October 14, 2022 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 421

Sanandaj Leads The Battle For Freedom – The 'Leningrad' Of Eastern Kurdistan Is Besieged By The Islamic Republic Of Iran

October 14, 2022 | By Arif Bawecani and Anna Mahjar-Barducci*
Iran | MEMRI Daily Brief No. 421

Eastern Kurdistan is the stronghold of the "revolution" against Iran's Islamic Republic.

Since mid-September, soon after the killing of Jina Amini (Jina was the original Kurdish name of Mahsa Amini),[1] the city of Sanandaj ("Sna" in Kurdish and the capital of Amini's home province of Kurdistan) started to protest day and night in the streets against the regime, under the Kurdish slogan "Jin, Jiyan, Azadi" ("Woman, Life, Freedom", which in Persian is "Zan, Zendegi, Azadi").

Protestors in Sanandaj (Source: HRANA)

Militias From Iraq, Syria And Lebanon Are Active In Kurdistan

Consequently, the area around Sanandaj has been besieged by security forces. Dozens of Kurdish protesters have been killed and hundreds wounded, while thousands of people have been taken to prisons in the province and subjected to torture. Furthermore, the road from Sanandaj to other towns has been put under the complete control of the Basij militias, while the Internet and phone access is limited or non-existent. It is worth noting that Sanandaj's residents are reporting that most of the security forces speak Arabic amongst themselves. This suggests that Iran has brought its own militias from Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to occupy the city.

Iranian police have also damaged civilian buildings, in order to intimidate the Kurdish people of Sanandaj. Hence, many residents are now homeless and being displaced. Nevertheless, Sanandaj is not remaining silent. As reported by videos in social media, also the students and teachers at the Kurdistan University of Medical Sciences and in other faculties and schools in Sanandaj went on strike, refused to attend classes, and joined the protests.[2] Support for the protesters in Sanandaj spread to other cities in Kurdistan and all over Iran. In fact, the courage of the Kurds has inspired other oppressed people groups under the Islamic Iranian regime to take to the streets, such as the people of Baluchistan and Ahwaz, and the women of Iran themselves.

The People Are Under A Lot Of Pressure

The ongoing rebellion against the Islamic Republic is very different from the protests of the past. It has now become a nationwide uprising that so far is taking place in 33 counties and 173 cities in Iran and East Kurdistan. Most importantly, people around the world are starting to express their support and seeing the real face of the Islamic Republic. Governments in the West are also taking some actions against the regime, but it is still not enough. The people are under a lot of pressure. Thousands of Iranians are being wounded and cannot access hospitals, and everyone is hoping that international organizations may provide medical help.

The West should now prioritize the freedom of the Iranian people over its own financial interests in the oil, gas, and arms trade. The ambassadors of the Islamic Republic should also be expelled from Western countries, as should the current Iranian representative to the United Nations.

There Is No Going Back

The protests have been going on for more than a month, and the regime is starting to lose control of most cities and regions. The regime's security forces are shooting and killing people, but the protesters are not backing down, and are ready to continue the uprising for the next several months, as the people want the Islamic Republic to cease to exist. There is no longer space for dialogue. There is no going back.

All the oppressed nations of Iran are this time united in one front, as they have understood that only by being united can they defeat the Islamic Republic once for all. It is worth noting that Azeris are also participating widely in Tabriz. They chanted slogans about Kurdish-Azeri brotherhood. This is very important, considering that the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is himself Azeri. In Urmia, a Kurdish city in Iran, Kurds and Azeri participated in strikes and demonstrated together, even though the regime has always tried to create trouble between the two groups.

The Kurdish People On The Front Line Against Dictatorship

The Kurdish people and the Kurdish nation in general have always been on the front line of the fight against dictatorship. In particular, Eastern Kurdistan has constantly opposed the dictatorial Islamic Iranian regime for the past 43 years, demanding basic human rights and its right to self-determination.

Now, the city of Sanandaj is being heavily shelled and the protesters are being targeted with live ammunition – but they continue resisting. Sanandaj is today's Leningrad, as the Basij militias besige the city, mercilessly attacking and killing civilians. Sanandaj, like Leningrad, has a symbolic meaning. Here is where the revolution started, and here is where Jina Amini came from.

Once again, the Kurdish people feel the responsibility to fight for freedom – not only for Kurdistan, but for all of Iran, for the Middle East, and beyond. Indeed, once the Islamic Republic falls, terrorist movements such as Hizbullah and Hamas, and dictatorial regimes such as Maduro's in Venezuela, will find themselves more isolated. Hence, the battle against the Islamic Republic that started from Sanandaj is the one to contribute to a more peaceful and stable world.

* Arif Bawecani is the leader of the of the Party Serbesti Kurdistan, originally from Eastern Kurdistan; Anna Mahjar-Barducci is a MEMRI Senior Research Fellow


[1] See MEMRI Daily Brief No. 420, Give Her Back Her Kurdish Name: Jina Amini, October 10, 2022.

[2], October 4, 2022.

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