Why does reunification of the KDP and the KDPI matter?

Yoosef (Aso) Abbaszadeh
2016-01-12 23:56:17

When the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP-Iran) was founded some seventy years ago in the city of Mahabad, Kurdish intellectuals and activists couldn’t imagine that their party’ successive leaders and Peshmerga will one sit in exile and wait for a miracle that could turn Iran’s tyrannical political system into something hospitable to the Kurdish minority’ demands. Today not even this unpredicted situation has, to some degree, proven to be the reality, the party, albeit to no one’s surprise, is divided.
The intermittent internal splits within the KDP have arguably played the major role in shrinking this party’ strength. As a result of fractions the KDP/KDPI’s struggle now is seen to be confined to efforts aimed to maintaining contact with motherland Kurdistan (Rozhelat), as opposed to pushing for the long-proclaimed nationalist demand. This current picture, is undisputedly the case for not only the KDP/KDPI, but for other Iranian Kurdish political parties, whose very survival has been a challenge, thanks to the sacrifice their Peshmerga and families have selflessly embraced in exile for decades.
What is known as the dual characteristics of Kurdish nationalist struggle, reshuffling between co-operation and antagonism, has politically frustrated the Kurds and has in fact worked to the advantage of the Iranian regime, the most notorious enemy of the Kurds. 
Whereas Iran was prepared to breach international laws in 1980-90s by implementing its “leadership decapitation” policy against the KDP to terminate Kurdish resistance, it no longer needs to deploy its state-terror machine to commit any more assassinations, knowing that divisions within Kurdish parties including the KDP/KDPI would gradually exhaust their energy and ultimately abate their appeal to challenge totalitarianism in Tehran. 
However, it is not plausible to suggest that all failures stem from internal disparities and factions within the KDP/KDPI. The 1991 dramatic political transformations in Iraq that led the Kurds to establish their very first autonomous regional government, had its repercussions on the KDP/KDPI, alongside the tremendous advantage for the Kurds in general. The party had to cease its armed struggle against Iran unilaterally in order to keep the peaceful relations of Iraqi Kurdistan with Tehran. Against expectations, Iran since then has failed to express, any interest to desensitise and desecuritise the Kurdish question, specifically when it comes to the outlawed Kurdish political parties. Its absolute intolerance, in particular to the KDP/KDPI, is apparent.
 Trapped in such a political stalemate with an entrenched wall of distrust between the Kurds and the central government of Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran seems reluctant to alleviate its extensive oppressive approach towards Kurdish dissidents, often paranoidly accusing them to be affiliated with the KDP, KDPI or other parties, imposing a death sentence on them. The United Nations Human Rights Rapporteur for Iran, Ahmed Saheed said that Iran was executing people at an exceptional rate, as many as 1,000 people in 2015, including many Kurds. 
The gradual decline of the KDP/KDPI’s strength and influence over decades has attracted observers and analysts to come up with various explanations for this. Some blame regional and international developments such as regime change in Iraq which gave Iran more regional room in the absence of its stubborn rival, Saddam Hussain. In a broader international sense, the West, over the last decade, has prioritised Iran’s nuclear deal, effectively giving Tehran carte blanche to undertake strict oppressive measures against Kurdish activists, to an extent that even independent social campaigners are not tolerated. 
As there is a broad consensus among scholars that external forces are the greatest determinants of the success and failure of any given secessionist movement, the Kurds will find the international community more apathetic to their cause. Since for the West the first priority remains to keep its nuclear deal with Iran, human rights issues will continue to be ignored. Other observers moreover, would point to the institutionalised pan-Iranian ego-centrism as creating an environment which is too hostile for any ethnic pluralism, let alone the Kurdish cause, to sprout in Iran. 
The Kurds often metaphorically point to the mountains of Kurdistan as their only friends. In parallel, over a century-long calamitous ethnic conflict, they have realised their most lethal and ruthless enemy, disunity. This disunity has predominantly portrayed itself amongst political elites rather than among Kurdish people. As evidence, this is the outstanding public scrutiny the party leaders face in the aftermath of each party split, whether it is the KDP or Komala party. Cadres and members at all levels within the KDP and KDPI have been, and are, campaigning to reunite both wings of the party since the onset of the latest faction in 2006. 
It was this pressure which has compelled the KDP and KDPI’s leaders and bureaus to hold and endure reunion negotiations on a regular base. Despite the fact that such efforts have not been satisfyingly fruitful yet, the negotiations between the two parties’ wings have nonetheless given hope to the public in Iranian Kurdistan, particularly the two party wings advocates hoping to witness a unified KDP/KDPI once again. 
The KDP is often seen to be encouraging most people in Kurdistan to fight an excruciatingly long battle, preserving their ethnic identity, so they are not assimilated within the dominant Persian culture. It is a moral duty of both KDP and KDPI’s leaders therefore, to intensify the reunification process.  If the KDP’s aims for Iranian Kurds are to succeed, it has to be through efforts that would immediately set the Kurdish political house in order, which would require some bilateral compromise measures to be taken in the reunion talks between the KDP and the KDPI. 
As many members of the two parties have already suggested, it is vital to use the short period running up to the upcoming two party congresses productively to finalise reunion negotiations that would lead to a truly joint congress and election with one party as its outcome.
Needless to say, such progress and development will have some determining social and political ramifications both in a near future and in the long run. First of all, the KDP once again can illustrate the captivity of its long-proclaimed pillar of “being democratic” by taking the public’s demand for reunion seriously and practically, which in due time will remobilize the wider public against Iran’s discriminatory policies towards the Kurdish minority. Secondly, a united KDP will have a more compelling impact on Iran’s central government, requiring it to reconsider its policies knowing the historic fact that a strong popular-backed KDP can challenge the regime seriously. Iran’s regime cannot forget the KDP’s impact on the Kurdish public in the referendum to establish an Islamic republic in March 1979, where the majority of Kurdish voters embraced the KDP’s call for boycotting the referendum, demarcating it downward as undemocratically designed to replace the Shah’s regime to an Islamic one. Finally, the reunion of the party will also engage and attract more international patronage, considering that the KDP has recently become a full member of Socialist International so that reinforces the party’s position to pursue its democratic and ethnic aims more effectively. 
The Middle East, is notorious both for its fertility as well as its instability, changes and surprises of all kinds. Who could have predicted for instance, Syrian Kurds, whose ethnically discriminated status, up to 2011 uprising in Syria, denied half a million of them even a passport or ID, would be running their motherland, Rojava (West Kurdistan) in 2015? Who could envisage Kurdish flag of the Kurdistan regional Government (Iraq), KRG hoisting next to a Turkish one in 2015 in Ankara, recalling the Turkish army massing along the border in 2008 threatening to invade the new entity of the KRG? All these and many other astonishing developments are now reality, so there is no point in excluding Iran as an exception to this traditionally unforeseeable trend of politics in the Middle East. 
Multi-ethnic Iran, is experiencing its “lull before the storm”, so a set of social and political prearrangements to manage the storm is required if the Kurdish minority is to achieve their basic human rights in Iran’s future political structure. The main prerequisite is, to put Kurdish house back in order. The Kurdistan Democratic Party’s house in particular, simply cannot afford cracked walls, specifically in that future tremulous Iran.