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Women fighting against the Ayatollahs from the Kurdish Mountains – Global Issues


Co-policeman PJAK Zilan Vejin and a fellow fighter somewhere in the mountains of the Kurds. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza / IPS
  • by Karlos Zurutuza (iran-iraq border)
  • Associated Press Service

We are somewhere in the mountains across the border between Iran and Iraq. We are unable to provide our coordinates, nor can we photograph the guerrilla fighters or any spatial reference that would provide clues to their location. That’s the deal.

PJAK is an organization formed mainly of Kurdish men and women from Iran fighting for the democratization of the country through the lines of “democratic coalitionism”, a political and culturally progressive, liberal left-wing political system identified by Abdullah Öcalan. He is a co-founder and leader of the PKK (Kurdishistan Workers’ Party) who has been in prison since 1999 and sentenced to life in prison by the Turkish state.

Two women in their thirties invited us to sit around a table inside a small mountain hut. One of them is Zilan Vejin, co-chairman of PJAK. We asked her about the most pressing issue: the string of protests in Iran that have challenged Shia theocracy since 1979.

It was on September 16 of last year when Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman, was beaten to death by an Iranian “ethical policeman” for wearing a Muslim hijab improperly. Since then, thousands of men and women have taken to the streets chanting “Women, Life, Freedom,” a slogan Vejin recalls, which was coined by her movement during a meeting in 2013.

“The issue of women’s freedom is an issue whose importance was identified, analyzed and identified by our leadership 40 years ago. Today, all Iranian peoples are facing face it,” the guerrilla fighter told IPS.

Some international organizations such as Amnesty International denounced the difficulties of ethnic minorities – such as Kurds, Baluchs or Arabs – in accessing education, employment or housing.

In addition to socioeconomic discrimination, all women regardless of race appear to have been targeted by theocratic governments.

In it latest report Domestically, Human Rights Watch denounces the marginalization of half the population in matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and child custody. The NGO also noted the lack of options for women in situations such as domestic violence or child marriage.

Can this civil revolt end all of this? The PJAK co-leader was optimistic.

“This uprising is very different from all the uprisings that have occurred in the 43 years in which the ayatollahs have gained power. It started in women-led Kurdistan, and from there it spread across the country because it brought together people of all nationalities within Iran,” declared the senior guerrilla fighter.

She emphasized, the headscarf is “an excuse for an uprising for freedom and democracy. People don’t just want reform but don’t seek to change existing policies, systems and administrations.”

As for whether armed struggle could be one of the means to that end, Vejin clings to the right of “legitimate defense”.

“Armed struggle is only a part of our strength that also includes civil, social and democratic action. Of course, if the State carries out massacres, we will not be left alone,” said the Kurdish woman.

On the Iranian board

The female PJAK militiamen are not the only Kurdish women in Iran willing to take up arms. There are women fighting alongside men in the ranks of the PDKI (Democratic Party of the Kurds in Iran), while the PAK (Kurdish Freedom Party) even has an all-female contingent.

The latter’s ultimate goal was to establish an independent Kurdish state comprising the four parts that the country is currently divided into (Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria).

Hana Hussein Yazdanpana, a spokesperson for the PAK women’s team, spoke to IPS by phone from an unknown location in the mountains. Apparently, their bases in the valley have become frequent targets of Iranian missiles.

“The last one happened on September 28: we lost 10 people and injured 21. Iran has threatened us to do it again if we don’t stop supporting the protests and provide shelter to people fleeing the country,” Yazdanpana explained.

According to her, PAK has 3,000 yen Peshmerga (“Those facing death”, in Kurdish) warriors. A third are women who have received training from the US and German militaries who, among others, are included in the international coalition against Islamic State.

They have also battled Tehran-backed Shiite militias operating on Iraqi soil. As for whether they would use that experience to fight against the ayatollahs, Yazdanpana was blunt.

“The war must be fought in peace. The protest will only succeed if the free world openly supports the people and takes action against the Islamic Republic. “

In addition to the mountains of the Kurds, guerrillas can also be found on the Internet. Above it websiteThe Komala Party of Kurdistan in Iran defines itself as “a social-democratic party advocating a free and democratic federal Iran.”

With bases in the southeastern corner of the Iraqi Kurdish Autonomous Region – very close to the border with Iran – Komala claims to be the first Kurdish organization to ever form a battalion of female fighters, in 1982.

“When Komala was founded in 1969, one of its main pillars, alongside socialism and Kurdish self-determination, was gender equality,” said Zagros Khosravi, a member of the central committee. , talk to IPS over the phone.

He pointed to a team of “several hundred fighters deployed in the mountains”, but stressed that their main strength lies in the “thousands” that can be mobilized inside Iran. “Many of them were trained in civil resistance tactics,” the guerrilla noted.

One of the most recent milestones, he added, was the establishment, together with the PDKI, a node of cooperation between the Kurdish-Iranian political parties. He added: “You can see the results in the high level of participation of the Kurds in these protests.

Are from Kurdish Peace InstituteKamal Chomani, a Kurdish affairs analyst, told IPS by phone that coordination between Kurdish-Iranian organizations would be “key” if violence could escalate against the protests. lead to an open armed conflict with the regime.

The differences between the different Kurdish-Iranian organizations, he added, respond to the diversity of the overall Kurdish political arc.

“While in Syria and Turkey the majority of the Kurds are leftist, progressive and socialist, in Iran and Iraq we come across a nationalist variant,” explains Chomani. and traditionalism, where the tribal key is also important.”

As for how these actors are deployed on the difficult Iranian chessboard, the expert predicts this scenario:

“The PJAK is the unit with the most experience in guerrilla warfare due to its affiliation with the PKK and they have great organizational capacity. The PDKI, and Komala in particular, have deep roots in Iran as they have been very active politically and militarily since the 1970s, and that would allow them to mobilize fighters within the country. . “

Meanwhile, Iranian women continued to take to the streets. According to data from HRANA news the firm – run by human rights activists – an estimated 300 people have been killed since the protests began. The number of detainees now exceeds 13,000.

© Inter Press Service (2022) – All rights reservedOrigin: Inter Press Service

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