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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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6. The Assassins


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Let us imagine the scene of the murder:

Three Kurds and two Iranians are sitting in a small living room. A sofa, some armchairs, and some dining-room chairs are arranged in a circle around a low table. Behind the sofa is a window. Stage front is the door through which you have entered the living room. One door. One window.

The Kurds and Iranians negotiate for two hours. The crime leaves many unanswered questions. For example: Which of the Iranians was the first to interrupt the dialogue and take out his weapon? Sahrarudi, with the Beretta? Mostafawi, with the Llama? Where were the weapons? Hidden beforehand somewhere in the apartment? In the bathroom, the kitchen, waiting for someone to retrieve them? Perhaps under the armchairs in the living room? Or that day did the Iranians come already armed, carrying weapons to number 5 Linke Bahngasse? Was it difficult to walk in without attracting attention while carrying two or three pistols, one nearly the size and shape of a submachine gun? Did they have direct access to the apartment, or was it necessary that their friend Rasul open the door to his lover’s home?

Where was Buzorguian, the bodyguard? Did he leave the apartment to fetch the weapons?

Buzorguian had arrived in Vienna a month before the negotiations and met publicly with Rasul and his brother Fawzi. An Iranian visiting a European capital...

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