Tag Archives: Ahmadinejad

15 Arrests at demonstration after the closure of paper Etemad Melli (National Trust)

Mehdi Karoubis Etemad-e Melli paper closed down

Mehdi Karoubi's Etemad-e Melli paper closed down

The regime has “temporarily” shut down the newspaper of defeated reformist candidate Mehdi Karoubi. has Etemad-e Melli was closed down under the orders of the prosecutor’s office and no edition appeared on the streets today (August17). It has been alleged that the paper was about to release a statement calling for further defiance.

In response to this youths and supporters of Mehdi Karoubi fought running battles with security forces at 7 Tir Square and other places in Tehran near the headquarters of the newspaper. Whilst Karoubi has been thrown into a struggle against security forces and the judiciary he and the reformist faction offer nothing but more bloodshed for the people of Iran. For the movement to be successful the people of Iran must topple both the conservative and the reformist wings of the Islamic Republic.

At this time we are aware that at least 15 people have been arrested. Below is video footage of today’s demonstrations.

Show trials and apologetics

Protests still going strong

Just as Iranian ex-leftwingers in the west call for reconciliation between the two wings of the Islamic regime, the ruling faction clamps down on its rivals. Yassamine Mather reports


The Stalinist show trial of Saturday August 1 – when a number of prominent ‘reformists’ appeared on Iranian state TV to ‘thank their interrogators’ before repenting – was not the first such event in the Islamic republic’s history. Leaders of the ‘official communist’ Tudeh Party were similarly paraded on Iranian TV to denounce their own actions in the 1980s, while in the 1990s we had the trials of ‘rogue’ elements of the ministry of intelligence.

However, this time the Islamic leaders forgot that a precondition for the success of such show trials in terms of imposing fear and submission on the masses is total control of the press and media. What made this particular effort ineffective – indeed a mockery – was that it came at a time when the supporters of supreme leader Ali Khamenei have not yet succeeded in silencing the other factions of the regime, never mind stopping the street protests. So, instead of marking the end of the current crisis, the show trials have given the protestors fresh ammunition.

The paper of the Participation Front (the largest alliance of ‘reformist’ MPs) stated: “The case of the prosecution is such a joke that it is enough to make cooked chicken laugh.” The Participation Front was one of nine major Islamic organisations which ridiculed the prosecution claim that the ‘regime knew of the plot for a velvet revolution’ weeks before the election. Some Tehran reformist papers are asking: in that case why did the Guardian Council allow the ‘reformist’ candidates to stand in the presidential elections? Perhaps the Guardian Council itself should be put on trial!

Former president Mohammad Khatami, candidates Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi and other ‘reformist’ politicians have denounced the trial as “illegal”, yet they do not seem to realise the irony in this criticism. First of all, no-one but the ‘reformists’ within the regime has any illusions about Iran’s legal system (both civil and sharia law). Second, the time to oppose show trials was two decades ago, not when you yourself are a victim of the system and there is no-one left to defend you. It was not just in the 1980s that messrs Khatami, Moussavi, Karroubi, etc kept quiet about similar trials. As late as the 1990s, during Khatami’s own presidency, they did not exactly rebel against the show trials of the intelligence agents who ‘confessed’ to having acted alone in murdering opponents of the regime. Some of the most senior figures implicated in that scandal, a scandal that was hushed up by the Khatami government (‘for the sake of the survival of the Islamic order’) – not least current prosecutor general Saeed Mortazavi – are now in charge of the ‘velvet revolution’ dossier.

For the Iranian left the trial and ‘confessions’ have also been a reminder of the plight of thousands of comrades who probably faced similar physical and psychological torture in the regime’s dungeons in the 1980s, although only a handful of them ever made it onto TV screens – many died anonymously in the regime’s torture chambers. Of course, we do not know if the Iranian government has improved its torture techniques since those times, but some senior ‘reformist’ politicians appear to have broken down much more easily than those thousands of young leftwing prisoners.

Those ‘reformist’ leaders who are still at liberty are not doing any better. Despite facing the threat of arrest and trial themselves, they maintain their allegiance to ‘Iran’s Islamic order’, reaffirming their “commitment to the Islamic regime” (Khatami) and denouncing the slogan promoted by demonstrators, “Freedom, independence, Iranian republic”, as Moussavi did on August 2.

A couple of weeks ago there were signs that negotiations between Khamenei and another former president, Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, had made some progress and once more there was the possibility that, as the two factions of the regime buried some of their differences, the mass movement could become a victim of reconciliation amongst senior clerics.

