Saturday, August 29, 2009

Iran: Prison Massacres of 1988

Found this on Uruknet

The Executions of 1988
Pedestrian / From: Bahman Agha
August 27, 2009

What happened in the prisons of Iran (especially Evin) during the summer of 1988 is unprecedented. Killing thousands of people in the span of only a few short months, as far as I know, is unprecedented in the modern history of Iran. The list that groups outside of Iran have released reports of 5000 names. Ayatollah Montazeri reports that the number of executions is between 2800 and 3800 and that he can not remember the exact number.

I do not want to go into the details here about why these executions were carried out or how things developed. Ervand Arahamian, writer and historian ("Iran Between Two Revolutions") wrote an article a decade after the events and explained the details. The article is not long and it is a recommended read. I think it also has interesting points to note even for those who are well into what happened.

In most cases, the bodies were not returned to the families and even their place of burial was not reported. Years later, it was eventually revealed that many of the dead were buried in a mass grave in Khavaran, 20 km from Tehran. This was a graveyard mostly used by the Bahais. The families of the dead, like all families, gather in this cemetery every Friday and the last Friday of every year, as is custom in Iran, even more families show up. Hundreds of people gather, sing songs, play instruments, read poetry, chit chat, and in the end, they sing a song in unison while walking around the cemetery. And then they go home. Khavaran is located in a road that leads to Mashahd, and near it, there is big flower market. That’s why people buy flowers on their way there and the grounds of Khavaran are literally swept in flowers. (The website of the Persian BBC released an account of the events of 1988 four years ago.)

I always tried to go to Khavaran the last Friday of the year when I was in Iran (and, in the past two, three years, whenever I visit Iran.) Nobody bothered us (of course, back then, there had not been a coup d’état.) The brothers [i.e., Basijis] in their outlandish appearances were present. But they would stand aside and they would not bother anyone. One time, when I was wearing a beard, everyone gave me stares for half an hour because they thought I was a brother [Basiji] too. I had to go and constantly greet people I knew, so that everyone would know I am one of them.

[Besides the last Friday of the years] there is another day when a large population shows up and that is the Friday of the last week of Mordad (July-August) or the first week of Shahrivar (August-September). Because, from the available accounts, the beginning of the executions was in the first week of Shahrivar [last week of August]. For instance, this year, they’ve planned to go to Khavaran tomorrow, on the sixth of Shahrivar, and some have released a pamphlet and have asked people to accompany them at the memorial.

Some of these dear families hold ceremonies in memory of their dead in their homes every year. Of course they don’t know the exact date of their death, but they make an approximation, according to the available evidence. For example, one of our acquaintances holds his service in the first week of Aban [I don’t know a single Iranian family that has not lost a close or distant relative in the executions.] Some of their friends and famiiy, and the families of other victims attend. Sometimes, up to 100 people attend. There too they sing songs and read poetry, and if there is a letter left by the deceased, they read it out loud. Things of this sort.

Of course, these are amongst the bravest of the families. The intelligence ministry does not leave them alone and constantly calls for them to go to the notorious edareyeh peygiri [translates to Follow-up Office, not sure what that is.] This happens especially during their annual ceremony. Mansooreh Behkish, who is one of the people who has lost a loved one, writes of her constant summons to this office here.

This turned out to be a long post. In another, I will write about the effects of recent events on these families and their relationship with society.

*  *  *
Deadly Fatwa: Iran’s 1988 Massacre
Press Release / August 27, 2009
Iran Human Rights Documentation Center Releases Report on:
Iran’s 1988 Massacre of Thousands of Political Prisoners

New Haven, Connecticut – The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) today released a report documenting and analyzing the Iranian government’s massacre of political prisoners during the summer of 1988. Much of the material presented in the report, Deadly Fatwa: Iran’s 1988 Massacre, is the result of interviews conducted by IHRDC with survivors and family members of victims.

In late July 1988, pursuant to a fatwa issued by then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian government began systematically interrogating, torturing and summarily executing thousands of political prisoners. The interrogations of prisoners who supported leftist parties began twenty-one years ago today. Although the exact number of victims is not known, thousands of prisoners were tortured and executed over the course of only a few months.

The victims included prisoners who had served their sentences but had refused to recant their political beliefs, prisoners who were serving sentences of imprisonment, people who had been detained for lengthy periods but had not been convicted, and former prisoners who were rearrested. Many families were never informed about the executions and many of the victims were buried in unmarked mass graves. Families who received the remains of their loved ones were not allowed to hold funeral services and, to this day, are forbidden from mourning their loss. The government recently bulldozed a mass grave site at Khavaran Cemetery in Tehran.

The Iranian government has never identified those who were secretly executed and tortured, and has never issued an explanation for this crime. However, many of the men who were responsible for the massacre continue to hold positions of power in the Iranian government.

Deadly Fatwa: Iran’s 1988 Massacre, is available in English on IHRDC’s website A Persian translation of the report will be available this fall.

