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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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3. Iranian Offensive


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In the mountains of Kurdistan, the doctors continued their work. The war was prowling, like a wary cat. Wounded PDKI peshmerga, captured pasdaran, and soldiers of the Iranian army injured in battle were all arriving at the Kurds’ new hospital.

“I remember in the autumn in 1982, the PDKI gave up their hold on the front line. Along the route from Piranshar to Sardasht, we built a second hospital. We did everything, and the day we finished, the front collapsed. The wounded began to arrive. It was terrible,” recalled Bonnot. “They [the Iranian forces] had fired upon civilians and there were many wounded. We even lost that hospital. The peshmerga were trying to hold the head of the valley. I saw the pasdaran attack; there were around four hundred. The peshmerga had three cannons, and moved them from place to place so that the pasdaran thought there were more.”1

Suddenly trucks loaded with peshmerga began to arrive. There were many, and the troops were highly disciplined. Bonnot did not know who they were.

“Who are they? They’re not democrats [PDKI],” said Bonnot.

Abdullah Ghaderi-Azar explained it to him: Jalal Talabani had sent two thousand men to support the PDKI.

Since for Bonnot the Iranian peshmerga were the “democrats,” the Iraqi Kurds—the PUK, Jalal Talabani’s people—were the Jalali, and the pasdaran were the pasdar.

The Jalali,...

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