Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

https://www.iranrights.org
Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Pishva Azizpur (Seyed Omar)

About

Age: 20
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Single

Case

Date of Killing: September 8, 2018
Location of Killing: Koy-Sanjagk, Iraq
Mode of Killing: Extrajudicial killing
Age at time of offense: 20

About this Case

Mr. Azizpur had lost his father when he was only 9 months old. He joined the Kurdistan Democratic Party at the age of 16.

Information regarding the killing of Mr. Pishva Azizpur, also known as Pishva Seyed Omar, son of Omar, was obtained from an interview conducted by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center with Mr. Kamal Karimi, Mr. Azizpur’s commander (April 25, 2021). The news of this killing was also published on the official website of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Kurdistan u Kurd (September 9, 2018), the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s archives (undated), and on the Hengaw Human Rights Organization website (September 9, 2018).

Additional information was obtained through interviews conducted by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center with Mr. Kamal Karimi, member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (January 1, February 4, and March 2, 2021), Mr. Mansur Khosravi, member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (March 31, 2021), and Mr. Farzin Nadimi, research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (April 20, 2021). Additional information was obtained from the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s Charter, passed in its 16thCongress (February 2016), Reuters News Agency (July 21, 2018), Persian Deutsche Welle (July 10, 1nd 22, 2018), the official website of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Kurdistan u Kurd (February 16, 2016; September 7, 2016; September 8, 2018), ISNA News Agency (September 10, and 14, 2018), and other sources.*

Mr. Azizpur was an ethnic Kurd, single, born in 1998-99, in Baneh County located in Kurdistan Province. His father passed away when he was 9 months old. He had to quit high school in his sophomore year due to his family’s dire financial conditions. (Boroumand Center interview, April 25, 2021).

Mr. Azizpur was drawn to political and party activities because of Iran’s, and especially Kurdistan’s, [dire] economic and political situation, and the protest demonstrations in the 2010’s. (Boroumand Center interview, April 4, 2021). In 2014-15, at the age of 16, he joined the Kurdistan Democratic Party as a Peshmerga. (Party archives).

Mr. Azizpur was active in the Party’s security and Shakh (mountain) Committees. He was also active as staff member and commander in the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s Political Office Protection and Security Force. (Party archives).

Mr. Azizpur was a smart and active individual who loved learning and getting ahead, especially in Party activities. He was extremely popular and trustworthy, and was a great role model for his friends within the Party as well as outside. (Boroumand Center interview, April 25, 2021).

The Kurdish Problem in the Islamic Republic

After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the disagreements between the government of the Shiite Islamic Republic and the organizations in the Kurdish regions of western Iran regarding the rights and roles of minorities in drafting the Constitution; whether the government should be secular or religious, and especially the issue of Kurdish autonomy; and conflicts that resulted in Kurdish political organizations boycotting the April 1979 Referendum on instituting an Islamic Republic; led to serious, and at times armed, clashes between the central government and the Peshmerga (Kurdistan Democratic Party’s armed forces).

On August 19, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini labeled the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI), the oldest and most influential Kurdish Party, “the Party of the Devil”, and declared it “unofficial and illegal”, and ordered a military attack on Kurdistan. Mass executions and intense armed clashes continued in the region for months, clashes that resulted in the deaths of a number of civilians and the displacement and relocation of the residents of certain towns. In the next four years, Kurdish parties lost their grip on power in the region to a great extent, and relocated to Iraqi Kurdistan. Since then, a number of their leaders and members have been assassinated outside Iran, especially in Iraqi Kurdistan.

In the years since the Islamic Republic has been in existence, in addition to such entities as the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, Komala (Revolutionary Organization of the Toilers of Iranian Kurdistan), the Koran School led by Ahmad Moftizadeh, Organization of Iranian Kurdistan Struggle (which was active in the early years of the Revolution), certain other Kurdish opposition parties were established outside Iran, such as the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) and the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK). These parties, with policies and ideologies that are not necessarily similar and uniform, have settled in parts of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region in Iraq, such as Koy, Soleimanieh, and in the foothills of Qandil mountains. Some of these parties have undergone splits in recent years. These conflicts have been more about the methods of running the organizations rather than theoretical and ideological differences. These parties have not controlled any part of the Iranian territory since the late 1980’s, and have adopted different strategies in different periods in order to confront the Islamic Republic, advance their political objectives, and recruit members.

