Ali Askari

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Ali Askari
Ali Abdullah Askari

Autumn 1936
Goptapa, Kurdistan (Iraq)
DiedSummer 1978
Hakkari Province, Kurdistan (Turkey)
Known forPolitics
Political partyPatriotic Union of Kurdistan

Ali Askari (1936–1978) was a Kurdish politician.[1] He was a prominent leader in Iraqi Kurdistan and his political party was the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.[2]

Early life and Childhood[edit]

He was born in 1936 in the village of Goptapa in Kurdistan. The family is originally from the village of Sargalo, but Ali Askari's great-grandfather moved to Askar in order to settle down in this village. In early 1916 Ali Askari's father, Abdullah Askari, went on to build a village close to Askar which today is called Goptapa. His father was the head of the Qala Saywka tribe, one of the most famous and largest tribes in Iraqi Kurdistan.[3]

Ali Askari was the youngest among seven brothers and three sisters. Since there was nowhere to get an education in Goptapa, he had to move to Askar in order to start his studies, at the age of seven. He studied in Askar until he was in the third grade, then moved to the village of Aghjalar to continue his studies in the fourth and fifth grade for his last year in middle school. At the same time, he moved to Kirkuk to his uncle Sheik Raza, who was leading the Naqshbandi branch.

Family History[edit]

The family had started out as a Naqshbandi believers but created a new branch called the Haqqa movement, which was started by Ali Askari's uncle, Sheikh Abdul Kerim in the village of Shadala in the early 1900s. The Haqqa movement was a sect of the poor and oppressed and the movement grew rapidly by spreading to over 300 villages in northern Iraq in just under a few years. The religious movement could be joined by anyone including the wealthy and several powerful tribal leaders had done so from the Kurdish region of Iraq.

During the Iraq occupation, the British were opposed to the Haqqa movement due its growing power, its nonconformity, and the refusal of its followers to pay taxes. This led to the capture the branch's leaders twice. The first time they captured Sheikh Abdul Kerim in 1934 in Kirkuk. Haqqa's contingent managed to release Sheikh Abdul Kerim from Kirkuk with the help of 20,000 of its followers by peacefully marching on the city and demanding his release.[4] Ali Askari's other uncle Raza who took over the Haqqa movement following the death of his older brother,Sheikh Abdul Kerim, was also captured in the 1940s by the Iraqi Government under pressure of the British but again the Haqqa branch succeeded in releasing another of their leaders with help by some 30,000 to 35,000 followers.

Political career[edit]

At the age of seventeen, Ali Askari became a member of the Kurdish Democratic Party, also known as the KDP. After finishing high school, Ali Askari applied for military college, as well as a civil-engineering college, but the KDP asked him to move to Mosul and become the KDP’s representative, so he never went to college.

Ali Askari was appointed and voted member of the KDP's central committee at the parties first official meeting.

The Kurdish revolution started on 11 September 1961 and Ali Askari was asked to command the liberation of Zaxo, Duhok and the rest of the Bahdinan region. He was the youngest member of the KDP’s leading staff.

Ali Askari was much liked amongst kurds for his perpetual optimism, great energy, courage and military ability[5]

Military career[edit]

In the 1960s, Ali Askari led dozens of battles and had control of many different Peshmerga groups. During the 1961 revolution against the Iraqi Government, Ali Askari became head of the Khabat force, one of the five major military forces of the KDP in Kurdistan at the time. The other major KDP forces were led by Ibrahim Ahmad who was head of the Malouma force, Jalal Talabani headed the Rizgari forces, and Omar Mustafa and Kamal Mufti commanded the Kawa and Qaradagh forces.[6]

Following the 1975 Algiers Agreement between Iran and Iraq, all support of the Kurdish revolution halted and the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, decided to give up supply to the Kurds in Iraq based on the algiers accord agreed with then Iraqi Vice-President, Saddam Hussein. This lead Mustafa Barzani and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (The only Kurdish party in Iraqi Kurdistan at the time) to give up the armed struggle against Baghdad and to go into exile in Iran. In 1975, Ali Askari asked Mustafa Barzani to continue the fighting against the Iraqi regime and stand up for the rights of the Kurds, however Mustafa Barzani disagreed stating that no one should continue the revolution, leaving many of the Kurdish leadership divided over the future of the Kurdish liberation movement in Iraq.

