Sunday, July 11, 2010

Iranian Regime's Nuclear Heel

As Iranian authorities run the last tests on Bushehr nuclear power plant, and as the authorities slash oil prices so as to find international customers, we feel it is necessary to re-state some positions expressed before regarding nuclear energy in Iran.

Their Nuclear Heel
The Iranian people have a right to demand accountability for a whole host of issues involved with the production of nuclear energy in Iran: Where are the records of seismological surveys carried out to determine how near/far major fault lines lie from the Bushehr power plant? What are the safety regulations put in place? What about the environmental-impact studies for the 'best-case' scenarios (where to store the nuclear waste, and how)? Has any thinking gone into plans for a worst-case scenario, for the necessary evacuations, for containment of the radiation contamination, and on and on? But most importantly, do the people in Iran have an oversight right over any of the nuclear activities? In other words: Is there a reliable infrastructure available to help rebuild lives in a worst-case scenario, or is Bushehr as a city, much like Chernobyl, considered an expendable city? Or, are the gentlemen in Tehran - as well as in the western capitals - dependent merely on luck and divine protection?

And what about evacuation procedures, should the worst happen? Iran's roads are not exactly extensive or kept in decent repair. We know from the 2005 New Orleans experience with Hurricane Katrina, that even in a country with extensive highway systems, evacuating large populations can take a long time and is a very hazardous task at best, and at worst a murderous ordeal. A nuclear accident, by contrast, is capable of precipitating an extremely poisonous atmospheric and environmental set of conditions in less than an hour.

Iran sits on many large and active fault lines; you can see a seismicity map of Iran at: (Seismic Hazard Assessment of Iran; by B. Tavakoli and M. Ghafory-Ashtiany).

Of the major earthquakes that do occur in Iran, a good many are stronger than magnitude 6 on the Richter scale, from which point on major damage and destruction increase exponentially. Here are some casualty figures from recent major earthquakes in Iran, since 1972:

· Dec. 26, 2003: Southeastern Iran, Bam, magnitude 6.5; 26,000 killed.
· June 22, 2002: Northwestern Iran in the Qazvin province, magnitude 6; at least 500 killed.
· May 10, 1997: Northern Iran near Afghanistan, magnitude 7.1; 1,500 died.
· June 21, 1990: Northwest Iran around Tabas, magnitude 7.3-7.7; 50,000 killed.
· Sept. 16, 1978: Northeast Iran, magnitude 7.7; 25,000 killed.
· April 10, 1972: Southern Iran near Ghir Karzin, magnitude 7.1; 5,374 killed.

These casualty figures are very high as it is. In each case, additional thousands if not tens of thousands more suffered months and years of dislocation and loss of livelihoods, for which they were never compensated, nor were they helped in rebuilding their lives. Now, imagine the additional casualties and the displaced if any of these earthquakes had been accompanied by the melt down of a nuclear reactor.

It should be pointed out that the deaths occurring as a result of these earthquakes are far larger than they should have been, mostly because of lax building codes in Iran. Ours are completely inadequate compared to some of the world's highest standards for earthquake-proofing available in, say, Japan; yet even there serious accidents have occurred due to lack of preparedness for earthquake strengths that did actually occur, which exceeded earthquake levels the construction specifications had required. We can state that not even a shade of such standards are enforced or followed in Iran. The building codes that do exist are regularly ignored and violated by contractors, developers and even individual home-builders more inclined to bribe an official than bear the larger costs of better safety.

We would therefore be right to wonder about the building codes implemented in the construction of Bushehr's nuclear power plant. Likewise, we should be troubled about the maximum quake strengths the plant is supposed to be able to withstand, and even more anxious about safety and rescue procedures foreseen for a worst-case scenario.

When it comes to nuclear power, transparency in accountability is without doubt essential. IAEA inspections are all fine and good for people living all the way on the other side of the globe. Inside Iran, however, what the people really need is a guaranteed right of citizens' groups - comprising independent scientists, activists, and citizens' direct representatives - to carry out on-demand inspections of nuclear facilities, the right to review their books, regulations, safety measures, evacuation plans, and on and on. Transparency and open accountability in all details is an absolutely legitimate demand of any citizenry in such matters, especially as regards governmental activities that can cause harm to potentially hundreds of thousands of people.

In Iran, however, there is no accountability for anything the government does. Just for one example, and directly related to this topic, there is no accountability for the fact that in an oil-rich and oil-exporting country, almost half of the refined petroleum products for daily consumption of the people are imported. Refining oil is not exactly new science. This industry is more than 150 years old. Surely if the regime's military-industrialists can build Shahab missiles and experiment with highly advanced nuclear warhead technology, they can build new refineries. The real reason they don't has very little to do with sanctions or lack of know-how. The real reason is that there is more mercantilist profits to be made from importing the needed refined fuel.

In Iran, it would be impossible to bring to justice any government official who plays with peoples' lives and livelihoods on a daily basis, even while there are thousands upon thousands who would have to be tried in any real legal system. Alas, there's the rub! We do not have the most rudimentary legal structures in place guaranteeing the citizens' right of oversight over anything the governmental does.

As any Iranian could tell you, in Iran there is only one branch of government, the Executive; the other two (legislature and judiciary) are merely decorative stems adorning the state. As enshrined into the theocratic constitution, the legislature, if it is anything but a rubber stamp, can easily be overturned by at least two other bodies standing above it, before the Supreme Leader gets the final say. The same goes for the judiciary, which has historically been a mere enforcer of the executive's will, rather than an adjudicator of the 'laws of the land'.

This situation clearly does not allow for a system wherein the citizens keep a vigilant eye on the government's handling of nuclear-powered energy production. Further, should any disasters occur (which is to say, when a disaster does occur), the government is guaranteed to act in the least responsive manner possible, to cover up maximally, and to shirk as many responsibilities as it can, leaving the citizens to bear the lethal costs of a nuclear disaster on their own.

It is therefore the duty of any democratically inclined person, and more so the duty of any leftist activist, thinker or organizer, environmentalists and anti-nuclear activists everywhere, especially among the western left, to stand on the side of the well being of the Iranian people and unambiguously oppose any nuclear energy development in Iran carried out by the current unaccountable government. 

Those who, like the Islamic regime in Iran, insist that pursuing nuclear power is an automatic right, must also be prepared to bear the responsibility, and be ready to be fully accountable, for any outcome of the activities involved in handling of nuclear materials. Particularly if the nuclear facilities are built near densely populated areas; and most definitely if those densely populated areas and the reactors are sitting on top of active tectonic plates; as is the case with the Bushehr reactor.

Lacking transparent accountability for the preparations that have occurred so far, as well as for the future full operations of Bushehr's nuclear power plant, people have a legitimate right to demand a halt to all activities that could easily lead to the enormous health threats of radioactive poisoning potentially lasting thousands of years, causing mutations and deformations in the genetic pool of all living organisms in the area for far longer, and destroying the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people. Nobody has an automatic right to bring about such a scenario.

Too late for hard work?
The western left has, for the most part, acted with utter confusion and lack of principles in its approach to the Islamic regime in Iran, and consequently in its approach to solidarity-building with the people of Iran.

Instead of building real alliances and solidarity between the peoples of the Middle East, including the Iranian people, and the working people of the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, etc., these false friends, feeling magnanimous with our lives, ask the Iranian people to follow their example and push for no demands from the Iranian state, to ask not for their right to assemble in public spaces that belong to them, demand not their right to speak freely, to form free associations, to not be jailed, tortured and raped for expressing critical thoughts regarding an infernal regime so steeped in murder and corruption that there is no wonder it panicked so hard at the sight of millions of people in the streets demanding accountability.

The argument for an unconditional defense of the Islamic regime's nuclear program, however, is fallacious on many levels.

First, their argument has an overtone of wishful thinking, imagining that a nuclear weapon-capable Iran is the only guarantee of a 'détente' that leaves the Iranian people free from imperialist harassment (while leaving the people completely open to rape, torture and imprisonment-by-lottery by the local regime). In effect, this argument advocates a nuclear arms race, as this is presented to be the only deterrent capable of stopping an imperialist invasion; therefore, this view cheers for an increasing amount of the social resources of global south to be sucked up by a mad proposition.

Also, this logic does not explain the case of Pakistan, a nuclear weapons-capable nation, which is a virtual slave to the designs of the imperialists. Pakistan, currently run by a sycophantic regime inseparable from imperialists, is not safe from the insults thrown at it by the U.S. ruling elites and their representatives every so often reminding the Pakistani regime of how much of a slave they are in the eyes of the U.S. ruling classes.

