Posts filed under 'Kurdistan'

1974: Leyla Qasim, Bride of Kurdistan

1 comment May 12th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1974, Kurdish activist Leyla Qasim was hanged by the Ba’ath regime in Baghdad.

A middle daughter among four brothers from the heavily Kurdish Khanaqin district, Qasim joined the Kurdish Student Union as a student at Baghdad University in the early 1970s.

The Iraqi government had fought a running war against Kurdish rebels throughout the 1960s, resolved only by a tenuous truce; by the spring of 1974 armed conflict began again.

Visible Kurdish activists living right in the capital became a natural target.

Qasim and four male companions were arrested in late April, accused of plotting against Iraq (various accounts have this down to a hijacking scheme or cogitating the murder of Saddam Hussein). They were tortured, condemned in a televised trial, and executed together.

She purportedly gave her family the last words of a proper martyr: “I am going to be [the] Bride of Kurdistan and embrace it.”

She’s still regarded as a Kurdish heroine and many families confer her name on their daughters.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Activists,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Famous,Hanged,History,Iraq,Kurdistan,Martyrs,Mass Executions,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Torture,Treason,Wartime Executions,Women

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2006: Sheikh Zana, Erbil terrorist

1 comment September 21st, 2014 Headsman

On this date in 2006, the government of Kurdistan hanged eleven members of an alleged “terrorist cell” in its capital of Erbil.

Sheikh Z(h)ana Abdel Karim Barzinji and his gang “were involved in kidnapping and killing innocent people,” per media accounts, and security forces made sure to provide to television statements dubiously adulterated videotapes of confessions they had wrung from the group. The confessions copped to beheadings and bomb attacks, as well as to gay sex and child rape.

It was the first known judicial execution in Kurdistan since it attained functional autonomy in 1992 — but authorities still delayed it in deference to the moratorium on executions in Iraq immediately following the U.S. invasion. When Baghdad resumed executions in September 2006, Erbil went ahead and did so as well.

Victoria Fontan, a scholar of peace and conflict studies resident in Iraq, remembered her horror at watching with Kurdish friends the stagey confession broadcast in her Voices from Post-Saddam Iraq: Living with Terrorism, Insurgency, and New Forms of Tyranny. In particular, Fontan takes note of the incendiary gay-baiting used to demonize the accused, a shaming tactic she has noted in widespread use against insurgents on Iraqi television.

This was coming at a time when Erbil had just suffered an especially bloody suicide attack, and residents were demanding answers and more security. Because I had heard of similar homosexual accusations related to al-Qaeda before, my reaction was a mix of amusement and skepticism. A gay/pedophile/Islamist/terrorist network: how convenient to discredit any insurgent effort for years to come …

The entire city was waiting for the confessions, which finally came in the most sordid of manners, interrupted with footage of gay sex, executions, and much gore. The fact that the confessions were intermittent, cut off abruptly at times, that the images of gay sex supposed to have been filmed by Sheikh Zana and his group could have been filmed by anyone even after the culprits’ arrest — in the same way that some were filmed in Abu Ghraib — was not relevant at all to the viewers of this show. My friend Rowand and his family were mesmerized and disgusted. When I expressed my skepticism, they politely dismissed it. This footage appealed to the deepest of Iraqi collective fears, the fear of being exposed as a homosexual.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Businessmen,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Homosexuals,Iraq,Kurdistan,Mass Executions,Murder,Sex,Terrorists

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1925: Sheikh Said Piran, Kurdish rebel

Add comment June 29th, 2011 Headsman

Early this morning this date in 1925, just hours after his condemnation for an eponymous rebellion against the newborn Turkish Republic, Sheikh Said Piran was publicly hanged.

This founding member of the Kurdish anti-Ankara martyrology had sparked a momentarily-successful rising against Turkey, fired by grievances that have not ceased to resonate since.

The secular nationalist Kemal Ataturk‘s intent to “Turkify” its peoples. The Kurdish populace’s frustrated national ambitions, indifferently bartered away by distant great powers dismembering the Ottoman Empire.* Ataturk’s abolition of the Caliphate.

“Oppressive and vile towards the Kurds,” Sheikh Said declared. (pdf)

For several years we have been able to read in the newspapers and official documents about the oppression, insults, hatred, and enmity that the Turk Republic [sic] accords to the Kurdish notables and dynasties. There is a lot of evidence available from authentic sources that they want to subject the Kurdish elite to the same treatment to which they subjected the Armenians

The February revolt quickly made him master of the majority-Kurdish eastern province of Diyarbakir, but a massive Turkish counterattack drove him east, encircled him, and had the Sheikh in irons by mid-April.

The government arrogated martial law powers to itself and appointed Orwellian courts called Independence Tribunals to prosecute Kurdish elites, rebels or no. (Some Kurdish intelligentsia were hailed to Diyarbakir from Istanbul.) Hundreds hanged, without even counting wholesale extrajudicial retribution against Kurdish civilians.

the repression of the 1925 rising was accomplished with a brutality which was not exceeded in any Armenian massacres. Whole villages were burnt or razed to the ground, and men, women and children killed.


Mass hanging of Kurds at Diyarbakir, May or June 1925 (Source)

Despite prosecutors’ avowed intention to extirpate the separatist sentiment “root and branch,” it hasn’t exactly put the whole Kurdish issue to bed.

Just ask Kurdish guerrilla Abdullah Ocalan, who received on this very same date 74 years later his own Turkish death sentence (since commuted).

