Kurdish separatism in Iran
|Kurdish separatism in Iran|
PJAK fighters in 2012
Sublime State of Persia (1918−25)
Imperial State of Iran (1925−79)
Islamic Republic of Iran (1980−present)
Republic of Mahabad (1945−6)
|Commanders and leaders|
Simko Shikak (1918-1930)
|Casualties and losses|
|23,000 killed (1979-1996)(according to the KDPI)||5,000 killed (1979-1996)(according to the KDPI)|
Kurdish separatism in Iran or the Kurdish–Iranian conflict is an ongoing, long running, separatist dispute between the Kurdish opposition in Western Iran and the governments of Iran, lasting since the emergence of Pahlavi Reza Shah in 1918.
The earliest Kurdish separatist activities in modern times refer to tribal revolts in today's West Azerbaijan Province of Imperial State of Iran, prompted in between of the two World Wars - the major of those were led by Simko Shikak, Jafar Sultan and Hama Rashid. Many however, put the starting point of the organized Kurdish political-nationalist separatism to 1943, when Komala shortly afterwards KDPI began their political activities in Iran, aiming to gain partial or complete self-rule in Kurdish regions. Transformation from tribal to Kurdish political struggle in Iran took place in the aftermath of World War II, with the bold separatist attempt of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) to establish the Republic of Mahabad during the 1946 Iran crisis. The Soviet supported attempt to establish a Kurdish state in Western Iran failed. More than a decade later, peripheral tribal uprisings, launched with KDPI support through 1966–7, Kurdish regions suffered a major blow. In the most violent episode of the conflict, more than 30,000 Kurds died starting with the 1979 rebellion and the consequent KDPI insurgency. Though KDPI's armed struggle ended in late 1996, another Kurdish armed organization emerged in Iran by the early 2000s. Insurrection led by PJAK in Western Iran started in 2004 and is ongoing to this day.
The government of Iran has never employed the same level of brutality against its Kurds as did Turkey or Iraq, but it has always been implacably opposed to any suggestion of Kurdish separatism. Unlike in other Middle Eastern countries with Kurdish populations, there are strong ethnolinguistical and cultural ties between Kurds and Persians as Iranian peoples. Kreyenbroek claims many Kurds in Iran have shown no interest in Kurdish nationalism, especially Shia Kurds, who even vigorously reject the idea of autonomy, preferring direct rule from Tehran. Iranian national identity is questioned mainly in the peripheral Kurdish Sunni regions.
Tribalism and early nationalism
Simko's first revolt (1918–1922)
Simko Shikak revolt refers to an armed Ottoman-backed tribal Kurdish uprising against the Qajar dynasty of Iran from 1918-1922, led by Kurdish chieftain Simko Shikak from Turcophone Shekak tribe. This tribal rebellion is sometimes regarded as first major bid for establishing independent Kurdistan in Iran, but scholars see revolt as attempt by a powerful tribal chief to establish his personal authority vis-à-vis the central government throughout the region. Although elements of Kurdish nationalism were present in this movement, historians agree these were hardly articulate enough to justify a claim that recognition of Kurdish identity was a major issue in Simko's movement, and he had to rely heavily on conventional tribal motives. It lacked any kind of administrative organization and Simko was primary interesting in plunder. Government forces and non-Kurds were not the only ones to suffer in the attacks, the Kurdish population was also robbed and assaulted. Simko's men do not appear to have felt any sense of unity or solidarity with fellow Kurds. Historian Ervand Abrahamian calls Simko as "notorious" for allegedly massacring thousands Assyrians and supposedly "harassing" democrats, and Mehrdad Izady holds him responsible for killing Alevite Kurds. Still, Kurdish ethnicists today revere Simko as a hero of independence.
1926 Simko rebellion in Iran
By 1926, Simko had regained control of his tribe and begun another outright rebellion against the state. When the army engaged him, half of his troops defected to the tribe’s previous leader and Simqu fled to Iraq.
Jafar Sultan revolt
Jafar Sultan of Hewraman region took control of the region between Marivan and north of Halabja and remained independent until 1925. Despite the attempts to subdue him under the central rule, the tribal leader revolted in 1929, but was effectively crushed.
Hama Rashid revolt
Hama Rashid revolt refers to a tribal uprising in Pahlavi Iran, during the Second World War, following the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran. The tribal revolt erupted in the general atmosphere of anarchy throughout Iran and its main faction was led by Muhammed Rashid, lasting from late 1941 until April 1942 and then re-erupted in 1944, resulting in Rashid's defeat. It is considered one of the factors to lead to the establishment of the Kurdish political independence movement in 1945-6.
