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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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2. The French Connection


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One day Ghassemlou confided to Bonnot his concern that the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) had captured some French nationals as hostages. He was totally opposed to terrorism and kidnapping. Soon after, Bonnot saw some Kurds leaving Ghassemlou’s house. “They were not very nice. They did not even say hello. This was not common among the PDKI. These Kurds were from the ICP. Ghassemlou had invited them to tell them he disapproved of their methods.”1

Dr. Bonnot often walked by the ICP headquarters, knowing that the hostages were there. Without waiting for his guide he approached that spot one day. “The Communists looked at me as if I was mad and asked who I was.

“‘French,’ I answered. I turned around and pointed to the peshmerga and said, ‘Democrat. Ghassemlou.’ And they let us pass. After that, we began to bring mail to the hostages.”

France had more than one reason to be upset by the kidnapping of French citizens in Iraq. While the United States provided limited support to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, Paris was betting on the regime in Baghdad. In 1981 when the Israeli air force bombed the nuclear plant of Osirak south of Baghdad, they destroyed a project that had been built with French capital and technicians. As a result of the close French-Iraqi bond, nearly seven thousand French technicians worked in Iraq. It was two French...

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