In an interview with Rudaw, Mustafa Hejri, the secretary general of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), shares his optimism over a recent unification between his group and the Revolutionary Society of Iranian Kurdistan’s Toilers (Komala).
The agreement comes after decades of bitter rivalry between the two groups, and has inspired hope for a new united Iranian Kurdish front. Responding to some skepticism from other groups, Hejri emphasized that the doors are open for other political parties in Iranian Kurdistan to join in.
Rudaw: KDPI’s leadership has been based outside of Iranian Kurdistan for several years. How do you connect with the people of Iranian Kurdistan to exchange views and ideas?
Mustafa Hejri: Our secret organizations in Iranian Kurdistan serve as a bridge between the people and the leadership. Our secret organizations have spread across Iranian Kurdistan. Happily, due to the Kurdistan Region’s freedom, a large number of people from Iranian Kurdistan come to the Kurdistan Region for tourism or business. They too serve as a bridge between the leadership and the people back home. Besides, with media sources our ideas reach our people and we receive their ideas through the same means.
Rudaw: What steps did you take to unite with the other wing of KDPI?
Mustafa Hejri: Reestablishing relations with our colleagues who broke away from the party was a demand of our people and a requirement imposed by current political developments. We had to face the developments united and strong.
As political parties, we are meant to achieve the goals of the people. To respond to the demands of our people in regards to unification, we were in talks with our colleagues for more than a year. We have been working on unification.
At our last convention, the KDPI decided to engage with our colleagues directly. We decided to take steps to create a friendly environment for talks and better understanding. We decided to collaborate instead of promoting enmity and rivalry, in order to take advantage of events we knew were coming. At the beginning of the current month, we contacted Mr. Khalid Azizi and discussed possible ways of reestablishing relations.
Rudaw: Do you want them to join you or, as the other wing says, to “reunite”?
Mustafa Hejri: The unification of KDPI is our main and strategic goal. However, this issue is a bilateral issue, and we cannot decide on this matter alone. We will seriously attempt to unite.
I also believe the unification with our former colleagues needs more time. We have to get closer and better understand their goals. We have suffered bad experiences with separations and unifications. A number of our colleagues who recently broke away from the KDPI were also part of the previous breakaway.
Rudaw: Will this unification be different from the previous one?
Mustafa Hejri: We want to unite in a way that we do not have to separate in the future again. Separating will severely hurt the KDPI and the Kurdish struggle in Iranian Kurdistan. Therefore, we have to take careful steps and prolong discussions in order to bring our ideas closer to each other.
Without careful planning and understanding, I believe it would be better not to unite than unite now and separate again later. That is why we are approaching the unification in a very cautious manner and want to calculate our steps one after the other.
I am optimistic about the process and believe that we will bypass the problems and move towards unification. We insist on unification and will do all we can. The rest will be in the hands of our colleagues and I hope they too do what they can. If our unification takes too long, it will be to the disadvantage of the party.
Rudaw: Why did Barzani’s attempt in this regard fail?
Mustafa Hejri: When our colleagues first broke away, Mr. Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Region, tried to solve the problem directly. Moreover, in a meeting between Kurdistan’s president and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leadership, some efforts were made to put an end to the problems.
But unfortunately, back then, our colleagues were not ready to move towards unification and rejoin us. That is why the president’s attempts to reunite us failed.
Rudaw: What about (French Consul General) Frédéric Tissot’s attempts? Is that over or will he continue after his return to France?
Mustafa Hejri: Until now, many friends in all four parts of Kurdistan have tried to get us closer together. The latest attempt was made by Mr. Tissot. Tissot is an old friend of the Kurds and the KDPI. Even when we were in the mountains, he was helping our fighters via Doctors Without Borders. Several times he asked me to try to bring both wings of the party closer together.
Rudaw: After signing the agreement with Komala, political parties in Iranian Kurdistan accused you both of authoritarianism. Why?
Mustafa Hejri: At KDPI’s 13th convention, a decision was made to meet and talk with most of Iranian Kurdistan’s political parties in order to form a front. We tried hard and compromised much, but unfortunately we did not reach any positive conclusion.
However, politics is not a zero-sum game. Even though we failed to bring everyone together, we thought we could at least bring some together. After a year of dialogue and meetings, we finally reached an agreement with our friends in Komala. We agreed to set the disagreements aside and agreed on a number of common points.
This agreement is not intended to promote enmity and rivalry with any particular party. It is inked in the hopes of becoming a cornerstone for further cooperation and agreements between Kurdish political parties. The door is open to all. This agreement is preparation for the collapse of the Iranian regime. It is in no way intended to manipulate power or distribute power [to these two particular parties].
Unification and unified discourse from political parties in Iranian Kurdistan is an undeniable reality. With our understanding of this reality, we have to work from our common ground and reach agreements.
Rudaw: Is your agreement with Komala only a political agreement or a military agreement as well?
Mustafa Hejri: The agreement is a general and comprehensive political agreement.
Rudaw: Will this not create two fronts in Iranian Kurdistan?
Mustafa Hejri: According to the agreement, other political parties can join the alliance. I do not see any reason for other political parties to form a new alliance in reaction to ours. But even in a worst case scenario, if other political parties gathered into one alliance, it would still be easier to bring two alliances to the negotiation table rather than 10 or 15 political parties.
We will try to build good relations with both those organizations we have had bad experiences with and those who have been our friend. If an alliance or front is formed, we will try to bring it closer to ours. I believe all the political parties work to promote the interests of Kurdistan. Their programs and intentions will lead to cooperation.
Rudaw: You are no longer an armed political party. Do you believe that the time for armed struggle in Iranian Kurdistan is over?
Mustafa Hejri: We have not set aside our armed struggle. Armed struggle is still part of our plans and programs. But in the current political circumstances, our leadership is based in the Kurdistan Region; we cannot continue our armed struggle and jeopardize the Kurdistan Region’s achievements. That is why we pay closer attention to diplomatic and political struggles. But whenever the situation requires us to, we have supporters and fighters ready to resume armed struggle.
Rudaw: Does Iran pressure you via the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) and PUK?
Mustafa Hejri: Ever since Iranian Kurdistan parties became stationed in Kurdistan, Iran has pressured both the PUK and KDP. The pressure is still ongoing. But happily, the PUK and KDP have refused to pressure us and our political activities.
Rudaw: Iran has good relations with most of Iraqi Kurdistan’s political parties. Do you believe Iran’s relations with the KDP are not in good standing?
Mustafa Hejri: I do not know many details about relations between Iran and the KDP. But it appears that the KDP is practicing a policy in the region that is not compatible with Iran’s interests, particularly with the issue of Syria. Iran supports Syria wholeheartedly, while the KDP supports the legitimate rights of the people of Syria. This of course is not very much favored by Iran.
By SAKAR ABDULLAZADA