After the divide of the Kurdish Leadership, many of the left wing KDP cadres decided to split and restart the revolution separately and continue the Kurdish movement in Iraqi Kurdistan. Ali Askari, Omar Dababa, Rasul Mamand, and Dr Khalid Sa'id decided to form the Kurdistan Socialist Movement (KSM).[7]

Ali Askari then decided to lead his party to create a union of newly created parties, which would be called the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, also known as the PUK, that would start a new revolution against Saddam Hussein and his regime. on June 1, 1975 The PUK was formed as an Umbrella of two organisations. This was set up of the Marxist–Leninist group, Komala, led by Nawshirwan Mustafa and the Kurdistan Socialist Movement (KSM) led by Ali Askari.[8]

During the first congress of the PUK, he was appointed as Politburo of the party and commander of all of its Peshmerga forces.[9] The PUK commanded over 3,000 to 3,500 Peshmerga in the period of 1975-1978, all under the command of Ali Askari which started the PUK insurgency against the Ba'ath regime following the defeat of the KDP revolution in 1975.[10] This insurgency is referred to as the "New Revolution" in Iraqi Kurdistan led by the PUK.

The Insurgency was stopped briefly when Ali Askari met with Saddam Hussein on 23 November 1977 in Baghdad in order to negotiate the application of the statute of autonomy for Kurdistan, legalisation of the parties in Kurdistan, and the situation of Kurdish villages being destroyed. All three points were rejected by Saddam Hussein, which led to the resumption of the PUK's operations upon Ali Askari's return to Kurdistan.


After the fall of the First Kurdish–Iraqi War and the 'Aylul' revolution led by Mustafa Barzani, there were many disagreements between the Kurdish leadership over continuing the fight against the Ba'ath regime. Ali Askari asked Mustafa Barzani to continue the fight however Mustafa Barzani believed that the revolution should not continue and even stated that he would fight Askari himself if he fought against the regime in Baghdad.

In June 1978, Ali Askari, Dr. Khalid Sa'id, and Sheikh Hussein Yezidi embarked on a mission to pick up arms from Kurdish villages located inside the Turkish border in order to support the new Kurdish revolution in Iraq.[11] Ali Askari and his force of 800 Peshmerga were attacked en route to the Turkish border town of Hakkâri by forces loyal to the KDP as well as being bombarded by Iraqi and Iranian Air strikes.[12] Most of the 800 peshmerga were killed including the capture and execution of Ali Askari himself some days later based on the order of the Barzani's and the leadership of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. The killing of Ali Askari was already damaging for internal Kurdish affairs however the manner of his execution, by an RPG-7, made the matter even more serious. The event is referred to amongst Kurds as "The Hakkari Massacre".

The impact of the event has embittered internal Kurdish affairs and the wounds of the event would be felt for at least some 25 years later, while it helped foreign powers gain more success in dividing the Kurds politically.[13]


  1. ^ "Ali Askari's biography". Kurdsat. Archived from the original on 2011-08-17. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  2. ^ M. Gunter, Michael (2009). The A to Z of the Kurds. p. 11.
  3. ^ Black, George (1993). Genocide in Iraq : the Anfal campaign against the Kurds. New York u.a.: Human Rights Watch. p. 173. ISBN 978-1564321084.
  4. ^ Bird, Christiane (2005). A thousand sighs, a thousand revolts : journeys in Kurdistan (Random House Trade pbk. ed.). New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0345469397.
  5. ^ Bruinessen, Martin Van (1992). Agha, shaikh, and state : the social and political structures of Kurdistan (1. publ. ed.). London: Zed Books. ISBN 978-1856490184.
  6. ^ G. Lortz, Michael (2005). Willing to Face Death: A History of Kurdish Military Forces. Florida State University. p. 42.
  7. ^ Pallis, A.R. Ghassemlou ... [et al.] ; edited by Gerard Chaliand ; ttranslated by Michael (1992). A people without a country : the Kurds and Kurdistan (American ed.). New York: Olive Branch Press. ISBN 978-0940793927.
  8. ^ Mcdowall, David. A Modern History of the Kurds (Third ed.). p. 343.
  9. ^ Ghareeb, Beth K. Dougherty, Edmund A. (2012). Historical Dictionary of Iraq (Second ed.). Lanham [Maryland]: Scarecrow Press, Incorporated. ISBN 978-0810868458.
  10. ^ Diplomatique, Le Monde (1980). The Kurdish Powder Keg.
  11. ^ Stansfield, Gareth (2010). Iraqi Kurdistan: Political Development & Emergent Democracy. Routledge. p. 87.
  12. ^ Abdulla, Jamal Jalal (2012). The Kurds : a nation on the way to statehood. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse. p. 163. ISBN 978-1467879712.
  13. ^ Lawrence, Quil (2009). Invisible Nation: How the Kurds' Quest for Statehood Is Shaping Iraq and the Middle East. Walker & Company. p. 30.