A Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

Kurdistan Free Life Party Narrative


Kurdistan Free Life Party

Last Update

January 2015

Aliases

PJAK; Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan; Party of Free Life of Kurdistan; Free Life Party of Kurdistan; PEJAK; PEZHAK; Parti Jiyani Azadi Kurdistan; Partiya Jiyana Azad A Kurdistane

History

The Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) is a Kurdish political and militant group founded in 2004 in Iraq.[1] The group operates in Kurdish inhabited areas and advocates for the autonomy and the rights of Kurdish people.[2] Other goals of the PJAK include the establishment of a secular and democratic political system in Iran and greater gender equality.[3] The group is considered a branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an internationally designated terrorist organization which operates primarily in Turkey.[4] Various PKK members contributed to the creation of the PJAK and held leadership positions within the group.[5] As of 2008, the PKK shared logistics, leadership and provided personnel to the PJAK; it also appears that the PKK provides considerable direction with regards to the group’s actions and activities.[6] The PJAK has a political wing and a military wing. The military wing is known as the East Kurdistan Defense Forces and operates mainly in Iran.[7] Ahmadi controls the group’s operations from Cologne, Germany.[8] The PJAK has an estimated size of 3,000 members based in the Qandil mountains in north Iraq.[9] The members of the group are mainly Iranian Kurds, but there also exist many Kurdish supporters from Iraq, Syria and Turkey.[10] In 2009, the PJAK was designated as a terrorist organization by the United States Department of Treasury, which cites the group’s affiliation with the PKK amongst the reasons for their listing. [11]

Home Base

Iraq

Founding Year

2004

Ideology

Ethnic-Separatist-Kurdish

Specific Goals

  • Promotion of Kurdish identity and rights. [12]
  • Replacement of Iran’s Islamic regime with a democratic government. [13]
  • Promotion of women’s rights.[14]
  • The establishment of a federalized Iran, within which Kurds would enjoy substantial autonomy.[15]
  • Some members advocate for the establishment of a completely separate Kurdish state, bringing together all of the Kurdish areas into a single independent Kurdish republic. [16]  

Political Activity

  • The PJAK actively uses the Internet and traditional media to promote their goals and perspectives on issues impacting Kurdish interests. The group also benefits from an organized network of supporters, expatriates, and human rights organizations, primarily in Europe.[17]

Financing

  • Charities/Donations: Donations from Kurdish communities in Europe and Iran.[18]

Leadership and Structure over Time

  • The group’s leader Abdul Rahman Haji Ahmadi, controls the group’s operations from Germany.[19] The group has a 40 person central committee which was selected by leaders of the PKK despite objections from within the PJAK. [20]
  • The military wing of the group, known as the East Kurdistan Defense Forces, operates mainly in Iran and has launched various attacks against the Iranian government.[21]
  • 2004- present: Abdul Rahman Haji Ahmadi

Strength

Allies and Suspected Allies

  • Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) (ally):[23]
    • The PKK has directed the movements of the PJAK’s paramilitary forces.
    • Provided personnel and leadership.
    • Share common goals.

Rivals and Enemies

  • Iranian government.[24]
  • Turkish government.[25]

Counterterrorism Efforts

  • International, Military:
    • Shelling of PJAK positions. [26]
    • Infantry attacks against PJAK positions. [27]
  • International, Political:
    • The U.S. designated the group as a terrorist organization in 2009. [28]

United States Government Designations

  • Specially Designated Global Terrorist, February 4, 2009.[29]

Other Governments’ Designations

None

 

[1] PJAK's year of founding is somewhat disputed. Brandon (2006), citing PJAK members, places their founding in 1997. The US State Department (2010) and Flood (2009) each claim the PJAK was established in 2004. See Brandon, James. 2006. “Iran’s Kurdish Threat: PJAK.” TerrorismMonitor, June 15. http://intersci.ss.uci.edu/wiki/eBooks/Articles/Jamaats%202%20Terrorism%20Monitor.pdf; US Department of State. 2010. Country Reports on Terrorism 2009. Washington, DC: US Department of State. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/141114.pdf; Flood, Derek Henry. 2009. “The ‘Other’ Kurdistan Seethes with Rage.” Online News. Asia Times Online. October 16. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/KJ16Ak01.html.

[2] Oppel Jr, Richard A. 2007. “In Iraq, Conflict Simmers on a 2nd Kurdish Front.” The New York Times, October 23, sec. International / Middle East. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/23/world/middleeast/23kurds.html.

[3] Brandon, James. 2006. “Iran’s Kurdish Threat: PJAK.” TerrorismMonitor, June 15. http://intersci.ss.uci.edu/wiki/eBooks/Articles/Jamaats%202%20Terrorism%20Monitor.pdf.

[4] Zambelis, Chris. 2011. “The Factors Behind Rebellion in Iranian Kurdistan.” CTC Sentinel, March 1. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-factors-behind-rebellion-in-iranian-kurdistan.

[5] US Department of the Treasury. 2009. “Treasury Designates Free Life Party of Kurdistan a Terrorist Organization.” Press Releases. Press Center. February 4. http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg14.aspx.

[6] US Department of the Treasury. 2009. “Treasury Designates Free Life Party of Kurdistan a Terrorist Organization.” Press Releases. Press Center. February 4. http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg14.aspx.

[7] US Department of the Treasury. 2009. “Treasury Designates Free Life Party of Kurdistan a Terrorist Organization.” Press Releases. Press Center. February 4. http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg14.aspx.