Third, this argument is anti-environmentalist and (fourth) it disregards hard physical facts of geology in Iran, particularly southern Iran. Any leftist, who should be standing with people's health and wellbeing, and who must present a reality-based analysis, yet fails to take basic geological facts into account, is not only an ignorant leftist but also an irresponsible advocate.

Fourth, given that most western leftists recognize the dangers and highly probable harms a nuclear plant can bring to their own environment, we can only assume that racism may have something to do with their blindness regarding the same concerns Iranians may have. They must suppose that either our environment is not worth keeping clean or that Iranians have not 'developed' enough to be worried about such supposedly higher-order concerns such as a clean environment.

Instead of leading a spirited tactical (yet strategically-oriented) fight against the nuclear industry in the U.S. and against the use of depleted uranium in munitions used in Iraq and Afghanistan __ an act by the U.S. armed forces and weapons manufacturers that constitutes a crime against humanity, a war crime, and is actionable in an international tribunal, and which should be used to call for legal mass mutinies by the armed forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan __ in short, instead of strategically joining other international forces calling for a Nuclear-Free World, these false leftists would instead have us Iranians and people around the world read the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty very carefully, wherein we can find the particular clauses pinpointing the guaranteed right of signatory nations to master the enrichment cycle.

Our Argument
A halt to all nuclear activities in Iran is a reasonable demand due to the dangerous convergence of three factors, which are simultaneously and structurally operative:

1. Nuclear energy production, per se, has inevitable, extremely harmful waste-products, including a poisonous radioactive waste (depleted uranium) that cannot be destroyed, and has a radioactive lifespan of 4 billion years. A threat that, through leakage and the resulting contamination, can lead to environmental disasters on a large scale lasting not just decades, but thousands of years, producing genetic mutations among all living beings, leading to fatal deformities affecting all species, capable of contaminating water, air and soil.

2. Geological facts indicate that the region housing Bushehr's nuclear power plant in the southern coast of Iran, on Persian Gulf, will experience numerous earthquakes in the lifespan of the power plant; earthquakes of varying magnitudes, historically as strong as magnitude 7.6, with the high likelihood of stronger earthquakes in the future.

3. Iranian government is thoroughly endemically corrupt, which dictates a complete and total lack of transparency and lack of people's right of oversight over the government's handling of any and all procedures involved in the production of nuclear energy.

The current regime is socially incompetent; therefore, (or is it, because?) maximally secretive, and dangerous to our people. There will be no recourse to justice in Iran should any nuclear accidents happen, nor will there be any meaningful relief.

Further, Iran has access to vast and endless alternative sources of power: solar and wind energy. The right engineers can do the rightful calculations, but cultivating solar panel farms, or windmill farms, can match the energy produced by wasteful and radioactive-waste-producing nuclear power plants.

It is time for the left in the west to reorient itself toward solidarity with the people of Iran and think and act independently of the power calculations of the ruling classes in the west as well as the ruling class in Iran. It is time to stand in solidarity with the people of Iran in an unambiguous way. A major point of intervention can be the nuclear issue. To redefine the issue, to bring to it the social dimensions that are deliberately kept out, that is one of the major tasks of building solidarity with the Iranian people. It is time to approach the nuclear issue from a principled stance, and to refuse to accept the terms of the debate presented to us by world powers or the militarist theocrats that have taken complete control of the Iranian state apparatuses and holding the Iranian people hostage.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bazr No. 49: Difficult Days

Translation of an article from Bazr Student Publication (Bazr #49 / May 22-June 21). The article is from Bazr's last issue, for the month of Khordad (in Iranian calendar), and is a good overview of the current situation.

Difficult Days
by Rahaa Kiaa
Bazr Student Publication #49 / Khordad 1389 (May 22-June 21, 2010)

The Iranian year 1388 (March 21 2009-March 20 2010) was a year filled with ups and downs. Many things happened that will never be wiped from people's memory. And in this year too the question remains in many minds, "Will the people's protests continue?" The year 1389, however, has so far progressed very tumultuously. The regime, which has had time to get itself and its forces together, from the very beginning has showed ferocity and been boasting its sharpened fangs to the people. When the slogan of "Extra effort, extra work!" was proposed, people knew that the meaning of this slogan was nothings but more work and less pay. Meaning, get exploited more and say nothing! In protest to this slogan, people started writing on currency notes, in emails, SMS messages, slogans such as, "Extra protests against the regime and religious guardianship (velaayat-e faqih)", or "Extra tyranny, extra pressure."

The plan for rationalizing the subsidies, which was supposed to take effect from the new year, was in flux between the differences between the majlis (parliament) and the government [of Ahmadinejad]. However, inflation has people worried more than ever and they know that with the plan going into effect, they will be under even more pressure than before, especially in the case of lower classes of society. Eventually, the plan passed the parliament, but the government, which due to its memories of what happened in the aftermath of putting quotas on gasoline, is terrified of operationalizing it and facing people's reaction, and has decided to put it into effect in only three cities on experimental basis. However, in relation to this past year's events, the government continues its ideological campaigns.

The most important move by the regime is the campaign against inadequate head and body cover (bad-hejaabi) [for women]. All the parliament and the government talk about is hejaab (Islamic cover). The television and radio talk [incessantly] about bad hejaab. Reactionary government think-tanks hand out fatwa's (religious edicts) and propose plans for fighting against this phenomenon. They organize demonstrations and shout slogans. In the streets, under the name of 'moral security', in lieu of morality patrols, they arrest girls. They say that the hejaab issue has become political and that it must be dealt with seriously, and that, "Hejaab is the cornerstone of Islam," which of course is true. They stop girls with inadequate hejaab from entering universities. They give orders for national chador (head-to-tow, sheet of covering), national clothing and university uniforms. The regime, which had trembled in fear from the audacious presence of the women on the streets last year, realizing that after thirty years of oppression and ideological work it still had not been able to leash and tame the [Iranian] women or force them into surrendering and staying imprisoned in backwardness, right after the ebbing of the protests, set an attack against women as its first order of priority.

On another front, the regime gave the orders for purging the universities of secular students and professors, and they wrote numerous theses and articles about this subject. Various conditions and restrictions were set for studying for a doctorate. Up until now they have 'starred' [translator's note: as the Nazis did with Jews] students and barred them from further studies, and now they place conditions on studying so that the sons of the rulers, instead of having to get phony degrees, can study without any competitors and at ease in doctoral classes. In order to control people in Tehran, and since they have had this past year's experience, they started saying too many people live in Tehran, and they'll pay money and provide the means for people to move away from Tehran. The farther you go, or if you go to a village, the more they will pay. They even gave the orders for the transfer of universities to outside Tehran, and this [plan] was the most important for them.

In the first [big] event of the new year, which was the May Day, regime did all it could to prevent any ceremonies in different cities from taking place. In Tehran, even the ceremonies at Worker's House, which usually would be organized along regime's policies, were cancelled. Although workers' rights activists and unionists had called for gatherings, all Tehran streets were brimming with security forces and plainclothesmen. Some people, in scattered fashion, did actually walk the route announced, and some of course were arrested. The regime does not want to risk the eventuality of a spark for demonstrations. However, the important point is that this year May Day no longer belonged only to a specific layer of society, and for a large number of people this day became important as a global day and an important day of protest.

In Kurdistan, however, as always and as done every year, May Day celebrations were held which led to clashes between the people and regime's security forces, and several were arrested. [Also] on this day, Ahmadinejad went to Tehran University without prior notice, for Teachers Day [held on May 2 in Iran], and was confronted with students' fierce protests. Only people brought from outside and Basiji [students] from the university were allowed inside the hall [where Ahmadinejad was speaking]. However, for many hours a large group of students were shouting slogans against him, and many were arrested.

After the passing of one week from the May Day, a piece of news appeared on websites that brought with it shock and the wrath of the people. Five political prisoners were executed. How is it possible to close your eyes on violence and injustice and say nothing? The execution of those five people had widespread repercussions that got the regime panicking. Angry people, the youth and families gathered in assemblies in front of Tehran University and Evin prison. Protests outside the country were also widespread, and [in some cases] led to clashes with police. In Kurdistan, however, everything had a different color. The regime had planned special contingencies for Kurdistan. A stealth martial law was in effect there. Widespread arrests were made. However, the people did not give up on their protests. Four of the executed [on May 9, 2010] were Kurdish, and one was a woman. Alongside the plans to crackdown on women, this execution was added to the atrocities, so as to smother women's potential. On the other hand, the Kurdish region has always been a very sensitive one for the regime. People's fighting background against the regime in that region and the radicalism of their struggle has forced the regime to deploy special forces there to control them. However, all those efforts -- meaning all the executions, arrests, the crackdown and the militarization of the region -- have not only had no effects but, quite the contrary, they have spread and given wings to the people's struggle. With the call of the revolutionary forces in protest against the executions, a general strike took hold in all of Kurdistan, which was very important and successful.

In Kurdistan too, like in most places in the country, there exist numerous and varied injustices such as class, gender and other injustices, but discrimination based on nationality is a particular injustice that has given the struggles of the people of that region a special import.

Kurdistan has always had a special place/position in the struggle against the regime for revolutionary forces and the people. After these executions, even Green leaders -- who themselves in the past have had a hand in oppressing the Kurdish people -- expressed concern regarding the executions. Many were vociferous about the fact that Moussavi too had condemned the executions. However, if they had read things carefully, they would have realized that Moussavi did not condemn the executions. He merely says that, in relation to the executions, no illuminating reasons had been given. And we don't expect him to condemn the executions. [...]

What is clear is that no number of Kahrizak's, no amount of tortures and imprisonments can save the regime from the predicament it is in. From a year ago up to now, a new generation has entered the arena of struggle, and all the show of force by the regime cannot win against the women, the youths and the people in all corners of the country.

Khordad (May 22-June21)
The regime was able to temporarily control the situation by use of force, terror and all its financial and military power; however, it has never been able to compensate for its lack of support among the people, its isolation and its political defeat. We are in the month of Khordad. Everybody is readying themselves for June 12 and the days beyond.

Once again, Moussavi's issuing of statements has begun. Moussavi and Karroubi said they would get permits [for demonstrations] on June 12, and if permits were not issued, they would act non-confrontationally. After all the shamelessness, all the killings, executions, arrests, tortures and imprisonment and the disappearances of the youth, what is the meaning of non-confrontational? Isn't an invitation to silence a laughable proposal? Wasn't the [regime's] answer to [the people's silent demonstration on June 15, 2009] violence, assaults and executions? Of course, we cannot expect otherwise from Moussavi and Karroubi. The important thing is that the people and the youth should know that the Green leaders want to keep the people away from finally settling their accounts with the Islamic Republic, since they are themselves an inseparable part of the system. They do not want to see the foundations of the system harmed. Contrary to some who say that a revolution is no longer beneficial for the country and that reforms are necessary, it must be said, "No!" That is not the case. There are plenty of events during the recent years, and especially last year, to contradict such statements, and everything shows that there is enough motivation, reasons and potentials for such a great movement, if we arm ourselves with knowledge and awareness. The struggle will not achieve its goals in one month or one year, since we are faced with an enemy that is equipped with the political ruling system or the governmental power. A government whose backbone is comprised of oppression, military force, imprisonment and torture. We must thus break a regime that is outfitted with all those tools. Both the reformists and the principlists are part of this regime. A spontaneous but very important slogans raised by the people is the separation of religion from state. Yet, Moussavi issues statements declaring that the Green movement is rooted in the people's religious beliefs and if people's religious beliefs are ever tarnished, the Green movement will be meaningless. Are there really any [major] differences between the two factions of the regime? Both say the constitution has the final word. Both say religion covers all of life. Both say Islamic Republic is the legacy of Khomeini. [...] We must drive away such illusions that we can turn the country into a beautiful oasis with the departure of this or that character and by bringing in other individuals [from different factions]. Change can only come about by attacking the roots and by destroying the foundations of this regime. And we should not overlook the role of the imperialists in people's struggles. They are also not interested in people's wellbeing, but only look at their own interests and their relations with Iran, and the effects of the people's struggle on those relations. They too consistently emphasize calm and silence and oppose rage and violence from the people. Behind the curtains, they continue their political, economic, security and espionage dealings. They exchange Clotilde Reiss, the French girl imprisoned in Iran, with merchant [Majid] Kakavand and a killer [Ali Vakili-raad].

On another front, the [international] pressures continue to build and to implement additional sanctions against the regime, and bring with them a lot of [political] chatter and reports. Russia's policies, which used to go along with Iran, have changed. Ahmadinejad finally gave in to the plan for uranium enrichment [for use in Iranian reactors] by other countries, and Turkey played the role of the intermediary in this issue. On the one hand, the regime has put as it first priority the preparations for [anniversary of electoral coup] and the continuation of the crackdown in its different forms, and on the other hand, from a position of weakness and in order to keep its rule, it is giving in to imperialistic agreements. However, it is the people who in all this are the sacrificial lambs for the rule of the leaders of the regime and the interests of imperialists.

Since right before the start of [month of] Khordad (May 22-June21), the regime has brought about all kinds of pressures on the university and the students. On the one hand, they set the date for the last day of classes at before June 12 [anniversary of electoral coup], and declared schools closed after that, and on the other they set the date for the final exams before July 9 [18 Tir; another important anniversary]. All these reveal their trepidation and fear of the university students. They pressure and harass men and women students over bad cover/clothing. They send their functionaries to universities to give speeches, and they of course face protests and demonstrations by students. The dormitories of the Free University of Eslam-shahr were attacked by the security forces because the students had protested against Hamid Rasaee [conservative member of parliament, who had given speech at that university]. Students of Tehran's Free University, which in the past year have been very militant, held protest rallies and assemblies recently. Students at the University of Science and Technology [Elm va San'at] in Tehran, on the anniversary of the martyrdom of the very dear Kianoosh Aasaa, remembered [his death] on that day and held ceremonies.

The university is an important point of strength in the people's struggles, and it must play well its important role in the dissemination and spreading of knowledge and awareness, which of course requires that the university students themselves employ this consciousness correctly and in the right direction. In any event, despite the ups and downs that it will surely have, people's struggle will continue. This is so since deep contradictions exist between the people and the ruling system, so it is necessary for the conscious and revolutionary students to carry out their duties in impacting the events and organizing people (even if a minority) who demand fundamental changes, and form their own independent forces, and with reliance on the liberating knowledge of communism and with an assessment of previous experiences and with attention to ongoing events, and to carry out their duties in correct and effective fashion. Do not allow the leaders and elements of the Green trend and the reformists, who are riding the wave of the people's protests only to assure the continuation of the system, albeit with small changes, to tame, silence and neutralize the people's struggles. Thus, the active participation [in the arena] of us the university students with alternative and revolutionary politics, and creating a revolutionary pole in the progressive struggles of the people, is essential. On June 12 and thereafter, as the struggles continue, we must struggle on with this goal.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Khiaban No. 74: On Moussavi's Green Charter

Translation of a lead article from the latest Khiaban newspaper. You can read most issues of Khiaban newspapers (in Persian) here.

What We Say and Their Charter
by Amir K.
Khiaban #74 / Saturday, June 19, 2010

Today is June 19. Last year on this day, the first issue of Khiaban newspaper was published. Some hours later, in his Friday prayer sermon, Khamenei threatened the people with murder. On June 20, however, people took to the streets courageously, and although their throats and chests were riddled with the Supreme Leader's bullets, they opened up an important phase in the social life of Iran. A phase in which our society came to face the existing contradiction between the political and ruling structures and relationships [on the one hand] and the people's strengths, dreams and demands [on the other], and set out to work on resolving this contradiction, specifically through the form of [mass] street protests and demonstrations.

Now, exactly one year later, in the seventy-fourth issue of Khiaban, this publication, and the society too, carry both memory and imagination simultaneously. Memory keeps our past experience with us, and imagination shapes the future. When we imagine, when we think about the future, bitter memories, sad, happy hopeful memories, memories of solidarities, memories of blood and uprising, these memories of this past year are present. And when each moment of our memories is reviewed, this or that memory becomes a seed for the formation and growth of some thought or a plan for the future.

After a year of collective memories, the need for a collective imagination is spreading wider every day. What kind of future does the society want to create? What path does it want to take? What characteristics does the future society have, and how can it be achieved? It is these questions that make obvious the need for political platforms and plans for the majority of the people.

It is in this social atmosphere that Moussavi was forced to publish a more elaborated/systematized text, titled Green Charter, as a political platform that contains his goals and views on strategy. Of course, for now we'll overlook the fact that [exactly] at a time when people expected political actions from Moussavi, he is selling a political statement to the people instead of acting politically. Nevertheless, is Moussavi's platform loyal to the memories and the imagination of the people? Let us take a more careful look at the Green Charter.

