At the beginning of the month, Kurdistan announced that it would extend the exporting of its crude oil to Iraq until 15 September, its deadline for Baghdad to settle its debts to Kurdish oil companies. Iraq, for its part, had accepted to settle 560 million US dollars, but there were delays in releasing payments due.
On 4 September the Iraqi Prime Minster stated, in a communiqué, that the United States had told the creditor companies to “cooperate” with the central government rather than to take part in a freeze of exports of gas and crude. Nuri al-Maliki indicated that he had received this information during a meeting with Elizabeth Jones, Assistant Secretary of State for Middle Eastern Affairs.
However, the State Department spokesman did not confirm this, simply answering the Reuters Agency, regarding another dispute — that over contracts, the one over contracts — that Washington just “advised” American companies regarding Iraqi affaires, especially regarding contracts signed with the Kurds without Baghdad’s prior approval, but that the companies make their own decisions.
On the same day, the Iraqi Central Government let it be understood that il might, in its turn, cut the payments that it made to Kurdistan (17% of the State budget, according to the constitution) to repay itself for the losses incurred by the stoppage of exports — which, according to Baghdad amounted to over $3 billion. Ali Mussavi, one of the Iraqi Prime Minister’s Advisors, announced that a Kurdish delegation had received a one-week ultimatum to start negotiations or else these 3 billion dollars would be deducted from the Kurdish budget.
Despite the apparent escalation of reciprocal threats, few observers believe in any point of no return in relations between Irbil and Baghdad. This Tony Hayward, Genel Energy’s General Manager, considers that Kurdistan would have more to win than to lose by failing to resolve the conflict and that the issues at stake are too high for them not to reach a compromise: “In one or two hears Kurdistan’s production capacity will have grown to about a million barrels a day — that’s too much oil to be cut off because of a political quarrel. Thus, in one way or other, it will be resolved” (Reuters)
Having said this, Genel Energy’s Manager recognised that if, despite everything, Kurdistan decided to freeze its oil exports to Iraq, the crude oil that his company extracts from the Taq Taq and Tawke fields (respectively 105,000 and 70,000 barrels a day) could well be sold to local firms who pay $60 a barrel, that is slightly less than the market price but enough for the company to manage.
If an agreement is reached between Irbil and Baghdad, a new gas pipeline will connect Taq Taq to Khurmala, the point at which the Iraq-Turkey oil pipeline enters Turkey. Regarding direct sales of crude oil and gas to Turkey, it is being carried out by tanker trucks for the moment. Thus it is estimated that about 15 trucks a day leave the Khir Mor plant to deliver oil to Mersin (Adana). In return, the Kurd receive small amounts of diesel fuel and paraffin, a barter deal that is considered the “symbolic” starting point of the future imports and exports between the two countries. The output of condensed natural gas from Khor Mor is about 3000 barrels a day, which is pretty minute but is sold at $100 a barrels at Mersin.
As the 15 September deadline was approaching, a false alarm occurred on 11 September when the Iraqi Oil Minister announced that the Kurds had reduced their oil exports to about 75,000 to 80,000 barrels a day, as against 115,000 to 120,000 previously. It emerged, however, that this drop was due to a technical breakdown at Khurmala, which had required pumping to be temporarily stopped.
In the end, as Tony Hayward had foreseen, an agreement finally took place on 13 September between Iraq and the KRG, the latter committing itself to continuing to export oil exports to Baghdad while the latter promised to pay the Kurdistan creditor companies $857 million (a trillion Iraqi dinars). The objective is to reach 200,000 barrels per day from Kurdistan by the end of the year. Meanwhile the output will remain at 140,000 barrels a day.
This dispute, temporarily buried, remains based on the contracts signed with foreign companies and that of oil exports to Turkey. So far, despite the fury of Hussein Sharistani, the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister in charge of fuel and power, and the threats of reprisals against their interests in Iraq, the foreign companies that have signed contracts with the KRG have hardly suffered from the situation. Moreover, the cancellation of most of the contracts for oil exploration and operation in Iraq would be far more damaging to Baghdad and would push the “banned” companies into investing more in Iraqi Kurdistan. Consequently the announcements of possible contract signings between foreign companies and Irbil have been multiplying.
On 22 September close t the KRG let it be understood that the Royal Dutch Shell envisaged working in Kurdistan. However, Shell’s French spokesman straight away denied that such discussions had begun, recalling that they were already working on three large scale projects in Iraq, where they were among the most important investors, while also adding that they always looked for “new opportunities and projects that could add to Iraq’s value”.
Nevertheless, in October 2011m according to sources from oil industry circles, Shell had planned to move into Iraqi Kurdistan, but had dropped the idea on seeing the violent reaction Exxon´s had aroused from Sharistani. It is probable that some companies are hesitating between Irbil and Baghdad or more probably want to keep well in with both, are waiting to see what real measure are taken against Exxon, Chevron, Total and all those who have dared to breach the Iraqi bans.
Since the “withdrawal” or partial disengagement of the Syrian forces from the bulk of Kurdish towns, their inhabitants are enjoying a fragile peace — but also suffer from shortages of food and fuel. These shortages are accentuated by the influx of refugees fleeing the fighting in Aleppo. Thus the Kurdish internet site Welaté me (Our Country) describes long queues lasting several hours outside the bakeries of Koban, the only town to be completely devoid of Syrian forces and state administrations. Mustafa Juma, the General secretary of the Kurdish Azadi Party, who is a native of Koban, confirms the food shortage, especially of flour, and highlights both the fighting between the Syrian Army and the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) that hinder traffic and circulation of goods but also the checkpoints set up by the PYD (the Syrian branch of the PKK) which it says are to prevent the FSA from entering the Kurdish areas. Mustafa Juma accuses these checkpoints of taking money from those bringing food into the town, even though recognising that the end of the fighting in Aleppo would considerably improve the situation, as the an important part of the burden on this town of 350,000 is the influx of Kurdish refugees from Aleppo.
The problems also come, as the remarks of the Azadi Secretary show, from the difficulty the Kurdish parties have in agreeing between themselves, on the administration and management of days to day affaires, since they had not prepared themselves for such tasks and a certain distrust reigns between movements linked by a too recent agreement to be really effective on the spot. Thus there has not yet been any opening of schools in Koban, a fact recognised by Abdulhaq Yusuf, a member of the political Committee of the PYD. Education is, in principal managed by the Kurdish High Committee, which is completely overwhelmed with work and subject to internal quarrels.
Muhammad Musa, the leader of the Kurdish Left Party, considers, for his part, that the situation in Koban is fairly good, though less so than at Efrin, but that the Jeziré region is the most disorganised. He confirms, what Abdul Hakim Bashar, the president of the KNC had pointed out last July, that the local staff of the Syrian administration, about 150,000 in number, continue to be paid, but that this will doubtless stop if the Syrian State collapses under the blows of the revolution. (Reuters).
At Qamishlo, the only Kurdish town of which the Baath has chosen to keep control, the Syrian Army arrested and imprisoned 25 young Kurds for “insubordination” (that is to say desertion), which brought hundreds of people out on the streets to demonstrate for their release. The Komelên ciwanên Rojavayê Kurdistan (KCRK, an organisation of young Kurds from Western Kurdistan) also organised a rally in from of the mosque on the Friday following these arrests, while shopkeepers lowered the shutters of their shops as a sign or solidarity. Some of these arrests are more in the nature of kidnappings undertaken to exchange prisoners. Thus 3 young Kurds of the village of Girké Legê were taken away by the Syrian Army after some Kurdish forces from that village had captured 5 soldiers. There followed a reciprocal release of hostages.