Beginning in 2006, the conflicts between the regime and Kurdish parties – who had increased their presence in Iran in reaction to the government intensifying the detention and execution of Kurdish activists and the spread of fundamentalist beliefs in Kurdish regions – entered a new and more serious phase. Kurdish forces, especially the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan and the PJAK, were attacked several times inside Iran and in Iraqi Kurdistan border regions by border patrol forces and the revolutionary Guards. That same year, Revolutionary Guards conducted armed attacks against the positions of Iranian Kurdish parties inside the borders of the Kurdish Autonomous Region in Iraq. The bombing of the Night of Yalda ceremonies (an ancient celebration of the longest night of the year) in 2006, which was also Abdorrahman Qassemlu’s birthday, resulted in the death of five Party members and 2 members of the Iraqi Kurdistan security forces. Kurdish forces also attacked Islamic Republic forces on several occasions. At least dozens were killed on each side in these military clashes.**

In subsequent years, particularly in 2017 and 2018, the clashes continued with less frequency and intensity. The most important of these clashes was the attack by PJAK forces on a border post on July 21, 2018, which resulted in 11 deaths. (Deutsche Welle, July 22, 2018; Reuters, July 21, 2018). On September 8 of that same year, the seat of the Kurdistan Democratic Party – a party that opposed armed struggle and had not participated in the clashes with the Islamic Republic forces – located in Koy in Iraqi Kurdistan, was the target of a rocket attack by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards in which 16 people were killed and 50 injured. (ISNA News Agency, September 14, 2018; Kurdistan u Kurd website (September 8, 2018).

Background on the Formation of the Kurdistan Democratic Party

Following internal conflicts within the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan – established in 1945 with the aim of autonomy for Kurdistan in northwestern Iran – the Party went through a shakeup in 2006 and was split into two separate organizations, the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (PDK). The PDK seeks “the establishment of a Kurdistan Republic within the framework of a federal Iran”. (Charter of the PDK, passed in its 16thCongress in February 2016). This party has not ruled out armed struggle; it has, however, prioritized political struggle and the expression of the people of Kurdistan’s demands through elections and other civil activities within the framework of existing domestic laws in order to achieve their goals. (The official website of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Kurdistan u Kurd, February 16, 2016).

The PDK has demanded the implementation of, and even negotiation over, Principles 15*** and 19**** of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic that deals with the rights of ethnic and religious minorities. In 2016-17, Party officials met with Iran’s National Security High Council officials in Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. On February 15, 2016, in the Concluding Declaration of its 16thCongress, the Party emphasized “rendering the struggle and the activities more robust, both inside and outside the country, and strengthening the nationalist discourse as well as the spirit of unity and solidarity in Iranian Kurdistan in all areas and contexts” through “utilization of all means and methods of struggle for the purpose of universalizing the nationalist discourse in Iranian Kurdistan, relying on unity and solidarity”. (Boroumand Center interview, February 4, 2021; Giarang, January 3, 2019; Deutsche Welle, July 10, 2019; the official website of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Kurdistan u Kurd, February 16, 2016).

Threats made Against Mr. Azizpur and His Death

On September 8, 2018, Mr. Pishva Azizpur was killed in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ rocket attack on the location where a meeting of the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s Central Committee was being held in the town of Koy Sanjaq, located in Iraq’s Erbil Province.

At 10:45 in the morning of September 8, 2018, the political offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (PDK) located in a building known as the Democratic Qala (“Fort”) in Koy Sanjaq, a town 66 kilometers (41 miles) from the Iran-Iraq border, was the target of a rocket attack by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The structure, which is 700 meters (765 yards) long and 200 meters (218 yards) wide, is comprised of 100 rooms on two levels and a basement, where all of the Party’s various sections are located, that is, the political and military sections, other sections related to women, children, and youth issues, the Party’s radio and television, as well as the sleeping and living quarters of the single members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s Peshmerga. Married Peshmerga and their families live one kilometer from this structure. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan’s offices and buildings, including the Party’s training and education center is also approximately one kilometer to the east of this structure. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan’s training and education center is the closest building to the Qala. Party ceremonies used to be conducted in this building prior to the attack. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan’s political and military training headquarters were also targeted. (Boroumand Center interview, March 31, 2021).