Green Charter's Goal and Strategy
Although the phrase 'Green Charter' is new and it is claimed that it is the essence of this past year's struggle and also the crystallization of the demands of the society for its future, neither the goal nor the strategy proposed by Moussavi have any connection with people's memories and imagination. The goal is the old [demand for] implementation of the constitution and nothing less; the same goal that had also been announced by the reformists for many years before the hot summer of 2009. People's memories are over-filled with moments when they saw the existing laws as [fundamentally] opposed to their demands and their existence: from the principle of the absolute rule of the religious leader (velaayat-e faqih) who sits atop the system, to the principles that qualify and condition, and therefore [severely] restrict freedom of speech, assembly and protest, freedom of forming organizations and political parties, all based on the whims and decisions of the rulers; from the laws that leave the Sepaah [Revolutionary Guards] and Basiji's completely free to murder people, to the laws that deem women as inferior and do not recognize people without religion or of other religions, and many more cases [of legal discrimination].

Whenever in heat of the arena of struggle people's imagination thinks of a society based on freedom and social equality, free from the killing machinery of Sepaah and Basij, without the guardianship of the religious jurists, based on true collective and equal participation of all members of society in shaping their social fate -- when such thoughts were imagined, they were crushed in the streets, and yet Green Charter's goal is defined and marketed as the continuation of the existing conditions, only in its green color.

The strategy of Green Charter (it should be called 'white' since it is so neutral) also has no connection to the memories that have been piling up this last year, or to the imagination that was born this past year. The proposed strategy is the same 'working within the law', non-violence, civic activities and a package in fancy wrapping paper called 'networks', all of which have been the reformists strategy for a decade. There is no sign in this platform of this past year's experiences of the people. It is the same old reformist strategy, which was marketed as 'reformism' before but now is marketed as 'green'. In response to the millions of people protesting, the regime/system did not change a bit and yet Moussavi, while suspending street protests, at the same time in his speechifying brings the promise of wanting to change things by using all the capacities of non-violent struggle. All civil rights activists are imprisoned or exiled, but the 'civil society' people [still expect miracles].

We can find the dissonances between the Green Charter and the people's street movement in this very text, where it states that it emphasizes the necessity of joining with the middle and lower classes and the meek in the society. This very sentence reveals that Moussavi and other drafters of this platform are separate from the dominated people and the oppressed, and that they are above them (even if they really want to join them, they still considers themselves separate from the dominated). They belong to the layer of the rulers, of the dominant classes. Alas, no society has ever been liberated by the dominant layers of that society. Those who in the current situation suffer the most inequalities will be the first to take steps to destroy the bars of this prison house. Only a platform that takes stock of, and bases itself on, the fighters' memories and imagination can stay loyal to the society: a platform, whose lines are not niceties and considerations of the people up above, but one that the wrath and the hopes of the people down below write its lines.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Khiaban No. 73: Realities & Problems

Translation of a lead article from the latest Khiaban newspaper.

Realities & Problems
by Amir K.
Khiaban #73 / Monday, June 14, 2010

If we overlook some laughable headlines and comments after June 12, to the effect that we were victorious since there was so much military presence on the streets, a majority of the citizens, whose hearts beat to the rhythm of the social events, while going up and down the streets around Enghelaab/Revolution Square, waiting to see if something will or will not happen, have realized there is a need for taking a different path. The blood-thirsty Islamic Republic, with recourse to mass killing and repression, has not taken a single step back, and the people have so far not had the slightest gains. Not only has the Islamic Republic not been overthrown but no laws have changed for the better, no political prisoners have been released, the planners and executers of the killings have not been brought to justice, and the people [still] have no say or control in determining their own fates.

A More Realistic Picture of Civil Struggles
Unless our eyes are blind, or else the observer is up to some trickery so as not to see the developments:

1. Almost all social organizations and activists independent of the regime have been driven out of the society. If two years ago, a large number of Marxist university students fighting for freedom and equality were forced to flee the country while others sat in silent observation of this crackdown, today almost all political trends from liberals to democrats to even Islamic student associations have been forced to flee [...]. Almost all independent women activists and those working with the One Million Signature campaign [to legally make women equal to men] have been forced to leave: Hundreds of young journalists and scholars, hundreds of cultural and political activists from different independent cultural and social circles and centers. This is the fate of those who, in order to change their society, carried out strictly civil activities.

2. Despite all the efforts of activists in different social spheres to organize different social units, not only can no truly independent political party operate openly in the society, not even the smallest organizations of university students, the youth, women, workers and on and on ... have materialized. The smallest of over-ground cells or circles come under the severest security police attacks, and meetings or gatherings of even a few get attacked and broken up by police.

3. With the dwindling of the number of people in street protests, the regime has more room and space to prevent the formation of any seeds of street demonstrations, and the ratio of regime elements [plainclothes Basij, Revolutionary Guards, regular police and myriad other forces] to dissident citizens has been increasing.

4. Since the regime's reformists have sensed the threat to the life of the system, they are not willing to bring about conditions in which people can safely assemble. They are not willing to allow again an atmosphere in which people feel safe to come to the streets and shout their demands. Just as during the presidency of Khatami and after the events of 18 Tir [university student protests of July 8-13, 1999], the reformists had no taste for people's presence in the streets. And the people too are no longer willing to give their lives for the particular goals of the reformists. People, who have had it with this regime and want their own liberation, find it neither wise nor heroic to die in the streets so we can return to Khomeini's era, or so that some charlatan like Mostafa Taaj-Zadeh can pollute the glorious days of protests with that filthy and noxious word 'Yomollah' (in some new tract with a title that is stolen from a pamphlet by Ali Shari'ati, forgetting that almost all followers of Shari'ati, who were organized in the Mojahedin-e Khalq and Armaan-e Mostaz'afeen and others alongside many others were mass murdered by them and their friends, and then called June 15 'Yomollah', without any concerns about bringing to justice the killers who on that very day were raining bullets on people [...] See his: Father, Mother, we are again accused [...]).

5. And the obvious reality, finally, is that all know that Moussavi's suggested strategy is meaningless and absurd. He suggests spreading of awareness as the path toward victory, and perhaps considers some Green websites such as JRS [Jonbesh Raah Sabz /Green Path Movement] as the providers of the solutions. However, it is obvious to everybody that our current problem is not that the majority of people are unaware of the ongoing crimes, irrationalities and the oppression. The [main] problem is that, although this regime has no base in the people, it has stayed in power backed [solely] by bayonets.

This reality calls for a new set of objectives and planning, for new solutions and an effective and practical strategy. Although the distance traveled on the streets in this past year has been bitter and filled with sorrows, blood and injuries, it has nevertheless stored up such an abundance of material experience, awareness and combativeness that if and when another June 15 should come about, the mansions and the national TV and the parliament that belongs to the rulers will be in the hands of the people's power on the next day.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tehran University Massacre Remembered

June 14 2009 massacre at Tehran University dormitories remembered. One of the slogans shouted by Tehran University students: Students will die, but won't accept humiliation!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

People's Movement One Year On

Below is a translation of a piece from Pezhvak-e Iran. The quotes are by people in response to Moussavi and Karroubi canceling protest rallies after the Interior Ministry refused to issue permits for any anniversary rallies.
[See also video clip of Tehran University students shouting slogans against the regime on June 12, 2010.]

RELATED: 22 Khordad: Reports from Tehran (Live Updates from Persian 2 English)

People's Response to Moussavi & Karroubi's Cancellation of 12 June Demonstrations
Compiled and distributed by: Committee in Defense of Iranian People's Struggle
(Paris: June 11, 2010)

"Did we have a permit on June 15th [last year]? Did we have permits on June 17 and 19 [last year]? Did we have permits on June 20? Did we have permits on July 9? Did we have permits on Quds Day (September 19)? Did we have permits on November 4? Did we have permits on December 7 (Student Day)? Did we have permits on December 28 (Ashura)? Did we have permits on February 11 (Anniversary of Revolution)? Have you forgotten the days that we didn't have permits and still took to the streets? There is no color darker than black. I will take to the street on June 12 because I've been taking a beating for one year, for one year I have paid a price, my brothers and sisters have been killed; we have nothing else to lose."

"A permit is just a piece of paper. Our millions of feet on the streets is the most real permit."

"The millions-strong presence of the people on June 12 and 15 and ... of last year was due to the permit of the collective wisdom of free men and free women, who were seeking to take their fate and their land back from a raping clique of criminals, and they will do so again."

"Protesting is not a place of business which needs a business permit. Just as the dictators give themselves the right to give or not to give permits, we the millions of people too have the right to determine where, when and for what reason to take to the streets, to shout and to protest. The permit for a June 12 demonstration is in the hands of us the people. That is so, because that is our right. With or without a permit, on Saturday we will create an earthquake. We did not suffer fatalities so as to sit behind the gates of the Interior Ministry waiting for a permit. We did not give martyrs so as to suffocate from silence and the weight of our built up sorrows. We suffered fatalities so that we would be free. We say, we will fight and die until we are free."

