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Haunted Memories: The Islamic Republic’s Executions of Kurds in 1979

A ceasefire was declared on March 22.28 Tehran government representatives, including Mohamed Hossein Beheshti and Abolhassan Bani Sadr, met with Kurdish leaders, including Sheikh Ezzedin Hosseini, a charismatic spiritual and political Kurdish Sunni leader.29 The two sides agreed that Kurdish and Persian would be taught in schools in the Kurdish regions, local government would be administrated by elected Kurdish representatives, and Kurds would participate in drafting the new constitution. Ibrahim Younesi, a Kurd, was appointed governor general of Kurdistan Province.30 The central government also decided formally to not use army troops to quell internal ethnic rebellions. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (Sepah-e Pasdaran-e Enghelab-e Eslami), commonly known as Sepah, and its members as pasdaran, was to take care of internal security. 31

Despite the apparent agreement, skirmishes continued, and at the urging of the KDPI, the majority of Kurds boycotted the national referendum on the form of government that was held on March 30 and 31. The overwhelming majority of people who voted throughout Iran voted for the form of an Islamic republic and the Islamic Republic of Iran was declared on April 1.32

Sepah-e Pasdaran-e Enghelab-e Eslami or Sepah was formed by order of Ayatollah Khomeini in late February 1979. He ordered his followers to “form an army under the name of Sepah-e Enghelab made up of responsible people who believed in the revolution in order to protect the bloody achievements of the revolution.” Sepah was intended to work with the military among the people and if necessary aid the military, the police and gendarmerie without interfering in their mandates.

Sheikh Hosseini met with Khomeini in April and again asked for autonomy in the Kurdish regions. Khomeini countered that he asked for “security of Kurdistan.”33 On or about April 9, Khomeini sent a delegation headed by Ayatollah Kermani to negotiate with military officers who were staging a sit-in at the military base in Saqqez—a town in Iran’s Kurdistan Province—to protest the violence against the Kurds.34 Ettelaat newspaper, a national daily, reported that the matter was resolved. 35

The cycle of battles and fruitless negotiations continued, however. In late June 1979, Kurds fought with pasdaran in three Kurdish cities, leaving 12 dead.36 In early July, Khomeini sent a delegation headed by Ayatollahs Jannati and Kermani to Sanandaj in an effort to garner support from Sunni clerics, including Ahmad Moftizadeh, the leader of the Maktab-e Koran.37 Established in 1977, the Maktab-e Koran was a Sunni Islamic maktab (school) established by Moftizadeh (also known as Allameh Moftizadeh) in Mariwan and Sanandaj that later spread across Iranian Kurdistan. The Maktab promoted Islam based on


[28] Kurdish Rebel Fighting Halted, GUARDIAN, Mar. 23, 1979, at 6, available athttp://www.iranhrdc.org/english/human-rights-documents/3507-1979-newspapers.html.
[29] IZADY, supra note 3, at 69, 212; Sanandaj Bihvasilihyih Shawrayih 11 Nafari Idarih Mishavad [Sanandaj Will Be Governed by an 11-Member Council], KAYHAN, [Mar. 26, 1979], available athttp://www.iranhrdc.org/english/human-rights-documents/3507-1979-newspapers.html.
[30] ENTESSAR, supra note 6, at 36; Iran Bows to Kurd Demands, GUARDIAN, Mar. 26, 1979, at 4; Kurdish-Iranian Truce Brings Peace to Western City, BALT. SUN, Mar. 24, 1979, available athttp://www.iranhrdc.org/english/human-rights-documents/3507-1979-newspapers.html.
[31] HIRO, supra note 20, at 127. Khomeini created Sepah in April 1979 with the following mission: “Keeping order in cities and provinces, preventing instigations and conspiracies, preventing sabotages in the government and national offices, public places, and embassies, preventing the penetration of opportunist and anti-revolutionary elements in the society, executing the interim government’s orders and the verdicts of the Special Islamic Courts.” Az Viranihhayih Savak Ta Shabakiyih Artishiyih Azim, Bakhsh-i Avval [From SAVAK’s Ruins to a Massive Military Network – Part I], Radio Farda, Aug. 16, 2007, quoted in IRAN HUMAN RIGHTS DOCUMENTATION CENTER (IHRDC), NO SAFE HAVEN: IRAN’S GLOBAL ASSASSINATION CAMPAIGN 11-12 (2008), available athttp://www.iranhrdc.org/english/publications/reports/3152-no-safe-haven-iran-s-global-assassination-campaign.html.
[32] ENTESSAR, supra note 6, at 30; NIKKI R. KEDDIE, MODERN IRAN: ROOTS AND RESULTS OF REVOLUTION 247 (2003).
[33] ENTESSAR, supra note 6, at 33.
[34] Muzakirat-i Hiya’t-i Izamiyih Imam Khomeini ba Nizamiyan-i Mutahasin Hamchinan Idamih Darad [Negotiations Between Imam Khomeini’s Delegation and the Military Men Staging a Sit-in Continues], ETTELAAT, [Apr. 9, 1979], available at http://www.iranhrdc.org/english/human-rights-documents/3507-1979-newspapers.html.
[35] Ashrar-i Khuy Sarkub Shudand [The Thugs of Khuy Were Crushed], ETTELAAT, [Apr. 12, 1979], available athttp://www.iranhrdc.org/english/human-rights-documents/3507-1979-newspapers.html.
[36] HIRO, supra note 20, at 127.
[37] Az Suyih Hiy’at-i Izamiyih Imam Khomeini bih Sanandaj, Vaz’-i Rihaniyan-i Kurdistan Barrisi Shud [The Situation of the Clerics of Kurdistan was Assessed by the Delegation Sent by Imam Khomeini], ETTELAAT, [July 9, 1979], available at http://www.iranhrdc.org/english/human-rights-documents/3507-1979-newspapers.html.

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