Students & Campus
17 December 2022

Why Is the Kurdish Struggle at the Heart of the Iranian Struggle?

PhD candidate in International Law Farzad Fallah examines the historically tense life of Kurds in Iran and how Mahsa Amini's tragic death may have finally opened up a platform for this excluded group's voice. 

Zhina Mahsa Amini, murdered at the hands of the Iranian Morality Police on 16 September 2022, was an intersection of numerous identities and social belongings; a woman, a member of the youth, and, of course, a Kurd.

This abhorrent tragedy is a reminder that the issues of governance, democracy, and human rights cannot be addressed clinically and in isolation from other societal factors. The Kurds, ironically known as the largest nation in the world without a true home, are at the heart of this ongoing political movement in Iran.

It was the Kurds who manifested the earliest and strongest opposition to the Islamic Republic since its takeover after the 1979 Revolution. This, as is known, has been a Janus-faced matter in how Kurds are perceived both by the Islamic Republic establishment and by the rest of the Iranians.

Time and again, the struggle and demands of Kurds for a more open political atmosphere, their involvement in their own affairs, and overall right to self-determination have been repressed or relegated on the ground that the Kurds are secessionists. The emancipation of Kurds is portrayed and prophesized as a loss to others, proactively omitting the plausible stance that the realisation of such rights invariably diffuses radical calls, if any, for territorial dissolution.

In the current round of political struggle, which is targeting the very foundations of the Islamic Republic, numerous displays of inter-ethnic solidarity among various groups of Iranians can be seen. Promising signs are such that, especially in Iran itself, the traditional power structures within the Iranian society are giving way to a more genuine, inclusive, and tolerant form of politics which is sensitive to the issues and rights of marginalised sectors.

This is an optimistic image, and yet might risk a degree of naïveté. Revolutionary climates are inevitably ambivalent, and today’s requirements and achievements might turn obsolete tomorrow. Nonetheless, the figure of the ethnic/subaltern minority has made its way into the centre. This is not only vital to Iran’s emancipation but is simultaneously capable of triggering a global replication.

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