"There is no room for hesitation. We don't have a right to doubt."

"If scared of cut off heads we were,
In lovers' circles we would not dance. "

"Let us remember: Neda's and Sohrab's did not wait for anybody's decision or permit to give their lives for this land of ours. On June 12, just like the Ashura [December 28, 2009], with a pounding presence we will continue the path to freedom."

"Mr. Moussavi, if you want, you can stay home and watch the World Cup games. But I owe Neda a debt. My path is the revolution and my destination is freedom. There is not much more left to go. Do not forget that we are countless."

"On June 12, millions of movement leaders will come out. Each Iranian a leader."

"Rights and justice, freedom and democracy are things to be taken, and no nation has achieved honor and righteousness without sacrifice and paying a price. No dictatorship or tyranny, as of yet, has chosen on it own accord or voluntarily to step aside. Only a nation willing to pay the price will achieve freedom and democracy. The decision is up to the people."

"On June 12 we will demonstrate since we have nothing to lose, and no darker color than black."

"On Saturday we will come out with honor and pride, like never before, in millions, to capture Tehran."

"All the military maneuverings of the regime has made our efforts less necessary and our glory greater! In fact, we are already the victors of June 12. The stamp of victory too has been applied by the regime itself. A regime that is scared of [even] our silence, scared of our shadows. Congratulations on your victory on June 12!"

"I know that you know that this demonstration will bring nothing but beatings, pain, torture, imprisonment, rape and martyrdom. Despite all that, this very unity of the people will make the murderers hearts tremble and shudder. So, in this ceremony of blood, martyrdom and love for a chained country, accompany us."

Compiled and distributed by: Committee in Defense of Iranian People's Struggle
Paris: June 11, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

Gohardasht Prison an Ongoing Catastrophe

Translation of a statement by Student Committee in Defense of Political Prisoners.[See original in Persian here]
[photo: Gohardasht prison in Karaj]

Gohardasht Prison in Karaj an Ongoing Human Catastrophe
Student Committee in Defense of Political Prisoners / June 11, 2010

Raja'i-shahr prison in Karaj (Gohar-dasht) is these days used to house a large number of political prisoners, which is unprecedented compared to recent years. In this prison, many [political] prisoners are struggling with a variety of physical and psychological illnesses and ailments. Some have even lost their lives. Nowadays, Raja'i-shahr prison in Karaj has come to be known as the place of death and exile. Two of the political prisoners held there, communicating with the Student Committee in Defense of Political Prisoners, have provided a report of the conditions in that prison that exposes an ongoing human catastrophe.

Based on reports received by the Committee in Defense of Political Prisoners from Raja'i-shahr prioners, the general conditions of this prison are extremely deplorable. Ali Haj-Kazem, the prison warden, and Ali Mohamadi, his deputy, in coordination with the judiciary and security system, play important roles in the intensification of pressures on the political prisoners. Maximizing the unhygienic conditions of the wards, stopping the entry [into prison] of any medications needed by the prisoners, physical assaults and torture of political prisoners, water stoppages, housing political prisoners with the sick as well as violent criminals, are all among efforts by prison authorities to intensify the inhumane conditions of political prisoners.

At the orders of the prison warden, an annex (hosseinieh) has been built in one of the wards, and several prisoners including Ahmad Zeid-Abadi have been transferred there. This annex which is only 110 [square] meters [about 10 yards by 10 yards] lacks any kind of primitive facilities for living in a prison, and its only merit is being at a distance from other prisoners in the Raja'i-shahr prison, who are mainly violent criminals or murderers. Seven people are housed in this annex, and they live on a rug.

In most of the wards in Raja'i-shahr prison, due to extreme overcrowding of prisoners, large numbers sleep in the hall, which has become known as the 'sleeping floor'. For example, Ward 4 houses more than 800 prisoners, whereas it only has a capacity for between 200 and 240 prisoners. Ward 4 has no bathrooms and has only 8 toilets, so the prisoners have to stand in long lines so that after a long time they may use a toilet. And then, in this ward water is shut off from 7:30 AM till 11 PM.

Ali Saremi, Mohamad-Ali Mansoori, Saleh Kohandani, Sa'eed Masoori, [...] Misagh Yazdan-nejad, Ali Mo'ezi, Afshin Paymani, Karim Aziz, Mehdi Fetrat and Hassan Tafah are among the political prisoners who are kept in Ward 4, and are struggling with extremely difficult conditions.

Another way of dealing with political prisoners is to prevent the availability of any medication or medical treatment, which, accompanied by the unhygienic conditions of the prison, have created very painful and oppressive conditions for the prisoners. Mansoor Osanloo, Khaled Hardani, Ali Saremi and Mansoor Radpoor are among political security prisoners, whose medications have been stopped from getting into the prison.

Behrooz Javid Tehrani and several others are kept in Ward 1, with dangerous criminals so as to put pressure on them. Ward 1, which comprises three halls, is known to be one of the worst wards in the prison. Hall #2 of this ward is for solitary cells, known as the 'dog house', and is where prisoners undergo torture. Behrooz Javid Tehrani is in this ward and has been subjected to severe torture. In recent days, prison guards have assaulted the prisoners kept in Ward 1, and have beaten up and injured many of them. The prison authorities, in order to stop any leaks of the news of the beatings and assaults on the prisoners, prevented the transfer of the injured prisoners to the prison clinic.

Ward 5 is known as the addicts' ward, in which prisoners who are addicted to narcotics are kept, alongside prisoners with contagious diseases. This is a dangerous ward, in which new inmates can quickly catch or come down with various diseases. Mansoor Osanloo, the leader of the bus drivers' union of Vahed Company [in Tehran], who was transferred to this ward to put pressure on him, [subsequently] came down rapidly with a respiratory illness. This was done even though Osanlou already suffers from many illnesses, and his transfer to Ward 5 has added more to his list of ailments. However, under international pressure he has since been transferred to Ward 3, which is known as the 'workers ward'.

The unhygienic conditions, presence of drug addicts and those with contagious diseases such as AIDS, and as well all the tortures carried out in this prison have caused the political prisoners to have expressed grave concerns regarding the safety of their lives in this prison. They are in particular concerned about the health of Behrooz Javid Tehrani, whom the prison authorities are said to want to kill.

To prevent a human catastrophe in Raja'i-shahr prison in Karaj, information dissemination and Iranian people's protests, as well as international organizations' interventions are all necessary, and the Student Committee for Defense of Political Prisoners will expend effort in this endeavor.

Student Committee for Defense of Political Prisoners

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Anniversary of Electoral Coup in Iran

From Payvand Iran News.

Worldwide Protests to Mark One-Year Anniversary of Iran's Disputed Election
  • Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch will cosponsor international events
  • Events in 70 cities including Tokyo, Istanbul, New York, Johannesburg, San Paulo, and Berlin
  • Online Prisoner of Conscience campaign is ongoing at
  • Mobile billboards in Los Angeles, Istanbul, and London, among other cities
  • 1/2 page newspaper and bus ads of prisoners of conscience in Johannesburg in conjunction with the world cup
Read complete report here ...

1) Bodies of Executed Hidden: Below is a piece that shows how scared the Islamic Republic is ... of dead bodies! The leaders of the Islamic Republic know fully well how deeply hated they are by the people. Why else would they be hiding the dead bodies of the Kurdish activists they executed on May 9, 2010? What can dead bodies do? Expose crimes perhaps?
2) Laughter Is Banned: This is a bit old now, but is still worth reposting; if there ever was a textbook case of moroseness of ossified religious minds displaying their hatred for life and joyousness, here it is:

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Khiaban No. 70: The Upcoming Anniversary of June Uprising

Translation of latest Khiaban newspaper lead article.

June 12th or June 20th?
by Amir K.
Khiaban #70 / Saturday, May 29, 2010

Since the Ashura protests on December 27 [2009], no opportunity for oppositional presence of the people on the streets of Tehran has been produced. Although large numbers of citizens poured onto the streets on February 11, 2010 [anniversary of the revolution], the regime was in effect able to hold complete control over the streets. From that time on, the only important oppositional arena was the general strike in Kurdistan in protest to the execution of five [Kurdish] political prisoners by the regime in May [on May 9, 2010]. Although people's fury has been piled high, lack of a particular plan in the movement, lack of a strategy, and the fact that people's independent organizations have only just been formed, and all of this alongside a brutal police and security crackdown -- these factors have all combined to take the society out of the streets and hand the streets back to the bloodied hands of the Islamic Republic.

