At the same time that the Iranian political system established a framework of a nation-state in Reza Shah’s era, the structural discrimination towards ethnic groups, which were considered minorities, started. One of the hidden parts of a nation state’s identity is its ethnic characteristic, which is adapted to suit the political system based on the ethnic majority of the society. Therefore, the process automatically paved the way for excluding other ethnic groups who were, and still are, a minority in Iran. After the triumph of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the situation for Kurdish people became worse than before, in comparison to other ethnic-religious minorities such as Shia. In Iran, the Kurds are mostly Sunni, which is not considered a suitable religion in the eyes of the Iranian regime. In effect, since the Iranian Revolution, the Kurds have been facing both ethnic and religious discrimination. Despite Iran’s Constitution, which provides for the equality of all Iranians before the law, this is not what is practiced. Iran’s Kurds, as a religious minority sect and ethnic group, have always been discriminated against politically, economically, socially and culturally, especially after the Iranian revolution.
“An estimated 12 million Kurds live in Iran, between 15-17 percent of the population. They live mainly in the provinces of West Azerbaijan, Kordestan, Kermanshah, and Ilam in the west and south-west of the country, although many have moved to the big cities such as Tehran. Sanandaj is the administrative center of Kordestan. There is also a community of Kurds in North Khorasan province in northeastern Iran. The religious institutions of Sunni Kurds are generally blocked, while those of Shi’as are encouraged and supported by the state. There is not a single Sunni mosque in Tehran and, according to reports; the government has restricted the expansion of Sunni mosques that exist elsewhere in the country.” (Amnesty, 2008)
Education is another problematic institution which confronts Iran’s Kurds and other ethnic minorities. Iran’s Constitution states that the official language and script of Iran is Persian and that official documents and textbooks must be in this language. Despite this, the use of regional and tribal languages in the press and mass media, as well as for teaching regional and tribal literature in schools, is allowed in addition to Persian. However, no permanent measures have been introduced in Iran’s education system to facilitate teaching in minority languages, nor to teach such languages as a second language – even though such provisions are included in Iran’s Constitution and international standards.
Iran’s Kurds also suffer from high rates of unemployment. Iran’s regime avoids making huge investments in Kurdish areas, because of their ethnic and religious belonging. Moreover, Kurdish people are rejected to work in important positions in state offices due to the practice of “Gozinesh”, the ideological qualification for state jobs. “The practice of gozinesh has been used to marginalize Kurds and others and to expressly deny them employment in the state sector, though in practice, in parts of the private sector as well. In law and practice, the process impairs equality of opportunity and treatment in employment for all those who seek jobs in the public and parastatal sectors (such as the bonyads or foundations) and, reportedly, in parts of the private sector.22 Gozinesh is used to select successful candidates for any state sector job, whether as a teacher, factory employee, shop worker or parliamentary candidate. The state is by far the main employer in Iran.” (Amnesty, 2008)
Overall, Kurds in Iran suffer from horrible economic conditions, which have led them to perform jobs such as Kulbari. Kulbars are those people who transport heavy goods on their backs, or on their mules, from one border to another ‘illegally’ through the mountains, merely for their survival. It is expected that they perform those jobs particularly due to their catastrophic economic conditions and generally because of the situation of border towns. Despite all of these disadvantages, Kurds in Iran are still excluded socially, politically, culturally, and economically.
Amnesty. (2008). IRAN: HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES AGAINST THE KURDISH MINORITY. Amnesty International Publications.