Saturday, October 31, 2009

Who's Afraid of Cyrus the Great?

Found this interesting piece on homylafayette Iran News.

The piece is about the efforts of the Iranian regime to block people from entering the tomb of Cyrus the Great (near Shiraz, in southern Iran), and stop them from celebrating the Cyrus the Great Day, on Thursday, October 29.

Below is the video clip that homylafayette has with the post.

Regime fears patriotism: Cyrus tomb blocked as hundreds try to celebrate 'father of human rights'

Police blocked cars on their way to Pasargadae, the site of Cyrus the Great's tomb, and chased away hundreds who had convened at the complex in central Iran to celebrate Cyrus the Great Day on Thursday, according to opposition news sources.

October 29, designated as International Cyrus the Great Day, is the date the founder of the Persian Empire entered Babylon in 340 BC. His proclamation that day was inscribed on the Cyrus Cylinder, considered by some to be the world's first human rights charter.

Iranians from across the country were driving towards Persepolis and Pasargadae when their automobiles were blocked and turned around by the police on Thursday, according to Mardomak. The hundreds who had managed to make it to the mausoleum complex were chased away by security forces or blocked on the road going up to the tomb.

To read the complete post, visit homylafayette's great blog.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Target Russia

"And that's how you crush your opponents!"

Interesting commentary found on

Target Russia
The end of "Death to America"?
by R Tousi / 28-Oct-2009

"The Russians are microwaving our brains." The comment of my corner-shopkeeper in Tehran reflects a widely-held view about the state's use of powerful jamming signals to block foreign media. The blocking of key communication links has played a big part in the violent crackdown that followed Iran's election of 12 June 2009. The possible health risks of these newly installed devices have even been raised inside Iran's majlis (parliament); Zohreh Elahian, a member of the national-security and foreign-policy committee, responded to reporters' questions about a possible increase in miscarriages by promising that the figures would be examined.

The fact that the state's jamming devices are made in Russia adds a nationalist tinge to popular suspicions, and explains my shopkeeper's pithy remark. Our 70-something neighbour goes further: she believes that the "Russian waves" will soon kill her off, and blames them too for the demise of the capital's sparrows (whose suffocation is rather the work of Tehran's smog over the years).

It's hard to say when and how such the "Russian" twist to this story began. Yet suddenly it feels as if the conspiracy tales that are such a familiar part of Iranian life end with the Russians - not, this time, the base Americans or wily British - as the main culprits.

The target
Iran has over the centuries had at best an uneasy relationship with its great neighbour to the north. The role of imperial Russia (helped by always-nefarious Britain) in crushing the hopes of democracy raised by the tumultuous constitutional revolution of 1906-09 is burned into national memory. The order of the Russian commander Vladimir Liakhov to shell the majlis did more than kill a number of prominent MPs and writers; it created wounds that Iranians feel can still be scratched a century later.

In the west, the equivalent struggles and their leading figures tend to be consigned to history books. But for Iranians, they represent unfinished business. For example, the generals Sattar Khan and Bagher Khan, who in 1906 heroically resisted the bloody Tsarist occupation of northwest Iran are depicted today in protest-posters wearing green - the campaign colours of Mir-Hossein Moussavi, whom many Iranians believe was the true winner of the presidential election.

Such portraits are at times palm-sized, discreetly displayed by taxi- or bus-drivers and even posted through doors. Iranians on an unfinished political journey find Sattar Khan and Bagher Khan's defence of Iran's parliamentary movement an inspiration, and find many contemporary echoes in the suffering of those times (famine as well as brutal repression). The infamous hanging of the imam of Tabriz in the centre of the northwest city on the very day of ashura (December 1911) - described at the time by an English writer as akin to "hanging the archbishop of Canterbury on Good Friday" - is another potent symbol that reverberates to this day.

The legacy of 1906 was that widespread anti-Russian sentiments made Iran inhospitable to Russian strategic advances for decades. In the context of an Iranian state not yet strong enough to chart a fully independent course, this helped enable the United States to make the country a pivot of its anti-communist bloc during the cold war. But the US's orchestration of the 1953 coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossadeq sowed the seeds of what became enduring anti-Americanism in Iran, and across the middle east.

