Commemorating the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. A. R. Ghassemlou
On Tuesday the 9th of July 2019, the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI), together with the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), organised a series of events to address the continuing human rights violations against Kurds by the Islamic Republic of Iran. The series of events were organized in the context of the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. A. R. Ghassemlou, Kurdish leader and former General-Secretary of the PDKI, and his aide Abdullah Ghaderi-Azar. Both were victims of a premeditated assassination on 13 July 1989, whilst attending negotiations between the PDKI and Iran to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question.
The day started with a protest march in Brussels from the Mont des Arts towards the European Institutions. Hundreds of people marched together to commemorate the assassination of Dr. Ghassemlou and raise attention to the continuing violations of human rights by the Islamic Republic of Iran. The demonstration also aimed at requesting the reopening of the case and an independent judiciary investigation.
The second event was held at the European Parliament, where MEPs were invited to attend a roundtable discussion hosted by MEP Julie Ward. The discussion focused on the assassination of Dr. Ghassemlou and the struggles that the PDKI and the Kurds have faced both in Iran and in Europe because of the Iranian regime’s policy. Special attention was given to the repercussions of the assassination on security in Europe.
The first speaker was Mustafa Hijri, leader of the PDKI, who introduced the Kurdish struggle under more than 70 years of oppression by the Iranian regime. A regime that adheres to such a repressive ideology, he argued, is not only a threat to groups within Iran’s borders, but also threatens regional and international peace and stability. Accordingly, Mr. Hijri expressed his vision of a federal and democratic Iran where the human rights of all various nationalities are constitutionally protected. Furthermore, Mr. Hijri underlined that Iranian regime’s systematic human rights violations at home, its nuclear program, support for various terrorist groups, interference in the internal affairs of other countries and destabilization of important parts of the Middle East are interconnected and need to be addressed as such by the European policymakers. “We hope that Western policymakers come to the same realization that peace and stability in the Middle East depend on the democratization of Iran. It was for this vision, for the realization of liberty and democracy, that Dr. Ghassemlou and countless others struggled and sacrificed their lives. Their struggle continues in spite of the brutality of the Iranian regime”, he added.
Echoing these remarks, Taimoor Aliassi, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Association of Human Rights in Kurdistan – Geneva (KMMK-G), noted the constitutional character of repression in Iran, being inherently discriminatory against many different ethnic and non-Shi’a religious minorities. As Mr. Aliassi identified the high amount of deaths as a result of government repression, he emphasized the need for policy, and ultimately, regime change in Iran.
Dr. Idris Ahmedi, researcher at Karlstad university, compared Iran to other multiethnic and multinational states, highlighting that the Iranian state regards the non-Persian national minorities as a threat and oppresses them, which sets Iran apart from other multiethnic and multinational states. The significant political movements of the national minorities call for self-rule within a democratic and federal Iran, while the state uses the charge of separatism in order to violently suppress them. “Separatism”, he said, “is used as an ideological justification for the perpetuating of relations of ethnic domination and subordination in Iran”. Dr. Ahmedi also highlighted that instead of focusing exclusively on the nuclear issue, Western policy-makers should pay attention to human rights and democracy – not in the abstract, but in more specific terms by putting pressure on Iran to respect the rights of the national minorities. Moreover, he noted that in spite of talk of reform in Iran since the mid-1990s, no clear manifesto of reform has ever been presented; if the West is to pin its hope on reforms in Iran, Western governments should call for a manifesto of reform and ultimately constitutional reforms. The best indicator of reforms of such nature is represented by steps toward the constitutional recognition of the rights of women and the national minorities.
In the evening a ceremony was organized, where UNPO General-Secretary Ralph Bunche addressed the attendees, stating that human rights abuses against Kurds are not only occurring in Iran itself, but also within Europe. Accordingly, Mr. Bunche emphasized that Iran’s extrajudicial killings within European borders should also be treated as a matter of internal security for European nation states, especially as many of these Kurds are European citizens. It therefore requires coherent policy and action that empowers EU member states to protect their citizens and to bring to justice those who have carried out plotted assassinations and other terrorist acts within EU borders.