In Aleppo, the Sheikh Maqsud district, a quarter largely inhabited by Kurds, an air raid killed a woman, two of her children and their young cousin, as they were taking part in a funeral procession. The Kurdish National Council described this act as “criminal”. So far the PYD’s Kurdish forces, that control Efrin, have not had any confrontation with the Syrian Army, and have also kept the FSA at bay. It is hard to tell whether the raid was deliberate of was a Syrian Army blunder.
Another murder whose motivations are hard to untangle is one that of Mahmoud Wali Babijani (nicknamed “Abu Gandhi”), which took place on 21 September. Abu Ghandhi was a Kurdish political activist, member of the Azadi party, co-founder of a youth movement and prominent member of the KNC. He was shot down by two men riding a motorbike in the town of Ras al’ayn (Hassaké Province). Nine months earlier, he was kidnapped and severely torture before being released. At the time he had accused the PYD of being behind his kidnapping, which they denied. He had received many death threats ad was in hiding most of time, only coming out to take part in demonstrations.
On 30 September a suicide bomb attack took place at Qamishlo — the first of its kind in Kurdistan. It was principally aimed at the Syrian police and security forces, but no Kurdish organisation claimed responsibility for this car bomb attack.
In an interview given to the daily paper Rudaw, on 25 September, the PYD leader, who carried out a political tour of Europe the month before, refuted the accusations frequently aimed at his party of being more of an ally then an adversary of the Syrian regime. According to him, the government could hold out for another 2 years, relying on its 170,000 men strong security forces and that the Syrians would have everything to lose from the fall of Bachar al-Assad, especially the Alawiites who might want to dig themselves in, backing their fortified mountainous region, which could, embryonically be a region politically separated from the rest of Syria.
Asserting that the PYD indeed wanted the fall of the Baathist State, Salih Muslim pointed to the dangers and uncertainties the Kurds would face in the new Syria, darkening in the process, the picture of post-Saddam Iraq regarding the situation of the Kurds, asserting that their rights are not ensured and that Article 140 has still not been applied. Finally he recalled the failure of the National Syrian Council conference in Cairo, from which the Kurds had withdrawn.
The final declaration of the first Conference of the Syrian National Council that took place in Tunis in October 2011, does indeed mention the Kurds as an “ethnic group” that should be mentioned in the constitution along side the other minorities like the Assyro-Chaldeans, and that Kurdish affairs, like those of the Assyro-Chaldeans should be handled “in the context of the country’s general business” and of a “Syria united as a people and a territory”. Finally it mentions ensuring the same civic rights to all its citizens, whatsoever their religious or ethnic membership. However, last July in Cairo the Kurds had presented as “not negotiable” the mention of a “Kurdish nation” in the Syrian Constitution.
On top of the disputes over the exporting of Kurdish gas and the surprise visit of Ahmet Davutoglu to Kirkuk, the death sentence passed on Vice-President Tareq Al-Hashemi, now a refugee in Turkey with all his family, has become both an international conflict and an internal clash between two Iraqi political factions.
On 9 September, the Baghdad Criminal Court sentenced to death in absentia, Tareq al-Hashimi, who has been in flight for several months for organising a terrorist attack on the Baghdad Parliament, causing the death of Member of Parliament Suhad al-Khafail and Talib Balasim, a police office. This sentence provoked the indignation of his Parliamentary Group, al-Iraqiyya, while a wave of bomb attacks took place causing 88 deaths, without it being possible to establish any certain connection between them and this announced sentence.
Far from creating unanimity in Iraq, this sentence aroused serious reservation from the Kurdistan Regional Government, whose spokesman, on 11 September, warned of the danger of it aggravating the political crisis the country is experiencing. The Kurdish Region’s Prime Minister, Neçirvan Barzani, judged this sentence “unwise” and considered that the conflict can be resolved “politically, but not in this manner”. The President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, whose main function is to ensure a form of mediation between the antagonistic blocs in the country, expressed his “pain” at the announcing of this sentence, which he considered would be one more obstacle to “national reconciliation”. While affirming his commitment to judicial independence, Jalal Talabani called for the holding of a national conference to resolve all the existing conflicts, including the Hashemi case.
From his exile in Turkey, Tareq Al-Hashimi again reoudited the accusations and attacked the sentence. He stated that he would only return to Iraq with the guarantee of a fair trial and of his personal safety. He appealed to the United Nations asking for the setting up of a court that would help the Iraqi Criminal Court by sending judges to Baghdad who could investigate his case. In addition to charges of corruption and abuse of power that he has several times made against his political rival, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the Vice-President alluded to Iranian manoeuvres in this case as in others, and criticised the United States for its blindness regarding the present Iraqi government.
For his part, the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, again refused to extradite al-Hashimi, as had done the Kurds when the Iraqi Vice President had at first fled to Iraqi Kurdistan. He then personally attacked Nuri al-Maliki, accusing him of deliberately inflaming “sectarian tensions in Iraq”.
Tareq Al-Hashimi was considered one of the principal opponents of Iranian influence in Iraq. The al-Iraqiyya list includes Sunni and Shiite Arab members of Parliament and presents itself as “secular”. Thus this is less a matter of a clash between Sunni and Shiite blocks as of interest groups — between Turkey, Irbil and the Syrian opposition on the one side and Iran supporting the Syrian Baath regime and regularly accused by the opponents of the Iraqi Prime Minister of carrying out a political takeover of Iraqi politics since the withdrawal of US troops, in particular by publicly supporting Nuri al-Maliki since the beginning of his second term in office, in 2010.
In tribute to Dr. Sadegh Sharafkandi, General Secretary of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, and to his colleagues assassinated with him in September 1992, in Berlin while attending the Socialist International Congress, the Paris Kurdish Institute organised an International Conference on the subject of “Iran at the time of Arab revolts”. This was held in the Victor Hugo Hall of the French national Assembly on 14 September.
The Symposium was opened by Pouria Amirshani, the Socialist Party’s National Secretary for International Cooperation and Human Rights. She spoke of the end of the period of “two great powers” at the end of the 70s, that of the aegis of “ultra-conservative” powers like the governments of Thatcher and Regan and the powers that had led to the overthrow of the Shah and the rise to power of the Khomeiny regime. This has weighed heavily on international relations by encouraging the emergence of radical religious groups, at first in the Middle East, then throughout the world.
As against that, the new period, which is beginning opens with the revolts in Iran and in the Arab world, with movement that are not religious but political and democratic, fighting against social injustice, movement that have established “the strength of civil societies”.
Pouria Amirshani saw the “uncertain but real possibilities of building a better world for the coming generations, even if nothing pre-ordained. There are, on both side s of the Mediterranean, serious dangers of clashes and of falling back on nationalist and identity issues.
There is, in Iran, a deep-seated will of its people to emancipate itself in the political area and in that of the sharing of wealth. The Syrian crisis also acts as an issue in the relations between Turkey and Iran. In Syria’s case it is necessary, so as to avoid repeating the strategic errors made in Libya, to act together with the neighbouring countries to avoid the whole region exploding.
