Friday , 2 June 2023

Iranian Kurdish Parties and the “Mahsa Charter”

Iranwire – The recent publication by six exiled Iranian opposition figures of a joint “Charter of Solidarity and Alliance for Freedom” has led to a major negative reaction from the main Kurdish parties opposed to the Islamic Republic.

The document, dubbed the “Mahsa Charter,” sets out proposals for the establishment of a “free and democratic Iran” after the Islamic Republic falls.

It was signed by prominent figures opposed to the theocracy, but all Kurdish parties, except the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, rejected it.

IranWire asked leaders and representatives of Komala and three other Kurdish parties, Komala – Kurdistan Organization of the Communist Party of Iran, the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK), the reasons why they back or oppose the charter.

Their comments do not reflect the views of IranWire.

The four-page “Mahsa Charter,” published on March 29, lists democratic governance, human rights and human dignity, justice, peace and security, environmental sustainability and economic transparency as shared values.

It was put together by the Alliance for Democracy and Freedom in Iran of former crown prince of Iran Reza Pahlavi, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, the ex-president of the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims Hamed Esmaeilion, actress and rights activist Nazanin Boniadi, activist and journalist Masih Alinejad and the leader of the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan Abdullah Mohtadi.

Their proposals come amid months of pressure from anti-government protesters who are demanding fundamental economic, social and political change after over four decades of clerical rule.

The authorities have responded to the protest movement with a bloody crackdown in which more than 520 people were killed and over 19,000 were unlawfully detained, according to human rights groups. After biased trials, the judiciary handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.

The protests and clampdown on dissent have been particularly intense in western Kurdish areas and the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan, home to Iran’s Sunni Baluch minority.

According to Amnesty International, ethnic minorities in Iran face “widespread discrimination,” with the authorities curtailing their access to education, employment, adequate housing and political office. Under-investment in minority-populated regions exacerbate poverty and marginalization, the London-based human rights group said in its annual report released this week.

Ilkhanizadeh: “The Charter Recognizes the Plurality and Diversity of Ethnic Groups”

Omar Ilkhanizadeh, deputy leader of the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, told IranWire that the party seeks to “get maximum support for the ‘Mahsa Charter’ among other Kurds and at the national level.”

“For our party, as a republican and federalist organization, the focus is not on words and expressions, but on content,” he said.

“Our party views positively the decentralization of power by giving financial, administrative, and policy-making authority to elected provincial, city, and district institutions, the acceptance of linguistic, ethnic, religious and cultural diversity, and the establishment of a secular democratic system through free and fair elections based on the rule of law.”

“We consider these standards to be fundamental principles of federalism, regardless of the use of the term itself. It is important to note that not all of our party’s policies are included in the ‘Mahsa Charter,’ but we believe it’s subject to modifications and improvements.”

Ilkhanizadeh said that attention should be paid to the nuanced language in the “Mahsa Charter” to “understanding its democratic potential for Iran’s ethnic minorities, including Kurds.”

“Rather than emphasizing a monolithic Iranian identity, the charter recognizes the plurality and diversity of ethnic groups in Iran. Additionally, the ‘Mahsa Charter’ promises to decentralize political power in the future Iran, and many of its clauses align with the universal declaration of human rights and international covenants,” he said.

Ilkhanizadeh stressed that political parties and organizations will compete in the parliamentary democratic system that will replace the Islamic Republic.

He announced that his party is working with the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, which opposes the “Mahsa Charter,”to draft a ‘Kurdistan Charter,’ which seeks greater cooperation between existing parties throughout Iran.

“This charter is not intended to contradict or interfere with the ‘Mahsa Charter,’” he said.

The Center for the Cooperation of the Kurdistan Parties of Iran consists of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan and the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan.

In 2000, the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan split from the Komala – Kurdistan Organization of the Communist Party of Iran.

Alizadeh: The Charter’s Signatories Enjoy “Weak” Popular Support

According to Ibrahim Alizadeh, the first secretary of Komala – Kurdistan Organization of the Communist Party of Iran, the publication of the “Mahsa Charter” has harmed the unity between Iranian opposition parties and caused “divisions” among the major Kurdish parties.

Alizadeh told IranWire that the main audience of the charter is not the people inside Iran, but rather the United States and European countries.

