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Interview: Rooz Talks to Komeleh Leader

By Mohammad Reza Yazdanpanah, Rooz Online

The Winner of Iran's Free Elections is Mousavi

Abdollah Mohtadi

Perhaps because of the heavy propaganda by the Islamic republic or perhaps because the media was not as developed as it is today, the Kurdish party Komeleh was for years a synonym for armed men who engaged in violence and terrorism in the mountains and cities of Iranian Kurdistan with the goal of separating Kurdistan from Iran. But after the events that have taken place in Iran since June 12, 2009, political and social activists in this country who are now in the millions because of the green movement, have discovered a different image of Komeleh.

The secretary general of the Komeleh party Abdollah Mohtadi has played a very important role in making this image credible. He talks to the media, categorically defends the territorial integrity of Iran, talks of peaceful and civil struggle for the attainment of democratic demands of all the Iranian people, defends the green movement and its leaders, and stresses on the negation of violence and oppression. He views all the claims of beheadings carried out by Kurds to be the creation of the propaganda machinery of the Islamic republic and believes that during the last year the people of Iran have witnessed the lies spread by this machinery.

Iran's Ethnoreligious Distribution Map

Here are the excerpts of the interview:

Rooz: The Komeleh Party and the Green Movement! Is this not strange?

Abdollah Mohtadi: No, I do not believe it to be strange. I view the green movement to be a rightful and democratic movement, and we support any such movement. Even though this movement has not cut its nuptial cord from people who I think are official reformers and is still connected to them, I do not view the green movement to be the simple extension and continuation of what has been known as the reformist path in Iran. On the contrary, I believe that impasse of that model of reforms and ineffectiveness of its methods in its confrontation of dictatorship and the inability of reforms to create change at the top, has caused the green movement to take shape from the bottom through the public to attain its demands.

Rooz: Do you mean that you do not see any structural link between Iran's reformist movement which specifically began on May 23 1997 and the green movement? I ask this because Mr. Mousavi and Mr. Karoubi as the leaders of the green movement have stressed the continuation of reforms in general and the behavioral change of the regime specifically

Mohtadi: I did not mean that the two have no connection. I said the green movement is not the simple continuation of the reforms. The similarity in terms and slogans between the two does not mean there is complete unity in meaning, goals, content and methods between the two.

Rooz: So what is the difference between the two?

Mohtadi: I view the biggest and fundamental difference between the two movements to be in the direct and independent participation, or not participation of people in the struggles and the political battles. The formal reformist movement excluded the direct participation and role of the people's movement, and the events of July 9th and others have shown that government reformers and particularly the strategy of Mr. Khatami was not endorsing the people's movements and their presence in the streets as a way for them to pursue the materialization of their demands. Their operational method was to negotiate at the top and in most cases retreat from their positions. Pressure from below for them was restricted to a few actions or limited and socially manageable threats. It was clear that that approach was not effective and would not yield results

Rooz: So you believe that during the reform period of the two parts of the strategy of exerting pressure from below and negotiating from above, only the latter was implemented?

Mohtadi: Basically that was the case and because of this by denying itself the support of people, the so called reform movement in fact deprived itself of the second part of the strategy. When there is no popular movement there is also no force to backup the negotiations and what is left is nothing but empty threats.

Rooz: You say that the green movement has not yet cut itself off from the reform movement and you speak of their differences, but if you believe in their differences so where is the connection then?

Mohtadi: One of the key differences in my view is in the methods of their struggle to attain their demands. The green movement has primarily based the foundation its movement on the direct participation of the public in resolving political issues. This in fact has been the specific feature of the green movement whereas the reformist movement did not believe in the political participation of people, in the direct role and impact of social movements and did not wish to challenges the political system in this manner.

Rooz: What other inherent differences do you see in these two movements?

Mohtadi: Right from the moment the green movement was formed, many of the previous norms and values changed fundamentally. In fact, the green movement itself saw many of its own red lines come to light. By comparing the value, meanings and goals of these two movements you can see the fundamental differences between them.

Rooz: Such as what?

