Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Campaign in Defense of Political Refugees’ Hunger Strike in Van – Turkey

This is from Street Journalist.

Declaration of Campaign in Defense of Political Refugees’ Hunger Strike in Van – Turkey

A group of political refugees in the city of Van (Turkey) has announced that they have been on a hunger strike from Tuesday, 29 March 2011, in front of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Van, Turkey.

UNHCR has accepted them as refugees years ago, but in spite of this, UNHCR has not so far carried out the process of their resettlement to a third peaceful country. This problem has created a lot of economic, security and psychological difficulties and problems for these political refugees.

The Campaign in Defense of Political Refugees’ Hunger Strike in Van-Turkey tries to make their voices heard by the authorities of UNHCR and refugee-receiving countries, by drumming up support from organizations and individuals who defend refugee rights and by spreading and reflecting the news of this hunger strike.

The Campaign in Defense of Political Refugees’ Hunger Strike in Van-Turkey appeals to the refugee rights organizations and all human rights activists to help and support these political refugees by sending letters of objection to the office of UNHCR in turkey and demand that they accelerate the process of their transference to a third country immediately.

Address: Istasyon Mahalle, Terminal 1. Sokak Hayirlar Caddesi 40/2 Van
Phone: 0432 2155470 – 2143630
Fax: 0432 2148404

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Children of Fallujah: DU Victims

An informational video about DU

First spotted on Uruknet, see below a report from New Weapons Committee on increased cases of birth defects in Fallujah, Iraq. This is of utmost importance.

Imperialist interventions cause more than economic and social destructions of societies, lasting decades or more. Those forms of destruction alone are immensely costly. But, of late, the U.S. and western European interventions such as in Yugoslavia, in Iraq (both in 1991 and in 2003), in Afghanistan, and now in Libya too, have brought with them a form of destruction that is of the most maliciously sinister nature. We are of course referring to the use of uranium munitions in all these aggressive imperialist military interventions.

Use of uranium munitions is a war crime according to the most acceptable rules of war proposed by international law; laws that have determined that use of agent orange, white phosphorous bombs or other chemical agents are similarly war crimes.

Depleted uranium (DU; which is NOT depleted of radioactive toxicity) is a radioactive waste from nuclear reactors. The U.S. and other countries that use nuclear reactors for energy production produce tons upon tons of depleted uranium each year. Storing this waste product safely has always been a huge problem for such countries.

In the U.S., to the extent that any conscious industrial planning has existed, it has been centered on military development. Increasingly, and naturally, all problems are addressed militarily. To address the 'storage' problems of depleted uranium, which is a very hard heavy metal, most western weapons manufacturers are currently using depleted uranium in the production of munitions (as well as armor for tanks, etc.), which adds immense 'kill power' to those munitions.

However, upon impact, the depleted uranium contained in the munitions explode into millions of dust particles that disperse into the air, settle down into the soil, or come back down in the rain, and in all cases eventually contaminate all soil, water and food. The radioactivity of depleted uranium remains immensely toxic for thousands of years.

Increase of birth defects and miscarriages in Fallujah
Newweapons Press release

Increase in time of birth defects and miscarriages in Fallujah since 2003 and its association with toxic metals load in the population and in newborns and children with birth defects and their families

We present here a full scientific investigation on the birth defects increase in Falluhja. Unusually high frequency of birth defects and miscarriages was observed over the years following 2003, with gradual increase since then and with birth defects frequencies not decreasing up to November 2010.

For 2010, medical sources in Falluhja reported to us 14.7% of birth defects. This is about 10 folds higher compared to the frequencies in the same families in the years 1991-2001. Also miscarriage rates have increase considerably over the time from 2003.
The authors report that absolute levels of teratogenic and carcinogenic contaminants (Vanadium, Cobalt, Molybden, Uranium and Lead) were significantly higher in Iraqi than in controls from other areas, with Lead levels in children with birth defects and Uranium in their parents higher respectively than that in other newborns or parents of normal Falluhja children.

The composite metal load might be a major factor in the increase in time of events that lead to birth defects and miscarriages registered in the last years.

