THE brutal beating of Jina Amini for not wearing the “proper Hijab” and her murder by the Iranian regime’s “morality police” are on the front pages of world papers. What was not mentioned at the beginning was her true identity. She was not Persian; she was Kurdish, from Eastern Kurdistan (Rojhelat), in Tehran on a visit. She dressed modestly, even conservatively by most standards in the modern world including the Middle East.

Jina Amini was as brave in her own way as the Kurdish female soldiers who defeated the fanatics of Daesh on the battlefield. What happened to her is not “religion”; it is perversion.

READ MORE: Broadcasters row with royal family over control of footage of the Queen's memorial events

If such action is condoned and carried out systematically, that is what defines the sick regime in Tehran. Her death could precipitate major changes for the Kurds in Eastern Kurdistan as well as for Iranian citizens as a whole.

Kurdish women in their own region have successfully rejected the dress code arbitrarily imposed by Persian leaders living in another era, in another place, in another culture. From its very outset in 1979 the regime’s plan was to defame the Kurds. They were also charged with being “separatists” trying to establish a second Israel in the region. In December 1979 the government reached an agreement with the Kurds on recognising Kurdistan’s autonomy but it was practically fettered by the Shi’ite theocratic regime.

The Kurds, a separate non-Persian people, are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims of modern outlook. 85-90% of the Kurds boycotted the referendum of March 1979. In the first post-revolutionary parliamentary elections (March 1980), most of the Kurds evinced their support of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), but its leader Dr Abdul Rahman Qasimlu was denounced as persona non grata and the KDPI “the party of Satan”. The election results in the Kurdish-populated regions were declared void.

READ MORE: Ian Blackford urges King Charles to open up Balmoral year-round

Animosities resumed, and Khomeini ordered jihad on the Kurds. The “autonomy” requested was perceived secession by the new regime of Iran. A decade later, while waiting for the Iranian delegation, Qasimlu and his deputy and the intermediary were assassinated in July 1989 in Vienna by the Iranian regime’s agents. A senior member of the Society of Revolutionary Toilers of Iranian Kurdistan (Komala) and the successor to Qasimlu, Dr Sadeq Sharafkandi, along with fellow activists met the same fate in Berlin the next month and in September 1992 respectively. Since then, the Kurds have quit the serial armed dissent to reach a snail’s-pace liberalisation of Eastern Kurdistan, being quiescent up till now while having occasional military operations inside Rojhelat.

In the ongoing protests against the Iranian regime, for the first time Baluch, Arabs, Persians, Azeris, and other national and ethnic minorities support the Kurds. They chant “Jin, Jiyan, Azadi” (Woman, Life, Freedom) which has been promoted by the Kurdish female fighters (YPJ, Women’s Protection Units) in Rojava (Western Kurdistan in Syria). It means that the protests are now going beyond hijab as public sentiments are shifting. The hijab has never been an issue for the Kurds, but it has been one of the main issues for the regime.

READ MORE: Lesley Riddoch raises important questions for the Yes movement

What happened to Jina made an intersection or overlap between the Kurds’ claim for self-determination and Iranians to get rid of the incumbent regime. The Kurds in East Kurdistan have the potential to change the status quo as they already built a short-lived Kurdish state, the Republic of Kurdistan, in 1946. Over the last three decades, Kurds especially in Southern Kurdistan (in Iraq) and Rojava (in Syria) have managed to keep stability and security and thriving economies in the territories under their control compared to the whole area in the Middle East. Also, in terms of governability the Kurdish regions are functioning much better than their neighbours. Up to this date, the Kurds have paid a high price for their legitimate rights as well as their homeland, Kurdistan.

If the current protests continue, the Iranian government may lose its sway over East Kurdistan and this in turn will pave the way to implementing self-determination by the Kurds. Time will tell what form their right to self-determination takes. It might be in the form of autonomy or independence. The Kurds were not considered candidates for self-determination in the aftermath of World War First by virtue of the Anglo-Persian Treaty (9 August 1919) with respect to the territorial integrity of Persia. There is now have the potential for regime change as well as freedom for Kurdistan. It would be an end to the regime’s alignment with Putin, the sale of drones to Russia for use against Ukraine, and Tehran’s policies of regional destabilisation, state-sponsored terror, and nuclear blackmail. We might witness the sun rising from Rojhelat.

Loqman Radpey
PhD, International Law
University of Edinburgh