The quest to rid the Middle East of anti-personnel mines has taken a step forward today with two armed non-State actors signing Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment. By signing this document, the “Kurdistan Democratic Party – Iran” and the “Free Life Party of Kurdistan/Liberation Forces of Eastern Kurdistan” have pledged to ban these weapons, as well as carry out, or co-operate in, necessary mine action. With two new signatories, all Iranian-Kurdish armed non-State actors have now committed to the ban of anti-personnel mines.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party – Iran (KDP) has common roots with the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) from which it split in 2006. The PDKI was formed in 1945 and started its consequent military struggle in 1946. Since 1997, the PDKI has suspended its armed struggle while still maintaining its armed wing. Today, the KDP demands the right to self-determination of the Kurdish population in Iran and the creation of a federal, democratic Iranian State.
Khalid Azizi, Secretary General of the KDP, stated at the signing ceremony in Koysanjak (Iraqi Kurdistan) on 13 April “We sign this commitment with Geneva Call because our people have been suffering from anti-personnel mines and we do not see any utility of these weapons.” Elisabeth Decrey Warner, President of Geneva Call, congratulated them for taking a decision to give up a weapon, known as mainly affecting civilians.
The Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK) and its armed wing, the Liberation Forces of Eastern Kurdistan (HRK), aim to establish an autonomous Kurdish region within Iran. PJAK/HRK operates from bases in the bordering region of Iraqi Kurdistan. It is allied with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) of Turkey. The signing of the Deed of Commitment took place in the Qandeel Mountains (Iraqi Kurdistan) on 15 April. Agri Shaho, PJAK-Coordinator, stated “Today we are committing ourselves officially to a humanitarian norm that we have already applied internally.” Elisabeth Decrey Warner congratulated the PJAK/HRK for this important decision in contributing to build a mine free world, stating: “Kurdistan and the Kurdish population have suffered a great deal from landmines. They deserve better now and by your decision you are contributing to that.”
The Kurdish provinces in Iran, like all provinces bordering Iraq, have been particularly affected by landmines and unexploded ordnance. Iran is not a State Party to the anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention.
Geneva Call is an impartial humanitarian organization that engages armed non-State actors in order to convince them to adhere to internationally recognized humanitarian standards in the conduct of war. In respect of anti-personnel mines, it does this by means of a Deed of Commitment, which inter alia binds the signatory to renounce the use of these devices. With the commitments by the KDP and the PJAK/HRK, 41 armed organizations around the world, among them six iranian, have prohibited anti-personnel mines. The Government of the Republic and Canton of Geneva serves as the custodian of these Deeds.
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Mehmet Balci, Programme Director, Tel. +41 22 879 10 53 or e-mail: email@example.com