But it is Russia that has emerged as a prime foreign target of current opposition criticism. The other reformist presidential candidate, Mehdi Karroubi, called the election an "absolute coup d'etat" and has written pointedly of the role of Iran's "northern neighbour" in the regime's crackdown. Russia's role in training Iran's riot-police has also provoked street-protestors into chanting "death to Russia".

The same slogan was heard on 23 October during Karroubi's surprise visit to Tehran's annual press fair, where he was acclaimed by an overwhelmingly supportive crowd. The Siasat Rooz daily newspaper's report of the incident also reveals the way that national resentments find an outlet where they can. It seems that a Russian consular employee called Mikhail Gustov deserted the national stand, leaving it unmanned for the day, and as he fled was told by a "bystander" that such a response is to be expected "when the Russian government receives enough money for several reactors and is yet to deliver a single one". The reference to the prolonged construction of the Bushehr light- water nuclear reactor, due for completion by the Russians in 2001, echoes the view of many Iranians that the project is part of a protection-racket binding a weak and isolated national leadership to an unreliable foreign partner.

Read the complete article here ...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Student Protests Continue in Iran

Since the beginning of the school year, the university students have been protesting every Tuesday. Students held their fifth consecutive protest on Tuesday October 27. Below is a clip of a protest at Azad University of Tehran (more clips on the same YouTube page).

Iran Families of Detainees to Protest

Found on Payvand Iran News.

Families of Iranian detainees to stage protests
Report Source: Radio Zamaneh

Families of Iranian political prisoners who have been detained since the protests against the outcome of the June presidential elections in Iran have announced that they will stage a peaceful protest on October 28 to demand the freedom of their loved ones.

They have also warned that if the officials "pretend not to see us or hear our message" we will sit in strike.

They add that if their "strikes and gatherings" prove fruitless, they will go on a "collective hunger strike" so that "those who have been blinded and gone deaf with power may come to their senses."

On June 18, these families also wrote to Qom scholars and clerics to "seek justice" for their families.

In their new announcement today, posted on Norooz website, they have declared that at the same time, they will take their demands to "international human rights and legal organizations" and that they will not stop until they have achieved the "liberation of (their) chained family [members]."

The families maintain that they have lost heart in "seeking justice through the constitutional and religious rights of the citizens." They add that they have achieved nothing through legal procedures, issuing announcements and meeting with Shiite clerics.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Iran: Universities Under Attack

Found on Payvand Iran News.

Iran universities target of conservative attacks
Report Source: Radio Zamaneh

Tehran's Friday prayers, led by Kazem Seddighi (pictured right), focused on "cleansing" the universities as a means of putting an end to the recent unrest. Mr. Seddighi claimed: "There is need for another revolution in the universities, like the first one."

After the Iranian Revolution of 1979, in addition to firing a large number of university faculty members and executives, the teaching curricula and methods were also adapted to Islamic standards.

Mr. Seddighi called for a complete overhaul of every field in the human sciences and urged "pious professors who are knowledgeable in Islamic issues" to write the necessary humanities textbooks based on the Quran and Islamic laws.

He maintained some professors have taken "a western hue" and directly connected, what he called "riots by rogues," to certain faculties at the university.

Following the June presidential elections and the mass protests against the alleged fraudulent victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei also expressed his concerns about the two million students that are enrolled in the human sciences at Iranian universities claiming that the field of humanities "results in doubt and uncertainty about the principles of faith and religion." He maintained that there aren't enough professors with expertise in the Islamic worldview to meet the teaching needs of these students.

In today's Friday prayers, Mr. Seddighi claimed "Western theories do not reflect the realities of Iranian society. " He added: "For instance, some lawyers are unable to tolerate the criminal code and women's rights accorded in Islamic law. And they even reveal these feelings."

Read the complete report here ...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Workers' Control

From Socialist Project's Left Streamed.

Workers' Control: Theory & Experiences:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Khiaban No. 50: The Era of a New Politics

Translation of a lead article from Khiaban No. 50.

