As Iran suffers from economic stagnation, the country is ripe for more sustained protests and armed opposition to the regime.
The city of Mariwan is located next to placid lakes and green mountains in western Iran.
In early July, members of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, a Kurdish group, came down from the mountains into the town. A commander from the group emerged and spoke to hundreds of residents in a video the Kurds put online. “The Kurdish people are ready to stand up against the Islamist regime in Iran,” a spokesman tweeted.
Both the regime’s suppression of Kurdish rights and the recent protests in Tehran inspired the increased operations by the Kurdish group.
“It means that the presence of the Peshmerga [Kurdish fighters] in Iranian Kurdistan has increased recently and they appear among the people more frequently,” a statement from PDKI leader Mustafa Hijri said.
In recent weeks, the PDKI has begun to deploy its forces more publicly in the Kurdistan region of eastern Iran. This area is called Rojhelat in Kurdish. The group now says its fighters are outside a half-dozen cities, including Mariwan, Baneh and Sanandaj.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has deployed tanks to contend with the insurgency. But the PDKI isn’t backing down; they claim to have killed IRGC members in recent operations and clashes. On July 3 the Zagros Eagles, a group associated with the PDKI, assaulted an outpost near Piranshahr, according to a statement posted online.
The Kurdish group has also supported the widespread protests that have been rocking Tehran and other provinces in recent months.
As Iran suffers from economic stagnation and currency weakness, the country is ripe for more sustained protests and armed opposition to the regime. Economic uncertainty, combined with anger at the regime’s wasteful spending on foreign wars, has led to protests that even affected the historic bazaar in Tehran.
The PDKI’s leader, Mustafa Hijri, was in Washington on June 11 where he addressed the Council on Foreign Relations and held other meetings.
“In our meetings in the United States we discussed our views on Iran in general and Iranian Kurdistan in particular, and exchanged our thoughts,” Hijri said. “However, I think the Americans have not come up with a clear agenda to assist the Iranian opposition yet – or at least they did not discuss it with us.”
The PDKI and other groups that oppose the regime hope that the administration of US President Donald Trump will increase support for them amid the attempt to ramp up sanctions.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been outspoken in opposing the IRGC and the regime’s crackdown. “We condemn the government’s same futile tactics of suppression,” he said on June 27. “The people of Iran are tired of the corruption, injustice and incompetence from their leaders.”