Read the complete press release here ...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Oppose Death Penalty for Kurdish Activist in Iran

Translation of the statement by Raah Kargar's Executive Council on the death penalty issued for Shirkooh Moarefi, a Kurdish activist, whose day of execution is set for May 1. How do they throw salt into the wound? Here is one way!

We Are All Shirkooh! United and Collectively We Protest the Barbaric Death Sentence for Shirkooh Moarefi!
Statement of the Executive Council of Revolutionary Workers' Organization of Iran (Raah Kargar)

Shirkooh Moarefi, a Kurdish activist youth, is once again facing death penalty. According to a letter from his family, [town of] Saqhez court issued the sentence at the same time as the Norouz [Iranian New Year] celebrations, and they have announced the date of the execution to be on May 1, at the same time as the International Workers' Day. The upholding of the death sentence for Shirkooh Moarefi by the court occurred right after the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a resolution to appoint a special rapporteur to monitor Iran's human rights conditions; the [execution sentence] is a show of defiance to that world body by the Islamic Republic. It also conveys the message that the regime does not intend to cave in to the international pressure and intends to continue the execution of its opponents. The regime, especially given the relentless [political] conditions it is wrestling with, can also not afford to put aside one of its most important and basic weapons and tools of intimidation and of spreading fear among the people.

[We have] a situation in which the removal of price subsidies have caused ever increasing poverty and misery along with uncontrollable inflation. This has increasingly created the conditions for connecting the struggles going on for demands for equality and demands for freedom in our society. There were also the protest actions of workers and the poor in shantytowns [outskirts of urban areas] toward the close of last year [which ended on March 20]. The expansion and spreading of the anti-dictatorial protests and the deepening of its mass nature in the new year have become real important threats to the continuation of the Islamic Republic. Given all these conditions, the court in Saqhez chose May 1 as the day of execution so as to make clear that the punishment for any effort to connect the movement [of workers] for economic demands to the anti-dictatorial movement is execution; furthermore, the Islamic Republic's gift to the working classes on May 1 is not only the continuation of no rights for workers, as well as low wages below inflation levels, not only the continuation of imposed hunger and unsigned contracts, not only slave-like work conditions and even lower wages and the continuation of inflation and the non-payment of wages for months, but also the gallows' noose.

The upholding of the death sentence for Shirkooh Moarefi and the decision to carry out the execution on May 1 creates a new challenge for all the defenders of freedom and democracy: Silence regarding this criminal sentence will create a dangerous divide in the anti-dictatorial movement. This is so because a movement that cannot unconditionally defend all political prisoners regardless of their political ideas and beliefs, a movement that cannot act as one against death penalty as a state crime, that movement cannot become universal and will be set back. On the other hand, widespread protests -- lacking any sectarian narrow mindedness and irrelevant [political] calculations -- against this cruel and barbaric sentence will be an indication of the maturing of the anti-dictatorial movement, and will be an important step in the direction of resolving some of the divisions within the movement, and will strengthen unity and solidarity in the struggle against the oppressors.

The Executive Council of the Revolutionary Workers' Organization of Iran (Raah Kargar), while strongly condemning this barbaric sentence, calls on all political parties and formations and democratic organizations, all the forces of the anti-dictatorial movement, all individuals and political figures who support human rights and oppose death penalty, and all freedom-seeking Iranians in and outside the country to raise their voices of protest against the death sentence of Shirkooh Moarefi.

Let us get together and with widespread and united protest push the Islamic Republic back once again, and turn this May 1 into a day of shouting our collective pain against death penalty and against the lack of any rights for workers, the poor and all the people in Iran.

Down with the Islamic Republic!
Long Live Freedom, Long Live Socialism!
Executive Council of Revolutionary Workers' Organization of Iran (Raah Kargar/Woker's Path); March 26, 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Khamenei's Jihad against Workers' Livelihood

Translation of an article by Morteza Kavian. Found the original at Raah-e Kargar website.

A Look at Khamenei's Norouz Address: Call to Jihad from Fear
by: Morteza Kavian / 23 March 2011

With the arrival of Norouz [New Year, first day of spring], Khamenei congratulated all fellow Iranians in and outside the country, as well as all others who celebrate Norouz and hold it in respect. But, he saved his special congratulations for the families of those who are "in the service of the system and revolution."