Mohtadi: Where in the reform movement did you see something called the negation of  velayat faghih (rule of the clerics)? Or where did they specifically call for the death to the dictator and the rejection of dictatorship? Or so much talk of unconditional democracy or civil society without an Islamic civil society? Where did the reform movement talk so clearly about the equality of men and women? Where did it talk so clearly about the separation of religion from government? The dialogue today is all about democracy, civil society, rights of citizens, and equality of rights between men and women, and even amendment of the constitution. Another difference is that the cleavage between the opposition outside the country and the domestic opponents has disappeared and one can say they have now joined hands, their language and debate has come closer and much of the distrust between them has collapsed. As a Kurd I can say that another change is the collapse of the high wall that had been fabricated about the Kurdish people. I can say that much of the lies that the Islamic republic had fabricated about the Kurdish people for the last thirty years and which had been accepted as facts, has disappeared like cotton in the eyes of the youth of today. These are big changes that differentiate the green movement from the reform movement. I still want to stress that these differences do not mean that the green movement does not have some of the features of the reform movement.

Rooz: But newspapers and intellectual forums were full of such discussions during the reform period.

Mohtadi: You are right. Newspapers and intellectual circles during the reform period were full of such discussion which is a positive fact and that contributed to the foundations of the current movement, but the discussions were never as clear as they are now and they did not have the scope and depth of the current dialog. And they never moved from the periphery of society to the center. It is this current movement that has taken these discussions on democracy to the masses and people realized that freedom is as necessary and essential to them as is their supper bread and the air they breathe. As Marx said when an idea or theory goes to the masses it turns into a material force, and it was only when the issues moved to the people that democracy attained its real and invincible power.

Rooz: But it does not appear that there is tangible consensus as yet on the need for a constitutional change both, in the body of the movement or its leaders.

Mohtadi: Yes. Some may have explicitly talked of changing the constitution while others have said that the constitution is not written in stone. But the reality is that this constitution admits velayat faghih principle has been challenged through specific actions, in the measures that the movement has taken, and also at the conceptual level.

Rooz: Let's return to the first question. What exactly is the party affiliation of Komeleh with the green movement, or at the higher level the relationship between Kurds and the green movement?

Mohtadi: As I said, in my view this is a righteous and pro-democracy movement by the people which has till now shown a great deal of flexibility, potential for growth and the ability to see through the shortcomings of earlier government reformers. Every day, it grows in size, focus and gradually resolves its own limitations. On the other hand, Komeleh is a party that has always laid importance to all real democratic and righteous movements of the people and has greatly valued them and supported them, even if that movement from our perspective contained certain limitations or impurities or was not in congruence with all of our views. Therefore, it was only natural that Komeleh would announce its categorical support for the green movement right from the beginning because it viewed the demands of the movement over its lost votes to be right.

Rooz: But you boycotted the tenth presidential elections?

Mohtadi: That is correct, but this is no reason not to defend the rights of those who did take part in it. It is possible not to take part in an election for whatever reason, but this does not mean that you are indifferent to the irregularities of the election in your country. What was the issue in the last election? Was it not that the regime was basically not willing to recognize the vote of the people, it engaged in massive fraud and in general was not and is not to accept the people's right to self determination? We knew from the beginning that the regime does not recognize this right, and so it was natural that Komeleh would defend the demand for this democratic right of the people. There are reasons why we did not take part in the elections and their explanation would need more time. 

Rooz: My take on this is that if the green movement succeeds in forcing the Islamic republic to hold free elections in compliance with all its rules, then Komeleh would also take part in them.

Mohtadi: The whole debate revolves around this "if." In other words, if the measures for such an election are taken, if the elections are truly held freely, without any appointed supervision, without the elimination of any views, under international supervision, similar to what takes place in all the democratic countries of the world, I believe that not only Komeleh but all everybody must take part in them. But I am not very optimistic about this. 

Rooz: So you do not believe that even the green movement can impose this on the regime?

Mohtadi: It can. Very powerful popular forces can under certain conditions impose something, but doing this on the Islamic republic translates into taking the first step in the disintegration of the regime because all evidence and observations show that in a truly free election in Iran, people will vote for individuals other than those currently in power.

