Iranian Kurds have long been subjected to injustice and discrimination by the Islamic Republic. Largely overlooked until recently, however, were the increasingly brazen violent acts committed against them by the Sunni jihadists unleashed in the region after the wars in Iraq and Syria.
On May 1, extremists attacked a group of young people in a neighborhood in the Kurdish town of Marivan to “punish” them for their “blasphemy”. They even attempted to cut the throat of one of the young men, who was saved by other residents of the neighborhood, men and women, who rushed to his aid. The jihadists screamed that they would return, and locals believe that they will.
The incident was widely reported on social media but so far the police have taken no action against the perpetrators, whose identities officially remain unknown. As a result, people in the neighborhood have decided to take the matter into their own hands, preparing themselves as best they can for the next attack.
Late at night on May 1, the group of jihadi extremists emerged from two Peugeot cars in the neighborhood of Dar Siran.
Chanting “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”) and wielding machetes, swords and knives, they set upon a number of young people and locals they believed had committed “blasphemy”. In the altercation that followed, they grabbed a young man and were trying to cut his throat when other locals intervened, rescuing the boy and taking him to hospital.
Eyewitnesses tell IranWire that at the height of the carnage, one of the jihadists was shouting: “Don’t be afraid. Cut his throat! Killing infidels is a duty. We’ll be blessed if we kill him.” As they were leaving, the scene, the jihadists were heard crying out: “We’ll be back!”
The man the jihadists wanted to kill is 32-year-old Jamal Faizi, a native of Marivan. “Jamal’s condition is grave,” one of his relatives told IranWire. “Aside from the severe damage to his head, his throat has been cut and he is still in hospital.”
News of the of the attack spread like wildfire across the city and people from across Marivan gathered at Daraee Circle in Dar Siran, preparing themselves for a violent reprisal. “But,” an eyewitness told IranWire, “the police and security forces immediately stepped in and dispersed the crowd by promising them that they would arrest the assailants.
However, they added, “Despite the fact that the police are aware the jihadists might come back, and despite their clearly-issued threat to return, none of the assailants have been arrested as of now. They could attack again at any moment, and cause a disaster.”
They added: “Given the willful inaction of the police and security forces, many people in Marivan and especially the residents of Dar Siran are now guarding their homes and waiting for the next development.
“Residents are determined to directly and independently take action against the jihadists, because they are convinced that the police’s refusal to arrest these individuals signifies an implicit condoning of the attack. As a result, we must step in ourselves, and protect ourselves by any means possible.”
This Attack Is Nothing New
Mohammad Saleh Sardari, a political activist who was born in Marivan and now lives in Germany, says the incident in Marivan is the latest in a string of such attacks. Last year, he says, a group of jihadists beat up a Marivani worker at Bashmaq Terminal on the border with Iraq, again allegedly over “blasphemy”.
In fact, he adds, “Just a few days before the attack in Dar Siran, a jihadist woman got into a fight with a shopkeeper in Marivan bazaar because he was smoking during Ramadan. An hour later, she returned with a few other jihadists and they severely beat the shopkeeper.”
Sardari says that given the organized nature of these extremist elements in various Kurdish cities in Iran – among them Kermanshah, Sanandaj, Marivan, Saghez, Bukan and Baneh – the chance of yet another bloody incident in Dar Siran is very high He also believes the silence of the Islamic Republic in the face of these crimes has emboldened them, with the groups regularly harassing locals, insulting them, issuing death threats and even beating people in the streets.
A resident of Dar Siran told IranWire that people in his neighborhood had set up a closed information-sharing system between themselves to keep the movements of known jihadists under surveillance. He believes the assailants in the latest incident will have gone into hiding for now, but this does not mean they will not act on their threat.
According to a number of other residents of Marivan, after the jihadists left the scene in Dar Siran, they asked their fellow extremists in the area to help them. “A number of others have come to Marivan [from nearby villages] to launch a second attack. Yesterday, a few of them even went to the home of one of their known leaders in the Kunedi neighborhood, and it is not yet clear what they are planning to do.”
Allegiances to ISIS
Saleh Sardari is emphatic that the Islamic Republic has deliberately given the jihadists a free rein in Marivan, a strategic border town: “Some of the organizers come from Iraqi Kurdistan but they fled to Iran and settled in the cities of Iranian Kurdistan, especially in Marivan, in waves after 9/11 and after the fall of Saddam Hussein.”
He adds that many of the jihadists in Marivan and other Iranian Kurdish towns not only have secretive, organized relations with jihadists in Iraqi Kurdistan but also pledged allegiance to Islamic State (ISIS) after it was formed and are to all intents and purposes an active part of it.
Many of these people, Sardari says, or their children were later killed in the battlefields of Syria and Iraq but many of those who survived, and their leaders, now live in Marivan’s Chavarbakh neighborhood. “They pledged allegiance to the leaders of Al Qaeda and ISIS a long time ago and in the absence of any public action by the Islamic Republic, act freely as their main organizers in Marivan and its surroundings: promoting their ideology, recruiting and sending young men to fight alongside jihadists in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.”