It is for these reasons that June [anniversary of the fraudulent elections and the movement that rose up in its aftermath] finds a distinct significance in determining the fate of the current stage of the people's movement. If the regime is able to control this month, in effect another stage of the Iranian people's struggle for achieving a just and free society will have ended without any objective gains. Both the citizens and the state are well aware of this. The "Green industry" is trying to bring people to the streets to protest on June 12. However, since it lacks any party organization or infrastructure, its preference is to expend this effort at the ordinary citizens' expense, hoping that perhaps some benefits might be thereafter bestowed on 'special' citizens. It has been said that, "If a permit is issued," there will be a march on that day. We know that no permits will be issued. Those who make such statements also know this. However, the main reason for saying these things is to turn June 12 [anniversary of the elections] into a goal for the society, so that self-initiated and independent oppositional groups and associations, much as they have pushed forth their struggle with their own ingenuity since the start of the movement, this time too, if conditions and capabilities permit, unify their street protests on this day and create a new wave on the streets.

However, should we observe June 12 as the anniversary of the new movement and make our move on that day? Or, can June 20 be a more appropriate day for unifying our organizational efforts and innovations as well as different circles of citizens, for a street unity in the city and in opposition to the Islamic Republic? Since it has been preordained that this time too the citizens take things into their own hands, and since no nationwide organization or party exists to organize such a huge demonstration, it is natural that it is the collective wisdom which must, through a speedy discussion and reasoning, make a decision, determine a goal and then act. It is along these lines that two reasons will be presented for targeting June 20 instead of June 12 [for a day of action].

The conceptual reason: June 12 is the anniversary of the elections. On the next day, June 13 [last year], Ahmadinejad was announced the winner of the elections. During the following week, people took to the streets to express their protests against the announced results. On June 19, in his Friday prayer speech Khamenei threatened the dissidents with death. Despite that, most honorable people willing to give all came out onto the streets courageously. Bullets shot straight at demonstrators started to rain, and tens of citizens including Neda Agha-Soltan fell and soaked in their own blood, to become witnesses to the tyranny and blood letting of this regime. The initial protest against the disappearance of votes [soon] found itself faced with a regime that in order to save its rule had no qualms about killing people. All its legal organs and institutions -- from the Supreme Leader, to the Guardian Council, the Islamic majlis [parliament], the police and the Revolutionary Guards, and on -- are standing against the people's demands and murder them ruthlessly. Protesting on June 12 can at best represent and signify a demand for holding new elections, a demand that even Moussavi and Karroubi have yielded on. However, protesting on June 20 signifies a vaster meaning. It is the day of the opposition and protest of the citizens of a society against the unjust, tyrannical and bloodied laws and the ruling system. It is a day of remembrance of the youth who, despite Khamenei's orders, took to the streets and embraced bullets with their lives, so as to turn into a loud call in the passageways of history. June 12 is like a day of competition between political experts and professionals. June 20, however, is the day of the ordinary citizens, who are fighting to determine their own fates, and who write history in their own handwriting.

The administrative/operational reason: Just as the people gain experience in the course of their struggle and utilize those experiences in order to advance and elevate their fight, so too is the regime in the process of discovering and inventing new ways and means of control and crackdown. February 11 anniversary of the revolution left a good taste in regime's mouth. A day, when the regime benefited tremendously from its annual mobilization efforts to bring enough of its supporters into Tehran so as to contain dissident citizens. They were able to organize ordinary citizens, such as teachers and office workers, in such a way that in effect they seemed as if they were part of the oppressive forces, and were able to paint the streets in their own colors. They will use this experience. June 4, which is the anniversary of Khomeini's death, and for which an annual nationwide effort has always been organized, can become a useful tool in an attack on people. There are currently reports of tent cities being erected to the south of Tehran capable of housing a million people. They will spare no efforts to bring together an immense crowd from all cities of Iran by mobilizing through offices, neighborhoods and schools, to bring them to Tehran, and by giving them free food and exciting them through religious sermons bring them out onto the streets on June 12 so as to occupy the streets once again. They have the money, the organizational capabilities and a completely free hand to do as they please, to carry out such an organizational deed and trap the dissident people once again, just like on February 11 [anniversary of revolution].

However, the regime will not be able to keep this same crowd in Tehran until June 20. This crowd has [mostly] come on a recreational short trip, and must return home soon. And those who remain behind in their tent camps will have grown tired and fatigued by then as a result of their prolonged stay. Therefore, June 20 is the day when he enemy is in his weakest state and the dissident people are in their most powerful position. It is on such a day that the streets can be taken back from the Islamic Republic.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Khiaban No. 69: General Strike Only in Kurdistan?

Translation of latest Khiaban newspaper lead article.

General Strike Only in Kurdistan?
by Amir K.
Khiaban #69 / Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kurdistan is a strange region. It has fought alone for decades and it is sill under occupation. Deprived, and poor. What has been done to the Kurdish people under the Pahlavi regime and the Islamic Republic is still absent from the history of Iranian society. Under the regime's nationalistic speeches and the Shiite-driven ruling system, under the bombardments, the executions, the tortures and all the butchering, a part of the society was left hidden. To this very day, Kurdistan is under the most severe crackdown. A crackdown that is not limited to the imprisonments and the executions of political activists. A crackdown that manifests itself also in the lack of investments of national wealth in that region for economic development. A crackdown that includes a ban on the right of being educated in one's mother tongue. A crackdown that has brought down the Kurdish youth from their mountainside and foothill villages to Tehran, so that they can move modern life's furniture and refrigerators, on their tired shoulders, up the stairs of residential towers. A new form of crackdown, out of whose ever-open wounds flow blood and pus.

In its economic deprivation, however, Kurdistan has built within itself the richest political fabric in the Iranian society. It is not without reason that in the aftermath of the protests to the executions of its youth [on May 9, 2010], today the entire region has gone on a general strike. This is in contrast to Tehran, where the Supreme Leader gunned down the youth in front of the whole city's open eyes, but the city did not go on a strike; although all the pillows of the fellow city-dwellers, and all lovers of freedom and justice, were soaked in sadness every night.

Maybe Shirin and Farahd were not well known by the non-Kurdish citizens (Woe unto us for not rescuing our contemporary Shirin* and Farhad*!) [Translator's note: reference to two characters from one of the stories in Shahnameh]. However, Farzad Kamangar, due to his letters from inside those dungeons of suffocation, gave us all light, and found his way to the hearts and dreams of all of Iran.

So why is it that Kurdistan has risen in a general strike, and big cities in Iran are grinding on with the hustle and bustle of daily work and making a living? A blind answer could go like this: The Persians have left the Kurds to their own devices. An answer that could lead to nationalistic and Sunni-inspired speechifying on the other side (Side? What side? Who puts me and the regime's ministers and lawyers on one side, and my comrade whose fate I share on the other side?). The real answer to this question, however, is likewise an answer to the current dead-end facing people's protest movement. The reason Kurdistan is on general strike is that there are political parties in that region that have a track record of struggling for decades. The Kurdish Organization of Communist Party (Komeleh), Democrat Party, and other Kurdish organizations of various parties call on people to join the general strike, and show a way forward for the struggle. A date gets set; a particular way of fighting is suggested, and they organize their own forces for this mobilization.

On the other hand, people in Kurdistan have grown a sense of party affiliation with particular parties. Even if not members of a party, they still identify with particular parties or political trends. Within the political sphere, people are organized. It is clear then that, with organized people and with the political intervention of political parties and organizations, a general strike can be brought about.

However, right now, although the social need exists for a general strike -- or other forms of social action, in order to transform the political system -- practically the conditions for a general strike do not exist. For a general strike [to be effective] there is a need for centers of decision-making. Certain centers or headquarters must give a call for today, or some announced day, to be a day of strike. However, just an announcement is not enough. These centers and headquarters should have a presence in the social fabric and be able to mobilize people. This means an organization not based on the Internet or the satellites, but one tied to the organizational capacities of the people. At the moment, the parties opposed to the regime are separated from the social body, and those who do have the chance/ability to be present in society have repeatedly shown their loyalty to the system.

Kurdistan can be one example of the solution for the way forward. Our society can and must move in the direction of political organization. An organizational form that is not legal, but it rises from amidst the people, and it receives its legitimacy from being steeled in the storm of the struggle for [a better future for] society.

Long live Kurdistan!
Long live social struggle for freedom and equality!
Death to the fascistic Islamic Republic!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fallout of Kamangar and Others' Executions

Some news items related to the aftermath of the barbaric executions of May 9, 2010, by Iranian authorities. All news items are from Persian2English.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Farzad Kamangar: In Memoriam

The butchers of our people have struck again. They murdered yet more, in order to silence our voices. But our voices are many, and they all sing from the same well of inspiration that has inspired hundreds of millions of humans who came before us: the desire for a better, more just life.

