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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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10. An Unfinished Story

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AN UNFINISHED STORY

It is never too late for justice.

—Hélène Krulich-Ghassemlou

One rainy morning in February 1991, at the Café Landtmann, Hélène Krulich stood up in front of a group of convened journalists. She announced that she had initiated a legal proceeding against the national state of Austria for the crime against Ghassemlou.1 It was Hélène, not the PDKI—a party illegal in Iran, with no official recognition anywhere in the world, and with no lawful standing—who must bring the suit. “Only Hélène,” at Sharafkandi’s urging, “could collaborate with the investigators and demand justice.”2

She was surrounded by attorneys, Kurdish leaders, Austrian politicians, and some persons of eminence who had come from other countries. Sadegh Sharafkandi, Ghassemlou’s successor in the PDKI, excused his absence in a letter. “Unfortunately, the Austrian authorities in the embassy of Paris have not allowed me to be present in Vienna,” he wrote.

After speaking about Ghassemlou’s murder, she added, “The same people who supposedly came to negotiate a political solution to the Kurdish question in Iran were, in reality, terrorists sent by the Iranian regime. . . . For us and for all the Kurdish people, the question of why Austrian justice is silent in the face of this crime is still pending.”

The media and public opinion in Austria continued to demand that the legal authorities and the...

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