Kurdish groups living in exile in northern Iraq feel abandoned by the West after being targeted by Iran which is seeking scapegoats for the protests sweeping the country, the Guardian reported on Saturday.
“We are tied to our people and the protesters. But it is not us that started these events. It is not our forces that are on the streets,” General Hussein Yazdanpanah, the leader of an Iranian Kurdish group, the Kurdistan Freedom party (PAK), told the Guardian about the Iranian government’s efforts to tie the protests to certain conspiracy theories.
The demonstrations in Iran started almost six weeks ago, when a 22-year old Kurdish woman died at a hospital in Tehran due to brain damage she suffered when she was arrested by the morality police for not wearing her hijab properly.
Iran is home to an estimated number of 10 million Kurds, known for their decades-long struggle for political rights. Several of the Iranian Kurdish rebel groups are based in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, where some 10,200 Iranian Kurds have been registered as refugees or asylum seekers.
Tehran is claiming that the exiled groups are orchestrating the demonstrations in Iran, while the Kurdish exiles say the Iranian government is using them as scapegoats to divert attention from the real reasons behind the frustrations of the demonstrators taking to the streets.
“Iran wants to demonstrate to the world that the protests are not relevant to what is happening inside the country and are instead driven by affairs from the outside. They are exporting this. They want the world’s attention to be taken away,” the Guardian quoted Yazdanpanah as saying.
Since late September, Iran has several times launched airstrikes against Kurdish exile groups in northern Iraq. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on Saturday that his country would not tolerate the continued armed presence of what he called “terrorists” in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, and their moves against Iran’s security.
Kurdish forces in Iraq who received guns from the West five years ago during their fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) now feel ignored by the international community.
“This territory is supervised by the international coalition and they know our role in fighting ISIS. How can an airspace be monitored by them and something like this be allowed to happen?” asked Yazdanpanah.
“The solution is to close our skies and to stop Iran targeting us. Iran does not respect diplomatic relations, nor soft power. It only knows strength,” he said.
Kurdish exiles in northern Iraq also compare their situation to that of the Ukranians, except that the Ukrainians have been enjoying generous Western support against Russian aggression.
“The weapons that are being given to Ukraine could also be given to us. Even a small amount. You can give the Kurds in Iran similar support. Why are you not supporting a stateless people who have fought ISIS and supported your interests? Without us, they would have made it to Europe,” Yazdanpanah said.