The forgotten Kurds of Iran, Primer on Rojhalat

On February 26, the Washington Kurdish Institute (WKI) hosted a roundtable panel featuring the Representatives of the Iranian Kurdish parties in Washington. The panel also featured the release of a Primer on Rojhelat (Iranian Kurdistan).

The speech of Mr Kamran Balnour
Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP-IRAN) US Representative

Balnur began his remarks by pointing out the location of Iranian Kurdistan in northwestern Iran and acknowledging a sizable Kurdish population has resided in Iran’s northeastern Khorasan Province since their displacement two centuries ago. Balnur went on to say, “The population of Kurdistan is estimated to be about 15 percent which is not official. It’s somewhere from 15-20 percent. The population of Iran is about 82 million, so its Kurdish population is around 15 million.” Balnur also explained there are nearly one million Kurds living in Tehran, many of whom moved there to escape the poor economic situation in the Kurdish region. Balnur summed up Iranian Kurdistan’s economic difficulties in saying,“In addition to the sanctions on Iran, the regime imposes another sanction on the Kurdish region.” Balnur also accused the Iranian regime of displaying a lack of transparency in its failure to release economic statistics, claiming, “There is the disinformation policy in Iran. It was not easy to obtain economic statistics. Nobody knows what is happening in Iran. For example, there is 42 percent inflation of the currency in Iran. But who reported it? An outsider organization, since the regime won’t allow the statistics to be released.” Granted, Balnur admitted that, despite his contracts in Iran, obtaining facts and figures on any topic in Iran is impossible due to the regime’s lack of transparency and disinformation policy.

Balnur eventually cited a pro-government report on the Kurdish region’s economy that, despite its bias, showed the dire situation of the Kurds. “The poor living conditions in Kurdistan created many issues, including the plight of the Kolbars,” said Balnur. Balnur went on to describe how tens of Kolbars are killed in Iran every year and mentioned that 74 Kolbars were killed in 1996. In chronicling the life of a Kolbar, Balnur said, “The way the Kolbar works is a person carries 150 pounds of goods on his shoulders and walks through high mountains. It is unbelievable how they do it. They are trapped and killed by the regime, yet they do it. Why? Because there is no other job to do.”  Balnur went on to note that the pro-government report admitted the unemployment rate in Iranian Kurdistan is five percent above the national average and concluded his remarks by stating, “The regime in Iran doesn’t care about the economy, the Kurds or Balochis or Azeris. The only thing they care about is the existence of themselves and remaining in power.”

The Forgotten Kurds of Iran: A Primer on Rojhalat

Washington Kurdish Institute

March 3, 2020

On February 26, the Washington Kurdish Institute (WKI) hosted a roundtable panel featuring the Representatives of the Iranian Kurdish parties in Washington. The panel also featured the release of a Primer on Rojhelat (Iranian Kurdistan).

Moderator: David Tafuri, Attorney specializing in international law and foreign relations

“Thank you to the Washington Kurdish Institute (WKI) for promoting this lunch series and many other interesting lunch series like this one. I am here to learn like many of you and I am really honored to be up here with the representatives of the Kurdish political parties in Iran. Obviously, Iran has been in the news a lot over the last year or two, especially since the beginning of January since the hostilities heated up between the US and Iran. Despite that, we still don’t hear a lot about the Kurdish population in Iran, the Kurdish community in Iran, and these Kurdish political parties which are an important part of the fabric of Iran, and will also be part of the ultimate solution to what happens next in Iran. I am excited to hear from our guests today about what is happening in their perspective, the Kurdish population in Iran with their political parties, and with the dialogue with the United States, and other Western actors concerned about the future of Iran.”