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Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan

Introduction & Overview

The Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan is a left-wing organization fighting for Kurdish rights and self-determination in Iran. After organizing underground in the late 1960s and 1970s, the group publicly declared its existence on the brink of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Its formation and rise in popularity changed dynamics within the Kurdish movement in Iran. Though it is no longer the force it used to be, it remains one of the most prominent political groups opposing the Islamic Republic. The group has experienced multiple splits over the years, with as many as five factions existing at one point.

History & Foundations

Initially formed by a group of Kurdish students in 1969, Komala’s arrival indicated a shift in Kurdish politics in Iran. Its focus on class struggle challenged the traditional nationalist discourse popular at the time. Its organization of the Kurdish peasantry and working class helped it gain popular support as the group voiced its opposition to the creation of the Islamic Republic. When the new regime in Tehran proved to be no more friendly to the country's non-Persians than the Shah, Komala used its influence to begin organizing armed opposition to the new government (Hassaniyan, 2018).

However, the 1980s would prove to be turbulent for the group. When war broke out between Iran and Iraq, Iran’s government helped fund the Kurdish insurgency against the Ba’athist government of Saddam Hussein. Baghdad, in return, provided a safe haven and financial support for Komala and other Iranian Kurdish groups.Iran’s support of the Iraqi Kurdish movement was detrimental to Komala. In exchange for support from Iran, the Iraqi Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) agreed to take part in military operations against their Iranian counterparts. Forced to fight against both the KDP and Iranian military, Komala’s insurgency suffered (Hassaniyan, 2018).

Challenges would not only come from across the border, but from the other main Iranian Kurdish group at the time. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI), for instance, went to war with Komala from 1983 to 1988, over the latter’s challenge to PDKI’s hegemony and ideological differences. Suffering from its conflicts with other Kurdish groups and the Iranian military, Komala (along with PDKI) was forced into exile by the Islamic Republic by the end of the decade (Hassaniyan, 2018). Though it no longer relied on the Iraqi government for support, Komala did find safe haven in the newly-formed Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, where it settled for political opposition to Iran following its military defeat.

Komala has also suffered from many splits over the years due to leadership and ideological disputes. In 1983, Komala – along with two Iranian Communist parties – became a founding member of the Communist Party of Iran (CPI). In 2000, Abdullah Mohtadi, a co-founder and leader of Komala, split from CPI, reclaiming the group’s original banner. The CPI’s branch then rebranded to Komalah (supposedly denoting the Persian pronunciation). In 2007 and 2008, Komala suffered two more splits, with others accusing Mohtadi of undemocratic leadership (Ahmadzadeh, Stansfield 2010). Both of these splinter groups have since rejoined Mohtadi’s Komala (Atlas News, 2022).

Ideology & Objectives

Komala has a somewhat tumultuous and nebulous ideological history. Having been described as both Marxist-Leninist and Maoist, its focus on workers and peasants was a shift from previous Kurdish politics in Iran. It viewed nationalism as a tool of the bourgeoisie and although this alienated some Kurds, it enabled them to gain popularity with other elements in Kurdish society. It continues to support a policy of autonomy and reform rather than secession and independence (Hassaniyan, 2018).

Since Mohtadi’s split in 2000, Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan claims to have adopted social democracy, calling for federalism, secularism, and equal treatment for the Kurds and other minorities in Iran.

Military and Political Abilities

Komala has an estimated 1000 fighters, less than PJAK and PDKI (Milburn, 2017). Now in exile in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, raids against the Islamic Republic are more difficult but not impossible. The group is a frequent target of Iranian missile attacks, having been struck multiple times since the protests over Jina Amini’s death broke out in September 2022 (Reuters, 2022).

According to the website for the Progressive Alliance – an international organization for self-described social democratic parties – Komala is a member.

Approach to Resistance

In its early years, Komala helped to organize autonomous city councils while using civil disobedience and armed insurrection. Having started in the 1990s with Tehran’s consolidation, Komala’s ability to conduct armed activity in Iran became severely limited. Its lack of presence within Iran, as well as its inability and unwillingness to conduct acts of resistance, contributed to a decline in the group’s popularity (Hassaniyan, Stansfield 2021). Though it gave up violence as a tactic due to its exile after 1990, it readopted armed resistance in 2017, hoping to unite different Iranian Kurdish groups in militancy. It frequently calls for the boycott of Iranian elections and supports strikes and protests in addition to its militant activity (Milburn, 2017).

International Relations and Possible Alliances

Komala is a registered lobby in the United States. It has pitched to the administration of President Donald Trump for support and met with Republican and Democratic members of congress (Schaffer, 2019). Whether the U.S. would support Komala in any substantial way remains to be seen, as the group’s communist history may work against them. Given that Iran is the only Shia-led country in the Middle East, countries such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia could conceivably support the group in the future to (Milburn, 2017).

The relationship Komala has with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq is complex. KRG is controlled by two parties: the KDP and PUK. The KDP is more hostile to Iran but has an interest in keeping the activity of Komala and other Iranian Kurdish groups to limit Iranian interference in the region. PUK is closer to the regime in Tehran and also likes to limit Iranian Kurdish activity for this reason (Hassaniyan, 2018).

Komala distrusts PJAK, stating that it’s a proxy serving the interests of the PKK and is too close to the Iranian regime. This has also led to clashes between the two, serving as another example of crossborder Kurdish politics leading to bloodshed (Hassaniyan, 2018). As a group left to the political spectrum, Komala and PJAK could conceivably cooperate, however this would require reconciliation and Komala to break free from the KRG’s watchful eye (Hawez, 2022).

Works Cited (MLA-style)

Ahmadzadeh, H., & Stansfield, G. (2010, January 23). The political, cultural, and military re-awakening of the Kurdish nationalist movement in Iran. The Middle East Journal. Retrieved from

Hassaniyan, A. (2018, November). The Iranian Kurdish Liberation Movement: Crossborder Interaction and ... University of Exeter. Retrieved from

Hawez, A. on May 26, 2022. (2022, May 26). A new strategy for Kurds as changes sweep Iran. Kurdish Peace Institute. Retrieved from

(2022, November 14). Iran strikes dissident sites in Iraqi Kurdistan, two dead - officials. Reuters. Retrieved from

Komala parties of Kurdistan reunite amid escalated Iranian strikes. Atlas News. (2022, November 22). Retrieved from

Milburn, F. (2017, May). Objective relevant May 2017 volume 10, issue 5 - Retrieved from

Schaffer, A. (2020, February 5). Iranian Kurdish rebels hire law firm to lobby Trump administration. Al-Monitor. Retrieved from

Stansfield, G., & Hassaniyan, A. (2021, May 3). Kurdish insurgency in Rojhelat: From rasan to the Oslo Negotiations. Taylor & Francis. Retrieved from


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