Loghman H. Ahmedi, the PDKI’S Head of Foreign Relations, delivered a speech on behalf of the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran on the challenges and opportunities of bringing about a federal system of government in Iran at a conference in the European Parliament.
Below is the text of the speech:
I want to begin by thanking the UNPO and Mr. Tunne Kelam for organizing this conference.
Regarding the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran (CNFI), I will give a brief account of how it is constituted and what it stands for.
The Congress consists of 16 political organizations from the different nations of Iran, except the Persians. These political organizations came together with the goal of creating an umbrella organization. The members of CNFI share common goals and objectives and have outlined a path towards federalism, democracy and secular rule in Iran.
The Congress was founded in 2006 and has a few years of experience. Since then, we have noticed positive effects on the interaction between CNFI’s members. We have also seen the development of shared understandings and stronger solidarity between the different nations inside of Iran.
If you look back a couple of decades, it would have been hard for a Baluch individual to have knowledge or information about the situation in Azerbaijan or Kurdistan. However, now it seems that through information technology and through the work of the Congress and other political organizations that operate outside the Congress but who support its ideas, we have managed, at least to a much better degree than before, to promote the ideas of the Congress in the societies of these different nations.
Having said that, we do acknowledge that we have a lot more work to do. We hope to be able to strengthen our cooperation in pursuit of bringing about more visible change inside Iran.
I also want to briefly talk about why these different nations have federal aspirations and why their organizations advocate federal democracy as the future system of government for Iran. An idea like federalism does not appear from nowhere. To explain its appearance, we need to consider issues pertaining to national oppression and decades-long struggles for recognition of national identity and rights on the part of the non-Persian nations in Iran.
In Iran, the non-Persian nations are oppressed for being different, or having identities based on differences in language, culture or alternative political visions from the rulers of Iran. The paradox is this: the national identities of the non-Persian nations are denied by the state, yet at the same time, they are being oppressed because of their national identities. The national identities of these nations have been securitized in the sense that the Iranian state regards them as threats to the country’s “territorial integrity.” Of course, this is merely a pretext for, or a rationalization of, the domination of one nation and the subordination of the other nations in Iran. I deliberately say the Iranian state rather than the government in this context, since these problems existed during the previous regime as well. The regime in Iran changed in 1979, but not the policies of the state toward the non-Persian nations.
These different nations have been subject to so much discrimination and systematic violence for so many decades that Iran has become like a prison for them. This is especially the case for the Kurdsish nation, since we have experienced several imposed wars with the state. Even if we compare, for example, the Kurdish government of the Kurdish republic in 1946 with the Azeri Republic of 1946, you see that the state or rulers of Iran treated these two as the same and had the same policies towards them, which was to use violence to crush both of these regional governments.
Naturally, there is a sense of solidarity between these nations even though we have different languages and different cultures. We believe we should have common goals and objective because we are all, albeit to different degrees, subject to the same kind of policies.
Through the Congress, we are trying to formulate policies, goals and objectives to secure our rights and our physical security. That is, security in the basic sense of being able to walk in your own village or town without being afraid all the time. In all aspects of life, people are afraid in our regions. They fear for their lives, for their children’s’ lives and even fear for the future generations’ lives.
I am going to give you a specific example that as a Kurd affected me very much and shows how sinister the Iranian regime is. We had a member of our party who had been involved in politics since the 1980s. Later, he sought refuge in Finland. After 15 years, this man got cancer and, in his will, wished to be buried in his home village. His children, even though they were refugees and could not return to Iran, contacted the Iranian embassy in Finland and made arrangements to take back their father to their village in Iranian Kurdistan. And the events afterwards show how much hatred there is towards the Kurds and how institutionalized it is in Iran. Two days after that they buried their father, the revolutionary guards dug him up and shot the dead man three times in the head! They then showed pictures of this savage act to his family and said “this is what we do to our enemies”.
For us, as the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran, there is also a strategic or long-term goal of what we think that Iran should look like, both for us as Kurds, Balochs, Arabs, Azeris, Turks and so on, but also for the Persian population in Iran. We feel that it is not only important that we get our rights and that we achieve self-rule, but it is also important that democratic ideas and practices take root in the Persian population because, in their absence, we will always have conflictual relations with all the tragic consequences that entails. There will always be mutual suspicion, fear, hatred and so on.
Therefore, the Congress has consistently tried to reach out to the Persian opposition groups and called for dialogue with them. Even if they don’t accept our demands, we can at least have a dialogue instead of opposing each other. Not having dialogue will only play into the hands of the religious dictatorship in Iran.
Finally, I want to explain how federalism will benefit not only the various nations of Iran, but also the Middle East region. In Iran, we have a regime that has hegemonic ambitions. It interferes not only in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, but also in Lebanon and it has ambitions to take over Jerusalem. It has had these ambitions since the beginning of the revolution. Its nuclear program has worsened Iran’s relations with many powerful and important countries in the world.
If a federal system of government existed in Iran, and if the different nations of Iran could share power with each other, there would be a system of checks and balances in favor of democracy at home and constructive relations with the outside world. This is the case because unlike the current regime in Iran, the Kurds, Balochs, Azeris, Turks and so on have no interest in Karbala or Jerusalem. We don’t want Karbala to be under our rule; we don’t want Jerusalem to be under our rule; and we don’t see Israelis or Jews or any other people in the region as our enemies. Compared to the ruling regime, we have other interests and certainly different preferences with respect to domestic and foreign policy.
In short, for us, as the Congress, federalism is of course a tool to secure our rights, but it could also be a tool to create more stability and security in the region and beyond.
Thank you for your attention!