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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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Dramatis Personae


Publications in English and other European languages have seen great variability in the spelling of Kurdish, Iranian, Turkish, and Arabic names over the years, owing to historical and cultural fashions, personal choices, and trends in popular international media usage. Rather than redact all forms of given names to a consistently single format—under which Muhammad, Mohamed, Mohammed, and Mohammad might all be written as Muhammad—my decision has been, wherever possible, to honor individual preferences and the names by which individuals have been popularly known in their own times.

People Affiliated with Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou and the PDKI

Abdulli, Fatah. Representative of the PDKI in Europe since 1989. Assassinated in Berlin on September 17, 1992, by agents of the Iranian government.

Ayoubzadeh, Hasan. Iranian Kurdish lawyer joined the PDKI in 1979. He created a commission to teach basic law and inform peshmerga on PDKI discipline and party ground rules. He was a member of the editorial board of the party magazine and the PDKI radio until the end of 1988, when he left the party.

Bahrami, Kawe. Former PDKI military commander; currently a member of PDKI’s board and now commander of the peshmerga force.

Gadani, Jalil. Member of the political bureau of the PDK (Iran), later the PDKI, until the end of the 1980s.

Ghaderi, Iraj. Kurdish general in the Iranian army under Reza Pahlavi’s regime; he was among the Kurdish military that took over the...

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