One of my favorite figures in Kurdish history is Qazi Mohammad (1898-1947). Qazi was publicly executed by the Iranian government in 1947. 67 years after his hanging, his fierce yet poetic tongue in the face of his nation’s enemy still captivates my mind. A hero, a scholar, a family man, a patriot, a leader, a believer…Qazi Mohammed will always remain in Kurdish history, as one of the most influential and loved leaders.
This is a shortened version of events that led to his execution, in this piece I wanted to share with you the power that spoken word can have when your fate is already sealed.
Qazi was an admired leader of the short lived Republic of Kurdistan Mahabad which was established soon after World War II with Soviet backing. As a scholar, highly respected hereditary religious leader and judge, Qazi Mohammed was a popular member of Mahabad’s leading family which led to his ruling. As the president of the Kurdish republic, Qazi established a functioning public administration with a compulsory education system. Qazi was renowned for encouraging news and cultural publications as well as establishing a Kurdish radio station. After Qazi Mohammed had proclaimed the Republic of Kurdistan (Kurdish Republic of 1946) on the 22nd of January 1946 in Çarçira – Mahabad, he gave the following speech and oath to his Kurdish crowds:
“I swear in the name of God, in the name of the almighty God, in the name of honour of the Kurdish nation, in the name of the holy flag of Kurdistan, on behalf of my home, that until the last breath of my life and until the last drop of my blood, to strive and be loyal to the our independence and make myself serve the unity of the Kurdish nation, the people of the Republic of Kurdistan and Azerbaijan”
Noted for his valour and patriotism, Qazi still negotiated in good faith with the Iranian government. Unfortunately, the rise of Qazi Mohammad as an emblem of hope for Kurdish independence was too much of a threat in the eyes of Iran. When the Soviets withdrew from Iran in 1946 due to various international pressures and the pitiful promise of Iranian oil concessions, this created the economic downfall of Mahabad – The only Kurdish state of the 20th century.
During Qazi Mohammed’s two years of leadership, the Republic of Kurdistan received no major arsenal of weapons from any side to be of use against the Iranian military forces.
On the 15th of December 1946, the final economic representative of the Soviet left Mahabad. This decisive departure gave the Kurds the impression that they would no longer by protected by any means by the Soviet Union – their only ally. On 16th December 1946, Qazi Mohammad facilitated the surrender of the Kurdish Republic and was ready to surrender himself under following conditions:
– No massacre of any sort shall be committed.
– Tribes whom were allied with the Iranian government (jash) should not be allowed to enter the Republic.
– All roads to the Republic are off limits as long as the supporters of Barzani have not left the region.
On December the 17th 1946, the Iranian army invaded a vulnerable Mahabad, which fell with minimal fighting involved. With the fall of the Republic of Kurdistan, Qazi Mohammed along with other leaders of the Republic were trialed by the Iranian government.
Qazi Muhammed was accused of many deeds that he had not committed and the courts could not find evidence to find him guilty of such accusations thrown at him. However, to the following three charges, the resilient Qazi Mohammed pleaded guilty:
1. The visit to Baku [the capital of Azerbaijan].
2. The approval of Mullah Mustafa Barzanis and his mens immigration to Mahabad.
3. The appreciation of the fake Kurdish flag, and not the (Iranian) Flag of the judge.
To these three charges, Qazi Mohammed responded to the Iranian judge:
“Mullah Mustafa Barzani was and is no stranger to be given access to Kurdistan. No one had to call him, since Kurdistan is the home of all Kurds, unfortunately one part of his house is on the other side of the border.”
“First of all, our flag has not the sickle nor the hammer. Therefore, your accusation demonstrates your stupidity and irresponsibility. Know that neither your hands nor your insults will ever reach the flag of Kurdistan. The day will come, when the flag of Kurdistan will wave over this court.”
The shocked and angered Iranian judge started verbally insulting Qazi Mohammed and said “the Kurds are descendants of dogs”. This made Qazi Mohammed fiercely rise up and answer the judge in the following way:
“You are dogs, unworthy, shameless and dishonourable, since you’ve no limits when it comes to discriminating entire nations with your laws. You are dishonourable! Ultimately, you are achieving nothing. I know about my innocence and I have long been willing to die in this way. I am dying for the freedom of my people and I am proud of this honourable death. I see this death on my part as a blessing from Allah.”
When the judge began to threaten Qazi Mohammad and his brother Seyfi Qazi (Secretary of War of the Republic of Kurdistan) he responded with:
“We have already passed from our former lives as well as belongings. If you still want to offend me with the courage of some needles (pointing at the officer), I will break them with this fist, together with your teeth and your head.”
On the 31st of March 1947 around 23:00 the convicted leaders and a truck loaded with soldiers went off to Çarçira, Mahabad. Mullah Siddiq was with them and wrote Qazi Mohammed’s final testament. Qazi opened his mouth at yelled:
“Write! Write! The Kurdish people should know that I am up to the last breath.”
