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Murder at Mykonos: Anatomy of a Political Assassination

Following several failed attempts at reconciliation between the government in Tehran and Kurdish leaders,11 on August 18, 1979, acting as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, Ayatollah Khomeini ordered units of the Army and the Revolutionary Guards to intervene in the Province of Kurdistan to restore order and re-establish the authority of the central government.12 Khomeini dubbed the PDKI the “party of Satan”13 and the regime made membership of the party a crime against the IRI and therefore punishable according to both Islamic and Iranian law.14 The PDKI was once more forced underground, and armed confrontations continued between the peshmerga and government forces.15

In a keynote address broadcast on Radio Tehran on December 17th, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini attacked ethnic identification and calls for greater regional autonomy for Iran’s ethnic minorities as being contrary to Islamic principles and thus, ultimately, counter-revolutionary in character:

Sometimes the word minority is used to refer to people such as the Kurds, Lurs, Turks, Persians, Baluchis, and such. These people should not be called minorities, because this term assumes that there is a difference between these brothers. In Islam, such difference has no place at all. … There is no difference between Muslims who speak different languages, for instance, the Arabs or the Persian. It is very probable that such problems have been created by those who do not wish the Muslim countries to be united … they create the issues of nationalism, of pan-Iranianism, pan- Turkism, and such isms, which are contrary to Islamic doctrines. Their plan is to destroy Islam and the Islamic philosophy.16

Attempts to broker a ceasefire foundered over IRI demands that the PDKI lay down its arms before meaningful negotiations could take place. 17 The outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war in September 1980 forced the IRI to pay urgent attention to subduing the security threat on its northern border where the government controlled the major Kurdish cities but many rural areas essentially remained under PDKI control.18 A major IRI offensive in July 1984 succeeded in driving PDKI forces across the border into Iraq.19

With the leaders of the PDKI now based outside its borders, the Islamic Republic repeatedly resorted to assassination as a tool to disrupt their activities, an approach it adopted towards all the major centers of

[11] For example, a delegation was sent on February 14, 1979 by Prime Minister Bazargan (Feb – Nov 1979) headed by Dariush Foruhar (Labor Minister) to Kurdistan. Ma'muriat-i Vazir-i Kar Dar Kurdistan [The Mission of the Minister of Labor in Kurdistan], KAYHAN (Tehran), No.10641, Bahman 30, 1357 (February 19, 1979). See also Muzakirat-i Hayat-i I’zami Dar Marivan Bih Natijih Narisid, [The Discussions of the Delegation Send to Marivan Was Fruitless], AYANDIGAN, No. 3408, Mordad 3, 1358 (July 7, 1979), also NADER ENTESSAR, Kurdish Ethnonationalism 35 (1992). Another failed attempt at negotiation was led by Ayatollah Taleghani on March 24, 1979. Id., at 36-37.
[12] Farman-i Imam Bih Unvan-i Ra’is-i Kull-i Quva Darbariyyih Havadis-i Paveh [Imam’s Order as the Commander in Chief about the Incidents of Paveh], KAYHAN (Tehran), No. 10784, Mordad 27, 1358 (August 18, 1979); See also Ikhtar-i Imam Bih Saran-i Artish Va Gandarmerie Dar Murid-i Paveh [Imam’s Warning to the Heads of the Army and Gendarmerie about Paveh], ETTELA'AT (Tehran), No. 15931, Mordad 27, 1358 (August 18, 1979). See also Farman-i Imam Bih Vahidhayih Zamini, Hava'i Va Darya'i: Bidun-i Fawt-i Vaght Bih Sanandaj Biravid [Imam's order to the Army, Navy and Airforce: Go to Sanandaj Immediately], KAYHAN (Tehran), No. 10786, Mordad 29, 1358 (August 20, 1979). See also Mohajiman-i Paveh Sarkub Shudand [Paveh's insurgents were crushed], KAYHAN (Tehran), No. 10785, Mordad 28, 1358 (August 19, 1979).
[13] Payam-i Imam Bih Mardom-i Kurdistan: Hizb-i Dimukrat Hizb-i Shaytan Ast [Imam's Message to the People of Kurdistan: The PDKI is The Party of Satan], ETTELA'AT (Tehran), No. 15934, Mordad 30, 1358 (August 21, 1979).
[14] See Bah Tasvib-i Shurayih Inqilab-i Islami: Hizb-i Dimukrat-i Kurdistan Qayr-i Qanuni Ilam Shud, [The Islamic Revolutionary Council Announced: Kurdish Democratic Party is Illegal], KAYHAN (Tehran), No. 10785, Mordad 28, 1358 (August 19, 1979).
[15] NADER ENTESSAR, KURDISH ETHNONATIONALISM 38 (1992), DAVID MCDOWALL, THE KURDS: A NATION DENIED 76 (1992) and Fereshteh Koohi-Kamali, Nationalism in Iranian Kurdistan, in THE KURDS: A CONTEMPORARY OVERVIEW 185 (Philip G. Kreyenbroek and Stefan Sperl eds., 1992).
[16] David Menashri, Khomeini’s Policy toward Ethnic and Religious Minorities, in ETHNICITY, PLURALISM, AND THE STATE IN THE MIDDLE EAST 216-217 (Milton J. Esman and Itamar Rabinovich eds., 1988).
[17] DAVID MCDOWALL, THE KURDS: A NATION DENIED 76 (1992); NADER ENTESSAR, KURDISH ETHNONATIONALISM 38 (1992).
[18] Michael Rubin, Are Kurds a pariah minority?, 70 Social Research, 295 (2003), available at: http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2267/is_1_70/ai_102140955 (date of access: Nov. 13, 2006)
[19] 19 PETER PILZ, ESKORTE NACH TEHERAN 28 (1997).

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Political Killings, Assassinations, Political Freedom