The show trials not only put an end to such illusions, but promised an unprecedented intensification of the internal conflict. But this came too late for the authors of the statement, ‘Truth and reconciliation for Iran’, signed by a number of academics and activists who are notorious apologists of the Iranian regime and published on a number of websites, including that of Monthly Review.1 The statement has one aim: to save the Islamic regime by advocating peaceful coexistence between the two warring factions or, in the words of the statement, “the vital unity of our people against foreign pressures”.

In explaining the background of the conflict with imperialism, the authors state: “… despite Iran’s cooperation in the overthrow of the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan, the administration of George W Bush labelled the Islamic Republic a member of the ‘axis of evil’.”2 I am not quite sure why Iran’s support for US imperialism in the terrible Afghanistan war should be put forward as an example of the regime’s reasonable and moderate behaviour by anyone who claims to be anti-war.

The statement goes on to praise the wonderful election process, failing to mention that only four candidates loyal to the regime’s factions were allowed to stand or that voting for a president of a regime headed by an unelected ‘supreme religious leader’ is a bit of a joke … But this marvellous ‘democratic election’ is used to legitimise Iran’s nuclear programme.

The statement contains some seriously false claims: “… we have advocated the human rights of individuals and democratic rights for various groups and constituencies in Iran.” I am not sure which universe they think the rest of us reside in, but until the escalation of the conflict between the two factions of the regime many of the authors of the statement were insisting that everything in Iran’s Islamic Republic was great.

According to the defenders of ‘Islamic feminism’ amongst them, Iranian women enjoy complete political and social freedom – which no doubt would have come as a shock to tens of thousands of young women who joined the protests precisely because of their opposition to draconian misogynist regulations imposed by the religious state.

Many of the signatories are associated with Campaign Iran and the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran, which have made a virtue of not advocating “democratic rights” for Iranians, since that would confuse those simple-minded ‘ordinary people’ at a time when Iran is under threat. They insisted that the existence of a women-only fire brigade was proof of gender equality in Iran and the fact that the ‘crime’ of homosexuality is punishable by death is no reason to declare the regime homophobic – after all, liberal Iran has a very high rate of sex-change operations.3 The signatories are mistaken if they think they can rewrite history and portray themselves as defenders of “human rights” in Iran – we will neither forgive nor forget their disgraceful pro-regime apologetics.

Our ex-leftists clearly fail to understand the significance of the street protests: “The votes of a great portion of the Iranian society for both Ahmadinejad and Moussavi show that the best solution is negotiations for reconciliation and creation of a government of national unity from the ranks of principlists and the green movement and reformists.” While even bourgeois liberals and Moussavi supporters admit that the protests have now reached the stage where the green movement has no alternative but to tail the masses and their anti-regime slogans, the signatories’ advice to the ‘reformists’ is to ‘negotiate’ with those who have killed dozens of demonstrators, tortured hundreds and imprisoned thousands, including some of Moussavi’s allies.

When the ‘Truth and reconciliation’ statement tries to look at the causes of the current unrest, it gets things wrong: “However, in the view of a considerable number of Iranians who are discontented and frustrated with the restrictions on civil and political freedoms, there were various irregularities in the elections, including the suspension of reformist newspapers and mobile telephone SMS service on election day. This caused mass public demonstrations in support of nullifying the election.”

In fact both wings of the Islamic republic have made a lot of people “discontented and frustrated” and restricted “civil and political freedoms” since the day the regime came to power. There have been disputed results in at least three previous presidential elections, but what differentiates the current crisis from previous ones is ‘the economy, stupid’. Not only is the global economic crisis being felt far worse in the countries of the periphery, but the effects in Iran are compounded by a government that based its 2008-09 budget on selling oil at $140 a barrel; a government that aimed to privatise 80% of Iran’s industries by 2010, thus creating mass unemployment, a government that printed money while pursuing neoliberal economic policies; a government whose policies resulted in a 25% inflation rate, while the growing gap between rich and poor made a mockery of its populist claims to be helping the common people.

Last week I wrote about the political stance of Stalinists who, by supporting Moussavi, are advocating, as they have done throughout the last decades, a stageist approach to revolution.4 The signatories of the ‘Truth and reconciliation’ statement have taken things a step further: they do not aim for the next ‘stage’ any more, advocating instead the continuation of the religious state with peace and harmony amongst its many factions. The protests might have pushed Khatami, Moussavi and Karroubi to adopt slightly more radical positions, but they certainly have failed to influence our conciliators.