Rooz: But what if through these free and democratic elections the outcome turned out differently then what you expect, would Komeleh then accept it?

Mohtadi: Without any reservations we must accept it. This is the rule of democracy. But my view is that this will not happen. If people were going to vote for the current rulers, then there would be no need for this fraud, crackdown, bloodshed, killings, tortures, prisons, etc. In fact, even prior to the recent events and before the last vestiges of public trust in the rulers collapsed, the regime well knew that its candidates would not get the vote which is why it resorted to this massive rigging. It is possible that in a completely free election people would bring in Mr. Mousavi and I believe such an outcome must be accepted. After that, other political, social and other demands must be pursued in a civil and non-violent manner. I doubt very much that the regime will accept such elections, unless the green movement presses this on the regime with full force.

Rooz: Mr. Mohtadi. Is Komeleh Party a violent terrorist group?

Mohtadi: No, absolutely not. Attributing this to Komeleh's past or present is not true. In the beginning of the revolution, with the order of Mr. Khomeini on August 19, 1979 a massive assault was made on Kurdistan without any reason and on a fabricated pretext  which forced the Kurdish people to widespread resistance at all levels using every available means, including armed resistance. This resistance is not terrorism under any circumstances  and I view it as a legitimate self defense of the Kurdish nation. This can be proved. For example, nobody has seen a suicide operation by Kurds during the last 30 years. No bomb has exploded amid ordinary people and there is not even a single instance of Kurds attacking innocent people.

Rooz: But there were many news reports and rumors about Kurdish violence in the beginning of the revolution.

Mohtadi: These rumors are the work of the propaganda machinery of the Islamic republic. Have the lies of the government media not been clearly demonstrated to everybody during the last year and a half? This was not the first time that the propaganda machinery of the Islamic republic was resorting to lies. But since the other people of Iran were not fully aware of the realities of their time, the world of news, information and communications was not as developed as it is today, the media did not have the means it has today, and the legitimacy of the Islamic republic among people was not as low then as it is today. Those lies were partly accepted and then they gradually became accepted by the whole public, without having any reality.

Rooz: So all of these stories are rumors?

Mohtadi: Mr. Yazdanpanah. The innocent people of Kurdistan have been the victims of regime imposed violence since the founding of the Islamic republic. The ruthless violence that was imposed on the heroic people of Tehran last year has existed for the Kurdish people since thirty years ago. The Kurds have not been the initiators of violence, but its victims. Prisons, torture, rape, executions of youths in groups without trials, firing squads for the youth at hospital walls in Paveh, massive executions in Sanandaj whose images earned the photographer a Pulitzer Prize, the massive killing of villagers in Gharane and many other villages, the shelling of defenseless people with heavy artillery, along with the purges of teachers and workers, the imposition of forced exile to Kurdish families and many other similar realities have been the normal methods used by the regime in Kurdistan. Let me give you just one incident that took place in recent years. In the summer of 2005, just one month after the election of Mar Ahmadinejad in the first round, a Mahabad resident was brutally murdered such that Passdaran Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) tied his body to a car and dragged him this way through the streets. This in turn led to wide protests by the Kurds. The first one was in Mahabad. People were so angry that some youth wanted to take revenge, but the representative of the Komeleh party requested the residents of Mahabad  not to resort to violence and engage in reprisals and instead pursue their demands in civil and non-violent ways, and expand their protests to all the Kurdish cities. And this is exactly what happened and for one full month we witnessed political and civil protests against these violent acts in all Kurdish towns. Instead of responding to these calls, the government resorted to extreme violence against the Kurds so that in the town of Saghez they even used helicopters to fire at protesting people thus killing men and women. This is how the regime has always responded to the Kurdish people.

Rooz: So why did Komeleh party not take this non-violent attitude against the regime's oppressive measures?

Mohtadi: In the beginning of the revolution until just before the order to attack Kurdistan in 1979, we were civil and peaceful, which continued. After the attack, it was impossible to continue that.

