Review article: Islam and politics in Iranian Kurdistan at a time of revolution. The life of Ahmad Moftizadeh.
Magazine: Kurdish Studies, Volume: 5, No: 1, pp. 80 – 87, 2017
Martin van Bruinessen.
Ali Ezzatyar,The Last Mufti of Iranian Kurdistan: Ethnic and ReligiousImplications in the Greater Middle East.
New York: Palgrave Macmillan,2016. xv + 246 pp., (ISBN 978-1-137-56525-9 hardback).
For a brief period in 1979, when the Kurds had begun confronting Iran’s new Islamic revolutionary regime and were voicing demands for autonomy and cultural rights, Ahmad Moftizadeh was one of the most powerful men in Iranian Kurdistan. He was the only Kurdish leader who shared the new regime’s conviction that a just social and political order could be established on the basis of Islamic principles. The other Kurdish movements were firmly secular, even though many of their supporters were personally pious Muslims. In Mahabad, the secular Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDP-I) had taken control of the city and military garrison and enjoyed broad popular support. In Sanandaj, Moftizadeh’s city, the radical left Komala had made an unsuccessful attempt to take over the military base, resulting in some of the earliest clashes with the regime. The urban middle classes threw their weight behind Moftizadeh, who belonged to a highly respected family of religious notables and who claimed that accommodation with the Islamic Republic rather than confrontation would enable him to deliver autonomy for Kurdistan. But the increasingly violent confrontations of that year marginalised Moftizadeh and strengthened the position of Komala in the city. Before the year was over, Moftizadeh saw himself forced to leave Sanandaj and settle in the Shi’i Kurdish city of Kermanshah, but he refused to join the government-organised “Muslim peshmerga” fighting the secular nationalist Kurds. Establishing a common platform with other Sunni communities (mainly Baluch but also Turcoman), he continued demanding equal rights for Iran’s Sunnis, causing his relations with the regime to deteriorate rapidly. In 1982 he was arrested, and he was held in jail without trial for the next ten years. In 1993, not long after his release, he died of ailments resulting from severe torture.