IHRDC is a nonprofit organization based in New Haven, Connecticut that was founded in 2004 by a group of human rights scholars, activists, and historians. Its staff of human rights lawyers and researchers produce comprehensive and detailed reports on the human rights situation in Iran since the 1979 revolution. The Center’s goal is to encourage an informed dialogue among scholars and the general public in both Iran and abroad. The human rights reports and a database of documents relating to human rights in Iran are available to the public for research and educational purposes on the Center’s website.

Download the complete report here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Critique of Mousavi's Green Organization

Translation of the lead article from Khiaban newspaper (No. 39); this is a critique of the Organization of the Green Path of Hope, Mousavi's green organization, whose launch was announced August 15, 2009. 

(You can see pdf uploads of Khiaban newspaper here.)

Political gamesmanship with a burned lamp?
(On the Organization of The Green Path of Hope)
By Amir K.
Khiaban #39 / Saturday, August 22, 2009

The decision to found the Organization of the Green Path of Hope was announced [August 15, 2009], accompanied with a wave of hoopla and media hype on the part of the reformists and political forces close to them. An organization purported to be neither a political party, nor a political front, but something beyond those and designed alongside the rich and extensive movement of the people. Living in Iran, however, has taught us all to look behind the stated claims, and through the cracks and seems of the purported claims to look for the actual truth.

What is the Organization of the Green Path of Hope? As has been stated so far, this organization is composed of a small central committee, consisting of four or five people, including Moussavi, Karroubi and Khatami. A larger consultative committee will be formed, composed of political and social experts and analysts; and its body has been stated as being the spontaneously created committees and people's innovations, whose formation is said to be based on social networking and will benefit from a high level of autonomy.

In this very initial proposal, the similarities between this organization's basic organs and any other political party's are obvious. It has a central committee, composed of a number of well known political figures, and a political bureau composed of political and social thinkers/analysts. For years now, the reformists have been critiquing political party building as something belonging to the past (era of the presence of communism in society), and have introduced different forms of campaigning and social networking as the democratic vessels suitable for the new age of globalization. Of course, we have to be fair and point to some of the differences between Organization of the Green Path of Hope and a contemporary understanding of a political party. In a modern political party, all the party organs are elected and the highest political organ is the party congress. The central committee and the political bureau are elected by the party congress, and during the time between two congresses, they lead the party with the aid of other party organs.

However, the reformists, the liberals and phony democrats, who for years now have been critiquing democratic centralism in leftist parties, and despite their waxing philosophical about, "You yourself are the leaders; you yourself are the media," and despite providing various arguments based on social networks, lack of central decision making, reliance on people's innovations and other such oratory -- these same people are now founding an organization, in which the masses of the organization have no say in the choosing of the members of its leadership and its central organs.

The workings of this organization are very clear, and the blindness of some political forces regarding this is astounding. The behavioral model of the Organization of the Green Path of Hope is this: the members of the central committee are political figures, who are the symbols/personification and actualization of the organization, and the victory of the organization translates into their coming to power. Standing beside these individuals is the consultative committee or the political bureau or, if we want to talk in more contemporary phrases, the main think-tank of the organization, chosen and invited for cooperation by a few in the leadership. In his interview, [editor-in-chief of the pro-Moussavi newspaper Kalameh, and senior aid to Moussavi, Alireza] Beheshti, has said clearly that the members of the consultative committee will be invited to this committee. This group is responsible for proposing solutions and organizational tactics.

On a lower organizational level, we come to committees connected to the high level ones, formed in different social spheres where they carry out their activities. At the depths of the pyramid of the green organization, we come to those who don't have a direct connection to the organization, but have been formed spontaneously and innovatively by the people, and intend to share their resources and capabilities with the entire society. The connection between the leadership and this bottom layer is not organizational but media-based, and depends on possibilities created by new capabilities that modern media and information technologies, especially the Internet, have brought about. It is this part of the organization that is the subject of a lot of advertising and, through whose aggrandizement and highlighting, attempts are made to equate the organization with the movement. It is said that, in order to become a member of this organization, no membership forms need to be filled. Anybody can consider him/herself a member of the organization and commence their activities. Behind this people-oriented facade, however, we must look at a few unpleasant points.

Official membership in this or any organization in Iran bears a cost. Even today and under conditions where the members of the central committee are free, it is likely that any lower ranked member of the organization can be arrested, and charged with a thousand made-up 'crimes' by the regime, subjected to torture and execution. And that, with a central committee that, when confronted with murder, torture and imprisonment [and rape] of the movement's activists, merely calls for legally pursuing the matter through the courts of this very system. Now imagine a time when the regime starts to arrest the members of the central committee of this organization, the very people who have been part of this regime for thirty years; in that case, what do you think the regime will do to some unknown youth who is a member of the organization but has not a thread of a connection to this regime in any way form or shape?

