Iran (KDPI)


Conflict Summary

Approximately 1.4 million Kurds live in the Iranian province of Kurdistan and some 2.8m reside elsewhere in the county. There are also around 16,000 Iranian Kurdish refugees situated outside of Iran, mainly in Iraq and Jordan. Iranian Kurds are primarily Sunni Muslims and claim that the Shia Muslim regime discriminates against them. Iranian Kurds desire equal status in Iran and greater autonomy within their own province. The Kurdish area of Iran was divided up in 1941; during the rule of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlevi between 1941 and 1979 the Kurds were heavily suppressed. Iranian Kurds established the Republic of Mahabad in 1946, but Iran reclaimed the territory soon after. Reza Shah pursued a harsh policy of assimilation and, consequently, relations between the Kurds and the Iranian regime remained tense throughout the 1950s and 1960s. When the Islamic Revolution began in 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini declared a holy war on the Kurds. The Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) responded by launching an armed struggle against the regime. In the 1980s, the insurgency occurred alongside the war with Iraq; Kurds were accused of betraying the country. After the war, Iranian Kurds suffered persecution, and the policy of assimilation was maintained. In the 1980s, the KDPI was outlawed and driven into Iraq, providing the Iranian government with an opportunity to exert control over the Kurdish province. Iranian Kurds have gained recognition in parliament, and the country’s moderate pro-reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, has tried to improve their representation in the provincial bureaucracy. However, the Kurds have been disappointed with these reforms. Furthermore, it is suspected that the Iranian government is continuing to abuse the human rights of the Kurdish population.