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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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Timeline: Historical Events and Geopolitical Context


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Historical Events and Geopolitical Context

Seventh century C.E.

The first confrontation of Kurds with Arab expansion comes in 637 C.E. Arabs conquer Kurdistan, and the Kurds in their majority eventually convert to Sunni Islam.

Over the next several centuries, Kurdistan will become a theater of combat for successive waves of invaders, ranging from Timurid Turks to the Mongol Empire.

Twelfth–thirteenth centuries

Seljuk Turks occupy Kurdistan and annex Kurdish principalities. Around 1150, the sultan Sandjar, the last Seljuk monarch, creates a province out of these lands and called it Kurdistan.

Saladin founds the Ayyubid dynasty (1171–1250) in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, and assumes leadership of the Muslim world.

In 1231 Mongol raiders invade Kurdish territory.

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