The demonstrators in Tehran shout “Death to the dictator”, but the Casmii and Campaign Iran educators condemn “extremist elements who used the opportunity to create chaos and engaged in the destruction of public property”. Anyone who knows anything about events since the election is aware that it is the state and its oppressive forces that have used violence against ordinary people. How dare these renegades condemn the victims of that violence for resisting this brutal regime?

What is truly disgusting about the statement are the pleas addressed not only to leaders of the Islamic reformist movement in Iran (to make peace with the conservatives), but also their requests to Barack Obama and other western leaders to be more accommodating to the Iranian regime. As if imperialist threats and sanctions have anything to do with the good will, or lack of it, of this or that administration. The language and tactics might change, but just as a bankrupt, corrupt and undemocratic Islamic Republic needs external threats and political crisis to survive, so US and western imperialism needs not only to offload the worst effects of the economic crisis onto the countries of the periphery, but also to threaten and occasionally instigate war. Our movement must aim to stop this lunacy, but in order to do so we need to address the democratic forces in Iran and the west rather than pleading with imperialism and Iran’s reactionary rulers.

The open support of the supreme religious leader for the conservatives has radicalised the Iranian masses. Separation of state and religion has now become a nationwide demand and we must support the demonstrators’ calls for the dismantling of the offices and expropriation of funds associated with the supreme leader and of all other religious foundations. The abolition of sharia law, of the religious police and of Islamic courts is part and parcel of such a call. Even as the show trials were being broadcast, Iranian workers were continuing their struggles against privatisation (Ahmadinejad’s first economic priority in his second term is the privatisation of oil refineries) and the non-payment of wages.

These days capitalists who say they are unable to pay their workers blame not only the world economic situation but also current events in Iran itself. Yet many of them do make profits and quickly channel them abroad. Iranian workers have been demanding representation at factory level to monitor production and sales, and calling for the total transparency of company accounts. We must support these immediate demands as part of our own anti-imperialist strategy.

At a time of crisis it is inevitable that the bourgeoisie, both in the developed world and in the countries of the periphery, will act irrationally. However, it is sad to see sections of the ‘left’ adopting a different form of irrationality. If we are to expose the warmongering endemic to contemporary capitalism, we must base our approach on the independent politics of the international working class.

That is why the idiotic, class-collaborationist ‘theories’ of Casmii, Campaign Iran and the current dominant line in Monthly Review are such a disaster for the anti-war movement.

Notes

1. Over the last few weeks Monthly Review has published a number of statements defending Ahmadinejad, which has led to resignations by some members of the board and has been condemned by socialists in the US and elsewhere.
2. ‘Truth and reconciliation’, http://www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/iran010809.html
3. See ‘Lies cannot stop imperialists’, http://www.hopoi.org/lies.html
4. ‘Out of step with the masses’, July 30.

Protests as Ahmadinejad is sworn in

Reports and analysis to follow tomorrow.

Iran: le debut de la fin

French translation of Yassamine Mather’s article ‘The Beginning of the End’ on the Carre Rouge website.

Moussavi to attend Friday prayers

From Reuters India:

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran’s opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi will attend Friday prayers this week in his first official public appearance since last month’s disputed election, a statement on his website said.

Mousavi’s statement, posted late on Wednesday, confirmed a media report earlier this week that he would attend the prayers at Tehran University to be led by former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a rival of re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mousavi, Ahmadinejad’s main challenger in the June 12 presidential election, says the vote was rigged in the hardline incumbent’s favour.

The authorities reject charges of vote fraud, but the official election result sparked days of mass street protests by supporters of Mousavi and exposed deepening divisions within the Islamic Republic’s leadership.

“Since I regard as obligatory responding to the invitation of the sympathisers and supporters in the path of safeguarding legitimate rights of a free and honourable life, I will maintain a presence alongside you on Friday,” Mousavi said.

Mousavi’s website said he made the statement “in response to the public’s invitation for him to participate in Friday prayers in Tehran.” Friday prayers in Iran have the potential to reach a wide audience as they are broadcast live on radio.

On Tuesday, the Etemad newspaper said both Mousavi and reformist former president Mohammad Khatami, a supporter of his, would attend the prayers, which are broadcast live.

Iran’s most powerful figure, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, upheld Ahmadinejad’s landslide win in his Friday sermon one week after the vote.

But Mousavi, who was prime minister in the 1980s, has said Ahmadinejad’s next government would be “illegitimate”.

He has also called on authorities to release hundreds of people detained in the turbulent aftermath of the election, including leading reformists, journalists and rights lawyers.

Rafsanjani will lead the prayers after two months of absence. Some of his relatives, including his daughter Faezeh, were arrested briefly for taking part in pro-Mousavi rallies.

