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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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4. The Murderers


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Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou was killed by three bullets, shot at close range by two pistols with silencers.

Abdullah received eleven gunshot wounds; Rasul received five. A bullet to the head finished off each of the three men.

Ghassemlou died instantly. He did not even have time to react. Judging from this, he must have been the first target. According to a report by Austrian parliamentarian Peter Pilz, the initial crime-scene impression was that Ghassemlou and Rasul were caught by surprise and killed in a seated position.1

Other readings of the evidence, however, reportedly indicate that both Fadil Rasul and Abdullah Ghaderi-Azar resisted the murderers. The positions in which their bodies were found suggest that they struggled with the attackers.2 Medical forensics discovered traces of skin under their nails.3 The sheer number of wounds Abdullah sustained, in particular, strongly suggests an active resistance. In Abdullah’s clothing they also found traces of blood from Mohammad Jafari Sahrarudi, one of the Iranian envoys.

The Austrian police found the living room in chaotic disarray, as shown by the photos taken during the first days of the investigation.

The police found sixteen shells in the room. In the course of the investigation, a total of fifteen bullets would eventually be recovered: six in the bodies of the victims, and nine more elsewhere in the room at the crime scene. Autopsy by forensic physicians would determine,...

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