Hassan Rouhani waves to the crowd while giving a speech during a visit to Isfahan. Photo: AFP
SINA, Iran — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrived Sunday in Sanandaj, the capital city of Iranian Kurdistan, and marked his first visit to Kurdistan province after two years serving in office.
According to Iranian state news media, Rouhani was accompanied by a government delegation for a day-long visit in Kurdistan.
“Choosing Kurdistan province as the first place to visit right after the nuclear deal with the West shows the importance of Kurdistan and its people during the Islamic Revolution and their role in protecting Iran,” Rouhani told the press upon his arrival at Sina airport.
Rouhani later in a public speech at a football stadium in Sina said Iran had strong ethnic equality. He said the Iranian government views Kurds, Arabs, Baluchis and Persians equally, irrespective of their religious orientations.
“Sunni and Shiite are all brothers, we are all equal,” he said. “Kurdistan is the eye of Iran.”
He also said Iran works to eradicate terrorism from the region. He added that Iran not only cares about Kurds within its borders but also other Kurds in the region.
“Iran protects Erbil and Baghdad the same as it protects Iranian Kurdistan,” he said. “Without Iran’s help Erbil and Baghdad would be in the hands of terrorist groups right now. The way we protect Sanandaj we also protect Sulaimani and Duhok.”
Rouhani additionally made a series of promises to improve Kurdistan province’s undeveloped infrastructure. According to Rouhani, 11 dams will be built within the next two years. He also vowed to take necessary measures to build new roads in Kurdistan.
“This visit could be evaluated as the Iranian regime offering new efforts to improve the conditions of minorities in Iran,” Farhad Aminpour, a Kurdish political activist from Sina, told Rudaw.
However, Aminpour said he was doubtful the visit would lead to any shift in Iranian regime policies toward ethnic minorities like the Kurds.
“Unfortunately the political demands of the Kurds have been abandoned by the government,” he said. “The legitimacy of the Iranian government after the nuclear deal is increased, and that frees the Iranian authorities’ hands of having to take care of minorities issues.”