As a result of such potential dangers, the masses of the people will not be rushing to become members of an organization that is legal, and would consequently even hand a print-out of members' names over to the government prosecutors if they ask for them, to prove the organization's good intentions to the court. On the other hand, the organization and its leaders are not interested in getting involved with the problems of defending their members' rights of political activity. Hence the need for the appearance of the phrase, 'autonomous social networks'. In this way, they circumvent the problem of 'right of political activity'. Now, anybody can consider him/herself a member of the organization, without there being any document that can be turned into 'evidence'. Hence, the possibility for absorbing large numbers of people and the youth.

Due to the lack of official membership of the masses of people within the organization, there will also be no need for organizational responsibility and accountability by the leadership to the rank and file, the members. Consequently, the same group that decided the central committee and invited the political bureau members for cooperation can assume the control of the organization forever and in any form it wishes, since it has never been elected in any party congress and is not answerable to any such congress either.

(Isn't it truly amazing that some are mesmerized by this proposal for a green organization yet consider themselves democrats and until now have subjected to endless criticism all existing Iranian parties and organizations till now, calling them Stalinist, though many of which were based on much more progressive and internally coherent mechanisms than this green organization.)

But it is possible for some to say: All that true. But, nobody's forcing those innovative people into which activity to engage in. Every network acts independently, and there is no oversight or control. Who can force any group or individual who's not an official member of the organization to do any kind of activity?

Yes, you are right. But, let's move a bit farther out so that we get a wider point of view, so that we can see a bigger segment of the process. The consultative committee determines the general lines and solutions, which, in the lower committees -- in the spheres of women, the youth, universities, sportspeople, etc. -- are combined with the considerations of those specific committees and then advertised and propagated. That large autonomous social network is active in units that have limited capabilities. Any innovative undertaking by this large social network that goes along or strengthens the general line of the organization will meet with approval and gets relayed and reflected. Innovations that run contrary, do not get relayed and get isolated. Through this mechanism, the organization benefits from people's help, without needing to follow up on people's demands, and without any differing or discordant paths finding a foothold in the organization.

If you are familiar with the website Balatarin, it is a revealing example of the way such a network functions. On the one hand, everybody is allowed to participate in it and to express her/himself. However, if your expressions don't go along with that of the majority of the network participants, with lots of negatives you find yourself falling farther away from the readers' eyes, and those with expressions along the network's majority line get lots of positive credits and find their writings right up front. The social networks under consideration by the reformists work in exactly the same way. By forming organizational committees in different spheres, this organization begins engaging in popular politics with an advantage. The political activists of this supposedly autonomous network, on the one hand are in contact with the leadership and the consultative committee and, on the other, with the mass media. As a result, any autonomous member in this network can only be effective if, and only in so far as, she/he spreads the political line determined up above. If anybody sings a different tune, he/she remains in the network, but will be put on mute.

Even though the current era calls for actions, the reformists are still fond of playing with phrases. The Participation 'Front', Green 'Path' of Hope. They are desperately trying to seem like an umbrella. Alas, the storm leaves no umbrellas standing.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Iran: Raped Minor Exposes Prison Brutality

From Times Online.

Iranian boy who defied Tehran hardliners tells of prison rape ordeal
by Homa Homayoun  
The Times; August 22,2009

The 15-year-old boy sits weeping in a safehouse in central Iran, broken in body and spirit. Reza will not go outside — he is terrified of being left alone. He says he wants to end his life and it is not hard to understand why: for daring to wear the green wristband of Iran’s opposition he was locked up for 20 days, beaten, raped repeatedly and subjected to the Abu Ghraib-style sexual humiliations and abuse for which the Iranian regime denounced the United States.

“My life is over. I don’t think I can ever recover,” he said, as he recounted his experiences to The Times — on condition that his identity not be revealed. A doctor who is treating him, at great risk to herself, confirmed that he is suicidal, and bears the appalling injuries consistent with his story. The family is desperate, and is exploring ways of fleeing Iran.

Reza is living proof of the charges levelled by Mehdi Karoubi, one of the opposition’s leaders, that prison officials are systematically raping both male and female detainees to break their wills. The regime has accused Mr Karoubi of helping Iran’s enemies by spreading lies and has threatened to arrest him.

The boy’s treatment also shows just how far a regime that claims to champion Islamic values is prepared to go to suppress millions of its own citizens who claim that President Ahmadinejad’s re-election was rigged.

Reza’s ordeal began in mid-July when he was arrested with about 40 other teenagers during an opposition demonstration in a large provincial city. Most were too young even to have voted. They were taken to what he believes was a Basiji militia base where they were blindfolded, stripped to their underwear, whipped with cables and then locked in a steel shipping container. That first night Reza was singled out by three men in plain clothes who had masqueraded as prisoners. As the other boys watched, they pushed him to the ground. One held his head down, another sat on his back and the third urinated on him before raping him.

“They were telling us they were doing this for God, and who did we think we were that we could demonstrate,” Reza said. The men told the other boys they would receive the same treatment if they did not co-operate when interrogated the next day.