He said: "Of course, some bitter events occurring in some countries -- in Bahrain, against their dear people, in Yemen, in Libya -- does not make the new year refreshing for us, and prevents people from feeling the full joy of Norouz." But of course he did not show the same [feelings] for the people of Syria since it is totally understood among the regime's ranks that the issue of the anti-dictatorial movement in Syria should at all costs remain hushed and not talked about. Khamenei, along with all his corrupt systems' liars, have an incurable stupidity that prevents them from opening their eyes and seeing the vast and widespread informational and organizational capabilities [for connecting with others] in today's connected and Internet-filled world. However, watching a video clip [available on YouTube], in which the Syrian people who have risen up are shouting, "No Hezbollah, No Iran!" sheds new light on the dimensions of the Iranian rulers' disgraceful infamy [internationally].

More important, however, is that Khamenei could not admit that the refreshing taste of Norouz was spoiled for him not because people in the region were being killed by criminals just like him; but rather because of an incurable fear and dread -- about the determination of the movement of the people who have risen up and their collective decision to topple this ignominious system. A dread that has been forced on him and his supporters and [paid thugs].

Khamenei adds: "[In the past year] in the economic field, in political spheres, and with regards to the glorious presence of people in the political arena and in the service of revolution and ... we have witnessed that the country's officials too, in the executive branch, the legislative and the judiciary, have performed their duties; especially the executive branch in this one year has carried out great tasks, which include this very important and sensitive issue of rationalizing the subsidies."

In the tomb of Imam Reza, Khamenei says: "Carrying out the rationalization of subsidies, which all economic experts agree to, has been a goal and dream for some years, and with god's blessing, it started last year, and the cooperation of the people and the government in carrying it out has been excellent."

He said: "The most basic efforts and plans of the enemies of our people and our country are economic issues." And he adds: "That's why in this new year that has begun, we must pay attention to the most basic problems of the country, and in my view all these are economic problems. That is why I call this year 'Year of Economic Jihad' ... The natural movement [of the economic factors] is not enough; in this arena, we must take a leap with a fighting spirit."

Meanwhile, in this theatrical production Ahmadinejad too, in his Norouz message, displayed his exemplary and brazen shamelessness, and in explaining the "economic successes of last year", said: "Housing plans, investments and production continued speedily, and more than one million and six hundred thousand jobs were created in an unprecedented record in Iran." He also added that the plan for rationalizing subsidies, as a vast and transformative plan, started out well with unrivaled cooperation and support and alertness of the Iranian people, and is well on course. "In two to three years, we shall uproot the problem of unemployment from this shiny land, and in the near future no housing problems shall exist for the youth and the people of Iran."

The factor that reveals the [true nature of the] current conditions is the attempt to push forth with a fascistic policy, which is intent on going down its inauspicious path relying upon truncheons, which is exactly the meaning of the announcement of "economic jihad" by Khamenei, and also the policy of openly lying by Ahmadinejad government. A policy that has a thoroughly fascistic nature.

So now, this most enormous and painful operation on the body of the Iranian economy, from among all the limitless lies of Ahmadinejad and his Imam, arms itself with a naked sword, so as to be able to make possible the looting of the last pieces of livelihood not had by the dispossessed people, and so as to complete the assault against the empty tables of workers.

The magnificent movements in the Middle East and North Africa have so far illustrated clearly, and clarify [further] at each moment, that there exist only a hair's distance between their anti-dictatorial movement and bread issues. Additionally, the intensification and deepening of capital's neo-liberal policies in these countries have increasingly and continuously rendered freedom and social equality into inseparable components [of real liberty]. That is why Khamenei and his supporters know very well that their plans and moves in the political and economic arenas, especially under the conditions of mass collapse of people's support and the [regime's] lack of any legitimacy, will not work any more if lacking the characteristics of a "jihad". This is also why Khamenei included at the top of his advice to "teach and spread awareness" among the people about the "economic successes", which means nothing other than falsifying and lying to the workers and the poor, all the more.

