Republic of Mahabad

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Republic of Mahabad
کۆماری مەهاباد
Komara Mehabadê
Puppet state of the Soviet Union

Flag Coat of arms
Ey Reqîb
Oh Enemy
Approximate extent of the Republic of Mahabad.
Iran is shown in dark grey.
Capital Mahabad
Languages Kurdish
Government Communist state
President Qazi Muhammad (KDPI)
Prime Minister Haji Baba Sheikh (KDPI)
Historical era Cold War
 •  Autonomy declared January 22, 1946
 •  Soviet withdrawal June 1946
 •  Iran establishes control December 15, 1946
 •  Leaders executed March 30, 1947
 •  1946 37,437 km² (14,455 sq mi)
Currency Soviet ruble

The Republic of Mahabad (Kurdish: کۆماری مەھاباد‎, Komara Mehabadê; Persian: جمهوری مهاباد‎‎) was an official state in present-day Iran.[1][2][3]

The capital of Republic of Mahabad was the city of Mahabad, in northwestern Iran. The state encompassed a small territory, including Mahabad and the adjacent cities of Piranshahr and Ushnaviya.[4] The republic's foundation and demise was a part of the Iran crisis during the opening stages of the Cold War.


Iran was invaded by the Allies in late August 1941, with the Soviets controlling the north. In the absence of a central government, the Soviets attempted to attach northwestern Iran to the Soviet Union, and promoted Kurdish nationalism. From these factors resulted a Kurdish manifesto that above all sought autonomy and self-government for the Kurdish people in Iran within the limits of the Iranian state.[5]

In the town of Mahabad, inhabited mostly by Kurds, a committee of middle-class people supported by tribal chiefs took over the local administration. A political party called the Society for the Revival of Kurdistan (Komeley Jiyanewey Kurdistan or JK) was formed. Qazi Muhammad, head of a family of religious jurists, was elected as chairman of the party. Although the republic was not declared until December 1945, Qazi's committee administered the area for more than five years until the fall of the republic.[6]

Soviet attitude

The Soviets were generally ambivalent towards the Kurdish administration. They did not maintain a garrison near Mahabad and also did not have any civil agent of sufficient standing to exercise any great influence. They encouraged Qazi's administration by practical benevolent operations such as providing motor transport, keeping out the Iranian army, and buying the whole of the tobacco crop. On the other hand, the Soviets initially did not like the Kurdish administration's refusal to be absorbed into the larger Democratic Republic of (Persian) Azerbaijan, and discouraged the formation of an independent Kurdish state.[6] The Soviets allowed for the safe passage of Mustafa Barzani and his followers into the Soviet Union following the fall of Mahabad.


Qazi Mohammad

In September 1945, Qazi Muhammad and other Kurdish leaders visited Tabriz to seek the backing of a Soviet consul to found a new republic, and were then redirected to Baku, Azerbaijan SSR. There, they learned that the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan was planning to take control of Iranian Azerbaijan. On December 10, the Democratic Party took control of East Azerbaijan Province from Iranian government forces, forming the Azerbaijan People's Government. Qazi Muhammad decided to do likewise, and on December 15, the Kurdish People's Government was founded in Mahabad. On January 22, 1946, Qazi Muhammad announced the formation of the Republic of Mahabad. Some of the aims mentioned in the manifesto include:[4]

  1. Autonomy for the Iranian Kurds within the Iranian state.
  2. The use of Kurdish as the medium of education and administration.
  3. The election of a provincial council for Kurdistan to supervise state and social matters.
  4. All state officials to be of local origin.
  5. Unity and fraternity with the Azerbaijani people.
  6. The establishment of a single law for both peasants and notables.


Map of the Republic of Mahabad in 1945-1946.[7]

On March 26, 1946, due to pressure from Western powers including the United States, the Soviets promised the Iranian government that they would pull out of northwestern Iran. In June, Iran reasserted its control over Iranian Azerbaijan. This move isolated the Republic of Mahabad, eventually leading to its destruction.

