Iran’s Kurdistan province is rich in agriculture and other natural resources but remains poor and neglected by Iranian authorities, officials and local media reports say. The local chamber of commerce in the provincial capital Sanandaj, or Sina in Kurdish, says that 60 percent of the factories in the province have closed down, and production in the rest has declined. Iran’s Mehr New Agency reports that 4.5 million tons of raw materials are extracted annually, but sent to other provinces for processing because of a lack of factories locally. Iranian authorities consider the area a combat zone, maintaining a security alert there since the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, forcing businesses to relocate elsewhere. Dr. Seyyed Hashem Hedayati, a university professor, blames the lack of economic development in the region to an unfair distribution of wealth by authorities. “There isn’t any strategic program for Kurdistan’s economic development. This has harmed the Kurdish areas,” he says.
“The Iranian government has suggested a number of proposals in the industrial and minerals fields, but none applies to Kurdistan,” Hedayati says. “The government establishes chemical or petrochemical plants in Kurdistan where the raw materials for these units are scarce, therefore there are no chances for their success in Kurdistan,” he adds. Sina produces a lot of wheat, but because there are very few mills or pasta factories, it is exported to other neighboring cities for processing. In addition, a province like Isfahan uses marble and other minerals from Sina to produce tiles and other factories. Sirus Shah Mohammadi, the head of the chamber of commerce in Sina, told Rudaw that more than 550 million tons of minerals have been found in the province, and it is believed that another 200 million tons remain underground.
According to the latest statistics from the Iranian Ministry of Industries, Minerals, and Trade the industrial sectors of Sanandaj and Ilam – both Kurdish-majority provinces – remain behind all other regions of Iran. Only about 2,500 people work in the industrial sector in Sina, and only 0.5 percent of Iranian factories are located in the province. Hedayati charges that the government has ignored Iran’s Kurdish regions ever since 1981. “In the areas where the private sector does not or cannot invest, the government has to play this role and invest,” Hedayati says. “This is not taking place in Kurdistan and the businessmen are investing in minor projects that are not helping the economy of the province.”