Mass protests and strikes have erupted across Rojhilat (Iranian Kurdistan) since September 3, following the killing of two kolbers (cross-border porters who transport merchandise) by Iranian border guards the previous day. The Iranian regime has responded by militarising the area, attacking protests with security forces and pro-government thugs and making mass arrests.
Protests in solidarity have been held in Kobane in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan). The Kurdish people’s traditional homeland is divided between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, with the Kurdish people historically suffering discrimination and oppression in each.
Several Iranian Kurdish organisations and political parties have supported the uprising. They have called for unity between political forces in Rojhilat and with other progressive movements in Iran.
Democratic and Free Society of Eastern Kurdistan (KODAR) co-chair Fuad Beritan spoke to Firat News Agency’s Ferzad Kamyaran about the uprising on September 13.
Beritan remarked that the protest demonstrations that spread in response to the repeated killing of kolbers were democratic, legitimate and rightful. He said demonstrations should continue to avoid similar incidents in the future.
He pointed out that the emergence of kolberi (border porting) is a result of the policies pursued by the Iranian regime, and said: “Kolberi has risen in Rojhilat due to the economic elimination of the region and policies of militarisation, oppression and tyranny.
“For that reason, the issue of border porting can never be evaluated separately from the Iranian regime’s policies of annihilation. It is a political, economic and social problem.
“It is necessary that we see the democratic and legitimate reactions that emerged in Rojhilat as a sign that the society does not tolerate the situation anymore. It is a social eruption against the Iranian regime.
“It is a call. Everyone must give voice to this call. It is a political issue and the silence of the Iranian regime is a political stance.
“Here we need to mention the silence of the international community, too. Silence means complicity and simultaneously bolsters the courage of the Iranian regime.”
He linked the uprising to events in other parts of Kurdistan: “The state of affairs that has emerged in Rojava [where a Kurdish-led revolution is seeking to create a liberated society] as well as the level of the resistance in Bakur [Turkish Kurdistan] clearly leave their mark on Rojhilat.
“As part of their usual policies, the Iranian regime attempts to intimidate poor Kurdish people by systematically killing the kolbers. They try to convey this message to the Kurdish people: ‘My gun is pointed at you’.
“It is true that the issue of kolberi existed before as well, but the Iranian regime has intensified its pressures on the kolbers since the freedom struggle and resistance of our people has reached new heights in the other parts of Kurdistan.
“The Iranian regime has turned a great part of Rojhilat into a military zone. They have deployed soldiers in all places, and try to create a stifling atmosphere upon the society by penetrating into all fields of life. They have invaded the fields and marketplaces of the people.
“They do it out of fear. For that reason it will never suffice to analyse the policies waged on kolbers from an economic perspective alone. It is part of the Iranian policy that aims to subdue the Kurdish people into their downfall.
“This is an attack on the Kurdish people. All the political powers of the Kurdish people, and anyone who claims to struggle for the Kurdish people, must stand up, unite, and struggle in a united front. We must assemble and discuss these issues to find a way to solution. We must discuss the problems of our people in joint-platforms.
“As neither our people nor our political powers expect anything from the state, we have to find a solution by ourselves. Yes, it’s true that the state has to make a step, but it will be us to make them do so. We should convene in a national platform and discuss the solution to this problem.
“International human rights organisations should break their silence and put the matter on their agenda. They should exert pressure so that Iran would not continue its policies as freely as it wants.”
Beritan stressed that the only way for kolbers to protect themselves from these attacks is to organise themselves. He said: “They can organise their own network to create the basis for a defence mechanism that will act against the policies of killing, injuring, torturing and jailing in a coordinated manner and demand justice.”
He called on the people to continue their demonstrations until their compatriots and all intellectuals arrested during solidarity demonstrations are released.
He said the Iranian regime should know that the Kurdish people support a political solution, but added: “If the regime does not accept that, they should know that the Kurdish people are not helpless or have no other options.
“The Kurdish people will make use of all ways of self-defence and take it from demonstrations to hunger strikes. We on our part will always be standing by the demands of our people.”
[Abridged from Firat News Agency.]