Dec 24, 2018

Iranian Kurdistan



Status: Region of Western Iran

Population: 8-10 million, estimated to be 11-15% of the population of Iran

Capital City: Mahabad 

Area: 111,705 sq. kilometres, comprising the four western provinces of Kermanshah (24,998 sq. Km) Ilam (20,133 sq. Km), West Azerbaijan (37,437 sq. Km) and Kurdistan (29,137 sq. Km)

Language: Kurdish

Religion: Sunni Muslims 66%, Shi’a Muslims 27%, indigenous and Minority Religions 6% (Yarsan, Yazidis, Yarsan), Christians and Jews

Ethnic Groups: Kurdish and Azerbaijani Turks




UNPO REPRESENTATION: Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI)

The PDKI has been a Member of UNPO since 2007.


Komala was a Member since 2015, Membership discontinued on October 30th 2023.


Iranian Kurdistan, also known as eastern Kurdistan, is the unofficial name given to a region in Western Iran inhabited by Kurds. It stretches from Mount Ararat in the north to the Zagros Mountains in the south. The region shares borders with Iraq, Turkey and Armenia, all of which are home to indigenous Kurdish populations. The region forms a distinct cultural-geographical territory called Kurdistan. Although Kurdistan is rich in natural resources, at least 30 years of economic exploitation has alienated the Kurds from access to these resources, leaving much of their economy reliant on agriculture.

Iranian Kurdistan has a mixed population of Shi’a and Sunni, as well as followers of the pre-Islamic Kurdish religion of Yarsan. Religion does not form the basis of Kurdish national identity. This is the case in spite of the Iranian state’s persistent policy to divide Sunnis and Shi’a in Kurdistan. Kurdish history, language, culture as well the systematic oppression of the Kurdish people, irrespective of which religion individual Kurds adhere to, form the basis of Kurdish national identity as well as a national awareness of a shared destiny.  

Although the Kurdish people and Kurdish organisations took part in the 1979 revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini declared Jihad (“Holy War”) against the Kurdish people due to their demands for democracy for Iran and autonomy for Iranian Kurdistan. As a result, there has been a sustained military, economic and psychological war waged against the civilian population in Kurdistan, which has led, according to the Kurdistan Peace and Development Society, to a ‘systematic genocidal campaign’. This phenomenon has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of innocent people. Iranian Kurds have long fought for improved governmental representation and the protection of their basic human rights through the creation of a federal state.



UNPO strongly condemns the policies and actions taken by the Iranian government against the Kurdish people in Iran, particularly since 1979. Specifically, UNPO condemns the military approach toward the Kurdish people which has claimed tens of thousands of lives, the widespread human rights abuses, systematic discrimination in employment, education and housing and their continued exclusion from political participation.

Minority representation in politics and society is vital for a strong democratic leadership and UNPO believes that Iranian Kurds require a more substantial role in deciding their own future. The issue of federalism in Iran has long been a neglected issue, while democratic decentralisation, through the distribution of central government power, allows marginalised national minorities to participate more effectively in local affairs.

For almost two decades, UNPO has been working to promote this and other solutions to the institutional and administrative discrimination facing marginalised ethnic, religious and national minorities. By working in conjunction with the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran, PDKI, Komala and other active representatives of Iranian civil society have made commitments to promote both the desire of Iranians for new thinking in their domestic governance and a peaceful consensus. 



The PDKI seeks a democratic and federal Iran. It believes that the peoples of Iran have the right to self-determination and seek regional autonomy in a federalised context, as a means for the devolution of central power and to allow the Kurdish people participation in government activities that directly affect their lives. It is also determined to provide equality in education, housing, economic access and specifically workers social and economic demands. 



Socially, the PDKI also requests the equality of men and women in society and within the context of the family as a means of facilitating cultural change. The PDKI calls for a separation of religion and the State, consequently establishing a secular system of government as an instrument for ensuring the end of religious discrimination and marginalisation.

Komala calls for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question and the minority repression in Iran by a new constitution built upon the principles of federalism and democracy. As one of the first contemporary feminist and socialist movements in an otherwise conservative and patriarchal Kurdish society, Komala still maintains that a prerequisite for a lasting and participatory democracy is an extensive fundamental rights package that ensures all individuals as well as the environment to be adequately protected. Komala’s political platform covers fundamental values such as dignity, freedom, equality, solidarity, citizens’ rights and justice.

Komala’s Secretary-General, Mr Abdullah Mohtadi, has said that despite the current President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, being perceived as a moderate, he has not taken any significant steps in the recognition of Kurdish rights and, on the contrary, the number of executions has increased in the past few years.

The PDKI and the Komala Party signed in 2012 an alliance agreement stating their peaceful cooperation on matters of mutual interest. The two parties announced their common belief in a secular, democratic, federal and pluralistic political system for Iran. They believe the Iranian constitution should be based on the principles set out in the Human Rights Charter of the United Nations (UN), including with respect for the political and national rights of the Kurdish people and of other ethnic and religious minorities. Other common values are equality between women and men, freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of association, environmental protection and dialogue as a way of resolving conflicts and issues.



The human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran has repeatedly been condemned by the international community, human rights NGOs and activists. According to the UN General Assembly 2015 report on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the standards of the country in terms of the right to life, the freedom from torture, freedom of expression, freedom of association, religious freedoms, women’s rights and minority rights are very low.

This is true for all citizens in Iran, but the Kurdish population is disproportionately affected compared to ethnic Persians. Kurds are subject to repression, discrimination, unequal access to education, execution, detention, torture, arbitrary killings and major violations of freedom of association and assembly. It is reported that since the beginning of President Rouhani’s mandate, repression, executions and arbitrary arrests in the country and in the Kurdish region in particular have plummeted. 




For more information on Iranian Kurdistan, including:

  • Statistics
  • UNPO representation
  • Overview
  • UNPO perspective
  • UNPO Member perspective
  • Political situation from a historical perspective
  • Human rights situation and current issues
  • Key questions
  • Relevant links


Please download our Iranian Kurdistan Member profile brochure.