Turkey and Iran are the region’s two great non-Arab powers, through which new East-West relations can be hinged and, through that, the Kurdish question also becomes a central issue. “Over and above the cultural and geo-strategic point of view, there is a major point to keep in mind — the actors of Kurdish civil society”.
The first Round Table was moderated by Hamit Bozarslan; Research Manager at Paris’s EHESS and covered “Iranian Society Today”. The speakers were Hashem Ahmadzadeh, Lecturer in Middle Eastern Studies, at Exeter University, Great Britain, Stéphane Dudoignon and Marie Ladier, researchers at the CNRS, Gilles Roux, researcher at the IRSEM and Nuri Yesilyurt, at Ankara University of Political Science.
In Hamit Bozarslan’s opinion, the present situation is not with analogies with that of the 80s, with a “resort to massive violence” and encompassing the borders because of “long distance military movements”.
Another similarity with the 80s: “two States are particularly involved, two countries that have already gone through intense inter-communal and civil wars, Iraq and Lebanon, in which Iran plays an extremely important role (…) in these countries’ future”.
As for the Kurdish domain, it is once again “involved”, and even if the contest is very different from that of the 80s, it is equally “in the front line”.
“The internal movements are also important and raise questions about the life span of these regimes and about the possible dynamics for change.
The Iranian regime has three times and by three different methods, ensured its durability. In an initial phase by the war and violence that followed the1979 revolution, because even if the war was forced on Iran by Saddam Hussein’s regime, if then became a means of consolidating the power of the clergy and the personal authority of Ayatollah Khomeiny.
In a second stage, the Rafsanjani then the Khatami regimes trued to move out of the revolution and the revolutionary dynamics either by increasing bureaucracy or by reforms. These experiments also showed their limitations.
A third stage arrived with Ahmedinjad, when the authorities injected a strong of messianic dose, one of expecting a millennial break, to consolidate it authoritarian character. Today, however, this “magic formula”, which worked quite well between 2005 and 2009, seems to be running out of breath
In the year 2012-2013, Iran faces an extremely serious crisis, indeed, even four successive crises: a crisis of meaning and legitimacy, since the bitter pill of electoral frauds in 2009 was hard to swallow; a crisis of legitimacy at regional level, since today Moslem public opinion classes Iran with the hangmen, particularly in Syria; a serious crisis of nationality, in Baluchistan, Kurdistan and Azerbaijan; and finally a very serious social crisis whose effects have been accentuated by the embargo”.
Hashim Ahmadzadeh’s contribution covered “the ethnic challenges of the Iranian world”. He first recalled that, 3 weeks earlier, an agreement had been signed between the Kurdistan Democratic party-Iran and other Kurdish political movements, called “the cooperation between parties”, so as to harmonise the demands for their rights in Iran. Although the tenor of this declaration includes no new elements, many political figures of the Iranian opposition, particularly in the diaspora, condemned it very severely as an attempt at “separatism”.
In Iran it is generally considered that this State is a “nation”, since the modernisation of the system, by going back to Iran’s pre-Islamic history to find legitimacy for this national entity. Thus arguments that oppose this Kurdish agreement deny that the latter are a nation, since there is only one nation, Iran, whose territorial integrity must never be questioned — even though the Kurds’ declaration never mentions separatism.
Official discourse in Iran talks of non=Persian minorities as qewm (communities) but the Kurds reject this and use the term netwe, which etymologically come from the same root as nation, considering it more adapted to their situation.
One of the greatest challenges to the contemporary Iranian system is that of accepting that these “ethnic groups” are nations, even if deprived of national sovereignty. One of the means of making Iran democratic is by accepting these ethnic differences and that the Kurds prefer to describe themselves as a nation.
Stéphane Dudoignon, of the CNRS, spoke about “Iran’s relations with its Eastern borders”, through “some ethno-denominational aspects”. Iran is living through a period in which its eastern border has come to be “at the heart of public discussion”. A Neo-traditional Islamic tradition, that of the Deoband School, has spread throughout India up to Iranian Baluchistan, then to Khorassan to the Gulf and Central Asia. Although its aspirations are fairly medaeval, it has become, in the Islamic Republic today, leading factor in the defence of the most open Parliamentarism possible, a quite astonishing Human Rights approach, for a party that practices the taqlid of pre-modern Islamic jurisprudence. This party has developed centripetal forces, in Iran. In the last 30 years we have moved from a period of demands for autonomy and even independence to one of citizenship and recentralisation, in which Iran’s border regions, especially the Eastern ones, (Khorassanian and Baluchi in particular) are plying an extremely important part. Thus all through 2012, there have been campaigns in the regional Iranian press in defence of Kak Hassan Amini, a very important religious leader of Sanandal (Sine, in Kurdistan Province). He has been faced, since the end of 2011, with considerable legal problems, which has aroused, throughout Iran’s Eastern border regions considerable solidarity campaigns.
Sunni Islam, this “borderline religion” in Iran, now occupies a quite central position. We would have to go back to the Britain’s consistent policy in the region, from 1917 to 1947, and their systematic promotion of the Sunni religious schools, like the Deoband School. These schools were seen as excellent fire breaks against Bolshevik and then Soviet influence reaching the Indian borders. Well versed at legal exercises and modern communication techniques, the present day Sunni clergy of the Deoband school were rapidly able to confront the authority of tribal chiefs and landlords and so appear as alternative leaders — at first at regional level then of the whole of Iran. They have now established themselves as the most active spokesmen for the response being given in Iran to the Arab Spring.
Unlike the situation in India and Pakistan, in Iran the Deoband school has enjoyed favourable conditions for its expansion in the South-East of the country, both under both the Pahlevis and the Islamic Republic with the aim of “tearing into pieces any attempt for the emergence of a secular national intelligentsia”.
Two important and interesting public figures among the principal religious leaders and preachers of the so-called Sarbaz school have appeared as the initiators of an “embryonic Sunni community” throughout Iran. One is Mawlawi Abdal-Aziz Mollahzadeh Makkî and his son-in-law and successor Mawlawi Abdal Hamid. The latter was born in 1947 and is, today, the principal spokesman of the Iran Sunnis, and calls himself the “khatib of Iran’s Sunnis”. There is thus appearing an alternative political religious authority with pan-Iranian claims and is, today, at the head of the attacks on the “corrupt and criminal” Bachar al-Assad regime, which enables a number of Baluchi leaders to apply these terms to other situations… The great advantage of the Arab Springs is that it enables the raising of a certain number of subjects without appearing to do so.
For the last quarter of a century, since the death of his father-in-law in 1987, Mawlawi Abd al Hamid, this Sunni this Sunni khatib in the town of Zahedan, the principal Sunni city South-East Iran “has occupied a central position at the heart of the political sociability” in this region of Eastern Iran, extended to include Khorassan in 1979, with the expansion of so called Deobandi schools.
In their expansion, the networks of Deobandi schools throughout Iran have been accompanied by the network of a transnational missionary organisation: the Tabliai jama’at, founded in the 20s in India to fight against Hindu revivalism and, above all to work towards the re-Islamisation of tribes. In Iran it is sponsored and organised by the representative of the Guide, Khamenai who arranges the distribution of the resources of the Tabliai jama’at among the various missionaries of this organisation, be they Baluchi or otherwise.
