The following is a transcript of a speech that the Secretary Generalof the PDKI, Mustafa Hijri, gave in the French Parliament on the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Sadeq Saharafkandi, Fatah Abdoli, Homayon Ardalan.
Democracy in Iran, Peace and Stability in the Middle East
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI), I would like to welcome you most cordially to this conference. I also would like to thank the Kurdish Institute in Paris for organizing this conference and for giving me the opportunity to speak here.
We have gathered here today to commemorate the assassination of Dr. Sadeq Saharafkandi, Fatah Abdoli, Homayon Ardalan, and Nouri Dehkordi. Dr. Sharafkandi had joined the PDKI when he was a doctoral student in the late 1970s. I had the privilege of working with him for many years. He was a devoted champion of the rights of the Kurdish people and of democracy and liberty in Iran. Following the assassination of Dr. Ghassemlou on July 13, 1989, Dr. Sharafkandi assumed the leadership of PDKI. The assassination of Dr. Ghassemlou was a great loss for the Kurdish nation. During those difficult times, Dr. Sharafkandi managed, through his wise and determined leadership, to inspire hope for a better future within the ranks of our party and among the Kurdish people.
Dr. Sharafkandi, Fatah Abdoli, Homayon Ardalan, and Nouri Dehkordi were assassinated in Berlin by the Iranian regime on September 17, 1992. Had it not been for the brave decision of the German judiciary to put the assassins on trial, the assassination case of Dr. Sharafkandi and his aides would have remained unresolved. The assassination of Dr. Sharafkandi was one of many terrorist acts that the Iranian regime has carried out on European soil.
According to Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, which is an independent organization founded by human rights scholars and lawyers in 2004, the Iranian regime has assassinated 162 of its opponents in 19 different countries around the world. In addition, I can inform you that during the 1990s alone, the Iranian regime assassinated 151 members of our party in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Although other states too have targeted their political opponents outside of their borders, the Islamic Republic’s pattern of assassination shows that terrorism is an integral part of its strategy for maintaining dictatorship at home and spreading fundamentalism and fear abroad. Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism has not only targeted Iranian citizens, but also the citizens of many other countries, including some European countries.
Recognizing these facts – that is, that terrorism is an integral part of the Iranian regime’s strategy at home and abroad, and that its victims are not only Iranians – has important political implications.
For a very long time, we in the democratic Iranian opposition have argued that the long-term interests of the Iranian population and those of the international community are the same: namely, a free and democratic Iran. However, in view of the Iranian regime’s quest for nuclear weapons, its global sponsorship of terrorism, as well as its attempts to dominate the Middle East region, this is more evident than before.
Considering this reality, support for the historical struggle of liberty and democracy in Iran is not only morally right, but is also strategically vital from the point of view of regional peace and meaningful stability.
Naturally, this means that stability should be defined in a new way. Stability should not only be defined as the absence of war or low-intensity conflict. It should be defined positively by linking it to the existence of enduring democracy – as in Western Europe. The dominant concept of “stability” in the Middle East has proved to be a human tragedy. Democracy activists across the region have for decades argued that stability built on repressive institutions is not only a human tragedy, but also doomed to failure.
This is the case because the dictatorial regimes in the Middle East have turned the states of the region into mortal enemies of their citizens. The Arab Spring has once again reminded us of this reality. It should therefore come as no surprise that the greatest dangers to the illegitimate and oppressive regimes in the Middle East are not external, but internal. The “stability” they believe to have achieved, which has been maintained through systematic violations of human rights, ultimately leads to their own downfall or destruction – as we saw in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. The same process has now reached Syria, although the ruling regime, with Iran’s full backing, tries to resist this process by using its entire killing machine. Those who in the past believed that dictatorships in the Middle East can maintain stability, and for this reason overlooked the moral and human tragedy this has involved, should now adopt a positive concept of stability.
Stability defined in this way is not only morally right, but will also have strategic value in terms of regional security in the Middle East. One only needs to look at relations between Western Europe, the United States, Australia, and Japan since the Second World War. Meaningful stability and enduring regional and international security can only be achieved through democracy.
A democratic Iran that respects the rights of its national, cultural, and religious communities was the vision that Dr. Sharafkandi struggled for. He believed that a free and democratic Iran will not only be at peace with itself, but also with the outside world. Iran has every potential become a great country and a constructive member of the international community if it takes the path toward liberty and democracy.
Until now, however, ruling regimes in Iran have violated the rights of Iranian citizens in a systematic manner. Although millions of Iranians, irrespective of ethnicity or gender, have experienced oppression, one cannot overlook the fact that they are being oppressed for different reasons. The Kurds, the Azeris, the Balouchis, the Turkmen, the Arabs, and members of religious minorities such as the Bahai and Yarsan, are being oppressed because of their national, linguistic, and religious identity. Recognizing this fact is of fundamental importance for creating a new political system in Iran that is truly democratic.
In Iranian Kurdistan, the oppression is institutionalized and has political, cultural, economic, and social dimensions. Most important, Kurds are denied education in their mother tongue and the right to self-rule to protect their national heritage and culture. As a result, Kurdish culture is under constant threat. Furthermore, arbitrary arrests, imprisonment and torture of human rights activists, intellectuals, and even ordinary civilians are common practices in Iranian Kurdistan. Rape and sexual violence are institutionalized in the prisons. In addition, as a result of deliberate state polices, Iranian Kurdistan has been kept in a condition of economic underdevelopment. This has had many negative consequences in terms of lack of proper education and employment opportunities, the existence of widespread social anxiety, high suicide rates (especially among women), drug addiction and many other social ills.
For these reasons, there is widespread popular support in Iranian Kurdistan for regime change. The very low turnouts in, or even boycotts of, the sham elections that the clerical regime organizes in Kurdistan are evidence of this reality. We are confident that if there were free and fair elections in Iran – which we think are impossible under the current regime – the Kurdish people would vote for a federal and secular democracy. I want to remind you that on April 1, 1979, a referendum was held asking Iranians to vote “Yes” or “No” on establishing an “Islamic Republic.” In Iranian Kurdistan, however, this referendum was boycotted.
We also believe that the demand for a new political system in Iran has wide popular support all over the country. We can support this argument by simply raising the following question: if the current regime in Tehran believes that it has the support of a majority of the population in Iran, then why not allow free and fair elections in the presence of international observers? The answer to that question is, needless to say, obvious.
It is ultimately the responsibility of the Iranian population – with all its diversity – to bring about a democratic government in their country that reflects their interests and respects their individual and collective rights. However, to succeed in this struggle, we need the moral and political support of the international community. It was in part for this reason that Dr. Sharafkandi traveled to Berlin in 1992. He had held meetings with European politicians to explain his vision of a democratic future for Iran and to garner support for it.
Dr. Sharafkandi and countless other Kurdish leaders, politicians and activists have sacrificed their lives for this vision. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan shall continue the struggle for Kurdish national rights, liberty and democracy in Iran. We are willing, as ever, to assume our responsibility for a democratic transition in Iran and to make sacrifices to that end.