Foundations of Political Identity of Iranian Kurds

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Assistant Prof. in Political Geography, Faculty of Geography, University of Tehran

2 M.Sc. Student in Political Geography, Faculty of Geography, University of Tehran


Extended Abstract
In recent decades the issue of "identity" has gained considerable importanc in social science
studies, especially in the field of the Iranian political geography. Some experts argue that the
factors affecting this growing process are affected by political, social, economic, regional and
global changes, while others consider the existence of modern perspectives and attitudes
especially in the field of post-modern thought as the cause of increasing interest in this issue.
Certainly, internal factors, especially the Islamic Revolution and its consequences together with
regional and global factors have led to more attention to the issue of identity. Meanwhile, ethnic
identity has a special place, as Iranian society is composed of different ethnic groups that,
throughout history, have contributed to maturity, survival, and sustainablity of Iranian
civilization, and despite many ups and downs, have been able to maintain the political life of
this country in different ways. In Iran, like other countries composed of ethnic groups, the issues
of ethnic identity have been integrated into issues related to national unity and security of the
country. In that, because, on the one hand, ethnic identities can play an effective role in the
national unity of the country, and on the other hand, they are able to substitute the idea of
separatism and disintegration with that of national unity and security by placing their growing
expectations and demand. one of the collective identities studied in political geography is
“political identity”. According to some, factors such as common history, common interests and
shared political fate are some of the factors forming political identity. Studying political identity 
or political aspects of Kurdish identity requires analysis of the components of political identity
among the Kurds. The key question is: “what is the political identity of Kurds and which factors
affect their political identity?” According to the main hypothesis of the present study, due to
familiarity with new knowledge sources and different local experiences, the Kurds have a fluid
political identity.
This research is an applied research conducted through library method and descriptive -
analytical approach. In the present study, using documents, it has been tried to determine how
components such as common history, common interests and shared political fate form Kurdish
political identity. The most important element in this regard is investigating "ethnic
nationalism" and "inter- and intra-ethnic political conflicts". The results show two basic
elements of such movements, namely "seeking help from foreigners" and "internal demands",
while they are in contrast with Kurd ethnic identity but affected by ethnic relations and ethnic
Activity of Kurds and Kurdish parties after the Islamic Revolution so far also implies that
how these activities have affected political identity of Iranian Kurd people.
Results and Discussion
Based on the research conducted about political identify foundations of the Iranian Kurds, it can
be atgued that: first, "ethnic identity" foundations of Iranian Kurds affect their “political
identity” because of the associations of their historical roots with Iran and the Iranians history,
based on the elements of territory, race / ethnicity, religion, language, customs / traditions, and
beliefs / values; second, the study of the foundations of "political identity" of Kurds in Iran
indicates that common interests of the Kurds in political areas date back to Kurds’ contemporary
history because dividing Kurdish regions among Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria have created
another fate for the Kurds, dividing Aryan race and Iranian Kurds with Kurdish language and
Islamic religion and Shiite religion / Sunnis among the four Countries. Since then, the shared
interests among the Kurds within and out of the country and political common fate that have
kept them away from each other can be traced as two issues of ethnic nationalism and political
conflicts: firstly, Kurd ethnic nationalism in Iran reflects the political diversity in political
domain. That is, they are not in complete agreement with both national identity and the official
discourse of nationalism in the country. Second, the identity foundations of Kurds and their
political performance in recent one hundred years reflect two types of political conflict in the
Kurdish region of Iran: first, "intra-ethnic conflict" based on power acquisition or competition
among the different Kurd tribes. In these types of conflicts, the behaviors, norms, attitudes and
positions of Kurds are mostly affected by the foundations of ethnic identity, structure of ethnic
relations and tribal policies governing Kurdish region, such as the impact of tribal politics on
performance "SEMCO". Second, "inter-ethnic conflicts" which were first based on preservation
of the internal influence of tribes, and later were based on autonomy acquisition or 
independence. In this group of disputes, the dual elements namely "seeking help from
foreigners" and "domestic demand" are important forces of the “political identity of the Kurds”
within the triple elements of "common history", "common interests" and "common political
destiny". Hence, the shared history of Kurds in Iran represents three different functions in policy
(1) tribal uprisings and political movements;
(2) the government, tribal chiefs and political leaders’ behavior with Kurds;
(3) pendulum movements of Kurds among the parties and groups.
In all three functions, the dual elements "of foreign aid" and "domestic demand" can be seen.
After the events following the Islamic Revolution, and by increasing the level of education, we
witness the gradual increase in political consciousness of Kurds, and the performance of
“ethnicity-based nationalism" without "tribal culture" among the Kurds. The Kurds’ political
relations are influenced by party relationships and political groupings. Previous experience
shows that whenever the central government enjoys a high level of power, it has been able to
exert political power on all areas and, in contrats, every time this government is weak, different
ethnic groups have upraised in different parts of Iran. In all of these events, due to the
promotion of education and assignment of Kurd educated leaders we witness the removal of
tribal relationships and emergence of party relationships with ethnic culture combined with
some form of ethnic consciousness to gain autonomy. Of course, one can not speak about the
political identity of Kurds because there is a long way to the formation of a Kurdish political
community forming Kurdish political identity. However, it can be argued that awareness of the
fate of the Kurdish political fate that often evokes their innocence, leads to common feeling
among the Kurds so that they are demanding common interests trying to get rid of victimization.


Volume 45, Issue 3 - Serial Number 3
October 2013
Pages 95-120
  • Receive Date: 01 March 2012
  • Revise Date: 21 September 2013
  • Accept Date: 17 October 2012
  • First Publish Date: 23 September 2013