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Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

Remembering Qarna: 38 Years Ago, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Massacred a Village of Kurdish Civilians

The massacre of Qarna, a small village of some 80 Kurdish families located between the towns of Piranshahr and Naqadeh in Western Azerbaijan, took place on September 2, 1979. The killings occurred in the context of a serious political crisis that resulted in clashes between government and Kurdish opposition forces in the mainly Sunni province of Kurdistan, peaking between August 17 and November 17, 1979. This massacre is the most widely documented among several reported similar cases involving attacks on civilians by armed forces loyal to Ayatollah Khomeini. The attackers, members of the newly formed Revolutionary Guards, were based in an empty gendarmerie garrison, previously used for training purposes, in Jaldian village, about 20 Km from Qarna. The massacre took place two weeks after unrest in the town of Paveh, which led the leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Komeini, also the Commander in Chief of the Iranian forces, to order radical and speedy action against “anti-revolutionary elements,” whom he blames for atrocities against the population. Excerpts of the speech appear below:

“They opened up the borders, they let them write freely, they let them speak freely, they authorized [political] parties thinking that these are people – that if they’re not Muslims, they’re at least human beings…

The Kurdish Democratic Party are saboteurs, and corrupt… and these sorts of people can’t be treated softly now…

We can’t let them do whatever they want … They themselves are stirring up trouble and then blame the people [us]….

This is the kind of people they are….

They ought to be dealt with harshly, and we are dealing with them harshly…”

-Speech in the Assembly of Experts on August 17, broadcast on Iranian Radio and Television and published in official newspapers on August 18, 1979.) In the days following this statement (19-29 August 1979), at least 58 Kurds were executed.

The Qarna massacre occurred shortly after Ayatollah Khomeini’s above-mentioned warning to the armed forces. The available sources confirm that no fighting had taken place in Qarna and that those responsible had attacked the village in retaliation for events at Duab-e Naqadeh, a location on the road from Jaldian to Naqadeh. Based on some reports, clashes broke out, during which a number of Revolutionary Guards as well as opposition forces (belonging to the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan) were killed. According to official testimonies, the Kurdish armed forces ambushed a bus transporting revolutionary guards to Naqadeh, resulting in the death of 15 of them.

According to General Commander Zahirnejhad, Naqadeh Army Commander at the time of the Qarna massacre, the massacre was carried out by young, newly hired revolutionary guards from Naqadeh (about 100) who were based in Jaldian Gendarmerie Garrison:

“On September 2, 1979, 18 of them boarded a bus to go see their families in Naghadeh. Five or six kilometers on, near the Doab Gendarmerie Base, they came under fire from armed members of the Kurdish Democratic Party. A wounded bus passenger got himself back to Jaladian Garrison and told his brothers-in-arms that they’d killed everyone, and that those elements at the base were enraged over the killing of their fellows and had taken up arms and left the base to get revenge. The base commander, Heiratrazm, ask them not to do this, but they didn’t accept. With no other option, a telegram was sent out to the region around the gendarmerie that these men had set out insubordinately for Qarna, which wasn’t far away. The telegram still exists. In it, there’s a call for help: it’s not clear why this story has remained hidden. As far as I’m informed, these individuals, stricken with rage, went to Qarna and killed 41 people – or, as the Democratic Party says, 46…”

-Islamic Republic Newspaper, press interview, April 18, 1980.

According to the testimony of a gendarmerie officer who visited the area after the massacre, both people and animals were slaughtered alike:

“In the area around the village of Qarna, everything was like a film caught in freeze-frame. We saw a tractor driver motionless behind his wheel. A few dozen sheep were laying next to each other on the side of the highway. A dog was stretched out motionless in front of a house…”

-Islamic Republic Newspaper, February 1, 1981.

The day after the Qarna massacre, 18 Kurdish religious leaders sent an urgent telegram to Ayatollah Khomeini protesting his call for mobilization against the Kurds, which unleashed brutality against the Kurds in the region.  Consequently, in an address to the residents of Qarna three days after the massacre, the founder of the Islamic Republic noted that the religious leaders’ complaint would be investigated and expressed hope that “those responsible would be pursued.”  In addition, the governor of Western Azerbaijan Province, Mr. Haqgu, acknowledged the gravity of the situation and promised that those responsible would be immediately pursued and brought to justice. This statement was made two days after the massacre when the governor traveled to the region accompanied by an army division.

To date, there is no indication that the authorities took action to identify and punish those responsible for the massacre or compensate. On September 4 and 8, 2005, the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan and Reporters Without Borders confirmed that Madeh Ahmadi, a journalist investigating the Qarna massacre, was arrested on unspecified charges by the Islamic Republic authorities in the Iranian Kurdistan and was on hunger strike in the Marivan Prison in Iran.

The victims of the Qarna massacre are honored in Omid Memorial because they were unarmed civilians and victims of a collective punishment for acts they had not committed.  They were attacked by the Revolutionary Guards solely because of their Kurdish ethnicity against a background of hostile campaigning by the highest state authorities. Very little information is available on the victims of the massacre. On the 38th anniversary of this tragedy, Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation calls all informed sources to help our truth telling effort, document this serious attack on civilians, and to create individual memorial pages to prevent victims from falling into oblivion.

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