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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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7. The Conversation


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If a man was a revolutionary in his life,

his death will be a revolutionary act.

—Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou

Apart from the Iranians who are still at large, taped cassettes are the only witnesses of what the Iranians and Kurds said to each other that fateful Thursday in July 1989.

It’s probable that the tapes that appeared in Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou’s briefcase were manipulated, and are not the ones that actually recorded the conversations that day. Someone may have prepared them as part of the assassins’ plot to confuse the inevitable investigation. In any case the conversation they contain has been transcribed from spoken Farsi dialogue into German, French, Spanish, and now English. In addition, the audio quality at times is quite poor, with marked interruptions, entire breaks in the dialogue, and the grammatical idiosyncrasies of spoken language.

This conversation has been transcribed as accurately as possible given the limitations of the original evidence, and may appear inexact and awkward in places. But speculations aside, and the witnesses having disappeared, the cassettes are an essential piece of evidence to shed light on what happened that day in the living room at Linke Bahngasse 5.1

The tape begins with Sahrarudi: “Peace be with you,” he says. “We agreed that these contacts should remain completely secret” because there are those within the regime that “do not want these problems to...

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