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

3.4. Saqqez

On August 27, it was reported that 45 men had been executed in the Western regions of Kurdistan since Khalkhali’s arrival.168 That day, Khalkhali and his entourage traveled about 80 miles northwest to Saqqez, a small town in Kurdistan Province. Khalkhali immediately organized trials at the Saqqez military base to deal with those allegedly responsible for the battles of the previous days. 169

Saqqez – circa 2010

Prior to Khalkhali’s arrival, the fighting in Iran’s Kurdish region had spread to Saqqez.170 Kurds had seized weapons from the military base and bases in nearby towns immediately following Khomeni’s return to Iran in February.171 Hostilities between the military and pasdaran stationed at Saqqez172 military base, and the local Kurds intensified to the point that on August 22, the central government dispatched forces from the military base in Sanandaj to Saqqez. Khomeini ordered the pasdaran and the army to coordinate their activities and warned that any signs of insubordination in the army would lead to execution.173

While government forces met with some initial resistance, they quickly retook the town using air attacks and heavy artillery. For two days, helicopters shot people on the streets of Saqqez and Phantom jets

[168] Iran Tells Kurds to Surrender or Be Crushed, GUARDIAN, Aug. 27, 1979, at 6, available at http://www.iranhrdc.org/english/human-rights-documents/3507-1979-newspapers.html.
[169] 40 Nafar dar Sanandaj, Mariwan va Saqqez Tirbaran Shudand [40 People Were Executed by a Firing Squad in Sanandaj, Mariwan and Saqqez], ETTELAAT, [Aug. 28, 1979], available athttp://www.iranhrdc.org/english/human-rights-documents/3507-1979-newspapers.html.
[170] See Payam-i Nukhust Vazir bih Padigan-i Saqqez [Message of the Prime Minister to Saqqez Military Base], ETTELAAT, [Aug. 28, 1979] (reporting Interim Prime Minister Bazargan declaring that the men in Saqqez “bravely protected their base, city of Saqqez, their country and their revolution since August 22”), available athttp://www.iranhrdc.org/english/human-rights-documents/3507-1979-newspapers.html.
[171] Kaabi Interview, supra note 27.
[172] Dargiriyih Niruhayih Artish va Muhajiman dar Humihyih Saqqez [Clashes Between the Military Forces and the Invaders in the Outskirts of Saqqez], ETTELAAT, [Aug. 23, 1979] (quoting statement by Commander of corps 28 of Kurdistan, staff colonel, Iraj Sepehr:

In the name of God, the compassionate the Merciful
Respectful, Muslim and informed residents of Saqqez, a number of mercenary and godless elements, who are undoubtedly not from amongst the Muslim and committed people of Saqqez and pursue nothing other than destruction of the country and animosity with the Muslim people of Kurdistan, opened fire near Saqqez bridge on your military brothers and are preventing them from entering the city.
Your soldier brethrens have dispatched to the city of Saqqez to support you and provide you with security. Therefore, we expect that you extend your warm palms to squeeze their manly hands and warmly welcome them so that they can, alongside you, protect the calm and comfort of the people. This is the reason for which the Islamic Republic of Iran’s military, including Corps 28 of Kurdistan, with the help of you, the Muslim people of Saqqez, and having a steadfast belief in the holy revolution as well as respect to the blood of the martyrs of the path of right and truth and the orders of the leader of the revolution, crushes the anti-revolutionaries.

[173] Nassir Shirkhani, Iran Pounds Rebel Stronghold in Air Attack, GUARDIAN, Aug. 24, 1979, at 4, available at http://www.iranhrdc.org/english/human-rights-documents/3507-1979-newspapers.html.

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