Some well-intentioned but probably not so well informed Persian friends have criticized Kurdish ethnocentricity. They argue that all Iranian ethnic groups are under equal oppression and that the Kurds are being taken advantage of to fight others. The argument seems to be reasonable, yet it ignores the fact that Kurds are under dual oppression.
It is no secret that the central governments in Baghdad, Damascus, Ankara, and Tehran have been abusive toward most of their citizens in general and sabotaged any Kurdish progress toward freedom in particular. Thanks to changes in world politics, it's likely this oppression will not continue for long. Soon the creation of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq becomes inevitable. With this hope alive, I would like to explain the reasoning behind Kurdish ethnocentricity at this stage.
Kurds have proven many times that they are against no other nations but for all of them in many aspects. Regarding Persians, those Kurds who have learned the language of Ferdosi, Hafez, Khayyam, Shamloo, and Dawlatabadi must be a fool not to appreciate the beauty and power of the Persian language. But although Kurdish is an Indo-Iranian language, rarely a Persian bothers to learn Kurdish and appreciate the works of Ehmede Xani, Goran, Mawlawi Tawgozi, Shirko Bekkas etc.
They could argue that Kurdish is not appealing to them and that they would rather learn Arabic, the main language spoken in the Middle Esat. However, why should the Kurds themselves be denied to learn their own language at school? Usually if one goes to a foreign land, he or she will respect its people and attempts to learn their language. Why should the Kurds in their homeland learn the language of those who are sent by central governments to tell them what to do?
In order to make the Kurdish scenario more understandable to our Persian friends, I try to look at their own scenario. Like many other Middle Eastern ethnic groups, Persians have inhabited Iranian plateau for millennia and have much in common with them. Most Persians are not fanatics but tolerant people.
Like Israelis and Kurds, Persians have been the targets of hatred by other extremists in the region. It's been said that Saddam once blamed god for making the mistake of creating “flies, Jews, and Iranians". Yet despite the way they have been treated, Persians have integrated Arabic culture in their life and many of them consider Islam to be the answer to their spiritual well being.
Like their original spiritual leader, Zardosht, many Persians are flexible in seeking knowledge about various aspects of truth; like doubters or agnostics of all nations, many Persians question the validity of any ideology as absolute truth, yet they acknowledge that the noble side of all religions serve humanity.
And finally like other progressive people, many Persians do not approve of the violent behavior of their emperors and ayatollahs and prefer a secular and democratic state that guarantees liberty and justice for all!
Yet, Persian governments have done much harm to all Iranians. Changing Persia’s name to Iran in early 1930s sounded pluralistic; however, the goal was not to promote tolerance and equality but to marginalize or eliminate the minorities. Thus Persian identity was also diluted and almost lost. This loss as well as an expedited but oppressive modernization plan were among the causes of the Iranian revolution in 1979.
Many hopefuls expected that with the revolution, justice would finally prevail. But soon they became disappointed. The country became a Mecca for extreme Islam. Uncivilized approaches to problem-solving became law. Some found the sign of their god’s representative on the moon, while martyrdom, hostage taking, and exporting revolution brought the promise of earthly and heavenly rewards. Imprisonment and torture intensified. Threats, terror, and assassination of free minds became routine; this malignancy became a competitive adventure in the region and spread to the rest of the world until few countries after 9/11 decided to make an effort to stop it.
Meanwhile many Persians seem to have regretted the chaotic uprising of the late 1970s when their hopes of moving one step forward ended up in reverse with a few steps backward. Some have even become supporters of the “Great Satan” and the American use force because extremists in the Middle East understand violence as a method of conflict resolution.
However, many Persians are rightfully worried that if the method of force by the West were extended to Iran in the name of eliminating potential nuclear threats, what would happen to their loved ones? This is a legitimate universal worry and deserves the attention of those who are fortunate enough to be in free societies.
With this in mind, I suggest that each Iranian ethnic group build its own national alliance and recognizes the other groups' legitimate rights. Since Persians have been the most politically fortunate among Iranians, they should pioneer the building of a Persian alliance that opens free dialogue, acknowledges past mistakes, and apologizes to all minorities and victims of their Persian governments who have denied their rights.
In order to make their country first in making peace and not next in continuing war, Persians must now think about a greater future for all. They must learn from self actualized intellectuals such as Turkish sociologist Dr. Ismail Besikci, Arab law Professor Dr. Munther Al-Fadul, and American federal administrative judge Dr. Ralph Fertig who support the right of self determination for all people, including Kurds.
Such a sympathetic and progressive approach by Persians might create a culture of trust in Iran and in the Middle East. It might motivate all Iranian minorities to take an active role in determining their destiny first and vote for a voluntary interdependent federative union in the future. It might create an atmosphere for the rich Persian heritage to be revitalized and become complimentary to the richness of other ancient cultures in the Middle East and around the world. It might stimulate creation of one or a few Persian republics among other Iranian republics. It might create a healthy competition among other countries to end their pathological race of eliminating each other.
All this might convince the civilized world that Middle Eastern nations have reached a developmental level comparable to some Europeans, such as Czechs and Slovaks. It might create an atmosphere for people in the Middle East to appreciate the sacrifices of the liberating forces and perhaps welcome them to stay as their guests in the region, or gracefully, with hugs and flowers, accompany them to the airport to return to their families back at home.