All issues of Khiaban newspaper can be read
here; a special all-English edition is also available at the same address.

The Era of a New Politics Has Arrived (1)
by Amir K.
Khiaban No. 50 / Wednesday, October 14, 2009

1. Art
An important distinction between good and bad art is that bad art 'tells', while good art 'shows'. A bad poem says, "I am in love", but a good poem recreates the feeling of being in love through the use of poetic metaphors. It doesn't say, "I'm in love"; it writes:
"Woe, blade, do not scar my cheek through neglect,
Oh, hand, do not disturb the serenity of my hair,
And do not shame me, Oh, heart!
the drunken you, without having drunk a drop;
The moment of meeting is close."
Kafka, in his novel Metamorphosis, does not state that humans lose their humanity in a capitalist system. Good art does not 'tell'; instead, with the help of literary metaphors and artistic creativity it creates an atmosphere, in which it shows this metamorphosis of humans. When Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning, he realizes that he has been transformed into a [giant] beetle. Kafka does not speak of the alienation of the human relations in the twentieth century cities. He shows Gregor's relations with his family. When you finish reading the book, you are shaken. Its impact sticks in the deepest corners of your soul, and you carry that effect with you forever.

The art that tells assumes for itself a passive audience. Good art, however, activates the intellectual and sensual powers of the addressee. Art that tells is a finished product, ready to be digested by the consumer. Art that shows involves the audience in the outcome of the construction of the meaning. The addressee is not a mere observer, but a participant.

2. Social Research
The unearthing/understanding of social realities is possible with the help of research. An important phase of research is the operationalizing stage. We cannot reach reliable conclusions with a mere idea. A social researcher who is investigating the role of the educational system in the [formation of] definitions and structures of gender roles, in order to test a hypothesis and in order to get closer to the social actuality, must operationalize her/his research. Hundreds of pages of presenting ideas and conceptualizations do not complete the task of research. For example, the researcher studies through the textbooks used in the elementary school years, and through a close investigation of the illustrations/photos, shows that women are usually portrayed doing house work and other family-oriented activities, etc., while men are seen engaged in social activities, free actors, independent and dominant.

Or else, you want to investigate the living conditions of workers. You must operationalize this research. One researcher may prepare a survey and, with the aim of scientific sample-taking from the intended community, go to the workers and collect the needed information, and analyze and explain it. Another researcher may go to a working class neighborhood and live there for several months and note his/her observations, and then based on those, attempt to analyze and explain the findings.

In order to proximate the social truth, we must repeatedly travel back and forth between the level of the abstract and understanding and the level of concrete reality and facts. Producing ideas alone does not lead us to social truth.

3. Revolutionary Politics
Revolutionary politics is poetic and committed to the truth. Bad politics says, "People, you must revolt!" Revolutionary politics shows people that, to live free and equal, a social revolution is needed. Bad politics says, "People, Moussavi and the reformists cannot lead you in the direction of a democratic society." Revolutionary politics, however, shows how and why the interests of one faction of the power elite -- though possibly different from the interests of the current dominant faction -- are not equal to the interests of the people. Revolutionary politics shows that reformists' politics and strategies are alien to social and political freedoms, and that their aim is not social justice. Revolutionary politics 'shows'. Bad politics says: People, separate your ranks from those defending the ancient regime, from the representatives of the great world powers and those who contribute to your oppression and exploitation. Revolutionary politics shows that people, in order to attain freedom and to build a people's governance, must form their own massive front independent of this or that ruling faction, or independent of the interests or likings of this or that imperialist country. Bad politics says Islamic Republic is capitalist, so it must die. Revolutionary politics shows people that the economic policies of the rulers are designed to protect the interests of the wealth hoarders and the powerful, and shows too that a free society is a society in which the ownership of the means of production and sources of wealth are not in the hands of a few, but one where collective ownership over the sources of wealth has been established. In bad politics, bad politicians speak badly, and the people are the audience. Bad politicians carry out the political acts, they are the actors/initiators, and the people are the observers. It is possible that the people hear what they say, and even believe in them, but this belief can only help in bringing the particular politician to power, and cannot help in the popular sharing of power [by the people].

