On Saturday September 8, the Iranian state hung to death three more Kurdish men. Tehran on the same day also launched ground-to-ground missiles deep into Iraqi Kurdistan, killing 16 members of dissident Iranian Kurdish political parties in Koya and wounding many civilians. Human rights groups had campaigned for months regarding the three executed young men, stating that their “confessions” (to carrying out armed attacks in Iran) were obtained under torture, that they were denied access to lawyers, that their trials were unfair. The missile strikes on Koya hit Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) offices that American officials and other Westerners frequently visit and elicited strong protests from Erbil and Baghdad.
Yet none of this really made the news in America or most Western capitals. The “Iran” section of the New York Times
posted no story on either event, with only a terse Reuters
article on both events discoverable via Internet or back page searches. The Washington Post
likewise avoided the news, carrying only a short and unremarkable Associated Press
summary of the executions and missile strikes.
To add insult to injury, the Reuters
piece on the executions that the New York Times
published used a headline reflective of the Iranian state’s discourse: “Iran Executes Three Kurdish Prisoners Accused of Militant Attacks
.” The title the editors chose was reminiscent of those they used when Turkey was invading Afrin, leading to Turkish state-dictated headlines such as “Turkey kills at least 260 Kurdish, Islamic State fighters in Afrin
” (from Reuters
on January 23, 2018).
Let us try and get this in perspective: In a very geo-strategically important region, Iran is launching missile strikes across international borders, hitting targets close to American forces and killing and wounding civilians in the process. In a move that Amnesty International called an “outrage,” Iran on the same day executed three young Kurdish men without evidence against them, after torturing them in prison for months. Yet somehow Western media yawns at the whole thing.
This columnist asked some of his Kurdish friends about international reaction to these two incidents, and the responses seemed painfully accurate. One replied “Who cares, they are just Kurds. I ceased to believe any humanitarian or caring gesture from Westerners in 1975.”
Another opined that “It's rather clear that in terms of covering foreign policy, the elite US media such as the Times
are really loudspeakers of the liberal establishment and their vision. And these days they are dead serious on making any Trump attempts against Iran fail so as to redeem Obamaism! They f*** up in covering the Iraq war and now seem to not want to cover in any serious manner issues that they think will vilify Iran and provide fodder for current US admin's policy vis-a-vis Iran.”
A third friend suggested that “It is not news because Baghdad and Erbil don't care. Hence the US officials don't care and the US media don't care.” Yet another offered that “They [Western news agencies] have a man there, you know, in Tehran. They take great pride in ‘reporting’ from Iran. Western liberals' perceived friendliness with oppressive regimes elsewhere can be frustrating.”
Normally this columnist would also add that the Kurds’ misfortune includes the fact that journalists tend to be barred from areas where states abuse them. While Jerusalem boasts the second largest contingent of international journalists in the world after Washington D.C., meaning that even minor events in Gaza and the West Bank get covered very closely and intensively, places like Mariwan and Sirnak rarely see a single foreign correspondent on even a brief visit.
While this could in part explain some of the dearth in coverage of the executions of the three young Kurdish men, who died alone in one of the dark places of the world, it does not explain the lack of interest in the missile strikes on Koya. Koya is about an hour from Erbil and readily accessible to any journalist who wants to make the short trip. This columnist went there several times in the last few years and was warmly received by the KDPI in one of the very rooms that the missile strikes destroyed.
Those frustrated by the lack of attention to such events might, however, take comfort in one possibility: The government in Iran shows its weakness and fear by torturing and executing political dissidents. The mullahs launch missile strikes on offices in Koya because they worry about growing unrest in Iranian Kurdistan. When American sanctions on Iranian oil exports and those buying Iranian oil begin in November, the regime in Tehran will have even more cause to worry.
David Romano has been a Rudaw columnist since 2010. He holds the Thomas G. Strong Professor of Middle East Politics at Missouri State University and is the author of numerous publications on the Kurds and the Middle East.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.