Armed resistance in Iranian Kurdistan, redeeming or damaging?

His fall ignited a wave of doubts mixed with grief. On social media outlets, Kurds at home and diaspora asked why choose a gun over a pen? Why choose death over prison? Will this armed resistance take the lives of our best people for an achievable freedom?

LOS ANGELES, United States (Kurdistan24) – When after two decades of a ceasefire, the armed forces of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) and Iranian Revolutionary Guards clashed in mid-June, two different waves of reactions dominated Kurds at home and abroad.

This week, on the twenty-seventh anniversary of the assassination of one of the most influential Kurdish leaders, Dr. Abdulrahman Qasemlou, and in protest to a new wave of arbitrary arrests and forest burning, Iranian Kurds went on strike by closing down their stores in the central markets and writing anti-government slogans on the walls. 



Mustafa Hijri, the KDPI leader, told Kurdistan24 that the clashes have been in self-defense and not an attack on Iran, claiming their Peshmerga entered the villages to start a dialogue with civilians about their rights.

But Iran maintains that the entrance of armed forces into its borders is unacceptable and so it did not hesitate to shoot the “trespassers” dead or to destroy buildings, which could have been Peshmerga safe houses.

KDPI recently announced that if Iran continues its aggression, the party would change its strategy from defensive to offensive.



The defenders of the KDPI’s new strategies celebrate the renewal of the struggle, believing that the clashes will intimidate Iran to reduce ethnic suppression and will draw international attention to the situation of the subjugated Kurdish minority who make up the majority of those imprisoned and executed for political charges.

Hijri confirmed that the revival of the armed struggle has created an opportunity for dialogue between them and other Kurdish and Iranian opposition parties.

Shahed Alavi, a Washington DC-based analyst, told Kurdistan24 in a phone interview that even during the ceasefire Iran did not stop arresting, torturing, and executing suspected KDPI affiliates.

“With or without weapons, KDPI is banished in Iran. Having no chance to be legally active and unwilling to stay passive in their camps, KDPI is faced with two options: either to end its political movement or to step up their resistance," Alavi said.

Iran silences any voice that criticizes the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who officially declares himself as “the representative of God on Earth.” Thousands of Kurdish activists have been charged with Moharebeh (enmity against God).



Kawa Jawanmardi, a journalist and an esteemed KDPI member, like many other Kurds, found the gun mightier than the pen. He turned his back to his writing and his fiancée who lived in Europe and joined the liberation movement because he believed his loved ones will not be free until Kurdistan is.

 When after several hours of counter-attacks, Jawanmardi ran out of ammunitions, he used his last grenade to take his own life instead of surrendering. He had already spent three years in an Iranian prison and his father was executed. He knew what was expecting him.

His fall ignited a wave of doubts mixed with grief. On social media outlets, Kurds at home and diaspora asked why choose a gun over a pen? Why choose death over prison? Will this armed resistance take the lives of our best people for an achievable freedom?



A group opts for pacifism at all times—even when dealing with a government that holds the world record for having the most executions. Others argue that in many dictatorial developing countries, an armed struggle could be useful in making changes.

But is this the right time and place for KDPI to confront Iran?

Dr. Kamran Matin, an associate professor of International Relations at Sussex University, believes while KDPI’s armed resistance is legitimate; it is neither feasible nor desirable.

Instead, he argues that the African National Congress (ANC) model could be appropriate for Kurds: "Preserving defensive military capabilities (which can be used also at times of general crisis when the central state is weakened) but concentrating on political struggle inside Rojhelat using whatever means and possibilities that exist.”

Most Rojhelati Kurds say their most significant problem is the crippling economy, unemployment, and living beneath the poverty line. This reality can signify two messages: 1. People who do not have much to lose will likely join an impactful movement against dictatorship. 2. It can also mean that political parties should focus on the primary needs of the citizen.

"The best avenue... is promoting organisation, solidarity, and struggle around 'economic', and 'trade union' related issues but also cultural and social rights, which are of daily significance for a vast number of Kurds in Iran, and Iranians more generally," Matin said.

With little or no alternative would an exiled political party be able to improve the life of Iranian Kurds who are suffering multiple levels of economic and ethnic oppression?


Editing by Delovan Barwari