Rooz: But before August 19, 1979, the military base in Mahabad was occupied by Kurdish pishmarg (armed men) in the fist weeks of March of 1979. This took place just a month after the victory of the 1979 revolution. Don't you think both sides played a role in creating this attitude of distrust.

Mohtadi: Look, one can possibly say that the attitude of distrust goes back to the first months of the revolution and has existed on both sides. But I still believe that the reasons for the crackdown in Kurdistan, which was initially specifically targeted and confined to the local region, which finally led to the August 19, 1979 full scale assault on all Kurdish areas is not the reason. 

Rooz: You accept that there was mutual distrust among Kurdish political groups and the officials of the Islamic republic. The sparks for the larger military operations began with the invasion of Mahabad's army barracks. What other events influenced this assault?

Mohtadi: As I said, I believe that the real reason for the regime's crackdown in Kurdistan was that the regime in those days noticed that the Kurds were playing a different tune, which in fact was the case.

Rooz: What different tune? What were your differences with the newly-founded regime?

Mohtadi: In Kurdistan it wasn't the ayatollahs who were in power. In Kurdistan they were not burning down liquor stores or cinema theatres, and the Bahais were not bothered. Except for one specific case, religious parties were not the issue. The two principal parties that counted in Kurdistan, i.e. the Komeleh and the Kurdish Democratic Party, and despite the differences they had, they were both secular. The Kurdish movement was essentially a political movement that pursued its democratic demands. In the Kurdish movement, women had freedom of activity and many were active, the press was free, leftists, communists, liberals, religious groups, nationalists and others all could say what they wanted to. In fact, while it is true that the Kurdish nation actively participated in the Iranian revolution (of 1979), but an Islamic revolution never took place in Kurdistan. The newly established religious despotic regime that came to power could not tolerate such a democratic situation in Kurdistan. Our kind of life had no place in the despotic velayat faghih (rule of clerics) that intended to take over all of Iran and so had to be attached, sooner or later, and destroyed. The oppression and oppression of Kurdistan was one necessary step for the establishment of dictatorship all over Iran.

Rooz: But it appears that the main Kurdish political and opposition forces completely stayed disengaged from having relations with the Islamic republic during the last 30 years. Kurdish parties boycotted the April 1, 1979 referendum on the Islamic republic, just as they stayed away from the 2 Khordad elections (that brought reformist Mohammad Khatami to the presidency in 1997) and the 2001 presidential elections. Don't you think that these boycotts some of which later proved to have been good opportunities for organizing the protesting opposition movements, provided the necessary excuse to the regime to eliminate you from political and social relations?

Mohtadi: I do not believe that we have to be a permanent boycotter or a permanent participant in elections. At the same time I do not oppose that people, political parties including the Kurds, should take advantage of conditions that come up to improve the conditions. But the instances that you mention such as not taking part in the referendum on the Islamic republics, which were incidentally led by the Komeleh that other parties followed, is one of the proud decisions of the people of Kurdistan. Based on what reason did we have to participate in that referendum?

Rooz: But 99 percent of the people of Iran voted positively for the Islamic republic.

Mohtadi: This is absolutely not the case. The Kurds did not take part in that referendum, and do the Kurds constitute only 1 percent of Iran? This fact alone shows that these numbers are incorrect.

Rooz: Are you saying that all the Kurds refrained from taking part in the referendum on the Islamic republic?

Mohtadi: No, I am not saying that, but a larger part of the Kurdish people, and I can confidently say more than 60 percent, did not take part in that referendum. Even then, I think that a large percent of that 99 percent will have to be readjusted.

Rooz: By Kurdish people do you mean the residents of the Kurdistan province or the western regions of the country with Kurdish populations?

Mohtadi: I mean all the Kurdish people.

Rooz: So you completely reject the 99 percent number for the referendum?

