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Mahabad Republic (Iran, January-December 1946)

Last modified: 2020-07-31 by ian macdonald
Keywords: kurdistan | sun | star (red) | komala |
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[Republic of Mahabad] courtesy of the Center for Kurdish Political Studies

See also:

Mahabad Republic

In 1941 Britain and the USSR partitioned Iran into two zones of control in order to prevent the country from entering the war on the side of Germany. In the Soviet zone, the Kurds of northwest Iran enjoyed de facto independence. At war's end, Teheran pressured the Soviets to leave, which they did in December 1945. As they left, the Kurds formally proclaimed themselves independent in January 1946, with their capital at Mahabad. The government included many Kurds from Iraq, including Mustafa Barzani, the army commander. Their forces were Soviet-equipped and uniformed, but they owed no ideological allegiance to the USSR. Their flag was the tricolor of the Kurdish Communist Party (Komala) plus a golden sun in the center.

Teheran gradually marshalled its forces, and when they were satisfied the Soviets would not intervene they crushed the Mahabad Republic in December 1946. The leaders were executed, but Barzani led the Iranian forces on a wild goose chase and eventually escaped to the Soviet Union. His escapades contributed much to Kurdish legend and nostalgia for independence. In 1946 he founded the Kurdish Democratic Party, Partiya Demokrata Kurdistane (PDK).
T. F. Mills, 27 September 1997

Kurdish Communist Party (Komala)

Original Flag, 1944-46

[Komala flag] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 28 April 2017

In 1944 the Communists were the most organised faction in Kurdistan, and the Komala (Kurdish Communist Party) of Iran adopted a plain red-white-green horizontal tricolour. This flag was a deliberate reversal of the flag of Iran. These Kurds were good Muslims who were merely communists of convenience and did not understand much ideology. (Their password was "It is good to worship God!") The party emblem was a sun with jagged rays, surrounded by ears of wheat (familiar to many Communist parties), a pen, and a mountain in the background.
T. F. Mills, 27 September 1997

Second Flag, 1969-?

[Komala modern flag] image by Jaume Ollé

The Komala was crushed in 1946, but revived clandestinely in Iran in 1969, with this flag.
T. F. Mills, 27 September 1997

Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan

[KDP of Iran] image by Jaume Ollé

The sun has long been a traditional symbol of Kurdistan, representing the "source of life and the light of the people." The Mahabad Republic and its flag have been the inspiration for all subsequent Kurdish nationalism. The Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) still carries this flag. Its leader Abdelrahman Ghassemlou was assassinated in 1989, and I participated in the funeral procession in Paris where the Mahabad flag was much in evidence, including a large one flying from the hearse.
T. F. Mills, 27 September 1997

Variant flags

[KDP of Iran] image provided by Yeketi Demokratekan, 15 April 2005


I found a text that describes a slightly different flag in use by the Soviet backed Kurdish Republic in Mahabad (Iran) 1946-47, its description is slightly different from the modern Kurdish flag used with just the sun. Here is the text I found:

"Kurdistan in Iran", by Ghassemlou pg. 119. The Kurdish flag adopted the colors of red, white, green. As Ghassemlou describes the Kurdish flag [of Mahabad 1946]: "The flag was decorated with a sun surrounded by corns of wheat with a quill in the middle; the sun for freedom, the quill to underline the importance of your actions."
Ben Cahoon, 19 October 2005