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Dreaming Kurdistan

The Life and Death of Kurdish Leader Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou

Carol Prunhuber

A thorough work of contemporary history and a distillation of the complex web of the Iranian Kurdish political world, this biography of Kurdish leader Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou depicts the character and passionate action of one of the twentieth century’s most exceptional and democratic leaders of a national movement.

Carol Prunhuber, who knew Ghassemlou from the early 1980s, shows us the many facets of a humanist leader of magnitude and worldwide scope. From revolution that toppled the Shah to the dark and treacherous alleys of the Cold War, Dreaming Kurdistan revives the Kurdish leader’s fated path to assassination in Vienna. We know how, why, and who murdered Ghassemlou—and we stand witness to Austria’s raison d’état, the business interests that put a lid on the investigation, and the response of silent indifference from the international community.

Professor of economics in Prague, bon vivant in Paris, clandestine freedom fighter in the Kurdish mountains, stalked by the Shah’s secret police, Ghassemlou is ultimately assassinated by the hit men of Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic Republic. Prunhuber takes us, through a murky world of equivocal liaisons, complicities, treachery, and undisguised threats, from Tehran to Vienna.

While the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to perturb and defy the West, Dreaming Kurdistan is essential for an understanding of Iran and the Kurds’ longing for freedom and democracy.

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The years since an earlier edition of this biography, The Passion and Death of Rahman the Kurd, have witnessed massive geopolitical shifts across the world the Kurds inhabit. Recent years have seen, too, the emergence of significant new information bearing on the death of Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou and his life as a leader in the context of his times. This revised edition, much expanded, incorporates the contributions of so many who have offered their valuable time, memories, insights, and perspectives with such generosity.

I would like to thank the valuable support given by Hélène Krulich-Ghassemlou for the realization of this book, her personal encouragement, and her time with the interviews given in Paris and Vienna—and for taking the time to answer my never-ending questions, to review and offer her knowledge and insight for this updated edition. I also want to thank the Kurdish community in Vienna for their collaboration, as well as the many people who contributed with interviews, suggestions, and documentation which made this book possible.

My heartfelt thanks to the American journalist Jonathan Randal, who generously offered me the transcript of hours of conversation he had with Ghassemlou. It is thanks to those notes that I was able to reconstruct situations and dialogues without which the writing of this book would not have been possible. My thanks, too, for his constant support throughout the years.

This edition draws on interviews with many people, to whom I offer...

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