Reza was then taken outside, tied to a metal pole and left there all night. The next morning one of the men returned. He asked whether Reza had learnt his lesson. “I was angry. I spat in his face and began cursing him. He elbowed me in the face a couple of times and slapped me.” Twenty minutes later, he says, the man returned with a bag full of excrement, shoved it in Reza’s face and threatened to make him eat it.

Reza was later taken to an interrogation room where he told his questioner he had been raped. “I made a mistake. He sounded kind, but my eyes were blindfolded. He said he would go look into it and I was hopeful,” Reza said.

Instead, the interrogator ordered Reza to be tied up and raped him again, saying: “This time I’ll do it, so you’ll learn not to tell these tales anywhere else. You deserve what’s coming to you. You guys should be raped until you die.”

Friday, August 21, 2009

Expose the Rapes in Iran's Prisons

This is from Revolutionary Road (slightly edited). 

Women campaign against rape and torture in the Islamic Republic's prisons!

According to the reports which have already been published from the Islamic Republic's prisons, demonstrators arrested in the recent uprising by people demanding their rights, particularly those kept in Kahrizak, have been raped in group and banes and guards have put them under the worst medieval tortures. Many of detainees, whether female or male, have died in rape rooms because of repeated and group rapes and due to rupture of uterus or rectum and intestinal bleeding.

Now Islamic Republic denies rape in its prisons, due to the fear of facing Iranian people and public opinions in Western countries. Broadcasting news of rape and torture of the recent detainees in Iran and across the world has created a wave of disgust and hatred against the Islamic regime. Exposing and fighting against rape and torture in prisons are important tasks of the freedom demanding movement of Iranian people in this struggle.

In the Islamic Republic regime, many women in prisons have been raped and murdered so far and those who have survived, are now buckling under severe physical and psychological damages due to rape and torture. Zahra Kazemi, Zahra Bani Yaghoub, Azar Al Cana'an, Roya Toloui are some of these people. But also young boys and adolescents in prisons have been raped by Islamic regime of Iran. Students who were arrested, accused of protesting, have been raped in prisons by a person(s) or by objects such as bottles.

We want to condemn these crimes. We have to prevent these kinds of disasters by widespread protests. In this revolutionary situation some things have to be done so that victims of these medieval tortures can claim their rights and reveal these crimes. We publish the stories and cases of this terrible crime and send all these cases to organizations, legal authorities and international committees against torture. We do not allow this crime in Iran to be forgotten like what happened in Yugoslavia, Vietnam, Bangladesh or Japan through the passing of the time, nor by allowing speaking about it becoming a taboo.

The immediate requests of our campaign are as follows:

1. We want condemnation of torture and rape by the Islamic Republic regime as a crime against humanity.

2. We demand agents and people in charge of rape and torture and murder and violence in the prisons of the Islamic Republic in recent events and in thirty years of this government's life to be put on trial.

3. We demand all the torturers, interrogators and rapists in Islamic Republic's prisons to be identified.

4. We want freedom for all political prisoners and the closing down of all known and secret prisons and detention centers.

5. We want all the tortured and raped prisoners to be treated and get healed, and we demand the best conditions and welfare and health facilities to be created for these loved ones, so they can get the best treatment to recuperate from the physical and psychological effects of violence.

6. We want cancellation of executions, stoning and abolition of the Islamic Republic's constitution, as well as the punishments and penalties which are contained in it.

7. We want the right to life to be recognized and a person's mental and physical conditions to be safe from any kind of harassment.

8. We want a kind of criminal justice/legal system that counts the crimes of rape and infringement on human's spirit and body, violence against children and women and all human beings much more heavily than the crime of infringement on estate and property rights and their punishments and penalties.

Join our campaign. This campaign belongs to all freedom-demanding people regardless of borders and sexually imposed discrimination. Help us to expose and follow up on these recent crimes. We will be informing people in the next public declaration about holding demonstrations, conferences and campaign actions by announcing the dates and places.

15 August 2009 , 24 Mordad 1388

Tel: 004917680027094
Email Address:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Field, Place, Trajectory

This is a translation of another analytical article by Milad S., a regular contributor to the Khiaban newspaper. This article was first published in Khiaban #36 (August 11, 2009). Thanks to the sender! 

Field, Place, Trajectory
By Milad S.
Khiaban No. 36 / Tuesday, August 11, 2009

1. September

We are witnessing a gradual transformation and redirecting of the slogans. It took less than two months for the people to move from the annulment of the elections to the collective realization that the real nature and the legal framework of this republic are the real obstacles in the way of the movement. The more elaborate forms of mass meetings, organization of thousands of small cells, the increase in capabilities for printing and distributing nightly fliers and news bulletins -- these are all indicative of a widened field for movement. With the joining in of different regions, the movement is also redefined at each stage: the widening of the local protests against Naziabad, 17th of Shahrivar (southern neighborhood of Tehran with a dominantly poor population), is an example of the spreading of the struggle from neighborhood to neighborhood.

