Bolivia: Evo fetes Ahmadinejad, betrays Iran’s indigenous Kurds

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Bolivia for a brief visit with President Evo Morales June 19, before continuing on to Brazil for the UN summit on sustainable development. Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said the leaders would finalize an accord on increased cooperation between the two nations, which the Iranian embassy in La Paz described as “entering a new stage.” The embassy statement notes that Tehran “has realized several infrastructure projects” in Bolivia since normalizing relations with the South American nation in 2007. This constitutes Ahmadinejad’s third visit with Morales in La Paz. He will also meet in Caracas with Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez after the Rio+20 conference in Brazil. (AFP, June 19)

Is Evo, a champion of Latin America’s indigenous peoples, aware of Ahmadinejad’s ongoing persecution of Iran’s oppressed internal ethnicities—most notably the Kurds? To cite but one recent example… The Committee to Protect Journalists calls Iran the “world’s worst jailer of journalists,” but Kurdish writers seem to be singled out for the worst treatment.

Mohammad Seddigh Kaboudvand, who was named the international journalist of the year at the British Press Awards in 2009, is currently on his third hunger strike after his 10th request to visit his ailing son in hospital was turned down. Kaboudvand, who himself suffers from multiple serious health problems, is serving a nearly 11-year prison term, which began in July 2007, for “acting against national security by establishing the Human Rights Organisation of Kurdistan and proposing a campaign to boycott the 9th presidential election” which brought Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to office in 2005. He is among many other journalists and political activists now in Iran’s prisons who are denied critical medical attention. Mohammad Mehdi Zalieh Naghshbandian, a Kurdish activist who spent 18 years behind bars for allegedly co-operating with a Kurdish opposition group, died last week of serious health complications in Rejai Shahr prison, a notorious facility in Karaj, near Tehran. (The Guardian, June 11)

We’ve acknowledged that the question of who is “indigenous” is somewhat more complicated in the Old World than in the Americas. But, like the indígenas of South America, Iran’s Kurds are systematically excluded from political power, denied their language and cultural rights, and met with violent repression when they organize in defense of their autonomy. Does Morales really not get it, or is he just sacrificing solidarity with the Kurds in the name of realpolitik? We asked the same question vis-a-vis the Tibetans and China’s oppressed peasantry when Evo similarly embraced Beijing as an “ideological ally.”

See our last posts on Bolivia, Iran, Iran in Latin America and the Kurdish struggle.

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