Another very important trans-border network, both for uniting the Iranian Sunni community and for extending Iranian influence beyond its borders is formed by affiliations with traditional Sufi mystical paths, particularly those of the Naqshbandiyya and Qadiriyya trends, which remain closely associated with the most powerful Baluchi tribes of Sistan-Baluchistan, and are often found behind the teachings of the Deoband school. From a theological view point, these connections between the Deoband school and the historic Sufi paths are a striking illustration of the extreme adaptability of the deobandi movement in Iran that has been inspired by both the Pahlevi monarchy for centralism and by the institutions of Iranian Shiism, like the city of Qom, to enable Zahedan to emerge as the Sunni religious centre of Iran and also to ally itself with the most traditional Sufi paths. Today, these have become the preferred instrument for promotion and expansion, particularly in the direction of former Soviet areas: the Eastern provinces of Iran, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan and even to Tartaristan and Bachkortostan.
Unlike the world of madrassas, like the Deoband School, whose principal intellectual centres are to the East of Iran, the intellectual centres of Sunni Iranian Sufism continue to be clearly located in Kurdistan. There is, therefore, a double polarity within which this link between the Deoband School and historical traditional Sufism contributes to bring together these differing regions located at the Eastern and Western extremities of Iran.
An extremely important change took place in 2007, the year that Ayatollah Khamenei proclaimed as “the year of national and religious union”, following the campaign of attacks by the Jundallah in Baluchistan. This led Teheran to adopt a new line in its relations with its Sunni minorities, especially the Baluchis, and with all the countries on its South Eastern borders. The offices of the Guide’s representatives in the Eastern provinces of Iran, run by Ayatollah Abbas Sayyid Ali Soleïmany in Sistan-Baloutchistan, worked to create several areas for discussion and debate (thus trying to neutralise dissidence). This institution included a wide range of protagonists, public figures and institutions under the Guide’s direct authority.
Since 2007, the initiatives aimed at making the discussions and negotiations as broad as possible have multiplied. The general situation remains marked by some very powerful tensions and the repetition of demands that remain unanswered since Mahmud Ahmedinjad’s re-election. Thus there is both an initiative by the Islamic Republic to try and open discussion and, at the dame time, a strengthening of this Sunni community that is trying, on the basis if Iran’s most marginal regions, to propose a coherent alternative policy.
Marie Ladier, a researcher at the CNRS, returned to Iran’s political situation since the fraudulent re-election of Mr. Ahnedinjad in 2009.
The Iranians have been the first revolt in this region of the world, but they seem to have remained on the sidelines of the movements in the Arab world since the end of 2010. Which, moreover, could be interpreted as a consequence of the Iranian movement,
During a recent meeting with students, Hashemi Rafsandjani, the President o the Council of discernment of the Higher interests of the regime, compared the political situation with that just after the end of the Iraq-Iran War, which he considered was much more serious that today; Then it’s budget had been halved and much of the countries infrastructures destroyed.
However, Rafsanjani underestimates the present day economic and financial difficulties linked to the sanctions against Iran and the seriousness of the political crisis. At the end of the war and, especially after Khomeiny’s death, the Iranian political system went through a crisis but there was an essential consensus amongst the clergy, who managed to emerge from the crisis by appointing Khamenei as Guide of the Revolution.
Today the situation seems explosive. The Islamic republic is going through its greatest crisis since 1979. This is characterised by two aspects: that of the legitimacy of power of which Hamit Bozarslan has already spoken, after the fraudulent re-election of Ahmadinjad. The other is the trial of strength between the Guide and Mahmud Ahmedinjad since 2010. This is the first time that a head to the executive has stood up to the Guide in the whole history of the Islamic Republic. Until the end of 2009, Mahmud Ahmadinajad had been loyally supported by the Guide, who had full confidence in him. However I think that from the start Ahmedinjad had a political project for the Islamic Republic that ran counter to that of the Guide and those close to him after the 2009 Presidential election. Indeed, since his re-election he has not hesitated to reveal his political intentions for Iran — proposing another regime for an Islamic Republic but without the clergy. The pact between them has been broken and Parliament has received the green light from the Guide to attack the government.
Since 2009 Ahmadinjad has set up a population policy that aims at reversing the recent drop in the birth rate with object of Iran reaching a population of 150 million in the near future. He has also reformed the system of subsidies, by stopping subsidies of many products and services so as to finance direct subsidies. Since December 2010, Ahmedinjad’s government has transferred a sum equivalent to between 20 and 40 euros to the bank account of every household. Prior to that Iranians received subsidies indirectly, through a variety of consumer items and services, so that these subsidies had not “visible face”, whereas now they know that they receive State help. While not all economists are opposed to this reform because of the present overall situation, the new system enables Ahmedinjad’s government to set up a “principle fund” that gives him some autonomy to manage the currency and the oil revenues together. Other projects are the Other projects are being: re-writing Iran’s history in the school books so as to reinforce the indoctrination of the younger generation, to Islamise Social studies and consolidate the national status by giving priority of “Iraniousness”, with a nationalist discourse to increase his standing with the population. This trial of strength is the background to the 2013 Presidential elections, though already the 2012 parliamentary elections had shown that the two men and their respective camps are almost equally strong, which makes the future even more uncertain and extremely worrying.
Gilles Roux, a researcher at INSERM, dealt with “the Configuration of Relations between the centre and the periphery under the Islamic Republic” and with the dynamics of political mobilisation between the Centre and the periphery over the last decade.
The Persians represent less than half of the population of this multi-ethnic Iranian empire. Throughout the 20th Century the central power made great efforts to impose its domination over the country as a whole to put an end to an “Iran of great tribes and of provinces”.
The 1079 revolution could seem to be the finalisation of this policy of national unification carried out by the Pahlevis. The new regime then appeared to be in a position to adopt a more conciliatory attitude towards the ethnic groups, as shown by the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, which recognised the country’s very great cultural diversity, while still affirming Persian supremacy (Art. 15). However, the Republican regime always wanted to confine this ethnic diversity to its most conventional expression and ensure that any ethnic expression remained strictly a private matter that should not be the subject of political demands. When this occurred it automatically very rapidly treated this an opposition to the Iranian regime.
Since the middle of the 90s, Iran has been facing a certain “politicisation of ethnicity”. The subject of nationalities has become a very important part of public discussion, impelled by a multitude of publications dealing with ethnic and national identity, in both Persian and other languages. During the same period some activists entered the political field that put this national identity forward and presenting themselves as not only Iranians. On the fringes of this politicisation of ethnicity, violent actions could be observed in several peripheral regions: Kurdistan and Baluchistan. Eve if these violent actions must be taken into account they remain limited. However, these events led to rethinking the ethnic issue, that had been somewhat forgotten for several years, and to trying to understand how these ethnic movements have appeared and how they work on the political system.
These ethnic dynamics can be linked to the central dynamics of the political movement, particularly that which followed the 2009 elections — the Green movement. There could then be seen very important demonstrations — the first since the Iran revolution — and that, in the territorial location of these demonstrations, they were much greater and more lasting in the cities of the Persian plateau. The towns of the peripheral regions stayed s little more in the background during this period of mobilisation.
Since the end of the 90s, a certain differentiation can be noticed in the political participation of the Provinces of the Iranian plateau and that of the peripheral regions, both regarding voting and demonstrations.
