Entrenched in Iraq since the beginning of the eighties, several Iranian Kurdish organizations felt they had no other choice than exile in order to exist. Being regularly targeted by Tehran are living though particularly difficult times since the beginning of the uprising related to the death of Jina (Mahsa) Amini.
Although the place welcomes a large number of civilians, the PDKI trains dozens of recruits with the warfare techniques. Each year, tens of young men and women cross the border in order to incorporate the ranks of the organization who claims to fight for the establishment of a federal and democratic Iran.
Shanou (on the right), barely 20 years old, soon got responsibilities within the PDKI. Now a peshmerga, she trains new recruits how to get physically fit. The young lady is still scared by the death of her father, shot down by Iranian border guards when she was just a child. Like many inhabitants in economic distress, Shanou’s father was illegally carrying heavy merchandises on his back between Iran and Iraq. These smugglers, called « Kolbar », suffer many casualties every year, usually killed by border forces’ firearms or by frost. « The regime justified his killing saying he was a terrorist. That day, I swore to honor his memory and to join the ranks of the peshmergas. »
Since the beginning of the uprising in Iran related to the killing of Jina Amini, the PDKI’s bases have been emptied. Last September 28th, a swarm of ballistic missiles launched from Iran fell over the headquarters of the PDKI. Fourteen people, including a pregnant woman, lost their lives.
Ehsan (on the right), only nineteen years old, arrived a few weeks ago from Iran. Shyly, he unveils the scars still easily noticeable under his ochre-coloured military uniform. A few weeks back, the young man was demonstrating with his closed ones. « They fired at us, it was raining bullets. I cried of fear, I thought I was going to die », he described, still moved by the incident, before adding: « I couldn’t go to the hospital, it was to risky, the regime would’ve detained me. Some demonstrators hid me in a house and healed. As soon as I could, I left and crossed the border », he explained.
These dreams contrast with the reality on the field, mostly with the obsession of the Iranian regime regarding refugee organizations in Iraq. The iranian ire is easily explained: although the regime was able to eradicate all opposition on its soil, the persistence of these parties at its borders is felt like a provocation, especially since they played an active role by calling for a general strike following the death of Jina Amini.
Furthermore, the Islamic Republic fears those organizations might serve as proxies for enemy States, especially the United States, which could seize the opportunity to destabilize the regime on its western border. In June 2018, in a context of major regional tensions – marked by Trump’s disengagement policies vis a vis the nuclear deal, the PDKI’s general secretary visited Washington upon invitation. On top of meeting various members of Congress, Mustafa Hijri had a discussion with the head of the Iranian section of the State Department. Even though these meetings did not bear many fruits, Tehran vowed to eradicate this turbulent opposition. In that sense, it put serious pressure on Baghdad and on Kurdistan’s Regional Government to dismantle the camps in the last months. For now, the Kurdish authorities keep resisting these demands; but for how long?