By Hamid Yazdan Panah
This past week, the Kurdish city of Mahabad was the scene of intense anti-regime protests, following the suspicious death of a young Kurdish woman. The protests were spurred after the death of Farinaz Khosrawani, a 25 year old Kurdish woman, who died after a fall from the 4th floor of a hotel in which she was employed. According to various reports, Khosrawani’s death was allegedly related to her resistance of an attempted rape by a member of the Iranian intelligence ministry. The incident served as a boiling point for tensions among the ethnic Kurds of the city, who set fire to the hotel in question, and resulted in protests and clashes with security forces.
Unconfirmed reports claimed that two people were killed in clashes with security forces, following the deployment of a large number of revolutionary guards to Kurdish cities. In a statement, Amnesty International stated, “According to Kurdish rights activists outside Iran, the violence started after riot police resorted to batons, tear gas and possibly live ammunition to disperse the crowd, injuring multiple people. The activists told Amnesty International that Ministry of Intelligence officials have since arrested at least 20 people, and some wounded protesters have avoided going to hospital due to fears of being arrested.”
The protests have since spread to neighboring cities, and have included calls for a general strike and other acts of protest. The uprising in Mahabad was supported by international acts of solidarity, as Iranians across the globe staged protests and pickets in support of the upheaval in Mahabad.
The incident is just the latest indicator of the ongoing war between the Iranian regime against ethnic minorities, including Kurds. The systematic discrimination and repression faced by minorities including the Kurds has long been the source of tension and anger in Iran. The protests in Mahabad demonstrate just how quickly these tensions can flair into dramatic anti-government protests.
The Kurdish uprising which took place last week also coincided with the five year anniversary of the execution of a number of Kurdish activists. Shirin Alamhouli, Ali Heidarian, Farhad Vakili, and Farzad Kamangar were Kurdish activists who were executed on May 9th, 2010. They were accused of associating with Kurdish groups who stand opposed to the Iranian regime. A number of Kurdish activists remain imprisoned or on death row for political crimes.
In an interview with Rudaw, Omar Baleki, a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran told Rudaw, “On the surface it is just an attack on a single woman, but in reality this injustice and repression has been happening to the Kurdish people for 36 years.”
Hamid Yazdan Panah is an attorney focused on asylum and immigration in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is also a human rights activist focused on the Middle East and Iran.