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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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9. Cobra II


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The night of the crime, Oswald Kessler, Staatspolizei1 chief of operational forces, arrived at number 5 Linke Bahngasse. This crime clearly fell within his jurisdiction as chief of the EBT (Einsatzgruppe zur Bekämpfung des Terrorismus), the special unit within the Staatspolizei focused on counterintelligence, organized crime, and counterterrorism. He studied the crime scene and the position of the bodies, entrusted specific tasks to his men, and sent officers out around the city to the small Kurdish neighborhoods in Vienna. He spent all night working on the crime.

Kessler was a man with the necessary reflexes to come up with clear conclusions about the scene in which he had found three bodies mowed down by multiple volleys of gunfire.

At 8:00 in the morning the following day, Friday, July 14, he informed the minister of the interior, Franz Löschnak, to whom he was answerable, that a political crime planned from abroad had taken place once more in Vienna.2 Three Iranians, he told Löschnak, had assassinated three Kurds.

That same Friday afternoon, Kessler would confide this conclusion to Susanne Rockenschaub-Rasul. Two days later, on Sunday, July 16, he would repeat without hesitation to Fatah, Mostafa, and Azad—leaders in the Kurdish community—the same opinion he had given the minister: “It is obvious what has happened here. Three Kurds have been assassinated by three Iranians who were present.”3


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