State media say at least 20 people were killed as protesters clashed with riot police and members of the Basij militia, but some rights activists believe the figure is higher.

The authorities and Mousavi blame each other for the bloodshed. Hardliners have called for Mousavi to be put on trial.

Iran has accused Britain and the United States, which have criticised a crackdown on opposition protests, of interfering in its internal affairs. London and Washington reject the charge.

Multiple ballots being filled out by officials

Death in the Dorms: Saeed Kamali Dehghan

From Guardian Online

They came in the small hours, just as the dormitories were settling down for the night. Outside, Tehran was still in ferment, a city gripped by fury two days after a “stolen election”. Inside the dorms on Amirabad Street, students were trying to sleep, though nerves were jangling; just hours earlier several had been beaten in front of the main gate to the university.

What happened next developed into one of the seminal events of Iran‘s post-election unrest: police broke locks and then bones as they rampaged through the dormitories, attacked dozens of students, carted off more than 100 and killed five. The authorities still deny the incursion took place. But the account pieced together from interviews with five of those present tells a different story.

“We were getting ready to go to sleep when we suddenly heard them breaking the locks to enter our rooms,” said one of the 133 students arrested that night. “I’d seen them earlier beating students but I didn’t imagine that they would come inside. It’s even against Iranian law.”

Forty-six students from one dorm were arrested and taken to the basement of the interior ministry on nearby Fatemi Street. It was there, on the building’s upper floors, that the vote-counting and – claim opposition supporters – the rigging, was going on. Another 87 were taken to a security police building on Hafez Street. Students spoke of torture and mistreatment.

Five died: they were Fatemeh Barati, Kasra Sharafi, Mobina Ehterami, Kambiz Shoaee and Mohsen Imani – buried the following day in Tehran’s famous Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery, reportedly without their families being informed. Their names were confirmed by Tahkim Vahdat, a student organisation.

Witnesses said the two women and three men were repeatedly beaten on the head with electric batons. Their families were warned not to talk about their children or hold funerals – like the parents of Neda Soltan, whose face became synonymous with the protest movement after she was filmed being shot dead in the street.

Under Iranian law, police, revolutionary guards and other militia are not allowed to enter universities – a legacy of the 1999 student riots. Until last month those riots were the most serious unrest the country had seen since the Islamic revolution.

But with the country convulsed by protests at the 12 June elections, there was no holding back that Sunday night. “The police threw teargas into the dorms, beat us, broke the windows and forced us to lie on the ground,” one student recalled. “I had not even been protesting but one of them jumped on me, sat on my back and beat me. And then, while pretending to search me for guns or knives, he abused me sexually. They were threatening to hang us and rape us.”

Another described the scene: “The riot police stood in two lines, formed a tunnel with their shields as its roof, and made us run through it again and again while beating us and banging on their shields. “One of my roommates had a broken leg but they still made him run.”

Others spoke of similar experiences at the hands of the Basij (paramilitary militia). “The Basiji was on my back and told me: ‘I have not fucked anyone for the past seven years, you cute boy! I’ll show you what I can do to you when we arrive.’ They were harassing us and claiming we insulted them or the supreme leader.”

Before being taken away on a bus the students were made to stand in front of a dormitory block with plastic bags over their heads, their hands bound with plastic ties – known there as “Israeli handcuffs”.

“I had a second to recognise that it was the main building of the interior ministry in Fatemi Street,” said another student, weeping. “I just couldn’t believe it, there were senior politicians, members of parliament and investigators on the upper floors and we were in the basement. I have no doubt that they were busy rigging the votes upstairs.”

One detainee was abused by guards after he lost control of his bladder. Hours later they were given bread and cheese that had been placed on a dirty floor and warned they would be punished if they refused to eat. A Basiji called Ali filmed them with his mobile phone, ordering the captives to say “I am a donkey”.

Injuries were ignored. One student who had lost an eye after being hit by a plastic bullet was not given medical attention. “We were begging them to transfer these two who were suffering more than others to the hospital but they just said ‘let them die’,” a witness said.

Later, gas was pumped into the cells when all the students were being held in the security police building. Their ordeal ended 24 hours later when the president of Tehran University, Farhad Rahbar, and Alireza Zakani, a Tehran MP, spoke to the detainees. Rahbar told them that he had given the police permission to enter the dormitories to control the situation – but denied it a few days later.

Before being released the students were ordered to put on fresh clothes supplied by the police. “They didn’t want there to be any evidence of what had happened,” one of them said. “But what’s stronger than 133 students who were there, who saw everything, and suffered?”