Mohtadi: Completely. We were in Kurdistan and watched the elections closely and in detail. The ballot boxes were really empty and one can categorically say that there was a complete boycott in many Kurdish regions. But since the regime needed a big lie to show a 99 percent vote, it claimed that number. In general, the referendum for the Islamic republic did not meet any principles of democracy and it was clear that the rulers of the time wanted to misuse the wave of emotions that followed the revolution and the hope that many people had in the regime (except the Kurds). Contrary to democratic elections, there were no opportunities for dialogue in that referendum, Hizbullah stood above everyone's shoulders to ensure that the votes did not go astray. I want to stress here that I do not mean that every election has to be boycotted. It is possible that you as an opposition may find situations that the regime creates or that are inadvertently created, that you should use. I do not disagree with this in principle. 

Rooz: Komeleh and other key Kurdish parties have announced their support for the green movement through joint declarations or individually. You too have emphasizes this on many occasions. I want to ask you when you support the green movement as a political force, what exactly are you supporting?

Mohtadi: During the entire last year, the Kurdish political community has been discussing in detail what should the strategy of Kurds be regarding the green movement.

Rooz: What is your specific position on this?

Mohtadi: From the first day, the Komeleh party and I, have held the view that while adopting a critical position, we must have solidarity with the green movement. The main reason for this is that perhaps nobody has suffered from a lack of democracy in Iran as much as the Kurds. Generally, deprived groups such as workers, women, ethnic groups, Bahais, and others have suffered from dictatorship in Iran and at the same time they benefit the most when democracy is established in Iran. This is the reason why these groups have to be at the forefront of the struggle to establish democracy in Iran. Specifically on the subject of Kurdish support for the green movement, I must say that Kurdish people must be concerned more than the groups for democracy because its victory would be in their interest as well. 

Rooz: But it appears that the Kurdish support for the green movement has been limited to words or are there specific actions and measures that they have taken in this regard?

Mohtadi: Look, the way Kurds think which our non-Kurdish friends need to understand is that Kurdish people have been single-handedly struggling against the regime for the past 30 years, something that has caused much death and money, while nobody really assisted them. So there is also a deep-rooted lack of trust. There have been plenty of rumors circulated regarding violence that is attributed to us and they have tried to make people believe that. Another point is that Kurdistan is much more security-dominated than other parts of Iran and Tehran. Aside the recent months, the situation in Kurdistan during the last thirty years has been very security-driven. Furthermore, the green movement has not displayed any goals/slogans for the Kurdish people and has made no effort to win their trust. This was not understood correctly in the beginning. The initial religious element of the movement had not attraction for the Kurdish people and in fact was a deterring factor. These realities and also the fact that the leaders of the green movement are themselves the well known individuals affiliated with the regime's past, have left a wide negative view among the Kurds which all prevented attachment to the green movement in the first months. Also, other provincial towns have not had a wide participation either and Tehran has remained the center of the movement while the presence of the Kurds in the demonstrations of Tehran was significant and conspicuous.

Rooz: Does the distrust still exist?

Mohtadi: No, not like before. The extensive solidarity that was displayed over the execution of five individuals in May and the wide media coverage of the successful public strike and demonstrations in Kurdistan are reasons for breaking this distrust. The mass demonstrations in Kurdistan which was supported by many political and social groups, gave the Kurds this feeling that there was a possibility to create conditions in which the Kurds would not be isolated and where all people of Iran would supporter their rightful demands. I think this was the necessary signal that was sent to the Kurdish people.

Rooz: Do you think Mr. Mousavi as the leader of the green movement and its other leaders have succeeded in implementing its key goals of representing the rights of all Iranian people?

Mohtadi: I have said before that aside his ideological considerations and his associations with the regime in the past, which I and others do not accept, the resistance that he and Mr. Karoubi have shown in their demands are their strengths. Also, their relative flexibility in accepting other horizons, discussion and demands, I view the green movement to be positive. Certainly their performance to advance the movement is not free from criticism and their retreat in two or three instances is a serious weakness. As far as the Kurds are concerned the denouncement by green movement leaders of the execution of the Kurdish activists was a positive step. But generally, the gentlemen have said little about Kurdistan.

Rooz: Mr. Mousavi recently expressly said that moving troops into Kurdistan in the first years of the war was a mistake that should not have taken place.