According to the Revolutionary Guards and local eyewitnesses, seven ground to ground precision missiles were fired, three of which hit the PDK headquarters, and two hit the ground close to the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan’s training center. As a result, 14 PDK members and 2 PDKI members were killed, and 50 were wounded, a number of whom were women and children. (Boroumand Center interview, January 1, 2021; official website of the Kurdistan Democratic Party; Holy Defense News Agency, September 9, 2018).

In an interview with Abdorrahman Boroumand Center, Farzin Nadimi, research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, stated: “Based on the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ claims, the technology used in the Fateh 110 missile used in the attack against the Kurdistan Democratic Party headquarters probably had a high level of precision.” According to Mr. Nadimi, one cannot opine on why the other two missiles did not hit a specific target, and it is not clear whether these rockets were supposed to hit the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s headquarters or the seat of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan. (Boroumand Center interview, April 20, 2021).

After the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ rocket attack on the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s headquarters and the execution of three Kurdish political prisoners, Zanyar Moradi, Loqman Moradi, and Ramin Hosseinpanahi, Kurdish civil and political activists and Kurdish parties, including the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, Komala of the Toilers of Kurdistan, the Iranian Kurdistan Struggle, the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party issued a call for a nationwide strike on September 8, 2018. Following this call, business owners in bazars of various towns in Kurdistan, Western Azarbaijan, and Kermanshah Provinces shut down their stores on September 12, 2018. (Deutsche Welle, September 12, 2018).

Iranian Officials’ Reaction

News of the September 8 rocket attack was initially published by semi-official media close to military institutions. A day later, on September 9, 2021, the Revolutionary Guards Corps issued an announcement in which it accepted responsibility for the rocket attack on the Kurdistan Democratic Party camp, stating that the reason for the attack was “the leaders of these groups’ defiance and inattention to serious warnings issued by the Iraqi Kurdistan Autonomous Region’s officials emphasizing the Islamic Republic’s determination to remove their bases, and the necessity for putting an end to their mischief, aggression, and invasive and terrorist activities against Islamic Iran”. (Holy Defense News Agency, September 9, 2018). Bahram Qassemi, then-spokesman of Iran’s Foreign Ministry declared that the attack was a response to the July 21, 2018 attack on the border post that had resulted in the death of several border patrolmen. (Mehr News Agency, September 10, 2018). On July 21, 2018, however, Reuters New Agency had quoted Hossein Khosheqbal, Kurdistan Province’s Deputy Governor for Political [Affairs], as attributing the attack on the border post to the PJAK. In an interview with Fars News Agency, Mohammad Hossein Rajabi, commander of Kurdistan’s Shahid Shahramfar Provincial Military Base had also stated on September 8, 2018, that is, one day after the attack on Kurdish parties in Iraq, that the killing of 6 PJAK members [on September 7, 2018] by the Revolutionary Guards local forces in “a pursuit operation named after the great Heidar Karrar” was in response to the attack on the border post and the killing of “11 indigenous Guards”. (Fars News Agency, September 8, 2018; Reuters, July 21, 2018).

Confirming Iran’s rocket attack, Ali Shamkhani, National Security High Council’s Secretary, stated that it was a response to “activities that jeopardized [national] security”. (ISNA News Agency, September 10, 2018). Furthermore, Major-General Mohammad Baqeri, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Armed Forces asked the Iraqi Government and the government of Iraqi Kurdistan Autonomous Region to either turn over the members of that Party and of other parties opposed to Iran, or expel them from their territory. (ISNA News Agency, September 14, 2018).

The Kurdistan Democratic Party’s Reaction

In an interview with the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center, Kamal Karimi, member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s political office stated that the Party had not conducted any military operations inside Iran since the split in 2006, and that the dispatch of the Peshmerga inside Iran was in order to conduct propaganda and promotion activities. (Boroumand Center interview, February 4, 2021). Hengaw Human Rights Organization’s 2016 report (the timeframe of the research conducted), which records military activities between Kurdish parties and the Iranian regime’s military forces, does not contain any form of clashes between the members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party with the Islamic Republic’s military and security forces. The Kurdistan u Kurd website, the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s news arm, reported the killing of two of its members on September 6, 2016, that had been in Iran in order to carry out “political activities” and had been trapped in an “explosive net”. (Kurdistan u Kurd website, September 7, 2016).

The Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan reacted to the Islamic republic’s missile attack in separate announcements. The Kurdistan Democratic Party’s political office condemned the Revolutionary Guards’ missile attack on the Party’s bases, and asked political groups, activists, international organizations and institutions, and the world public opinion to condemn the attack. In its announcement, the Party emphasized that the location where the missiles had hit were the Party’s offices and civic centers. (Kurdistan Democratic Party’s website, September 8, 2018). According to Kamal Karimi, the 2018 attack on a border post in [the town of] Marivan, which was the pretext for the missile attack on the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s offices, had been carried out by the PJAK and the latter had officially accepted responsibility for that attack. (Boroumand Center interview, March 2, 2021; Radio France, July 21, 2018).

According to available information, the Kurdistan Democratic Party has continued negotiations with the Islamic Republic after the missile attack. The Party and three other Kurdish political groups were in direct negotiations with the Islamic Republic in July 2019, with a Norwegian non-governmental organization as intermediary. However, in an interview with the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center, Kamal Karimi, member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s political office, stated that these negotiations have been halted for now. (Deutsche Welle, July 8, 2019; Boroumand Center interview, February 4, 2021).

Reaction of the Governments of Iraq and the Kurdistan Autonomous Region of Iraq

On Sunday, September 9, 2018, the Iraqi government condemned the missile attack on the bases of two opposition Kurdish parties by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and called it a “violation of its sovereignty”. Ahmad Mahjub, Iraq Foreign Ministry’s spokesman stressed: “Iraq wishes to [maintain] the security of its neighboring countries, and is opposed to any use of its territory for the purpose of endangering the security of these nations. Therefore, Baghdad strongly refutes any breach of its sovereignty caused by bombing any targets inside Iraqi territory without first obtaining the prior consent of Iraqi authorities.” The government of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region also issued a statement in which it condemned the Revolutionary Guards Corps’ aerial attack on the democratic parties’ offices and asked the Islamic Republic and the Iranian Kurdish parties settled in the Kurdistan Autonomous Region not to turn the Region into a conflict and competition zone. The Iraqi President Foad Massum expressed his concern and sorrow and stated that Iran’s attack on the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s camp and offices in the town of Koy constituted an extensive breach of the country’s security. (Radio Farda, September 9, 2018; Kurdistan 24, September 9, 2018; ISNA News Agency, September 10 and 14, 2018).

Impacts on Family

According to Mr. Karimi, Mr. Azizpur’s death “had a tremendous adverse psychological and emotional effect on his family. He did not have a father and his mother had raised him and his brother with great difficulty, in spite of all the social and financial problems they experienced. He had a lot of hope for his child, which, unfortunately, will never materialize”. (Boroumand Center interview, April 25, 2021).

Baneh Information Administration forces threatened Mr. Azizpur’s mother on the phone, telling her that she was not to hold official services for him at a mosque or hold an extensive wake for him at home. In spite of the security forces’ threats, a large number of people participated in Mr. Azizpur’s services. (Boroumand Center interview, April 25, 2021).

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* Holy Defense News Agency (September 9, 2018); Fars News Agency (September 8, 2018); Hengaw Human Rights Organizations Annual Report (2016); Radio France (July 21, 2018); Radio Farda (September 9, 2018); Kurdistan 24 website (September 9, 2018); Ara News (April 20, and September 25, 2016, March 20, 2017); Giarang website (January 3, 2019); Mehr News Agency (September 10, 2018).
** For instance, the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK) Peshmerga’s attack on the soldiers’ parade on April 17, 2016 (Ara News, April 19, 2016); the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan’s attack in Oshnuyeh on June 15, 2016, that resulted in the death of 6 Islamic Revolutionary Guardsmen (Rudaw, June 16, 2016); the attack by the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan Peshmerga on a large Security location in the town of Piranshahr on September 24, 2016, following the arrest of dozens of Kurdish activists that resulted in more than 30 Islamic Revolutionary Guardsmen dead and dozens injured (Ara News, September 25, 2016); the attack by the “Eagles of Zagros” group in the town of Marivan in March 2017, that resulted in the death of at least two Islamic Revolutionary Guardsmen (Ara News, March 19, 2017).
*** Principle 15 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran: “The official language and script of Iran, the lingua franca of its people, is Persian. Official documents, correspondence, and texts, as well as text-books, must be in this language and script. However, the use of regional and tribal languages in the press and mass media, as well as for teaching of their literature in schools, is allowed in addition to Persian.”
**** Principle 19 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran:” All people of Iran, whatever the ethnic group or tribe to which they belong, enjoy equal rights; and color, race, language, and the like, do not bestow any privilege.”

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