A small group of Salafis praying in Iran.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Sunni Islamic State (IS/ISIS) enjoys some support even in Shiite Iran’s Kurdish regions, where loyalists have been seen chanting slogans and waving the group’s black flag, leaders of Iranian Kurdish parties claim.
“We have accurate information that supporters of the IS have shown some activities,” Mustafa Hejri, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), told Tishk TV last week.
The very limited support for IS in Iran comes from the small number of Salafis in Iran. According to a report on Kurdpa.com, IS supporters in the city of Baneh in Iran’s Kurdistan Province had chanted pro-IS slogans in public.
Shaho Husseini, a KDPI foreign representative, told Washington-based Radio Farda that the slogans in favor of IS were seen as a protest to Iranian Kurdish groups taking part in the fight against IS in Iraq.
On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reaffirmed Iran’s support for the political process in Baghdad on forming a new government and the fight against the militants. He denied any Iranian forces were involved in the fighting.
However, the KDPI, the leftist Komala and other Kurdish groups from Iran have joined the war against IS in Kirkuk and Nineveh, fighting under the auspices of the Kurdistan Region’s ministry of Peshmerga.
Iran is predominantly Shiite, and the Salafis are fervent Sunnis, mostly found in Iran’s Sunni-dominated Kurdish regions.
Rudaw contacted different sources in Iranian Kurdistan who said that they had only heard rumors of IS sympathizers showing public support for the radical Sunni group in Iraq and Syria.
It is believed that the Salafis are most active in Jwanro (Javanrud) and that 20 Salafis from the city have joined the IS in the past few months.
IS militants established an Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq in June, taking the Syrian city of Raqqah as their capital.
Iran’s Shiite authorities have historically shown little tolerance for Salafi and other active Sunni groups.
Mukhtar Zarii, a political activist in Sanandaj (Sina) told Rudaw: “There are Salafis in Sina, but there is no ISIS,” He said that Kurdish Salafis in Iran can be classified into two groups, those who believe in jihad and those who don’t.
Some sources from Saqez city told Rudaw that Salafis in the town had celebrated inside the Salihawa mosque after the IS attack on the Kurdistan Region earlier this month.
Kurds across Iranian Kurdistan (Rojhelat) have condemned the IS attack on the Yezidi town of Shingal and collected donations and assistance for the tens of thousands of refugees.
But reports last week said that some IS sympathizers had attacked donation centers in Mahabad, injuring several volunteers.