The piece below, Farzad Kamangar's last letter from captivity before being murdered by the Islamic Republic's butchers, is from Street Journalist (visit the link to read more about Farzad Kamangar).

Farzad Kamangar was a Kurdish teacher, arrested in August 2006 and sentenced to death in February 2008, after a trial that lasted five minutes, according to his lawyer. During his months of incarceration, he was exposed to extreme mental and physical torture which he described in a letter. Read some of his letters here ... here ... and here.

May Farzad Kamangar, Shirin Alam-Houli, Ali Heydarian, Mehdi Eslamian and Farhad Vakili, and all those who have given their lives for freedom and justice, Rest In Peace!

Related: Evin Political Prisoners on Hunger Strike ... "to protest the recent executions that took place on May 9, 2010 and also the recent transfer of some prisoners to Rajai-Shahr prison."

Farzad Kamangar’s Last Letter: “Be Strong Comrades”

Once upon a time, there was a mother fish who laid 10,000 eggs. Only one little black fish survived. He lives in a stream with his mother.

One day the little fish said to his mother, “I want to go away from here.” The mother asked, “Where to?” The little fish replied, “I want to go see where the stream ends.”

[Translator’s note: Little Black Fish is the title of a short story fiction piece for children. The story was written in 1967 by the dissident teacher Samad Behrangi. The book was banned under the Shah’s regime. It tells the story and adventures of a little fish who defies the rules of his community to embark on a journey to discover the sea. On the way, he courageously fights enemies. The tale is considered to be a classic in Iranian resistance literature]

Hello cell mates. Hello fellow mates of pain!

I know you well: you are the teacher, the neighbour to the stars of *Khavaran, the classmates of dozens whose essays were attached to their legal cases [as evidence], the teacher of students whose [only] crime was their humane thoughts. I know you well: you are colleagues of Samad and Ali Khan. You remember me too, right?

[Translator's note: Khavaran is the cemetery in eastern Tehran where many political dissidents were executed during the 1980's and buried in mass unmarked graves]

It is me, the one chained in Evin prison.

It is me, the quiet student who sits behind the broken school benches and longs to see the sea while in a remote village in Kurdistan. It is me, who like you, told the tales of Samad to his students; but in the heart of the Shahoo Mountains [located in Kurdistan].

It is me who loves to take on the role of the little black fish. It is me, your comrade on death row.

Now, the valleys and mountains are behind him and the river passes though a plain field. From the left and the right side, other rivers have joined in and the river now is filled with more water. The little fish enjoyed the abundance of water…the little fish wanted to go to the bottom of the river. He was able to swim as much as he wanted and not bump into anything.

Suddenly, he spotted a large group of fish. There were 10,000 of them, one of whom told the little black fish, “Welcome to the sea, comrade!”

My jailed colleagues! Is it possible to sit behind the same desk as Samad, look into the eyes of the children of this land, and still remain silent?

Is it possible to be a teacher and not show the path to the sea to the little fish of the country? What difference does it make if they come from Aras[a river in northwestern Iran, Azerbaijan], Karoon [a river in southwestern Iran, Khuzestan], Sirvan [a river in Kurdistan] or Sarbaz Rood [a river in the Sistan and Baluchestan region]? What difference does it make when the sea is a mutual destiny, to be united as one? The sun is our guide. Let our reward be prison, that is fine!

Is it possible to carry the heavy burden of being a teacher and be responsible for spreading the seeds of knowledge and still be silent? Is it possible to see the lumps in the throats of the students and witness their thin and malnourished faces and keep quiet?

Is it possible to be in the year of no justice and fairness and fail to teach the H for Hope and E for Equality, even if such teachings land you in Evin prison or result in your death?
I cannot imagine being a teacher in the land of Samad, Khan Ali, and Ezzati and not join the eternity of *Aras. I cannot imagine witnessing the pain and poverty of the people of this land and fail to give our hearts to the river and the sea, to roar and to inundate.

[*Translator note: Aras is a river in northwest Iran, bordering Iran and Azerbaijan. Samad drowned in the river in the summer of 1968. Some have considered the circumstance of his death suspicious and blamed agents of the Shah’s regime for his death]

I know that one day, this harsh and uneven road will be paved for teachers and the suffering you endured will be a badge of honour so everyone can see that a teacher is a teacher, even if his or her path is blocked by the *selection process, prison, and execution. The little black fish and not the heron bestows honour on the teacher.

[Translator's note: Selection process or Gozinesh is a process through which teachers and other government-paid employees are vetted based on their ideological, political, and religious views]

The Little Fish calmly swam in the sea and thought: Facing death is not hard for me, nor is it regrettable.

Suddenly the heron swooped down and grabbed the little fish.

Grandma Fish finished her story and told her 12,000 children and grandchildren that it was time for bed. 11,999 little fish said good night and went to bed. The grandmother went to sleep as well. One little red fish was not able to sleep. That fish was deep in thought.

A teacher on death row, Evin prison.

Farzad Kamangar / April 2010

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Khiaban No. 66: Tehran at Center of Struggle

Translation of a lead article from the latest Khiaban newspaper.

Tehran at the Center of Struggle
Government: Tehran will be butcher
Society: Tehran will be recreated

by Amir K.
Khiaban #66 / Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In recent days, Ahmadinejad proposed a contentious plan. Using the excuse of possible earthquakes in Tehran, Ahmadinejad's faction is talking about a plan for the largest mass population transfer/relocation in Iran's history. He has announced that more than five million of Tehran's residents must be relocated to other places, and all the nation's existing structures must be reorganized accordingly. One of the early phases of this plan includes the transfer of all universities to locations outside Tehran. Ahmadinejad's view of the future is this: by relocating certain of Tehran's functions out, people will also accompany those functions and leave the city. This plan clearly demonstrates the importance of Tehran as the most crucial focal point of the current juncture. Everything is tied to Tehran.

Today's Tehran has been the historical product of the growth of modern Iran. Tehran could not have taken its current form without the presence of despotic governments in Iran that have shaped it: a small ancient town, which was chosen as the capital and was turned into the center of power with all its requisite institutions. From the centrality of government departments and offices and the banks, to the security forces, as well as higher education and research and medical institutions and hospitals, to communications systems. However much of a mega-city Tehran might be, and though it has been the seat of power to the kings and the clergy, the modern urban mentality in Iran was usually found in other centers, which were closer to modern production. That same mentality nurtured a demand for a new way of life and with its human agents would target despotic governments. Tabriz in the Constitutional Revolution (1905-11) and a constellation of southern cities in the 1978-79 Revolution were the centers of that urban mentality, which, by becoming gun-wielding Constitutionalists or striking oil workers, respectively turned into the end points of the Qajar dynasty and the house of Pahlavi.

Tehran of 2009 (1388, Iranian calendar), however, was a newly born Tehran in the history of Iran. For the first time, the ruling class was caught in a street storm in Tehran. This new Tehran is a Tehran that is the product of the late dynamics of world capitalism and domestic capital as a moment of its global totality. Tehran is no longer necessarily only the seat of power for the government; it is a ripe sample of a neo-liberal mega-city. A new system has emerged, in which the concept of state and citizens/subjects has changed, and a new composition of relations between capital and labor is dominant. Since everything has been economized/commoditized, Tehran has been elevated to a new vanguard location of social production, and it has nurtured within itself a new urban mentality, which cannot tolerate the existing stifling government. A full explanation of recent social economic developments of Tehran, which has led to the current moment, cannot be fitted into this short article. However, we must point out that the current social movement in Iran is tied to Tehran's characteristics and particularities, and the movement's strengths and weaknesses come down to the current situation and position of Tehran in today's Iran. This city has turned into a focal point, whose future direction will shape the fate of the society. Tehran, much like the political arena in Iran, is faced with three urban management plans: Ahmadinejad's plan, the Green plan, and a plan that is socially oriented or socialist.

Ahmadinejad's plan contains within it the program of some parts of the ruling classes, who currently hold the political power. The total uprooting of the people's revolution is tied mainly to the destruction of its objective conditions of existence. This new urban mentality, which like a monster has risen to challenge the ruling mullahs, will have to be controlled by destroying the political geography that gave rise to it. It is therefore not bewildering that Ahmadinejad would propose such a plan. The expulsion of the university from the city as well as the relocation of productive units, and consequently the transfer of urban labor forces to other locations, seeking to guarantee the Supreme Leader's subjects the ability to reside in the capital, along with the total management of the different urban layers, is Ahmadinejad's answer to their current predicament. His fascistic plan has objective conditions for existing also. Tehran is a problematic, a complication. It is a big can of worms that a majority of its residents would admit to it being so. Ahmadinejad is counting on Islamic Goebbels, so as to mobilize certain layers of the society in support of his fascistic plan.