* A past-is-prologue artifact from the time: the “Issue of Mosul“, a prickly international relations dispute over control of the historic city, accurately suspected to be sitting on a lot of oil.

Turkey claimed it as part of its historic heartland, but Great Britain had seized it just before World War I ended and wound up hanging onto it for the embryonic Iraqi state. Kurds who also considered it part of their homeland got short shrift altogether. It’s still disputed today among Iraqis, situated as it is just on the edge of Kurdish Iraq.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Guerrillas,Hanged,History,Kurdistan,Martyrs,Mass Executions,Politicians,Power,Public Executions,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Separatists,Soldiers,Treason,Turkey,Wartime Executions

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1947: Qazi Muhammed, father of Kurdistan

3 comments March 31st, 2008 Headsman

On this date* in 1947, the only president of the world’s only Kurdish state was hanged with two aides in Mahabad, the Iranian city that had been the capital of his nascent country.

Ground between the maneuvers of much more powerful states — the stereotypical fate of the Kurds — Qazi Muhammed‘s endgame begins not in mountainous northwest Iran where he declared the short-lived Republic of Mahabad (alternatively, Mehabad), but in Berlin, where a distant dictator had hurled Europe’s great powers into war.

The contest for influence in Middle East and its lifeblood of oil for the modern mechanized army forms a crucial sidebar to World War II’s European chessboard, and the unpredictable collisions between rival empires and competing anticolonial interests made many strange bedfellows.

Two months after Germany invaded the Soviet Union, British and Soviet troops jointly seized Iran from its potentially pro-German ruler — securing both oil resources** and a precious route for sending American supplies to Russia’s desperately pressed defenders.

Kurds were very far from Stalin or Churchill’s calculation, but the moment also offered a power vacuum permitting de facto Kurdish self-rule in a narrow band straddling Soviet and British occupation zones.

As the war drew to a close, erstwhile allies began girding for the Cold War — and the disposition of Iran was a dress rehearsal. Moscow was keen to maintain influence in that country’s north, and to that end encouraged Iran’s Azerbaijani region to break away as an independent state — which it did in December 1945. The Kurdish Republic of Mahabad followed suit on January 22, 1946 (a date still commemorated by Kurdish activists) with Qazi Muhammed as president. Although the Mahabad Republic is sometimes characterized as “Soviet-backed,” or even a Soviet puppet, that might be a better description of its hopes than its reality.

Mahabad may have represented the national dream for Kurds, but it was a small pawn to the Soviets, easily sacrificed when its position became untenable. Moscow’s priorities were elsewhere, and this was the brief window when America was the only nuclear power: the Red Army was (diplomatically) forced out of Iran and the breakaway Republics reoccupied by the western-backed Iranian government. And Mahabad, a statelet founded by a middle class party with only limited backing from tribal chiefs, required Soviet support to have any hope of holding up.

Seeing where the wind was blowing, the Kurds submitted in December 1946 to the advancing Iranian army without a hopeless fight, but Muhammed refused on his honor to flee, hoping to placate the Iranians.

For all its inadequacies, Mahabad was the only Kurdish state of the 20th century, and Qazi Muhammed its founder and only president. That has earned him a place of honor in the crowded pantheon of Kurdish martyrs.

After a military court had him hanged, leadership of the Kurdish struggle passed to Mustafa Barzani, whose refugee guerrillas had made declaration of the Kurdish state a possibility in the first place.

In a biography of Barzani written by Barzani’s son, the Kurdish captain describes his last meeting with the president — and if the manifest interest of the reporting parties colors our presumption of its literal authenticity (journalist Jonathan Randal, for instance, reports that Barzani never held Mohammed in high regard), it likewise underscores the place of this day’s victim in the Kurdish mythology.

I went to Qazi Mohammed and asked him what he personally intended to do. He said that he intended to sacrifice his life to prevent bloodshed in Mahabad, that he would surrender to the Iranian forces, and that he had sent an emissary to General Hamayoni in Miyandoab informing him of his decision. He broke down in tears as he continued: “Never rely on anyone but your own group. All those who took the oath of allegiance have betrayed us and are rushing to prove their loyalty to the Iranian forces. Beware of the tribal chiefs who would target you if they could. I hope that you will leave Mahabad as soon as youc an to avoid confronting the Iranian forces.”

I insisted that he go with us [to Iraq], and pledged my word of honor that I would sacrifice my life and the lives of all who were with me to defend him, because he was the symbol of our nation. I told him that my advice to him was not to trust Iranian promises. It would be painful to see the first president of the Republic of Kurdistan fall into enemy hands.

In tears, Qazi Mohammed rose and hugged me, saying, “I pray God will give you strength and protect you. May my sacrifice spare the citizens some of their affliction and mitigate the terror and vengeance.” Then, he pulled a flag of Kurdistan from his pocket and gave it to me and said: “This is the symbol of Kurdistan. I give it to you as a token of trust in your honor, for I think you are the bes man to keep it.”

The Encyclopedia of Kurdistan has an excellent entry on Mahabad’s straitened political situation, as well as a good article on the background of tribal politics in the years prior to World War II.

* Some sources report March 30; the small hours in the morning of the 31st seems to have the plurality of scholarship.

** Although Baku was a much more important source of oil for the USSR.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Activists,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Famous,Hanged,Heads of State,History,Iran,Kurdistan,Martyrs,Occupation and Colonialism,Politicians,Popular Culture,Power,Public Executions,Racial and Ethnic Minorities


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