Iran - Kurdish opposition to the regime

On the 28th February 2012 Fabian was privileged to meet Mr Mustafa Hijri the leader of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI). This was a follow up to his recent visit to Northern Iraq which is also home to many Kurds. The meeting was an opportunity to hear in some frightening detail of the political situation in Iran with opposition to the regime being brutally suppressed at the same time that the country's leaders are persuing the development of nuclear technology with a war-mongering urgency.

The following biographical details of Mr Hijri have been supplied by the London office of the PDKI

Mr. Mustafa Hijri is the current leader of the PDKI. Mr. Hijri was born in 1945 in Nagahadeh in the West Azerbaijan Province of Iran. and following a university education became a teacher in secondary schools and a college. Mr. Hijri played a considerable role in the demonstrations in 1978 against the Shah's regime. After the revolution he ran in the first parliamentary elections in the constituencies of Naghadeh and Oshnavieh, where he won over 80% of the votes. But the newly established Islamic Republic of Iran rejected the results, and on the 17th of August 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini issued an Islamic decree, Fatwa, declaring Holy War against the Kurdish people and labelled the PDKI the "party of Satan".

Mr Hijri was elected into the PDKI leadership at the party's 4th Congress in 1979; he was later elected into the executive committee of the party. After that Iran assassinated the PDKI leader Dr. Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou in 1989 during peace negotiations in Vienna, Austria, Dr. Sadegh Sharafkandi was elected new party leader and Mr. Mustafa Hijri was elected deputy party leader. In September 1992 Dr. Sharafkandi was also assassinated by Iranian agents in Berlin, Germany. Upon which Mr. Hijri became interim party leader until the 10th PDKI congress in 1995. Between the 10th and 13th PDKI congress Mr. Hijri was deputy party leader and since the 13th party congress in 2006 he has been elected to lead the party.

Mr. Hijri himself has survived several assassination attempts, the last attempt on his life was as recent as 2007. Despite this Mr Hijri still strongly advocates democratic, federal and secular Iran.

Fabian entertains Mr Mustafa Hijri to afternoon tea in the Pugin Room at the Houses of Parliament

In his meeting with Fabian Mr Hijri was pleased to share his perspectives on the current situation in Iran with Fabian as a Member of Parliament with considerable knowledge of the Middle East and one very concerned over the developing situation in Iran.

Mr Hijri said -

1. Reform of the regime is impossible. Past elections demonstrate this. The regime uses elections in order to claim popular legitimacy. However, since elections in Iran are neither free nor fair, it certainly is the case that the current regime does not enjoy the support it claims. If the Islamic regime had majority support, free and fair elections would have been allowed.

2. The sanctions on Iran have impacted the Iranian economy dramatically, the Iranian currency has dropped by more than 40% compared to the dollar and this has led to a decrease in investment. The oil production has also dropped and unemployment figures have increased dramatically. However the sanctions have increased people's dissatisfaction with the regime. Despite the regimes attempts to blame Western countries for the economic situation the people have realized that it is in fact the regimes foreign policy that has brought about the sanctions. The PDKI also firmly believes that the sanctions have impacted the regimes capability to pursue its destructive policies in the region. But sanctions will not change this regimes behavior or policy regarding its nuclear program or its support for different terrorist organizations in the region.

3. The western focus on nuclear weapons is understandable. There are grave concerns that the rational imperatives of Mutually Assured Destruction would not be heeded by a theocratic regime and its threats to Israel cannot so easily be dismissed. In addition, a nuclear Iran risks triggering an arms race which could see Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt taking the nuclear road. Equally, if not more, worrying is the scenario that a nuclear-armed regime in Tehran would, in its quest for regional hegemony, be further emboldened and step up its support for international terrorism and cause greater instability in a volatile Middle East. The emphasis on nuclear weapons without due attention to the crimes of the regime in human rights and women's rights has, however, led to Iranians thinking that we don't care about them.

4. Instead of attempting to change the regimes behaviour and policies we believe that the time has come to think about how to change the regime. In this regard the most effective way will be supporting and empowering the democratic opposition in Iran. Threatening with military strikes on Iran's nuclear sites is contra productive because it will not remove the regime and if such an attack would take place and the regime would still be in power after the attack it could become more brutal against the people. However it is important to underline that we do not believe that the people will rally behind the regime if Iran is attacked. If the opposition is supported and empowered by the international community the people of Iran will have more confidence and support the opposition to a wider degree. MPs could for example invite the opposition to meetings and for talks on how to better unite around common goals. By helping and empowering the democratic opposition you would ensure a more open and greater chance for a democratic process.

Fabian was gratified to note that the PDKI did not call for Western military intervention to topple the government in Iran. If greater visible support to the work of the opposition parties would sustain the work of those in Iran seeking to bring about peaceful change, then Fabian is in favour of this. Fabian said, "In the days to come the attitude of the Iranian government towards the UN Nuclear Inspectors will be a key indicator of whether the regime is sincere in its public pronouncements or really is seeking to upset the balance of power in a volatile and critical region of the world".