[8] Buchen, Stefan, John Goetz, and Sven Röbel. 2008. “New Kurdish Terror Group? Germany Concerned About PJAK Activities.” Spiegel Online, April 14, sec. International. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/new-kurdish-terror-group-germany-concerned-about-pjak-activities-a-547211.html.

[9] Brandon, James. 2006. “Iran’s Kurdish Threat: PJAK.” TerrorismMonitor, June 15. http://intersci.ss.uci.edu/wiki/eBooks/Articles/Jamaats%202%20Terrorism%20Monitor.pdf.

[10] Zambelis, Chris. 2011. “The Factors Behind Rebellion in Iranian Kurdistan.” CTC Sentinel, March 1. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-factors-behind-rebellion-in-iranian-kurdistan.

[11] US Department of the Treasury. 2009. “Treasury Designates Free Life Party of Kurdistan a Terrorist Organization.” Press Releases. Press Center. February 4. http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg14.aspx.

[12] Brandon, James. 2006. “Iran’s Kurdish Threat: PJAK.” TerrorismMonitor, June 15. http://intersci.ss.uci.edu/wiki/eBooks/Articles/Jamaats%202%20Terrorism%20Monitor.pdf.

[13] Brandon, James. 2006. “Iran’s Kurdish Threat: PJAK.” TerrorismMonitor, June 15. http://intersci.ss.uci.edu/wiki/eBooks/Articles/Jamaats%202%20Terrorism%20Monitor.pdf.

[14] Brandon, James. 2006. “Iran’s Kurdish Threat: PJAK.” TerrorismMonitor, June 15. http://intersci.ss.uci.edu/wiki/eBooks/Articles/Jamaats%202%20Terrorism%20Monitor.pdf.

[15] Zambelis, Chris. 2011. “The Factors Behind Rebellion in Iranian Kurdistan.” CTC Sentinel, March 1. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-factors-behind-rebellion-in-iranian-kurdistan.

[16] Brandon, James. 2006. “Iran’s Kurdish Threat: PJAK.” TerrorismMonitor, June 15. http://intersci.ss.uci.edu/wiki/eBooks/Articles/Jamaats%202%20Terrorism%20Monitor.pdf; Zambelis, Chris. 2011. “The Factors Behind Rebellion in Iranian Kurdistan.” CTC Sentinel, March 1. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-factors-behind-rebellion-in-iranian-kurdistan.

[17] Zambelis, Chris. 2011. “The Factors Behind Rebellion in Iranian Kurdistan.” CTC Sentinel, March 1. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-factors-behind-rebellion-in-iranian-kurdistan.

[18] Brandon, James. 2006. “Iran’s Kurdish Threat: PJAK.” TerrorismMonitor, June 15. http://intersci.ss.uci.edu/wiki/eBooks/Articles/Jamaats%202%20Terrorism%20Monitor.pdf.

[19] Buchen, Stefan, John Goetz, and Sven Röbel. 2008. “New Kurdish Terror Group? Germany Concerned About PJAK Activities.” Spiegel Online, April 14, sec. International. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/new-kurdish-terror-group-germany-concerned-about-pjak-activities-a-547211.html.

[20] US Department of the Treasury. 2009. “Treasury Designates Free Life Party of Kurdistan a Terrorist Organization.” Press Releases. Press Center. February 4. http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg14.aspx.

[21] Brandon, James. 2006. “Iran’s Kurdish Threat: PJAK.” TerrorismMonitor, June 15. http://intersci.ss.uci.edu/wiki/eBooks/Articles/Jamaats%202%20Terrorism%20Monitor.pdf.

[22] Brandon, James. 2006. “Iran’s Kurdish Threat: PJAK.” TerrorismMonitor, June 15. http://intersci.ss.uci.edu/wiki/eBooks/Articles/Jamaats%202%20Terrorism%20Monitor.pdf.

[23] Brandon, James. 2006. “Iran’s Kurdish Threat: PJAK.” TerrorismMonitor, June 15. http://intersci.ss.uci.edu/wiki/eBooks/Articles/Jamaats%202%20Terrorism%20Monitor.pdf.

[24] Brandon, James. 2006. “Iran’s Kurdish Threat: PJAK.” TerrorismMonitor, June 15. http://intersci.ss.uci.edu/wiki/eBooks/Articles/Jamaats%202%20Terrorism%20Monitor.pdf.

[25] Brandon, James. 2006. “Iran’s Kurdish Threat: PJAK.” TerrorismMonitor, June 15. http://intersci.ss.uci.edu/wiki/eBooks/Articles/Jamaats%202%20Terrorism%20Monitor.pdf.

[26] Oppel Jr, Richard A. 2007. “In Iraq, Conflict Simmers on a 2nd Kurdish Front.” The New York Times, October 23, sec. International / Middle East. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/23/world/middleeast/23kurds.html.

[27] Oppel Jr, Richard A. 2007. “In Iraq, Conflict Simmers on a 2nd Kurdish Front.” The New York Times, October 23, sec. International / Middle East. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/23/world/middleeast/23kurds.html.

[28] Zambelis, Chris. 2011. “The Factors Behind Rebellion in Iranian Kurdistan.” CTC Sentinel, March 1. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-factors-behind-rebellion-in-iranian-kurdistan.

[29] US Department of the Treasury. 2009. “Treasury Designates Free Life Party of Kurdistan a Terrorist Organization.” Press Releases. Press Center. February 4. http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg14.aspx.