However, its close relationship to the USSR alienated the republic from most Western powers, causing them to side with Iran. Qazi Muhammad did not deny that his republic was funded and supplied by the Soviets, but did deny that the Iranian Kurdish Democratic Party (PDKI) was a communist party. He claimed that this was a lie fabricated by the Iranian military authorities, and added that his ideals were very different from the Soviets'.[8]

On December 15, 1946, Iranian forces entered and secured Mahabad. Once there, they closed down the Kurdish printing press, banned the teaching of Kurdish language, and burned all Kurdish books that they could find. Finally, on March 31, 1947, Qazi Muhammad was hanged in Mahabad on counts of treason.[9]


Qazi Muhammed establishing Republic of Mahabad

Mustafa Barzani, with his soldiers from Iraqi Kurdistan, assisted the Republic's forces. After the fall of the republic, most of the soldiers and four officers from the Iraqi army decided to return to Iraq. The officers were condemned to death upon returning to Iraq and are today honored along with Qazi as heroes martyred for Kurdistan. Several hundred of the soldiers chose to stay with Barzani. They defeated all efforts of the Iranian army to intercept them in a five-week march and made their way to Soviet Azerbaijan.[6]

In October 1958, Mustafa Barzani returned to Northern Iraq, beginning a series of struggles to fight for an autonomous Kurdish region under a newly formed party called the KDP, carrying the same Kurdish flag that was used in Mahabad.

Massoud Barzani, the President of Iraqi Kurdistan as of 2015, is the son of Mustafa Barzani. He was born in Mahabad.

See also


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  4. 4.0 4.1 McDowall, David (2004). A modern history of the Kurds. I.B. Tauris. pp. 244–245. ISBN 1-85043-416-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Allain, Jean (2004). International Law in the Middle East: Closer to Power than Justice. Ashgate Publishing Ltd. pp. 27–28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 C. J. Edmonds, Kurdish Nationalism, Journal of Contemporary History, pp.87-107, 1971, p.96
  8. Meiselas, Susan (1997). Kurdistan In the Shadow of History. Random House. p. 182. ISBN 0-679-42389-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. McDowall, 2004. pp.243-246


  • "The Republic of Kurdistan: Fifty Years Later", International Journal of Kurdish Studies, 11, no. 1 & 2, (1997).
  • The Kurdish Republic of 1946, William Eagleton, Jr. (London: Oxford University Press, 1963)
  • (German) Moradi Golmorad: Ein Jahr autonome Regierung in Kurdistan, die Mahabad-Republik 1946 - 1947 in: Geschichte der kurdischen Aufstandsbewegungen von der arabisch-islamischen Invasion bis zur Mahabad-Republik, Bremen 1992, ISBN 3-929089-00-9
  • (French) M. Khoubrouy-Pak: Une république éphémère au Kurdistan, Paris u.a. 2002, ISBN 2-7475-2803-0
  • Archie Roosevelt, Jr., "The Kurdish Republic of Mahabad", Middle East Journal, no. 1 (July 1947), pp. 247–69.
  • William Linn Westermann, "Kurdish Independence and Russian Expansion", Foreign Affairs, Vol. 24, 1945–1946, pp. 675–686
  • Kurdish Republic of Mahabad, Encyclopedia of the Orient. [1]
  • The Kurds: People without a country, Encyclopædia Britannica [2]
  • Meiselas, Susan Kurdistan In the Shadow of History, Random House, 1997. ISBN 0-679-42389-3
  • McDowall, David A Modern History of the Kurds, I. B. Tauris, 1996 (Current revision at May 14, 2004). ISBN 1-86064-185-7
  • Yassin, Burhaneddin A., "A History of the Republic of Kurdistan", The International Journal of Kurdish Studies, 11, nos. 1-2 (1997): 115-240.
  • Yassin, Burhaneddin A., Vision or Reality: The Kurds in the Policy of the Great Powers, 1941-1947, Lund University Press, Lund/Sweden, 1995. ISSN 0519-9700, ISBN 91-7966-315-X Lund University Press. ou ISBN 0-86238-389-7 Chartwell-Bratt Ltd.
  • (Russian) Масуд Барзани. Мустафа Барзани и курдское освободительное движение. Пер. А. Ш. Хаурами, СПб, Наука, 2005.
  • (Russian) М. С. Лазарев. Курдистан и курдский вопрос (1923—1945). М., Издательская фирма «Восточная литература» РАН, 2005.
  • (Russian) Жигалина О. И. Национальное движение курдов в Иране (1918—1947). М., «Наука», 1988.
  • (Russian) История Курдистана. Под ред. М. С. Лазарева, Ш. Х. Мгои. М., 1999.
  • (Russian) Муртаза Зарбахт. От Иракского Курдистана до другого берега реки Аракс. Пер. с курдск. А. Ш. Хаурами. М.-СПб, 2003.

External links