Alongside the evolving field of struggle and the spreading of movement from one neighborhood, one place to another, the trajectory and the possible horizons of this movement too undergo changes. The widening of the popular protests is not merely quantitative, just as the rising number of organized groups or the increased facility in printing and distributing two-page night fliers are not merely an improved dissemination of the news. The slogans and the forms of dissent as well as the demands being raised can encompass yet larger segments of the material social reality. This is a movement in which we can already see the capability for the claims, and the inevitability of returning to the basic demands, of the 1978-79 revolution. The experience of the period of 1977-81 means understanding solidarity as organized popular demands. Along this trajectory, the process of popular self-organization at any given place, the communists walk alongside the people.

If the people gradually reach the conclusion that the corrupt police patrols are not protectors of the people but aggressors against their lives and livelihoods, the worst kind of hoodlums, and if they realize from their own practical experience that self-management over their local affairs is a better guarantee for more security, peace and human life; then this practical realization and the end of the humiliation, will mean the practical discovery of a common cause. The experience of the winter of 1357 (late 1978- early 1979), the spectacular fall of criminality, the practical distribution of needed goods in different neighborhoods, particularly in working class and southern districts of cities, all are experiences still remembered today due not only to the mass mobilization of the people but especially due to people's foresight in forming neighborhood committees. The communists stand alongside the people so that this time around nobody shall hijack these committees in the name of ideology or for any particular economic interests.

2. Communists

"Communists" means the collective practice of all those working for connecting the mass struggle for particular and localized demands, with social justice as their horizon, and with a belief in the possibility of self-management/control in places of work and living. Based on these principles communists expend effort in organizing the laboring forces and the people. Acting among the people, in small groups, means multiplying the communist ideals. I believe that this definition helps best in overcoming many obstacles. Communism is an old ideal. In this land of Iran, those in the Mazdaki insurrection (c. 496 AD) were among the forerunners of this ideal. This ideal is based on a single thought: By sharing the collectively produced wealth, by participation of all in the running of society, we will achieve social justice, legal and real equality, and the possibility of growth and freedom for each individual, regardless of color, creed or religion.

This old ideal, with the dawn of capitalism and the development of culture and sciences, nowadays is not only a possible vantage point, but a necessary way out of the existing misery. Our world does not have much forte left for speculative total destruction and private benefit of a few. It is enough to look at the torched earth of Africa, abandoned by Capital, or to look at the destroyed environments in Iran or all over the world. This ideal, today more than ever, is attainable; it is enough to just see that humanity today has achieved levels of science and innovation unparalleled in human history. Production and intellect are intimately connected. Even for farming a plot of land, you need at least some years of schooling. Such were inconceivable only two hundred years ago. The fact that capitalism had a progressive role in this development is not disputed, at least not by communists who have read Marx. The point, though, is that this progressive function is relative and historical, not eternal. And the last two hundred years have shown clearly that Capital's governing logic is today not only insufficient and unfeasible, but is in fact a detriment to both creativity and people's wellbeing. Shantytowns and slums, governance by corruption, torture camps such as Kahrizak and Aslavié industrial complex (a remote petro-industrial complex, infamous for its inhuman working conditions_ trans. note), the Basiji's, and the last thirty years of Iranian history, all attest to this.

Furthermore, I think that the specific form for struggle should be a function of the ideal. Political parties were one of the basic forms in the struggles during the 20th century. Political party formation in its widest social sense, not only in Iran but in the majority of places in the world, was synonymous to communists’ commitment. This, however, in my opinion, does not necessarily mean that this form is extra-historical. Based on historical conditions, and the dominant social relations, including security considerations, we must responsibly ask: Is this form efficient today, does it contribute to multiplication and dissemination of the communist ideal and to organization of the people?

3. Analysis for doing what?

I think that the criteria for evaluating any concept, be it grand or small, about the world, the era or Iran, is the conjectural conclusions of the communists' efforts and organizing experience; otherwise, abstract thinking will waste your labor, and academism will have us happily busy with rearranging and recomposing successive drafts. Understanding capital's mechanisms and dynamics, understanding the present antagonisms and the current movement's place within the world and the region, all these must be discussions and arguments that, just like tools of labor, aim at societal intervention. So, perhaps the most appropriate thing to do is to ask questions whose meaningful absence is an obstacle in the path of the new generation of communists. 

Will the mercantilist capitalists, those in the House of Trade [Otaaqh-e Baazargaani] and Merchants' Associations [Hey'ate Mo'talefe], still exist if this state falls, or will they perish? Why will they perish? If the state were their representative and not the other way around, why would their existence be dependent on that state? Why is it that for the last thirty years, except for the war years, we have faced a constant and increasing growth of the service sector, educational sector, and financial capital? What is the exact nature of the foundations [bonyaad's_ government run, formally 'private' corporations run crony-capitalist style _ trans. note] and the Revolutionary Guards? Why is it that the Iranian banking system can be bankrupt, according to the official sources of the regime itself, yet some capitalists, whom some friends have generously given the honorary label of bourgeoisie, exist? Why didn’t they react? Is it because it is still a weakling of a class, in transition? If that is the case, then where does all this huge volume of liquidity in circulation come from, where does it become capital, and where does it go; where is the circulation of capital?