An Iranian officer interrupted: “Stop with this passage of empty words and let the mullah write down your testament for your child or your children, if you have any.”
“My child is the Kurdish people! You being servants and tools of foreigners will not understand such things. How long do I even have left to live? It must be written! Why else have you brought this Rafizi, Mullah Siddiq here?”
After this, Qazi Mohammed picked up a pen and wrote two paragraphs himself, one for the Kurdish people and one for his family. It is worth mentioning that even the paragraph written for his family is rumoured to also address the people of Kurdistan:
Paragraph written for the people:
“We could not have been defeated if we had fought with all the resources we had available, but we wanted to prevent the destruction of Mahabad and the slaughter of its people. With my available resources I could have fled from Mahabad but already in my speeches to the people of Mahabad, I said that my flight would have caused, as in Tabriz [capital of the province of East Azerbaijan in Iran, and then capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan] crimes and massacres. I made known to the people that I rather wanted to be captured and killed. I’m ready to be sacrificed, to besmirch the honour of the people and not to prevent a crime. Here I am true to my word. There are few people like me throughout history, so I will have the honour of giving you two tasks: avenge me and take responsibility for the path I’ve chosen. I’ve always been steadfast and now I am truly satisfied with the respect and devotion I have showed towards my people.”
Before his execution, Qazi Mohammed was given the right to call for a prayer. After he had prayed two rakats [bow in Islamic prayer], he looked in the direction of Ka’ba, raised his two hands and prayed aloud:
“God – my God! Be my witness. I followed you as far as I could. God – my God! You are my witness. I have always been at the service for the people, neglected none in need and never put myself, my family before anyone else. Take vengeance for the oppressed. God – my God, who knows everything! Rescue all the oppressed and the Kurdish people from the yoke of the oppressor.”
The honourable and legendary Qazi Mohammed warned his people before his execution:
“Do not trust the venal Iranian state. All their promises are lies. They cheated on us. Do not let go of our resistance. Long live a free Kurdistan!”
When the executioner tried to cover Qazi Mohammad’s eyes, Qazi refused and said:
“Traitor! What shame have I inflicted to want my eyes covered?! I will steadfastly look into the horizon of my beloved people the last seconds of my life. I want my heart, soul and life to be with my people until the moment I no longer breathe. I am an affectionate child of my nation and I shall remain so, why would I want you to cover my eyes?! Long live the Kurds! Long live the liberation of Kurdistan! Freedom will never be removed. You take the life of one Muhammad, but you have to know that there are countless Muhammad’s among the Kurds!”
On the 31st of March 1947, Qazi Mohammed, Seyfi Qazi [Qazi’s brother] and Sadri Gazi [a friend of Qazi’s and member of the Iranian Parliament] were executed by hanging in Çarçira, Mahabad – the site of which the declaration of the independence of the Republic of Kurdistan was given. This earned them a place among the family of martyrs who fell in their struggle for freedom against the oppressors.
The Republic of Kurdistan is a golden page in the history of the Kurdish liberation struggle, unfortunately for the Republic of Mahabad, the Cold War had seized the Kurdish self-determination under Qazi Mohammed. While the Iranian regime succeeded invading the Republic, they also created martyrs whose faces today are still painted as a symbol of freedom and honour. Qazi Mohammed and the executed men of the Republic still inspire the Kurd’s today. When independence is someday granted to Kurdistan, we shall remember them once more.
In addition I would also like to pay my respects to the four famous officers (Chwar Afsarakan); men from South Kurdistan who left for Mahabad to help in the fight for the Republic alongside Qazi Mohammad. In 1948 they were returned to Slemani after Qazi’s execution where the King of Iraq had them executed for treason, these were their final statements made to crowds of onlookers before their deaths in Bardarki Sara, Slemani.
“I have been nourished by my mother’s milk with love for the homeland. This rope, a so-called symbol of punishment, that has fallen to me as the price of my attachment to the homeland is very dear to me. It is the rope that will carve my name into the hearts of my compatriots and the memory of my nation, who have me, instead of father and mother. Death is a great honour under these circumstances. As for you, executioners, do not take too much pleasure in my death, because tomorrow you will be crushed by shame and disgrace.”
“My mother was from Mosul and my father was a Kurd. I was orphaned when I was very young. I fought alongside my uncles for the liberation of the homeland and for freedom for the Kurds. In doing so, I followed my heart, and I hope to have shown myself worthy of the memory of my father and deserving of my homeland. Death to our enemies, and long live Kurdistan!”
“Executioners, tell your masters that my blood will be avenged. I do not fear your power; it is that power which will elevate me to a Martyred Hero of Kurdistan. . . . I leave three young children behind me — they will learn that I died for the homeland, and I hope once grown up they will be inspired in their life by my example.”
“The tree of liberty will be watered by my blood and that of my comrades. I am hopeful that it will bloom soon and provide liberty and happiness to the homeland. Kill the imperialists and their despicable helpers.”
Their portraits along with that of Qazi Mohammed’s can be found beside Slemani Palace hotel in the Kurdish city of Slemani.