In revolutionary politics, people are not an audience. People are actors. Their decisions, their thinking and their actions are the parts that complete the revolutionary politics. They themselves, from what revolutionary politics has revealed before their eyes, gain awareness and become involved in determining solutions, tactics, and what-is-to-be-done's. The social revolution for which the revolutionary politics seeks a path is not one of replacing ancient rulers with modern ones. It is, rather, a new system of rule based on the collective power of the people, and the people matured in the fires of social struggle are the citizens and the creators of it.

Bad politics remains on the level of ideas and hypothesizing. 'Long live freedom!' 'Long live social welfare!' 'Long live people's power!'

Revolutionary politics, however, operationalizes these ideas. [It shows] what practical steps are necessary in order to reach freedom, social welfare and justice. Bad politics says Islamic Republic must go. Revolutionary politics seeks those practical forms and methods, which can be put to use, and which are capable of overthrowing the Islamic Republic in reality and establishing a people's governance.

Bad politics says that the available media are not free and reflect the interests of the ruling elites. Revolutionary politics proposes practical plans, in which free media can take form and the people's real voice cannot be censored.

Bad politics raises merely the pictures, images and symbols of people's struggles, and rallies the people around them. Revolutionary politics, although not neglectful of symbols and signs, focuses its concentration on operationalizing the ideas from which those signs and symbols receive their justification.

Iranian society is experiencing immense developments. The society has passed an era and is experiencing a new birth. The tunes sung these days in the world of politics have no proportionality with the immensity of this era. Both the reformists' politics and that of the available political parties and organizations, like a bad poem or a weak tract, will not remain in the memory of time. The society is in need of a new revolutionary politics and is working to develop it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Poverty in Iran

Found on Payvand Iran News. Good information.

If you read Farsi, here are a couple more on the state of poverty in Iran ... this one posted by Sarmayeh, and one posted on Pezhvak, which you can read here).

The Poverty Line in Iran. A "Hoax?"
Source: Iranian Progressives in Translation

Translator's note: At a recent press conference in Tehran, fraudulently elected president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed that customary approaches used by economists to determine the poverty line are a "hoax" and cannot be used as a measure to prove that there is poverty in Iran. Existing facts, however, contradict Ahmadinejad's statement.

According to a World Bank study done in 2005 and published in 2008, over 8% of Iran's population of 72 million live under the severe poverty line of $2 per day or $240 per month for a family of four.(1) Based on a study done by the Central Bank of Iran in 2006, the general poverty line is currently no less than $400 per month for a family of four. (2) Another study done by the Iranian economist Hussein Raghfar, and endorsed by the Iranian newspaper, Capital, states that the poverty line in Tehran is around $800 per month for a family of four. This study also claims that given the large number of Iranian city dwellers, around 30% of the population fall below the poverty line. Raghfar's study emphasizes that an increasing percentage of the following groups have fallen below the poverty line: 1. Laid off and unemployed workers. 2. Farmers who cannot compete with the cheaper prices of imported agricultural goods. 3. Civil servants whose salaries cannot pay for living expenses, given the current 26% inflation rate(3) While a minority of Iranian economists claim that poverty has declined during the past ten years, most Iranian economists think otherwise. (4) The following report from the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) responds to Ahmadinejad's latest claim that there is no poverty in Iran. ILNA was launched in February 2003. It belongs to the Workers House, a labor union set up by the Iranian government. However, it is considered close to the Iranian reform movement. ILNA was banned in the Summer of 2007 and was reinstated a year later after much pressure from workers' organizations, students and journalists.(5)

[Click here for more photos of people living in the margins of Bandar Abbas, a southern port city on the Persian Gulf.]

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Thought Behind the Act

There has been some concern voiced over the conditional support given by leading members of Code Pink to the continued presence of foreign occupying forces in Afghanistan. In their estimation, the departure of occupying forces would create a vacuum, which is most likely to be filled by Taliban, a most horrid (at least, short term) outcome and something that Code Pink leaders, after talking to some Afghan citizens, have determined to be an unpopular outcome.