Under the Islamic Republic, election participation was considered an essential element for the regime’s legitimacy. The Republic’s dignitaries unceasingly spoke of the importance of the polls and to pride themselves on “the people’s support”. During the 1997 elections that saw Khatami take office, is was clearly seen that he was particularly well supported in the peripheral provinces , and the same held for his re-election. In 2005 the reforming candidates, who stood in a disorganised manner, did not make it to the second round, yet here too they enjoyed strong supporting the peripheral regions: Karoubi ended up first in the province with a Lori majority and won a very good score in peripheral provinces of the South and the West of the country. Mostafa Mo’im, who is a Turkish speaker from Azerbaijan, had substantial had scores on the mainly Sunni province of Meralizadeh, and though he finished last in the election competition won much larger scores in the North-West of the country.
With regard to the conservative candidates, it should be noted that in 2005, Ahmedinjad enjoyed his greatest support in the provinces in the centre of the country.
In view of the massive fraud, it is impossible to draw any conclusions from the 2009 elections.
The alignment crisis that divided the reformers in 2005 opened the way for autonomous activity in the ethnic movements, favoured, at the beginning of the 2000s by a general context that allowed them to grow in strength — particularly the weakening of the social movements that had carried the reformers into office. These ethnic movements multiplied their protest actions in the 2000 decade: riots in Khuzistan, major demonstrations in Azerbaijan in honour of Babak and then m over the Danish caricatures as well as in Baluchistan.
Some of the countries provinces saw acts of violence in Baluchistan and Kurdistan.
This does mean that the provinces of the Iranian plateau were soared the social conflicts that took place in the years 2000L there were many riots in Iranian cities and the administrative distribution of constituencies created very strong tensions. The one million signatures ”campaign against discrimination against women was also important. However, there was a difference if timing and territory in these demonstrations as between the centre and the periphery
An important work of preserving ethnic cultures has been conducted has been carried out under the Islamic Republic and has so greatly influenced relations between the centre and the periphery. The accusation of difference of treatment by the Pehlevi regime between the centre and the periphery has been carried over to the Islamic Republic, which has become the target of nationalist activists. This discourse has spread in several social sectors: students, teachers, and trade Union circles. These criticisms have bee relayed by members of Parliament.
This discourse on discrimination of peripheral regions should be seen alongside the gradual conquest of the Republic’s institutions by the neo-conservatives. This has led to an approach much more centred on questions of security, on ethnic issues and with a massive use of repression along side a weakening of regional development. Moreover, the political organisations close to Ahmedinjad no longer even try to establish political roots in the peripheral regions.
These alternative mobilisations in the peripheral regions that make appeal to national identity, complicate the unification of the discontent on a national scale.
Mr. Nuri Yesilyart, who teaches political science at Ankara University and is a specialist in international relations, particularly those of Turkey with its neighbours, described the “Evolution of Turco-Iranian relations before and after the Arab Spring”.
Turkey and Iran are, except for Israel, the two major Non-Arab powers in the region. They have had many conflicts since the 16th Century, when the Ottomans and Safavides were in “strategic and ideological conflict” and this rivalry is still present even though there as a very short and exceptional period of more favourable relations, According to Nuri Yeşilyurt the events of the Arab Spring have re-activated this traditional rivalry.
The last series of conflicts between Turkey and Iran began in 1979, during the Islamic revolution. During the cold war the two countries were on the same side, allied to the United States, and both played an important political role against the Soviet Union in the Near East. After 1979, Turkey remained a pro-Western regional power, secular and economically liberal while the new Iranian regime redefined itself as an anti-Western, Islamic and economically statist country, thus opening a new period of ideological and strategic rivalry between the two countries.
The 90s were the worst with regard to their relations, with subversive actions on both sides. As against this, the years after 2000 was the “golden age” of bi-lateral relations between the two countries. Three main factors contributed to this:
Firstly there was a change in power in both countries: Khatemi, a reformer, was elected President of Iran in 1997 and re-elected in 2001. In Turkey, the AKP, a “pro-Islamic” party won the elections in 2002 and 2007. The Khatemi government tried to reduce the radical trends in Iranian foreign policy and to throw a line to the Western world at the same time as the AKP tried to reduce the pro-secularist tendencies in Turkey and throw a line to the Islamic world — especially its Near-Eastern neighbours. The two countries experienced a period of ideological convergence and in the 2000-2010 decade they did not intervene in one another’s domestic affairs. This in 2009, the Turkish leaders decided not to make any comments on what was happening n Iran. While this period of positive relations lasted after Ahmedinjad came to power in 2005, these factors still encouraged a continued reconciliation.
The second factor was the Kurdish question, which encouraged cooperation between the two countries. After the US intervention in Iraq in 2003, both Turkey and Iran began to suffer from the actions of Kurdish militants. The PKK, which had declared a cease fire after Ocalan’s arrest in 1999, renewed its attacks against the Turkish Army in June 2004 the PJAK, which has organic links with the PKK, started an armed struggle against Iran. PJAK poses a much lesser danger to Iran than the PKK to Turkey, but Iran considered the PJAK’s activity to be a form of US “conspiracy” and consequently wanted to ensure Turkey’s friendly support. Iran and Turkey, therefore, began to fight together against a common enemy, thus strengthening cooperation in security matters. After 2008they were, in particular, able to set up co-ordinated operations against Kurdish militants in the Qandil Mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. Thus an operation took place in December 2009 at the “zero point” between Turkey, Iran and Iraq.
The third factor is linked to the economy and the energy policy. The Turkish economy has flourished after the economic crisis of 2001 and consequently the fuel and power sector needed several sources of reliable and readily available power. Thus, during this period, Iran became a good trade partner for Turkey since, at that time, it was the only country in the region apart from Russia, which could supply Turkey with natural gas via pipelines. This source represented about 40% of Turkey’s electricity. For this reason is was very important to prevent to avoid total dependence on Russia for the supply of natural gas. Turkey thus began to buy natural gas from Iran, but the latter was only able to supply 20% of its needs and the rest continued to be supplied by Russia. Iran and Turkey nevertheless began to draw up draft agreements on the production of natural gas and projects for the transfer of Iranian natural gas, even if this hasn’t yet been made concrete.
Be cause of these three factors, Turkey opposed any external intervention that might destabilise Iran and their bi-lateral relations. Thus any foreign intervention could give the Kurdish separatists more power and prevent Iranian exportations to Turkey. This could also disturb the trade routes between Turkey and central Asia. This is why the Turkish State worked to find a diplomatic solution and chose not to take any stand on Iranian nuclear activities, but tried to mediate. Thus, in May 2010 the Teheran declaration was signed between Iran, Turkey and Brazil. It had a limited success because the West was not ready to compromise on the nuclear issue and showed little enthusiasm ar Turkey playing the role of intermediary. Indeed, the latter maintained its neutrality by voting NO on a Security Council resolution that provided for sanctions against Iran.
Despite this, there were always moments of suspicion and distrust between the two countries regarding regional politics. Firstly because both countries supported the idea of a united Iraqi state but had different views regarding the composition of its regime. Iran supported the Shiite groups and their domination of the government while Turkey tried to forge a dialogue between all the Iraqi parties, in co-ordination with the United States — at least until 2010. A similar situation existed in the Lebanon.
Secondly, because Turkey and Iran supported opposite sides in the Caucasus Turkey supported Azerbaijan while Iran supported Armenia.
