- ‘Tis the Season: London florist creates $4.6 million Christmas wreath
- No tailgating allowed at Super Bowl XLVIII
- Pentagon to transport African troops to Central African Republic
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend’s shopping jumps to his death
- Ukraine leader to talk with protesters; Washington urges caution
- Pope Francis: A nun saved my life
- Israeli P.M. Netanyahu backs out of Mandela funeral
- Elian Gonzalez makes first trip outside Cuba since custody battle
- U.S., British intelligence agents enter online sci-fi world to spy on gamers
- Sarah Palin to host the outdoors show ‘Amazing America’
Tehran faces growing Kurdish opposition
MOUNT QANDIL, Iraq — A little-known organization based in the mountains of Iraq’s Kurdish north is emerging as a serious threat to the Iranian government, staging cross-border attacks and claiming tens of thousands of supporters among Iran’s 4 million Kurds.
The Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan, better known by the local acronym PEJAK or PJAK, claims to have killed 24 Iranian soldiers in three raids against army bases last month, all staged in retaliation for the killing of 10 Iranian Kurds during a peaceful demonstration in the city of Maku.
Three more soldiers from Iran’s elite Republican Guard were killed last week in a gunbattle near the Iraqi border, Iran’s official news agency reported.
But the greater threat to the Tehran regime may come from the group’s underground effort to promote a sense of identity among Iranian Kurds, who make up 7 percent of that country’s population. PEJAK leaders say the effort is spreading quickly among students, intellectuals and businessmen.
“The Iranian government’s plan to create a global Islamic state is destroying our people’s culture and values,” said Akif Zagros, 28, a graduate in Persian literature who was interviewed in a simple stone hut at the group’s headquarters. “So we fight back. But our aim is not just to bring freedom to Kurds, but to liberate all the peoples of Iran.”
PEJAK units first began targeting the Iranian military in 2004. After attacking, the militants melt back into a supportive society or cross the Iraqi border to join several thousand guerrillas at the group’s leafy main camp a few miles from the Iranian border.
“Because the Iranian government oppresses people and prevents demonstrations, we needed a way to defend ourselves,” said Mr. Zagros, one of four men and three women who make up the group’s leadership council.
“The Iranian government has provoked the people of Iranian Kurdistan to defend themselves,” Mr. Zagros continued. “But at the same time, the government is quite weak in these regions, and so our people can respond if they are attacked.”
Unlike most other rebel groups in the Middle East, PEJAK is secular and Western-oriented. When the group’s members talk, their Kurdish is peppered with such Western words as “freedom,” “human rights” and “ecology.”
Iran has denounced it as a terrorist group and accused the United States of funding it. But at PEJAK’s camp, there is no obvious evidence of American equipment or money. The only weapons on show are AK-47 assault rifles and grenades, and the funding is clearly limited.
Each recruit has a single pair of khaki fatigues, and even its leaders subsist on simple meals of bread, cheese and fresh vegetables at communal outdoor tables.
The group’s leaders say that they have had no contact with the United States, but that they would be willing to work with Europe or America against the Tehran government.
“We demand democratic change in Iran,” Mr. Zagros said. “And if the U.S. government wants to help us, we are happy to accept their support.
“The U.S. talks about bringing democracy to the region,” he added. “But for 200 years, the Kurds have struggled against dictatorship and oppression and in defense of our human rights. And so far the West has not helped us. Why?”
PEJAK’s ideology combines the Kurds’ traditionally low-key Islam and pagan-influenced culture with the movement’s political opposition to the dogmatic Islamic government in Tehran.
By Brahma Chellaney
Beijing's creeping aggression signals a challenge to U.S. presence in the Asian Pacific
- CURL: Obama tells a whopper on IRS scandal
- Satanists petition for statue at Oklahoma Statehouse
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend's shopping jumps to his death
- Tech companies call for an end to NSA online snooping
- Lawmakers see 'false narrative' of Obama as a terrorist fighter
- WOLF: The president's other Obamacare lies
- Obama lied about Syrian chemical attack, 'cherry-picked' intelligence: report
- Ted Cruz sees legal landmines ahead for Obamacare
- Mike Shanahan says he'd like to return; RG3 might be benched
- HARRIS: Redskins left in limbo over $7 million question
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
The world impacts us. What happens in our towns, cities, states, country and on this planet makes a difference to us.
Happiness is attainable. Morning to night. I love to teach, deal with folks that have an issue and really wish to tackle it and write.
Brazen, leading-edge, “call it like it is” columns and reporting from Ohio native, radio host and writer, Sara Marie Brenner.
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow