The United States representative of the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, who was imprisoned and tortured for over two years by Iran’s Islamic regime, praised the Trump administration’s decision to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) but said that more needs to be done to help the people of Iran break free from the current regime.
On April 8, President Donald Trump announced his decision to designate the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO).
Today, I am formally announcing my Administration’s plan to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including its Quds Force, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft. The IRGC is the Iranian government’s primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign.
“It’s the correct step in the right direction, and we really want to see more hopefully,” Salah Bayaziddi – Komala’s representative to the US – said in an exclusive interview. “In 2009, the Obama administration didn’t support the Iranian people and the President was busy writing letters to Khamenei.”
Iran’s Kurds have been at the forefront of the fight against Iran’s clerical regime since the Islamists came to power in 1979. The Komala Party have remained active in this regard as well.
Komala was founded in 1969 by a group of students and intellectuals in Iran. Today, the group stands for a democratic, secular and Federal Iran, where the rights of all Iranians – including the Kurds – are respected and formally recognized.
Mr. Bayaziddi was born in Naghadeh, located in West Azerbaijan Province of Iran. He said that he joined the party in 1980 when he was just 12 years old. Four years later, when he was 16, he was imprisoned by the Iranian regime; the effects of which haunt him to this very day.
Bayaziddi said he had a cousin who was a student who died the day before the Islamic revolution succeeded in 1979. “He was a student at the University of Tehran. Without any political conscious I joined Komala. I would distribute a weekly news pamphlet, dropping them off at schools and homes,” he said of his work for the organization.
However, the regime found this act to be enough to apprehend the young teen and subject him to torture that would leave permanent scars on both his body and psyche for the rest of his life.
He recalled his shocking arrest and grueling prison experience. He was just 16 when he was taken by the regime.
“I was writing my final exam and the IRGC has a department called intelligence. They came and took me,” he said, “My trial was less than 5 minutes,” Bayazzidi said. Today, in Iran, many prisoners do not have access to a fair trial. “There was one mullah his name was Hojateh Islam Rahimi. He was very bloody thirsty. He ordered the executions of many people. He was commissioned by the Revolutionary Court. They read what they accused me of; being a ‘Komala sympathizer and I am against God and the revolution.’ And then they asked me, ‘do you accept these charges against you?’ And I said no. Then he said you can go. And then I returned back to detention, maybe for one or two weeks’ time. Then, I received a two-year sentence. And they could have executed me anytime. Some of my friends had a one-year sentence and were still executed. I was in a few different detention centers for a total of maybe six months. And they didn’t count those six months towards my two-year sentence.”
Bayaziddi continued, “For seven months I was in solitary confinement and tortured. I had no contact with my family. Imagine a young boy at that age, 16, going through that trauma. It’s unbelievable that I survived. They had different tactics. Sometimes they were nice. Sometimes they threatened me to do things. Based on the questions they were asking me I found out that they didn’t have information.”
“We knew that Saturday was not for calling interrogations. If anyone called on Saturday by name, they were to be executed. That was execution day,” Bayaziddi recalled. “Everyone was sitting quietly like lambs, scared lambs awaiting their fate. Some people were executed while eating dinner and their names were called and they were dragged out and executed,” he said.
He said several of his Kurdish friends were executed by the Iranian regime, “but they couldn’t get any evidence from me that I had done anything wrong. They couldn’t find anything bad.” Bayaziddi added, “However if I would say something, they would use it against me and torture me. They would lash under my feet and put ice water to inflame my feet for months on end. I couldn’t walk for weeks.”
(Photo courtesy of the Komala Party (mass killings of Kurdish civilians in 1979)
The physical torture was so bad, the regime’s operatives were forced to take Bayaziddi to the hospital.
“Finally, after I was in a terrible state, they took me to hospital and they handcuffed me to the table,” he said.
Bayaziddi recalled an experience while he was at the hospital during which he encountered a young nurse whose expression he would never forget.
“The nurse was in her 20s,” he said. “I knew the way she was watching me. I will never forget that face. I was lying down in bed and one side of my hand was handcuffed to the bed and I was almost unconscious because of the pain. My feet were horribly infected. But I will never forget the look on her face. I saw pain and sadness like I’d never seen before.”
His father was killed by the regime while he was in prison. “He was not a politician. My father was hit by one of the Revolutionary Guards,” he said.
Bayaziddi was 18.5 when he was finally released during the final years of the Iran-Iraq War. He said that the Iranian regime did not release him as scheduled, and kept him for an extra month “because they said I didn’t go to Quran classes or to prayers.” He added that for years after he was released from prison, he had nightmares that prevented him from getting any sound sleep. “I had recurring nightmares that I was back in Iran and in prison.”
According to a 2017 United Nations report, Kurds are estimated to constitute nearly half of all political prisoners in Iran. Nearly one-fifth of all executions that took place in Iran in 2016 were of Kurdish prisoners.
However, once he was “free,” he was still a prisoner in his own country. “I couldn’t go to the army, I couldn’t enroll in university and I couldn’t work. I couldn’t even get a license to do business and I couldn’t go to the countryside,” he said. He was essentially frozen in Mahabad, unable to advance his position in any way.
“They gave me an identification card that had a stamp on it that I’m not allowed to go to the army,” he said. “I couldn’t even rejoin Komala. For three years I had to check in weekly with the Ministry of Intelligence and tell them everything I was doing. I wasn’t allowed to go to the countryside because in the 1980s when there was a big armed struggle between Iranian groups and Kurds, they had green identification cards in the city and red in the countryside. That way they could immediately identify you.”
Like many political prisoners and victims of the Iranian regime, Bayaziddi’s family lost a vast amount of their hard-earned family wealth. Iran’s Jewish population and many who were close to the late shah also had their wealth confiscated.
“When I came out of prison, we were a wealthy family; we were landlords. But the year of the revolution, we lost a lot of money. The regime seized assets and money and we didn’t work and we didn’t know what money my father had for business purposes. I didn’t need to make money but I wanted to go to school. I wanted to work but I was not allowed to,” he said.
After years of frustration, Bayaziddi said he finally, illegally, left Iran for Turkey in 1989, when he was 22 or 23. He has not been allowed to go back to Iran, nor has he seen his homeland in over 30 years. “I went to the UNHCR (UN High Commission for Refugees) as my way out of Iran. Then in 1990, I went to Canada through the Canadian Embassy in Turkey. I started high school in Toronto at 23.” After that, he attended York University.
Then, in 2000, he rejoined Komala as a member and went on to be elected as a member of its Central Committee in 2013. Komala is one of the most popular political parties among Iranian Kurds.
“The Revolutionary Guard is not just a militia or military. They are like a mafia,” Bayaziddi said. “They are running Iran’s economy and many cities and villages are completely under water, due to floods, because of their mismanagement. There are earthquakes and floods that are not natural because of what the IRGC has done with the ecosystem, in the name of their business interests.”
The Iranian regime took aim at Komala because – in addition to representing an ethnic minority, the Kurds, and like many other internal groups that were against them — the party opposed the clerics and saw them as having hijacked the revolution from the people in 1979.
As for what he envisions for Iran’s political future once the current government is replaced by the people, Bayaziddi said, “We are looking for a federal, democratic Iran. We want to be part of the new Iranian government and have some local governments too, like in Canada. By giving more power to the local people, it will be used against separatism.” He added, “By pressing people the way the regime is doing, it’s pushing people towards separatism. None of the Kurdish parties are separatists.”
Currently, Kurds, Ahwazis, Turks, and other minority groups are prevented from speaking their native languages and wearing their traditional attire. Many are arrested or persecuted for speaking Kurdish, Arabic, or other non-Persian dialects.
According to the group, Komala seeks the following key points for Iran’s Kurdistan region and nationally:
- A democratic, Federal and free Iran, which separates religion and state;
- Self-rule for the Kurdish provinces of Iran;
- Respect and the establishment of a just rule of law;
- Free and fair elections to help promote the wellbeing of all citizens in Iran;
- Protection of all ethnic groups and religions in Iran and the safeguarding of their political and cultural rights and heritages;
- Equal economic, social and educational opportunities for all minorities in Iran, and
- A non-nuclear Iran that is at peace with all its neighbors
“Iranian Kurdistan is the only place today that has political executions still,” Bayaziddi said. “In the rest of Iran, there may be 10, 20, 30-year jail sentences. At this very moment, about 40 Kurdish political prisoners are on death row.”
Bayaziddi recalled how last September the Iranian regime sent series of missiles at KDPI headquarters in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, near Erbil, killing at least 14 people and wounding dozens.
He has indicated that Komala is no longer engaged in, and has not been for 30 years, an armed struggle against the Iranian regime. It fought previously, in the 1980s against the regime and many Iranian Kurdish civilians were executed by Iran as a result. Other groups, like the Ahwazis in Khuzestan, are currently engaged in armed military conflict against the IRGC, which has resulted in the administration’s reluctance to meet with them.
“Hopefully soon we will have a free Iran,” he said. “Every year, about 200 Kurds who walk across the border, as cross border couriers on the border between Iranian Kurdistan and Iraqi Kurdistan, are shot by IRGC border guards and none of those guards are brought to justice.”
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