A Kurdish woman protesting against the execution of Kurdish prisoners in front of the Iranian consulate in Erbil.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurds in Iraq and Turkey staged protests against the hanging of two Kurdish activists in Iran, where the only militant Kurdish group still locked in armed struggle against Tehran said it had killed 10 Revolutionary Guards in retaliation for the executions.
Iran hanged Kurdish activists Habibollah Golparipour and Reza Ismaili last week, despite pleas by Kurdish political parties in Iran and human rights organizations, including London-based Amnesty International.
The executions were condemned by Kurdish protesters in Turkey and Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region.
On Thursday, thousands of Kurds in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish Hakkari province (Colemerg in Kurdish) marched to the Esendere border crossing with Iran.
They chanted slogans supporting the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party and its leader Abdullah Ocalan, who remains jailed in Turkey, according to the pro-PKK Firat News.
That rally came a day after the Land Protection Youth Organization held a gathering outside the Iranian Consulate in Erbil, capital of the autonomous Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq.
“The Kurdish people should be united against this aggression and the execution of the Kurds will only make us persist more for our rights,” the youth group said in a statement.
Also on Wednesday, the underground Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK), which had earlier referred to Golparipour as a “senior leader” and had vowed to avenge his death, claimed it had made good on that promise.
PJAK, which has close ties to the PKK, issued a statement saying its guerrillas had killed 10 Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Maku region of Iran’s West Azerbaijan province, which borders Turkey.
The group also claimed responsibility for killing several other Iranian border guards in the same region in early October.
According to New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), Golparipour was executed in the northwestern town of Urumiyeh, without his family being notified.
Golparipour was a prominent Kurdish political activist in Iranian Kurdistan. He was arrested and sentenced to death for alleged links to PJAK, which unlike other Kurdish groups in Iran has continued its armed struggle for greater Kurdish rights in Iran.
His lawyer said that Golparipour was sentenced to death for books and writings found during his arrest, according to an HRW report.
The executions of the two Kurds brought wide condemnation by Iranian Kurdish parties, which complained that nothing appears to have changed for the country’s large Kurdish minority since the June election of President Hassan Rouhani. The groups vowed to continue their struggle for Kurdish rights in Iran.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) demanded international support to halt the execution of Kurds in Iran. “The Kurdish share in Iran has been only execution and suppression,” it said.
The Kurds, who number some 30-40 million according to unofficial estimates, are divided in a region of the Middle East where Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey intersect. The Kurds have been in constant struggle with regimes in each of those countries for greater rights.
According to Amnesty International, only China ranks above Iran in the number of prisoners executed each year.