In an exclusive interview with JerusalemOnline, Sharif Behruz, the former US Representative of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) described the internal Kurdish infighting between his group and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that led to the murder of a member of his group along the Iraqi-Iranian border.

Mustafa Hijri with KDPI forces

Mustafa Hijri with KDPI forces Photo Credit: KDPI Facebook Page

It was reported yesterday that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) attacked the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) Peshmerga on the border between Iraqi and Iranian Kurdistan, murdering one KDPI Peshmerga member.   In an exclusive interview with JerusalemOnline, Sharif Behruz, the former US Representative of the KDPI and the current Iran Roundtable President, stated that their motive is hegemony: “We know for a fact that the PKK despite being a Kurdish Party advocating for the rights of the Kurds in Turkey widely interferes in the affairs of other parts, regrettably often in line with the interests of the oppressive states.”

The PDKI is an Iranian Kurdish political party that has been advocating and struggling for Kurdish rights in Iran, seeking to establish a federal democratic structure in Iran where Kurds rule their own areas.  While they view the Kurds as a nation that deserves a country like all other peoples on this planet, they don’t recruit members from other areas of Kurdistan and refrain from interfering in the internal politics in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.   The PKK to the contrary has been waging a violent struggle against the Turkish state that has included terror attacks like suicide bombings but they conduct their war at the expense of the Kurdish community in Syria and Iran.   

According to Behruz, since Abdullah Ocalan’s capture, “They rarely mention or talk about Kurds.  They have abandoned their national cause and taken up the totalitarian Marxist agenda. Following the crisis in the region, PKK is still in the caps of the Shiite crescent, as the top person of the PKK Camil Bayak is an Alawi Shia himself.   It is unfortunate for the Kurds of Turkey to be on the wrong side of history and the PKK is mainly blamed for this.”  He noted that Assad left Syrian Kurdistan in the hands of the PKK-linked PYD and Iran permitted the PKK-linked PJAK to guard their border.  The PKK-linked groups worked to undermine the popularity of nationalist Kurdish groups aligned with the West such as the PDKI.    

Behruz noted that the Kurdish struggle would not have been possible without some sort of relationship with the adjacent states: “Unfortunately, in Syria, the PKK’s relationship was against the Kurdish national movement in Syria and it is the same with Iran as well.  The mere fact that the PKK has been able to use the territories between Iran and Iraq as their bases for many years to conduct their fight against the Turkish state has been due to the blessing and support of the Iranians.  Both sides have their reasons for such cooperation, but certainly it is not in the best interests of the Kurds in Iran.”

Behruz stressed that the Middle East is a very volatile region, where strong and stable states have been vanishing: “Iran can be one of those oppressive states that can crumble from within.  Kurds have always played a major role in the transformation of Iran since the creation of the modern state in the 1920’s.  They still continue to play the same role through their experienced political parties that are banned in Iran.  The political parties including the KDPI play a significant role in shaping public opinion in Kurdistan and across Iran.  The recent unrest in Mahabad proved the Kurdish people in Iran are ready for such an uprising if supported and well organized.  The PDKI despite many regional obstacles has been able to move back and forth between their bases in Iraqi Kurdistan and Iranian Kurdistan.”

However, Behruz emphasized that the PKK has made life more difficult for the PDKI: “Such movements would be easier if bases were closer to the border as they once were in the Qandil Mountains, where the PKK is right now.  However, the PKK has forces along major routes and areas where such border crossings can take place.  Unfortunately, the PDKI has avoided such altercations by taking more dangerous routes.  Kurdish internal infighting well explains the current situation that Kurds are in.  Kurds would have their own state if all were united and spoke with one voice at the turn of the 20th century.  The same goes for explaining the current situation.”

“In Rojhelat (Iranian Kurdistan), the Kurdish political parties are divided more than ever,” he told JerusalemOnline.  “The divisions play an important role in Iranian Islamic forces advancing deep inside Kurdish areas after the 1979 Revolution.  In Bakur (Turkish Kurdistan), the Kurdish political landscape is divided.  The PKK, despite being very instrumental in the Kurdish struggle against the Turkish state, has a hegemonic agenda that has left little room for cooperation among Kurdish parties in Bakur.  Due to such policies, it has alienated half of the Kurds in Bakur who prefer to vote for the AKP than PKK affiliated parties such as HDP.  In Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan), the same policies led to the takeover of most of the Kurdish areas in Syria by ISIS.  If the PKK affiliated PYD was inclusive, there are thousands from other parties that would be ready to fight against ISIS, but they chose the destruction of Kobane to cooperation with Syrian Kurdish political parties.  They still remain divisive.”   In fact, Behruz believes that there would be a civil war in Syrian Kurdistan if it was not for the ISIS threat: “Hostile forces such as ISIS and others can exploit such rifts and cause irreversible damage to our national unity and cause.”

“Kurdish society is generally fed up with Kurdish political forces infighting,” Behruz stated in conclusion.  “They are upset that even to this day, party interest lies well above national interest.  They have overwhelmingly condemned it.  However, it is noteworthy that Kurds know in general that the PDKI is a respected political party.  PDKI has good relations with all the Kurdish political parties and believe in a pluralistic and democratic society.  PDKI has abandoned partisan interests for the sake of the national interests.   On the other hand, the PKK has engaged with infighting against almost all the Kurdish political parties.  The PKK has fought Iraq’s PUK and KDP in the past.  It fought the political parties in Bakur, Rojava, etc.  The PKK has little to no relations with the other Kurdish political parties and views itself to be the master of Kurdistan.  This recent episode proves how difficult the task of nation building is given the geo-political complexities of Kurdistan.”  

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