However, maybe instead of focusing on political behavior of certain famous activists, more attention needs to be paid to the political mentality/thought/ideology/etc. that drives such behavior. It will be more productive to ask: What is the political thinking that drives a Medea Benjamin, or anybody else, to a particularly shaky political behavior?

A while ago, Code Pink organized a trip to Iran. I wrote something in response to what I perceived was their (let's say) less-than-observant way of going about it (see here).

They had intended to conduct a 'citizen diplomats' kind of trip, in which they would go to Iran and talk to ordinary people to see what was happening 'on the ground', so to speak. Their visit was facilitated by the issuance of a visa that had been helped through at the orders of Ahmadinejad, which came in response to the request by Code Pink activists for a visa, in a cordial meeting that had been arranged for Ahmadinejad to meet, greet and discourse with some American anti-war/peace activists, in New York City, the previous time that clownish butcher was in the U.S., in September 2008, to attend the UN general assembly.

As it turned out, when Code Pink arrived in Iran, they were led by Iranian government agents and lobbyists (one being Rostam Pourzal), so they mostly met with government ministers and parliamentarians, etc. as well as the people they would run into while in restaurants, cafes, or while shopping, etc. If they met with any Iranian women's rights activists, student or labor activist, anti-stoning activists, anti-death-penalty-for-minors activists, or any dissidents whomever, it is unknown. But, from what Code Pink's reports from Iran (on their blog) indicate, it is clear that there was very little activist-to-real people contact between Code Pink and Iranian activists.

Understandably, most such activists in Iran are in jail, and I suppose a request by Code Pink activists to visit any political prisoners in Iran would have been considered rude by the Iranian hosts (mostly government people); and of course, it is impolite to offend your hosts, even if they are members of a ruthlessly oppressive government that jails any dissidents not-yet-jailed and with utter impunity tortures and even rapes them (as the whole world has now realized about what the Iranian people have been living with, for thirty miserable years). The fact that some in the American left can sit and have pleasant discourse with such a crowd, again, is indicative of a political mentality, whose limits of tolerance can be stretched depending on too many incidental factors; not a very reliable type of thinking if you want to create a better world free of bullies.

So, what is that mentality? It is the mentality that fixes its gaze only at the discourse of power and the powerful. It assumes that politics is only about official politicians, and whatever they say or do. In this mentality, the most important factor, that which is at the heart of all politics, the people, is a mere abstraction; a placeholder in some formulae. And in all these formulae, the people are always a function of the will and the plans of the powerful, and not independent actors. People don't have agency, and can't really change their history. People don't determine anything. They are mere sheep to be herded. They are fools and shall remain so. They need to be told what's best for them. The attitude is identical with the views held by conservatives.

Read the complete article here ...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Khiaban-English Edition

The underground newspaper, Khiaban, has put out an all-English edition that can be read at this link:

Friday, October 9, 2009

Iranian Teachers Association Members Arrested

From Payvand Iran News.

World Teachers Day marked in Tehran with arrest of members of Iranian teachers association
By Shirin Karimi, Rooz Online/ October 8, 2009

The secretary-general and 12 members of the Iranian Teachers Association were detained one day after the World Teachers Day. According to various reports, members of the Iranian Teachers Association were detained two days ago at the residence of Mr. Baghani, the association's secretary-general, and moved to an unknown location.

According to the association's website, Baghani, Beheshti, Rezaei, Bohlouli, Niknejad, Javadi, Javadpour, Ghoreishian, Dehghan, Nouri and Badpar were the teachers detained yesterday.

Asghar Zati, the association's former spokesperson and current member, said, "About two o'clock, two vans bearing no signs stopped in front of the house of the Iranian Teachers Association's secretary-general, detained everyone present at the meeting and transported them to an unknown location."

According to Zati, the association's board members regularly met every Tuesday afternoon, and did not have a special gathering this time.

The Iranian Teachers Association had released a statement yesterday demanding the immediate release of its detained members, including Rasoul Badaghi, Hashem Khastar, Farzad Kamangar, Abdollah Momeni, Jafar Ebrahimi and Mohammad Davari, among others.