The danger of fragmentation in modern Iran became evident shortly after Second World War when Soviet Union's refused to relinquish occupied North Western Iranian territory. Iran crisis of 1946 included a separatist attempt of KDP-I and communist groups to establish the Soviet puppet government, and declare the Republic of Mahabad in Iranian Kurdistan (today's southern part of West Azerbaijan Province). It arose along with Azerbaijan People's Government, another Soviet puppet state. The state itself encompassed a very small territory, including Mahabad and the adjacent cities, unable to incorporate the southern Iranian Kurdistan, which fell inside the Anglo-American zone, and unable to attract the tribes outside Mahabad itself to the nationalist cause. As a result, when the Soviets withdrew from Iran in December 1946, government forces were able to enter Mahabad unopposed. Some 1,000 died during the crisis.
Iran crisis of 1946 included an attempt of the KDPI to establish an independent Kurdish-dominated Republic of Mahabad in Iranian Kurdistan. Though later several Marxist insurgencies continued for decades, led by KDP-I and Komala, but those two organization have never advocated a separate Kurdish state or greater Kurdistan as did the PKK in Turkey.
1967 Kurdish revolt
In mid-1960s a series of Kurdish tribal disturbances erupted in Western Iran, fed up by the revival of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDP-I). In 1967-8 Iranian government troops suppressed a Kurdish revolt in Western Iran, consolidating the previous Kurdish uprisings in Mahabad-Urumiya region.
1979 Kurdish rebellion in Iran was an insurrection led by the KDPI and Komala in Iranian Kurdistan, which became the most serious rebellion against the new Iranian regime, following the Islamic Revolution. The rebellion ended in December 1982, with 10,000 killed and 200,000 displaced.
Insurrection by the KDPI took place in Iranian Kurdistan through early and mid-90s, initiated by assassination of its leader in exile in July 1989. The KDPI insurrection ended in 1996, following a successful Iranian campaign of targeted assassinations of KDPI leaders and crackdown on its support bases in Western Iran. In 1996, KDPI announced a unilateral cease fire, and has since acted at low profile before renewed clashes in 2015.
Iran–PJAK conflict is an ongoing rebellion of PJAK in which hundreds Kurdish militants and Iranian forces as well as civilians have died, officially lasting since April 2004. PJAK is based in the border area with Iraqi Kurdistan and is affiliated with the Marxist PKK from Turkey, though PJAK themselves tend to neglect this alleged relation. Although sometimes described as organization demanding more human rights for Kurds in Iran, it is regarded as separatist by Iranian media and various Western analysts. The PJAK goal is an establishment of a Kurdish autonomy and according to Habeeb they do not pose any serious threat to the regime of the Islamic Republic.
In one of the first actions of the Obama administration, PJAK was declared a "terrorist organization". PJAK and Iranian government agreed on cease-fire, following the 2011 Iranian offensive on PJAK bases. After the cease fire agreement, a number of clashes between PJAK and IRGC took place in 2012, and by mid-2013, the fighting resumed in sporadic incidents, the last of which took place in August 2015.
2015-6 West Iran tensions
On 7 May 2015, ethnic Kurds rioted in Mahabad, Iran, following the unexplained death on 4 May 2015 of Farinaz Khosravani, a 25-year-old Kurdish hotel chambermaid. Unrest and violence spread to other Kurdish cities in Iran, such as Sardasht, where police clashed with hundreds of protesters on 9 May 2015. One protester has been reportedly killed in the clashes, and that additionally, Kurdish insurgent group PJAK had attacked an Iranian checkpoint killing two Iranian personnel, according to PJAK. According to ARA sources, as of May 11, the death toll climbed to 6 protesters killed. The incidents prompted harsh responses also from other Kurdish opposition parties, including the Kurdistan Freedom Party and the PDKI.
Military clashes between Kurdish insurgent parties Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK) and Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) versus the Iranian Revolutionary Guards initiated in April 2016. The clashes came following a background of what KDPI described as "growing discontent in Rojhelat". Commander of the PAK military wing described their engagement and declaration of hostilities against Iranian government were due to the fact that "the situation in eastern Kurdistan (Iranian Kurdistan) has become unbearable, especially with the daily arbitrary executions against the Kurds".
- Kurds in Iran
- Iranian Kurdistan
- Kurdish people
- List of modern conflicts in the Middle East
- Kurdish–Turkish conflict
- Iraqi-Kurdish conflict
- Kurdish–Syrian conflict
- PJAK website (in Persian, Sorani and English)
- Extract from article about Kurdish Iranian militants 28 June 2006.
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- Kurdish rebels attack Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Sardasht