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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. Two Police Reports


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The day the coffins left Vienna for Paris, Hélène and the Kurds were still in the dark about much of the crime. They had no doubt the murderers were Iranians. They knew Ghassemlou and Ghaderi-Azar had attended a negotiation, which very few knew about until after the crime. Even the party didn’t know. The crime was a massive unknown, a blank wall, and unending doubt weighed upon them. For Ghassemlou’s widow, as for the Kurdish leaders of the PDKI, a long, laborious, and complex investigation began that ran parallel to that of the police.

A police report reconstructed the facts of the crime in this way:1

The positions of the victims as indicated by the witness, Sahrarudi, did not coincide with the findings of the physical evidence—the placement and specific features of the wounds and the trajectory of the projectiles.

According to the positions of the projectiles and the wounds of the victims, it was determined that there were two gunmen.

Two weapons were involved, both pistols: a Beretta and a Llama. Each was fired eight times. Silencers were used at short range, a fact confirmed by the biological remains found on the Llama.

When Ghassemlou was hit, he was probably positioned between a table and the sofa, with his back to the window. He was first hit twice in the left temple with the...

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