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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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1. After the Crime


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Vienna. Thursday, July 13, 1989. While the assassination of Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, Abdullah Ghaderi-Azar, and Fadil Rasul was taking place in cold blood, Susanne Rockenschaub was with some friends. She had gone to the theater to see the musical Les Miserables. That afternoon, her husband Rasul had left the house without mentioning where he was going.

At the end of the show, Susanne returned to her home at Wasagasse. It was 10:30 p.m. She slowly climbed the stairs to the first floor. When she arrived at the door of her apartment, she found herself surrounded by a formidable group of policemen armed with machine guns.

The police were accompanied by Rasul’s two brothers. When she unlocked her apartment door, the police entered with her. They searched the rooms thoroughly and had many questions. She could not understand at all what was happening, not even after one of the policemen informed her that three Arabs had been murdered.

The phone rang at 11:00 p.m. Susanne answered, but the police motioned her not to speak about their presence in her home. The wife of a journalist friend was calling to tell her that Rasul had been assassinated. Susanne’s first thought, in the instant of hearing the news, was that the murderers had been Iraqi.

Thirty minutes later, the phone rang again. It was the former Iranian president, Banisadr, calling from Paris....

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