Thirdly, even though both countries were fighting Kurdish rebels in the Qandil Mountains, Iran always suspicious of Turkey’s cross-border operations against Iraqi Kurdistan, since they could cause a changes in the balance of power between the two countries. Moreover Iran supported Islamist parties in Iraqi Kurdistan while Turkey preferred to support the Turcomen and the Barzanis. Fourthly, Turkey had always, after all, been suspicious of Iran’s potential for securing nuclear arms. Finally Turkey remained a US ally and a candidate for European Union membership.
During the Arab Spring, Turkey adopted a more explicitly Sunni policy, pro-Western and aggressive in the Middle East, which was a turn away from its previous policy of neutrality. The disagreement was mainly about Syria: Turkey broke off all relations with the Assad regime in 2011, by agreement with the West and the pro-Western Arab states, which supported the rebels. Iran, however, considered the revolt in Syria was a Western conspiracy aimed at the strongest link in the anti-Israeli bloc in the region. Similarly the two countries had divergent views on the Bahrein crisis.
In Iraq, Iran´s influence is increasing daily within the Shiite majority while Turkey want to remain close to the Arab Sunnis and the Kurds. Thus its links with the Maliki government have worsened.
Turkey’s acceptance of NATO’s system of an anti-missile shield in September 2011 again showed that Turkey’s alliance with the West and irritated still further the Iranian political deciders, who consider this is only to protect Israel.
These controversies have affected several areas of co-operation between the two countries: the cooperation regarding security against the Kurdish rebels; the Iranian authorities suspended the agreement with Turkey exempting people over 50 from needing visas in August 2012, officially because of a meeting of Non-aligned nations in Teheran (but unofficially because of increasing tensions between the two countries). Iran had complained that Turkey s not playing its role as mediator in the nuclear issue even before the meeting of the 5 powers + 1 at Istanbul in April 2012. The leaders of the two countries have reciprocally criticised one another’s stands on foreign policy.
To conclude, Turco-Iranian relations have entered into state of conflict and rivalry through the Arab Spring. These relations have had many ups and downs in the course of history and at present we are in anew phase in which the controversies over regional policy predominate over all others. The level of their cooperation has not yet fallen to its lowest level, as in the 90s — economic ang energy forms of cooperation are not yet affected. However, the future of these relations will be determined by the situation in Syria, both long and short term, It is unrealistic to hope for a return to the golden years of the previous decade.
The second round table was moderated by Kendal Nezan, President of the Paris Kurdish Institute on “The Question of the non-Persian Peoples”.
Also taking part are: Mr. Karim Abdian, of the Al-Ahwaz Democratic Solidarity Party; Mr. Yussef Azizi, former Professor at Teheran University; Mr. Boladel , First Secretary of the Baluchi People’s Party; Mr. Mustafa Heiru, General Secretary of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran and Mr. Hedayat Soltanzadeh, a member of the Executive Committee of the Azerbaijan Federal Democratic Movement.
Introducing the Round table, Kendal Nezan explained that when the media speak about “Iran” it is nearly always on the subject of the nuclear issue, the security of Israel or of negotiations — but the Iranians themselves are rarely given the right to speak. Otherwise they cite the “opposition” which, in fact, is an internal opposition of the Islamic republic, that is “those who are opposed over the best manner of applying the principles of the Islamic Republic” and of establishing the domination of Shiism on the whole of Iran.
Yet, quite apart from this recognised and tolerated opposition, there is that of the many populations who have their own demands and aspirations, who are not sufficiently reflected in the media or in public opinion and even less at the level of political decision making.
One of the objectives of this symposium is to give the floor to representatives of minority peoples of Iran who rarely have a say.
Nasser Boladel , First Secretary of the Baluchi People’s Party, recalled that Baluchistan has been divided between three countries, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan ever since 1839, the year in which British forces attacked the State of Kalat, which radically changed the situation of the Baluchis. A Baluchi region existed even before Persian became Iran and before the establishment of Pakistan or Afghanistan. Many revolts took place in Baluchistan after conquest and domination by the Qajar dynasty in Persia in the 19th Century, but they all failed because of the political interplay between the British and the Persians. In the struggle for power between two major powers, the Baluchis were just little local actors.
Having succeeded in preserving their language and their culture, the Baluchis are trying to establish their right to autonomy, which is not recognised in Iran, where the Baluchi language and culture are forbidden. At school, all teaching is in Farsi, from the primary schools to university. There are a whole series of exclusions and discriminations, particularly financial, that aim at keeping young Baluchis out of the educational system. It then becomes difficult for a Baluchi to find work. Last week 9 Baluchi prisoners, toe of them still teenagers, were sentenced to death — had they been from Teheran they would have been defended by NGOs and Human Rights organisations.
According to Nasser Boladel, the Baluchis are wrongly accused of contributing to general insecurity whereas it is the regime’s own unofficial forces that are carrying out assassinations and the Baluchis are constantly threatened by these clandestine forces. They are also accused of terrorism and armed violence but this is either because they have lost all hope of institutional reforms or the actions of people who have had close relatives assassinated. It can be feared that this increasing violence may get even worse on the spot. The secretary of the Baluchi party accused the “total passivity” of Human Rights defence organisations, who turn a deaf ear to these persecutions. “We are constantly told that Iran is a single and whole country, that it is a united country, but this is a myth”.
The Baluchi People’s Party says it wants a Federal Iran and militates for this with other parties like the Azeri Federal Movement, the Solidarity Party and the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, the Komala and all the parties that make up the Congress for a Federal Iran. However they are always told that they should wait for democracy to be established in Iran, whereas the country is just falling lower and lower in a most worrying situation.
Officially Iran calls itself a pluri-national, multi-ethnic country that respects the differences of language and religion. Those who claim their rights, the nationalities, and the women all demand immediate change not ones in a distant future.
The Iranians fear that if the country became a federation, the situation would become worse than that suffered by Yugoslavia. However, if Iran refuses to accept this plurality they will end up in a situation even more serious than that of Yugoslavia and Syria.
The Baluchi claims are very close to those of the Kurdish people and we have the example of the Kurds, who have been fighting for a long time. What is said of the Kurds in Teheran, “that they are incapable of agreeing, of working together and cooperating” is also said of the Baluchis, who are also said to be “anarchic by nature”. The Iranian opposition must rethink this equation otherwise there is a danger that Iran will disintegrate and that any perspective of democracy will be even further away.
The Baluchis are said to number 2.7 million in Iran, but statistics are variable, We think there are 3 to 4 million Baluchis in Iran. Some estimates indicate about 4 million Baluchis in Pakistan and about 2 million in Afghanisatan, in Kandahar for example. Some Baluchis also live in the Gulf States and Oman.
Mr. Hedayat Soltanzadeh, a member of the Executive Committee of the Azerbaijan Federal Democratic Movement. Recalled that with the accession to power of the Pehlevis, Persia changed its name to become “Iran” and that the present size of Iran is not at all that of the Persian Empire — that it is not the same country. This country is multi-national and there is no such thing as an “Iranian nation”, but a mosaic of nations that did not exist as such until the French revolution. With the coming to power of the Pehlevis, a new system was set up with a single “nationality” — a system based on the political hegemony of the Persians and that of the Persian language as official language the others being forbidden.
