The Story of Mahabad Lives On

January 21, 2013

For the younger generation of readers, whose history books may not have been very tempting, 67 years ago the first Kurdish republic was established in Mahabad in eastern Kurdistan under the leadership of Qazi Muhammad. On December 15th of the same year, Iranian forces entered Mahabad. They closed down the printing press, banned the teaching of Kurdish language, and burned all Kurdish books that they could find and on March 31, 1947, Qazi Muhammad was hanged in Mahabad’s Chwar Chera square.

This is the short story. Books and many doctoral theses have been written about the collapse of the republic, but to cut a long story short, the republic depended heavily on the Soviet Union and hence had a very close relationship with them. This pushed the West to automatically support Tehran who agreed with the Soviet Union to pull out of the areas near Mahabad and Azerbaijan and leave the Kurds and the Azeris for the Shah.

This short but powerful story is still alive in the consciousness of every Kurd. It draws its power from its currency. At every juncture of Kurdish history since Mahabad, an element of that story has been repeated.

The collapse of the September revolution was a direct result of the reliance of the Kurds on one neighbor, Iran, which later agreed with Saddam. We were reminded of Mahabad.

The assasination of Kurdish leader Dr. Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou Dr Qasimlu in Austria and Dr Saeed Sharafqandi in Germany, brought back to many of us the image of Qazi Muhammad hanging from a rope in Mahabad.

The current semi-state that we have in Iraqi Kurdistan almost forces everybody to draw the historic reference to Mahabad. One can set internal problems aside, though that does not mean they are not important.

The first reference is that many of us say, could this be the second republic? At the same time, our constant fear is that it could suffer the same fate?

Both questions are constantly asked because at times there are many similarities between the two stories. The most feared scenario is that of gradually becoming dependent on a neighbor, and having the fate of the region dependent on that neighbor’s relations with others.

Today, and with all the problems with Baghdad, the region finds itself more isolated and more dependent on neighbors. With every day that passes, a new egg is being put in the Turkish basket. While it is becoming clear that Turkey is the healthiest of neighbors, it would not mind a totally reliant entity close to it. Some even say that if Erbil-Baghdad relations are completely cut, the region could become a banana republic for Turkey. If this happens then it is a recipe for another Mahabad.

Striking the right balance between the various neighbors was one of the most prominent characteristics of the Iraqi Kurdistan region. The presence of Mam Jalal (Iraqi President Jalal Talabani) on the political scene was automatically providing the balance. Today, the current president of the region, a citizen of Mahabad himself, is under more pressure to strike this balance among everyone alone!

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