The experiential givens and tangible facts, which fit our lived experiences and are observable in the available data, must be relevant for our analyses. Why have some friends fallen so in love with "Iran's transition from something to something," or with "Iran's capitalist malformation"? Malformation can only mean that there is a prototype somewhere else. I think one problem is the frequently misunderstood phrase, 'a capitalist society'. Nowhere on earth is the society limited to capitalism, nor is capitalism a laboratory experimental phenomenon. Capital has its own logic, which is fundamentally alien to human considerations. It is the closed circuit of production, distribution and accumulation: neither humans nor their environment find any place in its calculations, unless they are factors for increase or stabilization of the rate of profit. The civil legal codes of a European society (if this is what the notion of malformed Iranian capitalism refers to) is not the exact copy of capital's logic, but the outcome of a long struggle between capital and the laboring forces, affecting the legal institutions of those societies.

Also, analysis must not be merely a 'know-it-all' type of expression. The objective is to better understand how Ahmadinejads can be reproduced in the heart of this society, and how these creatures and the state apparatus is connected to the world capitalist system. And from those two questions, firstly to arrive at conclusions that make it impossible for a system of oppression to exist, and secondly to designate the material conditions of possibility for communism.

In a forthcoming writing, I will return to these questions. In the current situation, I believe that the most important principle must be the readiness, with open eyes, to accompany the movement and to render blunt and ineffective the dreadful and oppressive violence. Wherever the machinery of oppression thinks they have driven us back, we have just avoided the range of their bullets, in order to set up new spaces in our next steps. The cooperation of the street and work place, the neighborhoods and places of work will change the directions taken by the movement. The changes of direction, in order to become stable forms of self-management, will need the knowledge and the effort of those who, in practice, believe in freedom and people's equality, regardless of color or creed.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Fourth Corner of the Revolution Square

This is a translation of an analytical article by an activist/writer, , Milad S., whose work is regularly published by the newspaper Khiaban; it is a critique of three prevailing and incomplete interpretations of what is happening in Iran, and presents a fourth view. 

Many comradely thanks and a big salute to the sender of the translation!

The Fourth Corner of the Revolution Square
By Milad S. 
Khiaban #27 / July 20, 2009

Many have woken up by the warm gunpowder on the streets. The people's movement accelerates, casts its skin and pave its path. At the same time, at three corners of the Revolution Square in Tehran, old ideas comment on the movement. 

1. Some, not few in numbers, declare, "See! This is the twittering of the Green Reform on the internet and the victory of the Middle class! See! This is the solution to the suffering of all, something like Embrahim Nabavi (a satirist, known for his anticommunism _ trans. note).” They say: This is the rare presence of a new generation that hates the Revolution: Armed with Reason and caring for Capital and with genuine respect for public and private property, they have started their movement. Guided by TV broadcasting from faraway places, they carry on a peaceful struggle. These people don't trespass the limits of the Islamic Republic because deep inside they are liberal Muslims, and being liberal means being contemporary, and contemporaneity is something like what in Persian we call the dialogue between civilizations plus multicultural music styles.

They also say that the young generation doesn't know anything about 79. They say that our middle class has generated a youth that reads Kant's Perpetual Peace, is tolerant and re-interprets Political Islam. This generation has supposedly found the precious essence of life: careless about social issues, in love with parliamentarian democracy, and since this is an Iranian brand of love, it knows no limits; even the Council of Guardians (the institution that decides who is supposed to run for elections and monitors the elections, well-known for their support for Ahmadinejad) is the incarnation of Locke's ideas. They say that this youth just wants to be free like all other youngsters that we have seen in American TV series. They want a normal life in this world order and their ultimate goal is to found Islamic start-ups.

But the people on the streets, many of them seem to have attacked the symbols and limits of the Holy Republic. It doesn't look like they care much about World Bank and Council of Guardians. Sometimes, their faces and dress do not look like whatever is imagined to be the Middle Class. Their sneakers do not wear a known label.

If you pay attention, then you realize that Moussavi's economic program didn't have much to do with world market guidelines. It seemed, for whatever reason, to claim a return to the "Pure Islam" of the first year of the revolution. At any rate, there was a significant difference between that program and those who believe economy is a science and neoliberalism a scientific proposition.

It should be said that this ideological superimposition upon reality does not fit the demands of today's youth. They suffer from unemployment, are fed up with university entrance tests, with being humiliated by their foremen, fed up with TV ads, unemployment, addiction and Islamic Moral patrols. It should be said that they don't any longer stand for the impossibility of making their voices heard.

