Text of speech at the “Emergency Parliamentary Meeting to discuss attacks on Kurds in Syria and Iran” held on Wednesday 7 December, 2022
Sonia Karimi is the Diplomatic Representative for KJAR (the Community of Free Women in Rojhelat). She has a degree in English Literature with a specialism in Colonialism and Gender Studies.
Thank you for inviting me here today to take part in this very important discussion on the current difficulties facing the Kurds.
When we talk about the Middle East, there seems to be a collective tension and hesitation for fear that there could be another war. Therefore, myself and many others are concerned that this hesitation is shaping and stifling the discourse and ultimately the outcome of the situation in Iran. The current statistics suggest that Fars people are a minority; in particular in regions of Greater Iran which are made up of various nationalities that are colonised, oppressed, and subject to ethnic cleansing, including the Kurds, Balochi, Turkish (Azeri), Arab (Ahwazi) amongst many others. In these provinces, they are the majority, and the Fars are a 2–3 percent minority. Yet it is these nationalities that are missing in the discourse, when the media and international political arena discuss the situation in Iran. For example, that Iran by law prohibits the expression of non-Fars and non-Muslim identities, it is illegal to give your child a Kurdish name. This has resulted in people misidentifying Jina Amini as Mahsa Amini, and misidentification is the case for many thousands of people killed by the regime.
Although you may believe in supporting women and furthering their rights, the inability to acknowledge or understand the fact that people such as Jina Amini are subject to intersectional discrimination is playing directly into the hands of the Iranian regime. The Iranian Regime and its predecessors have long sought to eliminate diversity and ethnically cleanse the region. We must lift the veil and be direct about the atrocities that are occurring in Iran. Indeed, what started out as various protests against the regime’s oppression and centred around the ‘Morality Police’ and the death of Jina Amini in their custody has rapidly changed course and escalated into something far more serious. The number of civilians uprising against the regime is far higher in the non-Fars provinces, and the intensity of the regime’s response is far greater there too. The statistics given by the Regime cannot be relied upon, the Iran International media organisation would have you believe that as of the end of November 448 people have been killed and 18,700 have been arrested.
However, we know that these statistics are purposefully and vastly misleading. There was a massacre in Zahedan that started on September the 30th, when the regime’s police began shooting randomly at a crowd of people leaving the mosque after prayers. Here alone, it is estimated that they killed 96 people. Furthermore, The Kurdish Human Rights Organisation has received information that confirms that over 300 students have disappeared from universities in the Kurdish region. Over 130 children who would be minors under international human rights laws have been detained and tortured and many killed on the way to school. The numbers of unarmed people being shot at by machine guns, rifles, and other military grade weapons in areas such as Javanroud, Kermanshah, Sanandaj, Saqqez, and Mahabad are increasing day by day, with the number of injured reaching over the threshold of 20,000 according to Kurdish Human Rights organisation statistics. There are videos circulating of civilians not taking part in any uprising, yet they are being picked up by Iran’s intelligence services and being detained, shot at, or brutalised. We hear testimonies from men and women who are being tortured and raped in custody.
It is astonishing that any democratic society, media institution and government outside of Iran, should ever consider labelling the situation a “protest” it suggests that should there be protests in the west, the government can take out submachine guns and aim them at the people and no one would bat an eyelid. To continue mislabelling the situation, is to give Iran the license to carry out a mass genocide and ethnic cleansing mission, under the guise of repressing protests. I do not use this term lightly. However, we must reassess and redefine the situation in Iran. Let there be no doubt that situation and, in particular, their use of military grade weapons against unarmed civilians meets the definition of war. Iran has instigated a war against the citizens of Iran and the other nationalities in Greater Iran.
We are asking for the British government to, recognise that the situation is beyond a protest, that by definition Iran has instigated a war. We are also asking for your support to remove Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women. We have also heard of a ‘Fact Finding Missions’ to ascertain whether Iran has violated human rights, committed war crimes etc. we would like a member of KJAR to be participate in this.
Iran’s current violent strategies aimed at oppressing and cleansing plurality in the region, is in direct response to the slogan “Jin, Jiyan, Azadi” or as translated “Woman, Life, freedom”.
Jin= womens rights
Jiyan= protecting the ecology, environment and by proxy life and that which sustains it.
Azadi= fighting against colonisation, the patriarchy and all forms of oppression
Despite its well documented roots in Rojava, the history and cultural significance of that slogan have almost been erased from mainstream narratives. It is not merely a slogan; it is the foundation for the theory of Jineolojî, which the people in Iran are demanding as an alternative to the Iranian Regime. KJAR is part of that history and tied to that ideology; KJAR is the only union that acts independently of any parties or organisations.
Here, because of the deeply diverse nature of the region, we believe that there is a third way to govern and to secure stability and democracy by working from the people up rather than the government down. Using community-based organisations that work cohesively between the people and the government while respecting the people’s rights to plurality of identity, including diverse religions and other identifying markers, KJAR has also been working extensively with those outside of the Kurdish community to forge an alliance with the women and men of other nationalities colonised by Iran, including the Baloch, Turkish, Arabi, and many others. KJAR’s proposed project for securing the region is extensive and can be obtained on the “Kurdistan Free Women’s Society” webpage. It includes policies such as forming unions for all institutions, including neighbourhood committees; these committees must include women, and their responsibilities are to civilians, ensuring their participation in society and the governing process. In addition to the formation of democratic alliances externally, laws must be formed that put an end to state-sanctioned rape, torture, and the criminalisation of those who belong to alternative ethnic and religious groups. We have structured policies that support environmental and ecological groups.
Before I conclude, I’d like to remind the oppressed people of Iran and those living in exile. As Yalda Night approaches, we must remind ourselves that the brightest of dawns always breaks the longest and darkest night, and to overcome the darkness that the Iranian Regime has cast over us, we must march as a plurality towards unity and democracy.