Iranian Sunni Kurds bomb the Iranian capital, Tehran

Kurds executed in Sanandaj, 1979 by an Iranian firing squad led by notorious Khalkhali

A couple days ago 5 people loyal to ISIS conducted a terrorist attack in the Iranian capital of Tehran, 4 out of 5 attackers were sunni Kurds from Iran. The majority of sunni Kurds in Iran follows the teachings of Imam Shafi’i and a minority of sunni Kurds are adherent to sufism(naqshbandi). The sunni Kurds of Iran are just as religious or probably even less religious than the average Iranian shia or their fellow Kurdish shias. Some go to the friday mosque, do their prayer and then go home, some may pray 5 times a day at home and then slurp a bottle of smuggled whiskey at night. So there is no tradition of extremist salafism or wahabism or any extreme form Islam being traditionally present amongst the sunni Kurdish community in Iran. But for some reason today, salafism or religious extremism in ‘Iranian’ Kurdistan is on a steady rise, you see bearded men of the salafist type walking the streets today being sort of non-existent 10–15 years ago. To understand this, we need to look at the background.

During the shah, all kinds of religious activity whether amongst sunni kurds or iranian shias was suppressed in favor of a heavily secular society. This polarization naturally led to a strong religious opposition, amongst Iranian shias as amongst Kurdish sunnis. Just as amongst Iranian leftists. There was big underground activity. But the Kurds still had their religious sheikh’s(Sheikh Ezzedin Hosseini), they had their mullah’s and their Grand Mufti(Ahmad Muftizadeh) , although under the watchful eye of the shah. So when the revolution came 1979 and the shah was gone and the presence of the state was gone in the country, everyone jumped into opportunity. Kurdish parties such as PDKI, Komala, Xebat, Iranian communist parties like Fedayi, Tudeh and Iranian MEK, different student movement like the one led by Bani Sadr(whom later became president) surfaced with each one having a support base somewhere, some larger than the other. But Khomeini and his followers drew the longest straw and got the popular support amongst Iranians(incl shia Kurds). And an extremist version of shia Islam under the name of Velayat-Faqih where religion intereferes in state affairs became the new order. Notice that Khomeini and his likes such as Khalkhali had these extremist ideas as students under Ayatollah Boroujerdi but were silenced and ridiculed for such bizarre extremist ideas but now there was no shah and there was no Boroujerdi.

In Kurdistan however, people now had political and religious leaders that represented them and guided them openly and directly. There were two main kurdish leaders, one was Dr Ghassemlou(leader of PDKI) who won the majority of the votes in W.Azerbaijan province in a free election and was chosen as the kurdish representative in a new post-shah Iranian constitution. However, none of the kurdish demands such as the demand for a self-governing body for the kurdish areas were approved, not even considered. The other main leader was the religious Sheikh Ezzadin Hosseini whom enjoyed not only support from the Kurdish people but also from the main kurdish parties Komala(communist) and PDKI(leftist) and was one the main negotiators with the new Iranian regime under Khomeini. He realized very quickly that Khomeini was doing taqqiya(lying) straight to them. They had no intent on giving in on any of the points the kurdish representatives had put forward. The new Iranian regime led under Khomeini issued a fatwa in 1979, in which he sought to destroy the kurdish movement and take full control of the Kurdish areas.

Before the Iranian army besieged the kurdish city of Sanandaj, the people were divided between two support bases. The majority was behind Komala, PDKI and Sheikh Ezzadin who were preparing to defend the city against the Iranian army and those who followed the much respected Kurdish Mufti, Ahmed Muftizadeh. Ahmad Muftizadeh unlike Sheikh Ezzadin belived in an Islamic State, where religion dictates the rules and laws of a country. So he and his loyalists fought with Khomeini against the defending Peshmerga. After a month long siege, the Iranian military took control of the city and Muftizadeh thought he had secured a future autonomy for the kurdish region. A couple of years later, specifically 1983, he realized it was all a lie and dropped his support for the Iranian regime and was consuequently imprisioned and was tortured so badly that shortly after he was released, he died.

After the Iran-Iraq war ended, the Iranian regime sought a peace meeting with Dr Ghassemlou(leader of PDKI) to end the conflict and solve the kurdish problem, he was killed in cold blood in a restaurant in Vienna by regime agents in 1989. The same happened a couple years later in another ‘peace’ meeting, this time with his predecessor Dr Sharafkandi in a restaurant in Berlin this time, 1992. Sheikh Ezzadin was exiled to Sweden since long and died there 2011.

The Kurdish people in Iran no longer have any political, nor religious leaders that represents them, the Iranian regime won’t allow it because they know they would seek a rational cause. They know they conquered the kurdish areas by force and did not liberate them.

Iran now has control over every sunni mosque in the Kurdish sunni areas and keeps a constant eye and ear on what is being said and preached by the local mullahs. So if you belive these Kurdish ISIS fighters were preached by a kurdish mullah in a kurdish sunni mosque, and not because of polarization which led to some kind of underground activity like under the shah, I won’t say you’re wrong. Because knowing the Iranian mentality, I’m equally certain the Iranian regime has known about this phenomenal for quite a long time and there likely are mosques where they actually pro-actively encourage the breeding of salafism and other types of islamic extremism. Remember when the Iraqi based Kurdish jihadist movement, Ansar-Al Islam was pushed out in a joint Peshmerga-US operation from Iraqi Kurdistan back in early 2000's. Iran took them in, fed them and re-supplied them to counter the US dominance in the region. They did the same with Al-Qaida to the east in Afghanistan. Bashar Al-Assad had the grand mufti of Syria, to preach extremist versions of Islam to his followers to go do jihad in Iraq against Americans and ‘infidels’. So this would not be something surprising. You reap what you sow, right?

I’m gonna end this piece with a short comical, religious and offensive story; A kurdish father lived in the city of Mahabad and his son was studying in the capital Tehran. Winter was coming and he asked if he could come stay with his son for a couple of weeks, his son said, yes. Time went and he was getting bored, so he decided to go to the mosque but he then realized there are no sunni mosques in Tehran, so he decided to visit a shia mosque instead. He started liking it and started going there quite often, so one day his son stopped him and asked what was so special with going to this shia mosque. He said “Imam Shafi’i have made hare halal for us, we release 5 hunting dogs and can still not catch it, but in shia islam with one single prayer you can have a sighe(prostitute) sleeping under you.”

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