And above all, they have found a language for thinking in this popular solidarity that is books and cities away from those half-serious, half-journalistic, half ironic analyses. If you listen carefully, you will hear the echo of the 1979 slogans. These people, remember, even though all schoolbooks are filled with the upside down story of what happened between 1976 and 81, if you listen carefully, you will hear the sound of their steps on the brink of a conclusion: To turn the order upside down has a clear prospect.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Khiaban No. 33: General Strike or Tactical Strikes?

Translation of the lead article from the newspaper Khiaban, #33. Thanks to the sender! 

General Strike or Tactical Strikes?
By Amir K.
Khiaban # 33 / Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Iranian people's recent leap against a criminal minority in power had a strange uniqueness. Which is that, as opposed to the usual trend of opposition and revolutionary movements, which start out as a series of small and scattered protests that end in large protests, transforming the social and political structures, the Iranian movement began with large protests. People, who were astounded by the announced election results and by the obviousness of the fraud, were only waiting for a call to take to the streets. Although the call for protests on June 15 was officially rescinded, nobody could stop the millions of citizens from pouring onto the streets to show Ahmadinejad and Khamenei who the specks of dust were, and to show whether the 'few' described the people or the rulers.

From that day on, large-scale demonstrations were replaced by small and scattered protests for two main reasons. The first reason is that people's peaceful demonstrations were countered by the regime's bullets, and in effect martial law was established by the regime's death squads in Tehran and other cities. The second reason was Mousavi's refusal to call the people to the streets. Mousavi and his colleagues preferred to keep the millions-strong presence of the people on the streets to merely a shadow of it, and, by resorting to threatening this monster that had escaped the bottle, convince the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad gang to return the rules of the game to the situation prior to June 12. Since the network of people's organizing cells and committees fighting the coup are still growing and are not able to organize coordinated, widespread demonstrations, large demonstrations have given way to a series of small protests, which as a result of their continuation and increased organization will again display their evolution to large demonstrations during the days that this regime of oppression and terror will be overthrown.

However, from the very first days of the people's confrontation with forces armed to the teeth, the need was felt for the second arm of the people's movement; meaning, a general strike. Refusing to work and bringing to a half the wheels of production is the most important tool and foundation from which people can enforce their power against a criminal minority in power. All the wealth that this money-hoarding criminal bunch has gained and so generously splurges on oppressing the citizens has been procured from the collective social wealth, which, due to the present workings of the system, could be expropriated, away from the overseeing eyes of the people. The rulers are trying to show that they are the basis and foundation of society, and that people are mere beggars utterly dependent on them. But, in reality, it is the people who produce and reproduce the social existence, and the ruling gang an appendage to a lively and dynamic society, an appendage that feeds leechlike on the society. However, just as the large, millions-strong demonstrations showed the system the level of regime's 'popularity', a general strike will show the system and every individual in the society where the source of all  wealth  and social livelihood lies.

Therefore, the need for a general strike to help the movement, which is confronting terror in the streets with nothing in hand, quickly took shape in the society's collective mind. Especially given that the movement had just experienced huge demonstrations and imagined the start of strikes as big strikes.

But a general strike did not take shape. At least, not until now. This is because the speedy shaping of the [general strike] idea had not considered some of the preparatory work needed for a general strike, and had imagined the formation of a general strike as taking a similar path as the huge demonstrations of June 15. But, a general strike does not take shape with the call of a political leader, even if that leader is popular, or else the current of events has put them at the leadership of the movement. A general strike needs nationwide unions of workers and employees in different productive/industrial and service sectors of society. But, thirty years of constant repression of workers and union activists, the lack of possibility of forming independent unions at places of work, and such similar considerations, has minimized the realistic possibilities for organizing a general strike in the country.

Another problem is the lack of clarity of goals and demands of a general strike. After the millions-strong show of force in the streets by the people -- whose demands and needs go far deeper than those of the reformist leaders, who at this moment have the most means of communicating with the people (compared to political activists outside the regime) -- the reformist leaders are incapable of determining the goals of a move such as a general strike. The goal of organizing another election no longer has the reach it had before the start of the mass killings. At this moment, the people have come to see the importance of the role of the supreme leader [valiye faqih] and the legal structures of the Islamic Republic in oppressing political and social freedoms in the Iranian society. They want to see the murderers of people to be brought to justice, and this means specifically Khamenei and the leaders of the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij. But these goals are well beyond the goals of the reformists, who do not want any deep fissure developing in the political structures in Iran. As a result, the reformists are evading expressing any concrete goals. They are unwilling to voice their minimalist demands, which would cause them the loss of people's support and in turn to lose their only weapon in confronting the coup organizers. Therefore, the crucial demand for organizing the people around a general strike has remained blurred and unexpressed.

But the people know that, in order to defeat the coup and for re-appropriating the society from coup-generating laws, they also need their arm of strikers.

A phase will be reached when people, in the course of their long street struggle, will find a level of local and group organizations that will daily enable them to coordinate and organize more widespread street actions; a network which in a not-distant future will be able to organize the final demonstrations. At that time, as a result of the evolution of tactical strikes a general strike too will take shape, and it can be reliant on a nationwide organization that will arise out of the unions/organizations that develop in the course of these tactical strikes. As a result of tactical strikes, people's demands too will find a clearer, more tangible shape.