He claimed that the document’s general purpose is to consult with Western democratic governments to isolate the Islamic Republic and gain support from the West.

Alizadeh believes the US and European governments will not take the “Mahsa Charter” seriously because its signatories “don’t represent” the people who are driving the revolution in Iran.

He sees the charter as a product of political competition between “supporters of Reza Pahlavi and the People’s Mojahedin Organization (MEK), both of whom are vying for political power in the future Iran.”

He believes that cooperation and convergence with these groups, which he said are competing for “Western governments’ support against the Islamic Republic,” “fundamentally contradict the spirit of the ‘Mahsa Revolution’ and its democratic demands.”

Alizadeh also claimed that the signatories of the charter enjoy “weak” popular support within Iran and “lack an organized, popular, and social position within the country.”

“For instance, is Mr. Abdullah Mohtadi a representative of the Kurdish community? Can his organization alone call for a general strike in Kurdistan? Likewise, can Reza Pahlavi revive the Jina (Mahsa) movement, which has, to some extent, dwindled? Definitely not!”

Alizadeh said that the primary issue with the charter’s signatories is their “refusal to accept Iran as a multinational country and to recognize the right to self-determination of oppressed ethnic groups within [the country] as a legal principle in international law.”

To maintain their formal solidarity, the signatories “disregarded” the main issue, which is the right of oppressed ethnic groups to “determine their fate,” he said.

Alizadeh also argued that the combination of the charter’s clauses 2 and 13, which call for preserving Iran’s territorial integrity and for dissolving the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), threatens ethnic groups in Iran.

Qaderi: “Centralism and Totalitarianism…Will Inevitably Lead to Dictatorship”

Mohammed Nazif Qaderi is a leader of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, which supports federalism.

“After examining the main points of the ‘Mahsa Charter,’ our party opposes it due to its reliance on a centrist and consensus-seeking approach,” Qaderi told IranWire.

“We believe that centralism and totalitarianism, which are deeply entrenched in Iran’s political history and system of governance, will inevitably lead to dictatorship, the violation of democratic freedoms and the denial of the identity of Iran’s various nationalities,” he said.

According to Qaderi, the charter does not seek to establish a democratic system based on the division of political power and “fails to address the needs of oppressed ethnic groups in Iran.”

He said that his party is currently discussing with the Congress of Ethnicities of Federal Iran, Solidarity for Freedom and Equality and Council of Democracy Seekers to form a broad coalition.

The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan is also consulting with political parties and organizations which “believe in solving the Kurdish problem in Iran and in establishing a republican, democratic and secular system.”

“It is important to note that the recent meeting between the Democratic Party, the Communist Labor Party of Iran and the People’s Mojahedin Organization (MEK) was in line with these goals,” he said.

Moeini: The Charter “Doesn’t Represent a Democratic Vision for Iran’s Future”

Siamand Moeini, one of PJAK’s two leaders, criticized the signatories of the charter for their desire for “centrism.”

“The goal of the ‘Mahsa Charter’ signatories is to prepare the ground for changing the current political system from above and to distort and confiscate the ‘Women, Life, Freedom’ democratic revolution,” Moeini told IranWire.

He claimed that the signatories are not represented in the protest movement and are “attempting to impose their political project on this progressive revolution.”

Moeini argued that the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement represents the foundation for overcoming the oppression and exploitation that the Iranian people have been subjected to for over a century under a centralized nation-state.

“This revolution has already begun to challenge centrist fascism, the concentration of power, and the ongoing oppression of nationalities within Iran,” he said.

Moeini believes the protest movement can lead to a “new era” for Iran and is “characterized by the struggle for a secular and democratic society based on freedom and equality at all levels.”

Moeini asserted that the “Mahsa Charter” sanctifies Iran’s geography and is rooted in a centralist mentality that refuses to acknowledge the constituent nations within the country and their rights.

He also claimed that the charter “doesn’t represent a democratic vision for Iran’s future, but rather a continuation of the centralist and totalitarian policies that have persisted before and after the 1979 revolution.”

PJAK and Komala – the Kurdistan Organization of the Communist Party of Iran are among the parties that have endorsed a charter of “minimum demands” listed by 20 independent trade unions and civic groups in Iran.