Catherine Perez-Shakdam

In the Shadow of the Gallows: The Kurdish Question and Tehran’s Ruthless Gamble

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In the inexorable march of the Islamic Republic towards a macabre spectacle, the fate of four Kurdish souls hangs precariously. The Iranian regime, with its penchant for theatrical cruelty, has summoned the families of these condemned men to Evin Prison – a grotesque prelude to state-sanctioned murder. This grim ritual, undertaken under the guise of judicial process, is nothing less than a calculated act of terror by a government that has long since abandoned any pretense of humanity.

Let us not mince words here: the targeting of the Kurds by Tehran is an exercise in ethnic cleansing masquerading as statecraft. The regime’s narrative, rife with the paranoia of ethnocentrism, brands these Kurds as Zionist agents and separatists – a convenient fiction to justify their ruthless suppression. It is a narrative as threadbare as it is transparent, yet it serves its intended purpose of diverting attention from the regime’s own existential insecurities.

What we are witnessing is the desperate thrashing of a tyrannical regime, willing to sacrifice its own citizens on the altar of its survival. The Kurds, in their indefatigable quest for dignity and recognition, have become the latest victims in this tragic farce. Their plight is emblematic of a broader truth: in the eyes of Tehran, the right to exist, to dissent, to dream of a better life, is not a universal human endowment but a privilege to be doled out or retracted at the whim of theocrats.

The relentless persecution of the Kurds by Tehran is not a novel chapter in the annals of tyranny, but rather a recurring motif in a long, grim narrative. Time and again, the Kurdish people have found themselves ensnared in the machinations of a regime that sees their very existence as a threat to its ideological and territorial hegemony.

Consider the case of Ramin Hossein Panahi, a Kurdish activist, who was executed in 2018 amidst international outcry and pleas for clemency. His crime, in the eyes of the regime, was nothing more than advocating for the rights and autonomy of his people. His execution was a stark message to the Kurds: dissent will be met not with dialogue, but with death.

In 2010, five other Kurdish activists, including Farzad Kamangar, a teacher and environmentalist, were hanged in Evin Prison. Their executions were carried out in secret, the families informed only after the fact, in a callous display of contempt for both human life and due process.

The Kurdish struggle for rights and recognition extends beyond the borders of Iran. In places like Turkey and Syria, Kurds have faced similar repression and violence. Yet, despite the scale and severity of these abuses, the international community’s response has been, at best, tepid and, at worst, complicit. The global powers, preoccupied with geopolitical chess games, have often chosen to overlook the plight of the Kurds, treating it as a peripheral issue in the larger scheme of regional politics.

The case of these four Kurdish political prisoners, Vafa Azarbar, Mohsen Vazloum, Mohammad Faramarzi Pezman Fatehi, is, therefore, not an aberration but a continuation of a policy of systematic oppression. It is a grim testament to the fact that, for regimes like that in Tehran, the rights of minorities are not inherent, but a concession that can be revoked at a moment’s notice.

In this critical juncture, the international community cannot afford to be a passive onlooker. It is imperative to vociferously condemn the injustices inflicted upon the Kurdish people. This battle for Kurdish rights transcends geographical boundaries and stands as a crucial measure of our global dedication to justice, equality, and human dignity. The ongoing plight of the Kurds is not just their struggle; it mirrors the struggle of every marginalized group fighting for their inherent human rights.

The threat posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran is alarmingly immediate and severe, a reality that can no longer be overlooked. Recent intelligence leaks indicating planned attacks by the regime against Western democracies underscore the urgency of this threat. The violence perpetrated by the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) and Basij against the Kurds serves as a harrowing preview of the potential broader implications. These actions are not isolated incidents but part of a larger pattern of aggression that could have far-reaching consequences.

The situation demands more than mere recognition; it requires decisive action. Our state officials must display the necessary courage and resolve to counter these threats. This is not merely a matter of policy or politics; it is a moral imperative. The time has come to transform our approach from reactive to proactive, from appeasement to assertiveness. By standing firmly against such aggressions, we uphold not only the rights of the Kurds but also the security and values of our own societies. The fight against such tyranny and oppression is a shared responsibility, one that calls for solidarity and action from all corners of the world.

The international response to this looming tragedy has been, predictably, a cacophony of silence and fecklessness. The so-called guardians of global morality, ensconced in their diplomatic palaces, have offered little more than tepid expressions of concern. This inertia is not just a failure of diplomacy; it is a moral abdication of the highest order.

It falls upon us, then, to bear witness to this atrocity, to shout from the rooftops what the diplomats whisper in hushed tones. We must expose the perfidy of the Iranian regime, not just for its assault on the Kurds, but for its assault on the very notion of human dignity. The execution of these four men, should it proceed, will be a stain upon the conscience of the world.

This is not merely a Kurdish or Iranian issue; it is a test of our collective resolve to stand against tyranny in all its forms. Let us not be found wanting. Let us stand in solidarity with the Kurdish people and all Iranians who dare to dream of a life beyond the shadow of the gallows. Let the world hear their cries, and let us answer them with a resounding call for justice and freedom. The hour is late, but it is not yet over.


About the Author
Catherine Perez-Shakdam - Director Forward Strategy and Executive Director Forum of Foreign Relations (FFR) Catherine is a former Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society and consultant for the UNSC on Yemen, as well an expert on Iran, Terror and Islamic radicalisation. A prominent political analyst and commentator, she has spoken at length on the Islamic Republic of Iran, calling on the UK to proscribe the IRGC as a terrorist organisation. Raised in a secular Jewish family in France, Catherine found herself at the very heart of the Islamic world following her marriage to a Muslim from Yemen. Her experience in the Middle East and subsequent work as a political analyst gave her a very particular, if not a rare viewpoint - especially in how one can lose one' sense of identity when confronted with systemic antisemitism. Determined to share her experience and perspective on those issues which unfortunately plague us -- Islamic radicalism, Terror and Antisemitism Catherine also will speak of a world, which often sits out of our reach for a lack of access.
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