The Green, or reformists', urban plan is completely similar to their Green political plans. Nothing will be touched or moved from its current place. All will be as before. Just like those past golden days, when they (today's reformists) were in power. In politics, they support not touching the constitution, and in urban matters they support not touching Tehran. They are part of the ruling class, but a part that does not share in political power at the moment. Today's Tehran, just like the current constitution, has elevated them to their current class heights. If Tehran with its current arrangement ceases to exist, how could they make huge profits? How could everything be packaged and sold? How will the markets for parts companies and auto companies be provided? If there were no Tehran, how could they sell overcrowding and market shares for housing, and how could they commodify everything, including healthcare, and sell them to make more profits? They have become ruling elites in the existing Tehran, and only this Tehran will recreate the conditions for them to remain ruling elites. Therefore, since they avoid raising 'death to' slogans, their slogan is this: Long Live Current Tehran! Just like their political slogan is: Long Live Islamic Republic!

A socially oriented plan, however, does not start with the interests of the ruling elites. It starts from the interests of the society. Tehran's existing situation simultaneously facilitates and obstructs the movement of the people toward freedom and equality. The very urban mentality that carries the political movement against the ruling government carries with it also the mark of the unequal fabric that governs the totality of our society. The cafes, books, bookstores and the learning halls, which help in shaping that modern urban mentality, are not available to lots of people. In Tehran itself, large segments of people experience the city only in its margins. Lack of rationality, which now rules over the city, grinds away billions of hours of the citizens' lives in traffic instead of spent on the citizens' productive, cultural and social growth and development. It is life in tiny rented rooms, deprived of decent standards of living, that has caused a huge segment of these very urban dwellers to pour onto the streets in an uprising against the ruling misery. On another level, Tehran has been built up at the cost of the deprivation of provincial towns and cities. Concentration of capital in Tehran, concentration of construction and development in Tehran, concentration of research and educational institutions in Tehran, concentration of everything in Tehran, has on its other side the deprivation of the rest of the social fabric. If in Baluchestan the dissident leaders are violent Islamic fundamentalists while in Tehran women students carrying stones, this is due to the large schism between the center and the periphery. A socially oriented plan cannot accept the continuation of the existing conditions, since it is these very conditions that block people from achieving what they need. Tehran and the whole of society need a new organizational re-arrangement. However, socially oriented transformation has fundamental differences with fascistic machinations. Yes, we too say that several existing institutions' existence in Tehran is harmful. However, instead of expelling the universities from the city, we should abolish the Revolutionary Guards bases and Basiji garrisons. Instead of relocating workers to satellite townships without any facilities, and instead of the city remaining in the hands of the military-security-industrial rulers, the city must belong to the urban laboring forces. [Additionally] the center-periphery distinction must be brought to an end.

A social revolution will be the evolution of Tehran's street movement to a widespread and universal social flourishing.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Khiaban No. 64: Self-Organization or Strengthening Social Networks?

Translation of a lead article from the latest Khiaban newspaper (#64).

Self-Organization or Strengthening Social Networks?
by Amir K.
Khiaban #64 / Monday, March 29, 2010

What is self-organization? Maybe it is better to start with the opposite. If we don't organize ourselves, others do it. Self-organization therefore is in opposition to being organized by others.

Let me give some examples. In many social spheres in daily life, we are organized by other people. Look at our jobs. In general, a great part of most people's lives is organized in jobs and workplaces, which are not managed by us. At work, we are placed in particular levels [of responsibility] defined by a small group. We therefore pursue goals set by our jobs' organization, which have not been determined by us. We perform tasks that have been assigned to us. At chosen times, we punch in our time cards to start work, and at designated hours we punch out.

Look at our cities and our places of living. Our lives are organized in a particular spatial arrangement, in the planning and production of which we have had no roles. The fact that you may live in an apartment development in the outskirts of the city, and have to wake up before sunrise and spend two to four hours a day in traffic, and in order to survive expend effort for eight to twelve hours in your workplace, all this gives life an organization that has been imposed by 'others'.

You may know, there are days [in Iran] called 'yom allah', organized in schools by school administrators. There are ceremonies, speeches, decorations in the hallways and classrooms, there are sweets handed out and prizes to this or that hand picked few, all of it organized very well. However, International Day of Women/March 8th, or Worker's Day/May 1st, or many other 'controversial' days don't spark the interests of those 'others' to organize. Billions upon billions are spent on organizing military and security companies and firms, but in many spheres needed by the society no budgets are allocated to organize them.

Maybe now self-organization can be understood better. Self-organization then is not everybody's problematic. Those who are currently involved in organizing the society don't much like the society to find self-organization. They benefit from the current organization of the society; an organization that comes with profits for them, and catastrophe for a majority. Self-organization is the organization of ordinary citizens by themselves and for achieving goals that they have set themselves.

In principle, organizing is a function of a collective goal. The collective goal in self-organization comes out of the needs of the people who form that organization, and by necessity and by definition are in contrast/opposition to the existing and dominant organizations. This is because self-organization does not follow the interests of those 'others'. It follows the interests and the wellbeing of the 'self'. If the ruling system has organized women's lives in such a way that they spend their days in the kitchen, taking care of their kids, cleaning and dusting, and filling their seeming leisure time watching superficial TV series so that they remain obedient, imprisoned and unwaged workers, women's own needs and dreams however bring forth other goals for their lives, and if women organized themselves, they would pursue these goals in a collective manner.

Self-organization gives those who work, those who are unemployed, those who are kept in the margins, the outcasts and the cursed, and any other oppressed and exploited group, the ability to determine their goals themselves and to struggle collectively to achieve them.

Self-organizing is a foundational/creative act. A group of people founds a society for a particular goal; goals which are determined by them, and they create the modes of their own organizing. Self-organizing is also a combative action. It intends to take back those spheres and domains that the class system has expropriated from these groups. It is therefore not without reason that many [commentators] would remain silent about self-organization. But, what is their alternative?

The fashionable phrase 'social networks and how to strengthen them' is a familiar one, no? It is rare to come across an article, some text or call for action or statement in relation to the opposition movement and not see social networks not mentioned as the suggested and prescribed form of social action for the movement. Using this phrase, however, is not without reason. Social networks are neutral. Except for pomp and fanfare this concept carries nothing, and it does not open up a definite direction or path toward creating a new society.

Each of us is placed within a collection of social interactions. [For example] in a network of relatives, in a network of coworkers, a network of fans of this football club or that film director. These networks exist. In any of the most undeveloped all the way to the most advanced human societies, you can draw several different social networks. The concept 'social network' says nothing about the nature and inner workings of injustice, oppression and discrimination. And it is not an alternative to those. Networks are shaped based on the current system and how an existing society works, and they could change with them. Networks do not necessarily follow any consciously determined goals. You are not determining any specific goals when along with your relatives you are defined as a member of a family network.

Social networks are not acts that create or found new things. They are a continuation of the status quo. In any factory [in Iran, for example], there exists a network of relationships among those who work there. However, in rare factories can you see any organization of the employees (be they unions or councils, a syndicate or a public assembly, or ... ) created by themselves and in order to pursue their own goals. Therefore, the slogan to strengthen social networks in effect will have no benefits for those who work in such places.

Strengthening social networks is not a combative act, either. It has no animosity with any person or setup or system, and it cannot have any such antagonism. In the concept of social networks there is no element of confrontation or conflict between 'us' and 'them', and there is no goal-driven 'organization'. Network is a white concept. Neutral. It is fancy speechifying, but empty of any specific idea of struggling in concrete conditions. 'Social networks' has not entered the discourse of many because it lacks anything to say and any plans or platforms, but precisely because it can be used to mask social conflicts and struggles, to mask any confrontation of opinions and interests, and to mask the division of the society into dominant and dominated groups.

People's victory depends on their self-organization. This principle is not to deny the role of political parties or the role of leadership, a discussion that will be dealt with in another writing. But it must be said in brief that 'our' political parties are also a result of our self-organization. People's self-organization has different forms and complexities. Self-organization can encompass the efforts of a group of people in a factory or a company to secure the rights of the group members, or the collective attempts of a group to disseminate gender awareness among women in the form of a magazine, or a larger, more complex organization that works in the form of a political party that puts forth a particular program for organizing the entire society. We will return to this issue in the future.