We can point to different spheres. For example, in the area of the press and the media, the current censorship dominating all publications has reached a suffocating level. A censorship much like that of the Shah's during the martial law period. The reaction of those journalists, media workers and staff [during Shah's marital law], in their strike with the goal of abolishing censorship of media, was able to have an important effect in the society, and strengthened powerfully the demand for freedom of the press in the people's movement. Or, take the sphere of lawyers. The new Judiciary memorandum, which completely eliminates the independence of the lawyers' guild, is a tangible and real problem for all the lawyers, and after much protest, Shahroudi [head of Judiciary] suspended the new rules for six months. A general sin-in/demonstration aiming to abolish the new rules completely can maintain the lawyers' guild's independence, and can initiate discussions for the complete independence of the entire judicial system.

The demands of productive/industrial workers for just compensation, which today are stifled on a wide scale by the regime, can not only facilitate the task of organizing the workers, but in a highlighted fashion can turn the right to a dignified life and the abolishing of class discrimination into a general demand of the society.

The ability to organize and consolidate popular organizations will grow and take flight in these very compressed days that will determine much. People's demands and goals will become clear and visible in the very course of their struggle: in the public and collective discussions and arguments over the general problems of society on the one hand, and the daily problems and needs specific to places of work, on the other. A general strike, much like a collective dream, is beautiful and will break the back of this coup d'etat. The current system wants us to put aside our dreams, and to continue a real, excruciating life under a fascistic [form of] Islam. But, these days, we have seen the power of dreams with our own eyes.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

How to Proceed Forward?

This translation of an analytical article from the newspaper Khiaban, #18, came in the mail. The article presents a perspective that needs serious consideration by socialist forces. Whether we agree totally, mostly or partially, the perspective is well worth reflecting on. Thanks to the sender!

Thinking of Action 
By Milad S. (Khiaban #18 / July 8, 2009)

The purpose of this note is to point out some of the obstacles to the expansion of the Iranian communists' activities.

1. For taking further and well-thought steps, we have to discard a number of erroneous notions. The first misconception is to perceive contemporary Iran as a 'post-revolutionary' society. Iran is not in a post-revolutionary situation, in which another revolution is necessary. The current movement is a new sequence of the revolutionary process that started in 1978. The internal conflicts of the ruling factions, the machinery of oppression and the forms that people's struggle take, their slogans and demands, all these are parts of a historical period that started by the Iranian Revolution in 1978-79. We should perceive the present popular movement in such a broader context, and discard any prevalent sort of sociological analysis, even those that in appearance seem class-based. We will explain this.

This means that the movement that started on June 15 [2009] is a continuation of the people's struggle in answering questions, which they themselves had posed in the society through the overthrow of Shah's regime: How can we establish freedom, independence and a people's republic in Iran? How can we run the society based on people's sovereignty, and without relying on any of the pre-capitalistic institutions, without the royal court and its allies? The first answer, the Islamic Republic, has failed that test. It was not the Iranian revolution that failed the test; such a statement is meaningless, those political alternatives pertaining to the first sequence however failed. The revolution itself is still young.

This is not to say that the course of the events, forms of the struggle and the behavior of the forces in this sequence are a repetition of what happened between 1977 and 1980. Quite the contrary, this movement is different in form and content, and its enemy is not the classic dictatorship of the Shah, but an Islamic regime, which emerged from the same revolutionary process and claims to have inherited the demand for republicanism, freedom and the independence of the Iranian people (this is a reference to the emblematic tripartite central slogan during winter 1978-79_ trans. note).

In the historical events of June 15, this claim was unambiguously taken back from the ruling regime. When Mousavi and the Participation Front [jebhey-e mosharekat] end up in opposition to the main symbol of the Islamic Republic, i.e., velayat-e faqih [rule of religious jurists], and in effect stand alongside the people (not just in words, but in its social objectivity), this is indicative of the fact that the Islamic Republic separated its path from that of the revolution, which amounts to the political suicide of the regime. From this point on, the 1979 revolution will anew seek its own identity and fate, is no longer an Islamic revolution as this regime called it; what it is will be determined by this very movement in its references to that revolutionary memory. The easiest example is the 'Allah-o Akbar' slogan. The slogan was used first time during the uprising in 1978-1979. Today, it is employed against the regime that once had transformed that symbol of protest to an ideological alibi for establishing political Islam. By employing the same phrase, people indicate the radical level of their demand that goes beyond the phrase. People are employing the religious Arabic wording 'Allah-o Akbar' as a metaphor for something else in Persian: Death to the dictator. Here the content goes beyond the phrase. If we don't see this difference, we will misunderstand people's slogans and, worst of all, we will move away from the people and leave the initiative to others. Therefore, in the first instance, any radical political force in Iran must synchronize its behavior, position and outlook with the calendar and sequences of the Iranian Revolution.