Mohtadi: I view this statement by him as a step forward, but also believe that he must present more explanation about the 1980s in general and present more critiques and speak more frankly. I also believe that while Mr. Mousavi was not prime minister when the army was moved into Kurdistan and Mr. Bazargan's government was in power (Mr. Bazargan also had said that he heard of the army's move into Kurdistan on the radio), he owes an apology to the Kurdish people.

Rooz: So even though you view Mr. Mousavi to be not responsible for the move, you think he should still express his apologies to Kurdistan?

Mohtadi: I believe that even if he was not involved in making that decision, he can still announce its inappropriateness and explain that during his premiership during the war period a lot of crimes were committed against the Kurdish people, even though he had no direct personal involvement in the events. He owes that apology.

Rooz: You said the invasion of Kurdistan took place before he came to power and there are documents implicating him in the oppressive measures against the Kurds and he has already said that moving in the army (i.e. occupying the region) was wrong. Don't you think his apology is without cause?

Mohtadi: I would like to draw your attention to the apology that many German leaders after World War II made regarding Hitler's crimes. An example is Willy Brandt who was against Nazism and Hitler's regime. He fled Germany during the war and even fought against the Nazi's but when he became the chancellor he apologized for the crimes that were committed in the name of Germany during World War II. Other German leaders did the same thing later. When the crimes in Kurdistan were committed, Mr. Mousavi was a senior leader in Iran and he can come out and say that he had no hand in the oppressive measures in Kurdistan then and present his explanations. I view him as an honest man and believe that he has to be given the chance to defend himself even though the regime was responsible for the atrocities and he was one of its senior officials. His apology will have a deep impact on the Kurdish people and the other ethnic groups in Iran who will believe that a future Iran will be better place for them.

Rooz: You believe that the green movement wants to remove the velayat faghih. Have you seen this view in the leaders of the movement?

Mohtadi: This movement is not crystal clear, just as are other movements. It is not made up of one single dimension. Social movements are normally made up of complex mixtures which represent many different views and demands. I did not say that the green movement has rejected velayat faghih but the movement is not just what the leaders are. The body of the movement has in practice rejected this principle and this was demonstrated in the massive demonstration in Tehran. Also, many elite, writers and thinkers of the movement call for an amendment of the constitution and the elimination of the velayat faghih. Certainly there are also those in the movement who are calling for limiting the powers of the velayat faghih. In any case, the views of everybody have changed over this issue.

Rooz: Do you think that if Mr. Mousavi comes to the conclusion that the body of the green movement wants to eliminate velayat faghih he too would accept it?

Mohtadi: Honestly, I have no personal knowledge of him. I do not know.

Rooz: What do you think?

Mohtadi: Till now Mr. Mousavi has shown relative flexibility in accepting the democratic and popular demands of the green movement. If he did not have this flexibility there would have been deep divisions in the movement and much discord. His flexibility in accepting new horizons of the movement has to a large extent prevented the split inside the pro-democracy movement.

Rooz: Mr. Mohtadi! Do you view yourself as a member or supporters of the green movement?

Mohtadi: I think I would like to say that I am a supporter of the green movement and that I am in solidarity with it. As a leftist justice-seeker and also as a Kurd I have greater demands than the green movement and have my own responsibilities. Many others could be in the same position and this is one of the features of a wide pro-democracy movement that people with different views, social classes, plans and interests all participate in it and support it. I believe that this pro-democracy movement has crated a new opportunity for the Kurds to present their demands and the Kurds should be able to present these in the movement.

Rooz: What specifically are these demands? What are the exact political and social demands of the Kurdish people? Specifically, do the Kurdish people want to break away from Iran, or do they want self administration or federalism?

Mohtadi: Their demands may be different from their wants. Like any other ethnic group, The Kurds have the right for own self determination and if they desire, to have their own government. But this is neither their desire nor those of the Kurdish groups. The propaganda about separation of the Kurds and that the Kurdish people are separatists has been a big lie in the last 30 years. The Kurds want a joint life but one where there is no discrimination and where people have equal rights in Iran. In the words of Jean Jacque Rousseau a new social contract has to be written in Iran. We must review once again how we want to live as part of one community. If we disregard the deep differences in religion, ethnic background, race, language etc in Iran and try to crate a government that is super-central and views everybody through one lens, we will have the same results that we have had for years. What the Kurdish people want is a federative system for all the people of Iran where all sub-nationality groups and regions have their own local governments.

