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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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8. Creaking on the Floor


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“In conclusion,” said Ghassemlou, “we have two demands to make: democracy and autonomy. You came here to speak with us. In a simple friendship it would be different, but in politics it works this way: when you want to get something from us, you must also give us something back.

“We are not in a position to accept the minimum possible from you and then you receive the maximum from us. We must try to do what benefits our country. It’s because of this that I also insist that you accept the principle of autonomy. You must have realized that I’m far from saying anything out of pure courtesy or irresponsibility. I’m very aware of what I am saying. I, Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, know that I cannot accept less than autonomy, less than the principle of autonomy.”

“Is it for Kurdanamosi, the Kurdish way of honor?” inquires an unidentified voice in Farsi. With this reduction of Ghassemlou’s insistence on autonomy to no more than a means to save face, it is clear that the Iranians are mocking the PDKI, its leader, and the legitimacy of the Kurds’ needs and demands.

“No,” responds Ghassemlou, maintaining equanimity and authority in the face of this sneer. “I’m a university professor. This has nothing to do with my honor in being a Kurd. What we want from you is this at the minimum. Believe me, we...

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