There are two levels of discrimination and repression: the Pahlavi dictatorship was a classical dictatorship, but with the Islamic revolution arrived a totalitarian regime based on an ideology — an Ayrian and Islamic ideology. The national question has become intrinsic to the regime and is expressed by daily acts of violence against non-Persian peoples. national cohesion has become a serious problem in Iran, which will never be as it was before. Any change in the new central power will raise the question of nationalities.
Recently an earthquake in Axerbaijan caused uproar because the government had prevented aid services from helping the population. Some Central aid services did come, but they were unable to communicate with the local population. The economic situation today has deteriorated as has ecological housing … Lac Urmiah has been completely dried out by dams and flood barriers. No investment has been made in Azerbaijan and Azeris must emigrate to the Republic of Azerbaijan and Baku — or else to Teheran or Istanbul. There are Azerbaijanis rotting in prison for having demanded the right to use their own language. From Kinderganden onwards it is forbidden to speak Azeri.
A federal system is needed for the people to live together.
Mr. Mostafa Hejri, General Secretary of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, is the successor of Abdulrahman Ghassemlou and Sadeq Sherefkandi, both assassinated by the Iranian government, which has, in all, assassinated 162 of its opponents while abroad. During the 90s alone 151 members of the KDP-I were assassinated while living as refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan, and Mr. Heiri began by recalling the memories of his predecessors political records.
Terrorism, both internal and abroad is an integral part of the Iranian regime’s strategy. It enables it to keep itself in power and the victims of this regime are not only Iranians but also foreigners — Europeans for example.
Regarding the Iranian nuclear crisis, the struggle against the regime is not only morally legitimate but can ensure peace in the region and a lasting stability — this means not only the absence of wars low intensity conflicts by a real and durable democracy of a European type.
Today, the dictatorial States are the mortal enemies of their own citizens. The Arab Spring has recalled that reality. It is thus no surprise that the greatest threats to these regimes are not external but internal.
Yet Iran has the capacity to be transformed into a great country and to make a positive contribution to the international community were it to chose democracy. However, millions of Iranians, whatever their ethnicity or their sex are oppressed in different way. The Kurds, the Azeris, the Arabs, the Baluchis, the Turcomen and also members of religious minorities — the Bah’ai, the Yarsans, are oppressed because of their nationals, linguistic or religious identity. To create a new political system in Iran, that would be really democratic the fact of this current reality must be accepted.
In Iranian Kurdistan, oppression is institutionalised and has political, cultural, economic and social repercussions Kurds are refused education in their mother tongue as well as the preservation of their culture and right to self-determination. Kurdish culture is constantly threatened. Arbitrary arrests and torture occur daily, aimed at Human Rights activists, intellectuals and even ordinary citizens. Kurdistan is permanently kept economically underdeveloped as a matter of deliberate State policy. This and the lack of education lead to absence of employment perspectives. The result is a state of anxiety in the population and tragic side effects— a very high level of suicides, especially among women, drug addiction and other social evils.
The population of Iranian Kurdistan supports a change of regime. The low election turnouts come from the boycotting of these phoney elections organised in Kurdistan. If regular and free elections took place the Kurds would vote for a federal secular state. In 1979 a referendum was organised to ask the Iranians if they supported the creation of an Islamic Republic. In Iranian Kurdistan this referendum was purely and simply boycotted.
If the present regime is convinced that it enjoys the support of the majority of the Iranian population why does it not organise free and fair elections in the presence o international observers.
The Iranian population in all its diversity, must bring about a democratic government in this country that would respect their individual and collective rights.
In 2005 a great number of political organisations representing the different nationalities of Iran created a Congress for a Federal Iran so as to co-ordinate our struggle. However this Congress needs the moral and political support of the international community. Already, in 2993 Dr. Sherefkandi had gone to Berlin to explain to the European political elites this vision of a democratic Iran — and he lost his life there
Mr. Yussef Azizi, former Professor at Teheran University, recalled that there were Arabs in Iran and the requests they had made in 1979 to the provisional government at the time of change of regime. Amongst these were autonomy for the Khuzistan region and the return or its original name of Arabistan; recognition of the Arabs as a nation within the Islamic Republic; an autonomous council for the Arab region that would legislate at local level; that Arabic be the official language of the autonomous region, Persian remaining the official language of Iran; education in Arabic as from elementary school, an Arabic language University, freedom of expression and of publication as well as media in Arabic; priority of employment to be given to Arabs in the region; that some funds derived from oil revenues be allocated to develop agriculture and industry in the region; that the topography should use the historic Arabic names; that young Arabs be integrated into the Army and the Police and have access to more senior ranks, which had never been the case.
The situation today: the port city of Khorramshahr (formerly Mohamerah) that had once been “the jewel of Iranian ports” has nit yet been completely reconstructed while unemployment and poverty are endemic. Many dams have been built and their waters turned towards Ispahan, Yard and Kerman for non-essential crops (lettuces and melons) at the expense of the cultivation of wheat and barley and of the Arab peasants. The pollution from industrial water emptied into the rivers, the atmospheric pollution of Ahwaz and other major towns is worsened by dust storms (110 days a year), the drying out of the marshland caused by the dams all give a picture of am eclological catastrophe. Water drunk by many residents is unhealthy Ahwaz being one of the most polluted cities in the world.
Despite the oil revenues extracted from this region, the majority of its inhabitants live in poverty.
Arab people make 70% of the population of Khuzistan, but only 5% of them hold major government positions. The other posts are held by Persians. In the last 80 years no Arab has held the post of Provincial Governor.
The Arabs were the first ethnic group to be targeted by nationalist and racist policies as from the middle of the 19th Century and also following the accession to power of the Pahlevis. This anti-Arab feeling has begun to be part of the general culture, both among the middle classes and even the less comfortably off.
Our friend Professor Dr. Mirella Galletti, Died suddenly early in September 2012
This eminent specialist in Kurdish studies, an active member of the Kurdish Institute of Paris since its foundation in 1983, was born in 1949, near Bologna, in Italy. She received her Ph.D. in Political Science in1974, at Bologna University with a thesis on “the political structure and cultural values of Kurdish society”.
Ever since the 1970s, she has travelled to the Middle East, especially in Kurdistan, to carry out her research work. When the Iraq0Iran War broke out 1980, she was in Teheran. The following year, she secured a press card and was one of the first Europeans to interview A. Ocalan, in June 1988 in the Lebanon, and in 1988 she met the Iraqi Kurdish refugees who had fled from the Anfal campaign.
Since the 1990s she has been teaching Kurdish history and civilisation at Bologna and Trieste Universities, while continuing to make long visits to Iraqi Kurdistan and taking part in university symposia in various countries. During the 2000s, she has been successively teaching the law of Islamic communities at Venice’s Ca' Foscari University and the history of transnational peoples of western Asia at Milan-Bicocca. University. Appointed Professor at Naples Orientale University, she has been teaching Arab and Moslem History there.
She has produced an abundant bibliography, covering not only the Kurds, their history, society and traditions but also the Christian minorities of the Middle east, particularly those of Iraq and of Kurdistan. She has also published books and papers on Iraq and Syria. When asked what she had wanted to achieve in her work and her career, she replied “to know and make known the living conditions and difficulties of the Arab and Islamic world” and to observe “with empathy and without prejudice different cultures”.
