Kurdish Vote Contributes to Rouhani’s Victory in Iran

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdish voters contributed to the victory of Hassan Rouhani in Iran, the only candidate in the presidential election who promised to work for minority rights and help the return of Iranian Kurds living abroad.

Kurdish activists said that they had encouraged Kurds to vote for Rouhani, 64. He won many votes in the major Kurdish-Iranian cities of Kermanshah, Urumiyeh and Mahabad.

Rouhani’s campaign teams were visibly seen on the streets in Kurdish cities, openly encouraging people to vote for their candidate.

Rouhani who won the votes of more than 70 percent of 50 million eligible voters, had said during his campaign that, if elected, he would ensure cultural and language rights of minority groups.

Five of the presidential candidates visited Iran’s largest Kurdish city Sanandaj (Sina), but Rouhani received the warmest welcome.

During his visit, while rejecting Iran’s current foreign policy and promising friendly relations with the outside world, Rouhani also said that as president he will work to facilitate the return to Iran of Kurds who live abroad.

But some Iranian Kurdish leaders were skeptical of the elections in general. In an interview with BBC Arabic, Khalid Azizi, secretary general of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) said that the elections and their outcome would not change anything for the people of Iran.

“These elections aren’t about human rights or the rights of the Iranian people,” he said. “It is a way for the Iranian regime to come out of its own crisis. People participate only to find a solution for the economic crisis the regime has got them into.”

Khalidi said that Iran’s many ethnic and religious groups do not enjoy any religious or political rights.

“The Iranian constitution does not recognize these groups and discriminates against some of them,” he added.

Meanwhile, a number of Kurds who registered for the local elections were disqualified by the authorities: Out of 191 candidates in Urumiyeh, only eight were Kurds.

But some of those who managed to get through the vetting process did manage to form joint blocs to run in the local elections, and their posters adorned streets and public places in Kurdish cities and villages.

In the city of Naghada, where Kurds and Azeri Turks live, only eight of the 30 approved candidates were Kurds.

To increase their chances of winning the city’s nine seats, the eight Kurdish candidates ran on a joint list.

Naghada’s MP in the Iranian parliament said that the authorities had initially allowed only three Kurdish candidates, but his efforts in parliament had convinced the country’s election authorities to allow five more Kurdish candidates into the race.

Many Iranian Kurds residing in the Kurdistan Region headed to four special polling stations set up by the Iranian consulate to cast their votes.

One such station was in the Soran city’s youth center where Iranian workers and businessmen lined up to cast their vote to their preferred candidate.

Muhsin Bawafa, head of the station told Rudaw that the station was opened for nearly 400 Iranian families who live in the Soran area. He said more than 1,000 Iranian families were living across the Kurdistan Region.