Kurdish Parties in Iran Plead for Outside ‘Support’ in Pursuit of Democracy

A week into civil unrest across Iran, leaders of Kurdish political parties are requesting help for their struggle for democracy, while separating the regime from the country of Iran, Kurdish media network Rudaw reports.

“The international community must support people in their struggle for democracy in Iran,” PDKI General-Secretary Mustafa Hijri wrote in a tweet on Wednesday morning.

Protests in Iran began almost a week ago on December 28 in Mashhad, the country’s second-largest city, and located in the far east. They quickly spread to dozens of cities. Lists of planned protests in 63 cities across the Islamic Republic were disseminated on social media. Hijri underscored that the people of Iranian Kurdistan are supportive of Iran, but not the “Islamist regime.”

“The people of Kurdistan will support the people of Iran in their pursuit of democracy and freedom from the Islamist regime,” said PDKI’s leader.

The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) and other Kurdish parties have been engaged in an armed resistance against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, also known as Pasdaran, for decades. PDKI ended its ceasefire in 2015, saying it would not initiate hostilities unless attacked. PDKI and the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan separately posted videos claiming to be from Tehran, Qahderijan, Mashhad, Shahin Shahr, Khorramabad, and Shiraz on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning showing people clashing with what appeared to be riot police.

“Street clashes between demonstrators and Iran’s Islamist paramilitary forces continued late into the night,” wrote PDKI in a Wednesday tweet. Rudaw could not verify the authenticity of the claims or video.

Kurdish opposition parties in Iranian Kurdistan (Rojhelat) over the weekend expressed their support for the protests across Iran, calling for a joint committee to direct the demonstrators. In a combined statement on Saturday, the Kurdistan Democratic Party-Iran (PDKI) and the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan (Komala) called on authorities to free people who were arrested for participating in country-wide protests, blaming the protests on economic problems and “decades” of oppression by the regime.

“The source of the protests is the economic crisis and political problems within Iran which are due to the government’s suppressive policies,” the statement said.

The statement added that such protests were a sign of “collective anger toward bad governance, corruption, injustice, and dictatorship that did not leave any space for expressing peaceful demands in civic means.” The PDKI and Komala urged NGOs, political centers, and world leaders to support the demands of Iranian people and pressure the regime to release the imprisoned protesters and others unfairly detained during previous movements in Rojhelat.

On Sunday, the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) released a statement calling on the people of Iran “to fight and stand together to seek a new way forward for a democratic Iran.” The PJAK statement added that without a democratic solution none of Iran’s political or economic problems would be resolved, “therefore, any activity to achieve that is legitimate.”

The statement acknowledged that the protests relate to economic reasons, “but one must know that at the root of all issues there are political reasons. Without a democratic solution and without applying methods of democratic politics, no issue in Iran will be solved.” It accused the regime of slandering the protests by accusing “outside forces” of involvement as an excuse to suppress the people. It emphasized that PJAK was calling on Kurdish people and “all the peoples of Iran” to join the “ranks of the struggle for freedom.”

Another Iranian Kurdish party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (PDK), urged the international community “to support the oppressed people of Iran who are taking to the streets to demand democracy, freedom.”

“We urge people to demonstrate peacefully and not use any violence except in cases you need to defend yourselves,” the party tweeted.

PDKI, which has been struggling for Kurdish rights since its founding in 1945, fighting against both the Shah’s regime and the Islamic Republic after 1979, also released a statement calling on people to take part in the demonstrations. PDKI has been sending male and female Peshmerga, or armed fighters, into Iran over the last several years but it has avoided major clashes with the regime. Like other Kurdish parties, it knows the regime is in a strong position to retaliate against civilians if there are clashes. PDKI leader Mustafa Hijri says the party is struggling for a “federal democratic state.

“We want each nation to have their autonomy and each nation should have its own representatives in the central government.” Under the current regime, minority groups have felt ostracized by the Shi’ite Islamist nature of the regime as well its sidelining of non-Persian ethnicities.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote in a tweet late on Tuesday that “Iran’s security and stability depend on its own people” and “infiltrators will not be allowed to sabotage them through violence and destruction.” Citing media reports, the UN stated the demonstrations have left “at least 20 people dead.”

“We expect that the rights to peaceful assembly and expression of the Iranian people will be respected,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated on Tuesday.

The United States will call for an emergency United Nations session in New York and of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nicki Haley said on Tuesday.