that Kurds have been suppressed, but they use every opportunity to raise their voices,” said Hijri. “It shows that under the surface people are dissatisfied.”

Hijri notes that regional and world powers oppose an independent Iraqi Kurdistan for the moment. Nevertheless, he said, “We believe the independence of Kurdistan is a right. We have the right to self determination.”

The PDKI opposes independence from Iran under current circumstances, however, and advocates “democratic federalism.” The central government would control international affairs, the treasury and military. All other powers would devolve to local regions where Kurds, ethnic Arabs and other minorities would have considerable autonomy.

“If the nationalities [different nations in Iran] can participate equally in the central government, and if they have autonomy, it would be a good opportunity for peace,” said Hijri.