Her funeral took place on Saturday 8 September 2012 at 4.30 p.m. in the Basilica dei SS. Apostoli, Piazza Santi Apostoli, hear her home. The church was filled with relations, friends, colleagues and public figures from the scientific world as well as official representatives from Iraq and Kurdistan.
Dr. Saywan Barzani, Iraqi Ambassador to Italy, with whom she had forged close links of work and friendship, came with all the embassy personnel. Also present were the Iraqi Ambassadors to the Vatican, the United Nations and to the Arab League and their colleagues, as well as Monseigneur Haddad, Greek Melikite Catholic Archbishop, who has known Mirelia well and who was theonly person asked to make the funeral oration.
Monseigneur Haddad recalled, in an eloquent manner, the importance of Mirelia’s work, which as reiterated several times, has made better known the Christian communities established in the Middle East since times immemorial and which aspire to continue living in peace and harmony with their Moslem neighbours. He not only stressed Mirelia’s erudition but also her kindness and generosity.
The Kurdish Institute of Paris was represented by Joyce Blau, moved at the loss of a friend of thirty years, who brought the saddened condolences of its President and staff.
Among the crows who surrounded Mirelia’s family, her nephews and nieces, should be mentioned Dr. Paola Orsatti, Professor of Persian Language and literature at the “La Sapienza” University of Rome, Professor Angelo Michele Piemontese, of Rome University, Claudio Caprotti, Professor of ancient languages and Mirelia’s colleague, Professor Gian-Maria Piccinelli, President of the Jean Monnet Faculty of the Seconda Universita degli studi of Naples, where Mirelia taught, the Arabic specialist Isabella Camera d’Afflitto of La Sapienza University and several dozens of other colleagues and friends, may of whom had come from a great distance, and all upset at the sudden loss of this exceptional woman.
Mirella Galletti was a great friend of the Kurds, who she loved deeply. She leaves behind a fascinating and very rich work of inestimable value to Kurdish Studies. All her colleagues and members of the Institute will miss her warm, friendly and always cheerful presence.
The following are some of her works. The full bibliography will be collected shortly.
1974 : Struttura politica e valori culturali nella società curda, thèse préparée sous la dir. d’Antonio Marazzi. Università degli studi, Bologne.
1975 : «L’ultima rivolta curda in Iraq», in Oriente Moderno LV, 9-10, Rome.
1978 : «Sviluppi del problema curdo negli anni 1975-1978», in Oriente Moderno, anno LVII, 9-10, Rome.
1978 : «Curid e Kurdistan in opere italiane del XIII-XIX secolo», in Oriente Moderno, anno LVIII, 11, Rome.
1987 : «Kurd û Kurdistan la Nusrâwakany Italy da, la saday Sêzdam - Nozdam (Les Kurdes et le Kurdistan dans les textes italiens du XIIIe au XIXe siècle), trad. Jasim Tawfiq, Binkay Hangaw, Stockholm.
1990 : I Curdi nella Storia, Vecchio Faggio Editore, Chieti.
1991 : «I Curdi nella il guerra del Golfo», in Oriente Moderno nuova serie, anno X, 1-6, Rome.
1991 : Bollettario 1 (dir) ; Qadrimestrale di scrittura e critica, Associazione culturale Le Avanguardie, Modène.
1990 : « Sviluppo del problema curdo negli anni ’80 » in Oriente Moderno, nº1-6, pp. 75-125, Rome ; 7-12.
1993 : «Kurdistan, un mosaico di sei popoli», in ARES, Revue de Politique Intenrationale et Conflits Ethniques, 1.
1993 : Cenni sulla letteratura curda, trad. de «Bâzne», in Almanaco letterario», Edizioni della Lisca, Milan.
1994 : «Kurdistan : I giochi regionali proseguono : I Curdi in Iran, intervista a Mustafa Hijri» in Politica Internazionale nº 3, Rome.
1994 : «La politica italiana verso assiri e curdi» in Storia contemporana nº 3.
1994 : «Kurdistan : A Mosaic of Peoples», in Acta Kurdica,the International Journal of Kurdish & Iranian.
1994 : «Ahmad Khânî ‘Mem û Zîn’ : L’amore per la patria», in In Forma di Parole, 3e série, 2e année, 4, Crocetti Editore.
1994 : «Kurdistan, polveriera dimenticata : un popolo in cerca di una patria sicura. Minoranze in pericolo : gli assio-caldei. ‘Noi, vasi di coccio tra arabi e curdi ?’» , in Mondo e Missione.
1995 : «Italian Policy Toward Assyrians and Kurds», in Journal of the Assyrian Academic Society, vol. IX, 2, Santa Barbara.
1995 : «The Woman’s Role in the Kurdish Society according to European Literature», in Iran-Nameh, 1 (11).
1996 : «Cristiani d’Iraq. Un esodo senza terra promessa», in Mondo e Missioni.
1996 : «La terra di tutti gli olocausti. ‘Quand Hitler seppe quello che Saddam fece ai curdi pianse ?’» in Corriere della Serra, Milan. 2 septembre 1996.
1996 : «Intervista con Abdullahg Hassanzadeh, Segretario Generale del PDK Iran», in Politica Internazionale, anno XXIV, nuova serie, 3-4.
1996 : Favole curde, Campomarzo Editrice, San Lazzaro di Savena.
1999 : I Curdi : un popolo transnazionale, EdUP, Rome.
1999 : «Shakir Hasbak : un intellettuale iracheno ponte tra Arab e Curdi», in Oriente Moderno, XXI, 2-3, Rome.
2002 : Le relazioni tra Italia e Kurdistan, coll. Quaderni di Oriente Moderno, Instituto per l’Oriente, Naples.
2002 : Incontri con la società del Kurdistan, Name, Gênes.
2003 : Cristiani del Kurdistan, Jouvence, Rome.
2005 : «Kirkuk : The Pivot of Balance in Iraq. Past and Present», in Journal of Academic Assyrian Studies, vol. 19, 2.
2007 : «La bataille de Chalderan dans un tableau du XVIe siècle», in Studia Iranica t. 36, Paris.
2007 : «I Curdi da vinti a vincitori ?» in Il Ponte nº 11, Rome.
2007 : «Ufficiale, medici e funzionari in Medici, tra Impero ottoman et Persia», in Oriente Moderno, Rome.
2008 : Kurdistan. Cucina e tradizioni del popolo curdo, Ananke, Turin.
2008 : «Some Catholic Sources on Jazira (1920-1950), Kervan - Rivista Internazionale di Studi afroasiatici.
2009 : «Cuisine and Customs of the Kurds and their Neighbors» in Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies, vol. 23, nº1.
2010 : Le Kurdistan et ses chrétiens, édition du Cerf, Paris.
2010 : Kürt yemek kültürü, Avewsta yayinlari, Istanbul.
2010 : «L’âne dans la société et la culture kurde - passé et présent », in Revue d’Ethnozootechnie, 87.
2011 : «Correspondance between Eugenio Pacelli, Secretary of State and Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, Apostolic Delegate to Turkey (1935-1939)» in Surdi sull’Oriente Cristiano, 15, Academia Angelica-Costantiniana di Lettere, Aerti e Scienze, Rome.
2011 : Iraq, il Cuore del Mondo, (Iraq, the Heart of the World), Iraqi Embassy to Italy, Rome..