Rooz: While maintaining the territorial integrity of Iran?

Mohtadi: Absolutely so. I do not doubt that there are elements and views that want separation from Iran but violence against them is rejected as well and they too must have the right to freely express their views.

Rooz: Are such people among the Kurds in the majority or minority?

Mohtadi: In minority. The key parties and the Kurdish people have never wanted separation from Iran during the last 30 years and do not have such a plan or goal in their plans or manifests. On the contrary, I believe that a federative system is the best  and perhaps the only way to guarantee democracy and at the same time keep the unity of Iran. 

Rooz: Do you have any communications with the leaders of the green movement so that you can express your views to them?

Mohtadi: No, I have no personal contacts with them. 

Rooz: Some government news sites in Iran have claimed that you are in contact with the leaders of the green movement.

Mohtadi: No. I have never announced such a thing and this is not true. These are the newspapers and websites that belong to the present authoritarian and totalitarian government  who think that by publishing such lies can pollute the political environment and then possibly prepare the ground for their plans.

Rooz: Do you have an interest in creating such a channel of communication and have done anything about it?

Mohtadi: No. I have done anything regarding this and believe that we must let events take their natural course.

Rooz: Has the thirteen Komeleh Congress met?

Mohtadi: No, but it will soon.

Rooz: A website affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards recently wrote that Komeleh had announced at its congress that it was ready to provide financial and military assistance to the green movement.

Mohtadi: If they are talking about Komeleh, then we have not even held our thirteenth congress and I do not understand where this idea of military support to the green movement could come from.  This is absolutely not true. But I do believe that all pro-democracy groups in Iran should be in contact with each other and must cooperate to form a grand pro-democracy coalition of movements inside and outside Iran. 

Rooz: Komeleh and other key Kurdish groups have officially announced that they have abandoned armed struggle and are now in the civil and peaceful phase of their movement to attain their rights. At the same time, these groups maintain their armed pishmarg (fighters). Is there a contradiction here?

Mohtadi: No contradiction. We have not had any armed operations for 18 years now. But we do keep our armed pishmarg in camps and at sizes that are currently necessary. There are many reasons for this and I believe these can be appreciated.

Rooz: Such as what?

Mohtadi: Fist of all I would like to say that during the last 15 years some 400 Kurdish political activists have been killed inside Iraq by military and security agents of the Islamic republic, whose details are all available. When Mr. Khatami came to power, some of the practices of the regime were stopped and the numbers (of assassinations) dropped, but the threat still remains. I ask you: how do you continue to survive without protecting yourself under these conditions, let alone engage in political activities? So the pishmarg forces are first for the defense of the members of the parties and its institutions.  Furthermore, we have witnessed the formation of Islamic terrorist groups, Shiite and Sunni, in recent years who are closely tied to the Islamic republic who also execute many terrorist operations inside Iraq.

Rooz: So the Kurdish pishmarg are merely defensive forces?

Mohtadi: Precisely. In the Kurdish battle with the Islamic republic, if the latter sense that Komeleh and the Kurdish Democratic Party have completely disarmed their pishmarg forces, they will battle ordinary people even more than in the past. On the other hand, the Kurdish people need to feel psychologically that they too have supporters and protectors and that they are not helpless vis-à-vis the regime. We do not want to weaken the Kurdish government in Iraq by engaging in armed operations. We respect the security of the Kurdish people in Iraq and do not want this to be threatened by the Islamic republic. Note that even without any armed operations by the Kurds, the Islamic republic has continuously bombarded and shelled the border and residential Kurdish areas. In summary, we do not regret our armed resistance in the initial years of the (1979) revolution but have for a while not had armed activities on our agenda.

... Payvand News - 08/24/10 ... --

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