Khamenei says, "Complaints have always existed among the officials from the beginning of the revolution, and that is the nature of such work. But, these complaints should not be brought among the people, and the people should not be made to suffer or get disappointed; the officials should rather solve such complaints amongst themselves." This advice is right along the same policy; a policy that is based on brute force on the one hand, and lies, deceits and secretiveness on the other.

However, the violent assault of the regime of religious guardians against the living conditions of the masses of workers and the poor -- an assault that has started for some months now and with reliance on this fascistic policy is supposed to continue its wretched spread -- will not go unanswered. Capital has always created the forces that are its own gravediggers; the expansion of the assault by the regime against the livelihoods of the workers of the country will create favorable conditions for connecting the anti-dictatorial struggles of the people with the movements seeking equality [and economic justice]. Conditions that will organize and bring the hardworking battalions of the Iranian working classes to the arena of struggle against the corrupt Islamic regime, and soon will uproot and get rid of the system of looting and violence and rotten reactionary religion that exist in Iran.

UN Human Rights Rapporteur Approved for Iran

GENEVA (Reuters) -The U.N. Human Rights Council established a special investigator on Iran on Thursday, a move spearheaded by Washington that will subject Tehran's record to U.N. scrutiny for the first time in nearly a decade.

Activists welcomed the move as historic, underlining the need for a focused investigation into widespread allegations of abuse, including arrests of political opponents and torture.

The 47-member forum, overcoming Iran's objections to a resolution brought by Sweden and the United States, approved it by 22 votes in favor, 7 against and 14 abstentions.

Read complete report here ...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Days of Oppression & Resistance

From Rooz online.

365 Days of Suppression and Resistance
by Fereshteh Ghazi

[The past one] year began with the en-mass arrest of political, media, civil and public activists; the year is highlighted with executions and horrendous interrogations in which interrogators issued prison sentences on behalf of judges.

The year began with execution sentences for five members of a family. The death penalty of Motahere Bahrami, Reyhane Haj Ibrahimi and Hadi Gaemi were reduced to 19 years of exiled prison who were sent to Rajaishahr prison in Karaj, but the death sentence of two other members Ahmad and Mohsen Daneshpour Moghadam were upheld. This father and son, along with Abdol-Reza Ghanbari - an arrested teacher - remain in danger of being executed.

In Ordibehesht, the second month of 1389 [April 20-May 20, 2010], 5 political prisoners were secretly executed, something that shocked Iran and the world as Farzad Kamangar, a Kurdish teacher, Shirin Elam Hooi, Ali Heydarian, Farhad Vakili and Mehdi Eslamian left us. This marked the beginning of other secret executions that followed. The family members and parents of these prisoners were banned from holding any mourning or memorial services for them and even their bodies were not delivered to them. Some of the family members were arrested as well.

Soon, Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad Haj Aghayari, Hossein Khazri and Zahra Bahrami were also secretly executed and buried, their families never seeing them or even their bodies after their disappearance and execution. Saeed Malekpour, according to his wife, and Hamid Ghasemishal face the possibility of execution. Their death sentences were suspended once.

Zeinab Jalalian, Habibollah Gholbarioour, Zonyar and Loghman Moradi, Habibollah Latifi, Shirkoo Moarefi and other political prisoners have been sentenced to death and await their fate. The death sentences of Habibollah Latifi and Shirkoo Moarefi had once earlier been suspended, but there is no certainty this would happen again.

But it was not just political prisoners who were secretly executed last year. Many non-political prisoners, particularly in the city of Mashhad, too were executed in secret.

Like previous years, 1389 was the year when “steps against national security, espionage, fighting God, propaganda against the regime, inciting public opinion, publishing lies, creating suspicion, election rigging, disrupting public order through creating chaos", etc were the charges that were made against most of the prisoners who were given heavy sentences.

In 1389, the staff of foreign embassies, journalists, civil activists, judges, political, media and civil activists, including many prominent personalities inside the regime and some even founders of the Islamic republic were arrested, and some such as Mostafa Tajzadeh and his wife Fakhrolsadat Mohtashemipour continue to remain in detention.

Most of these prisoners remained deprived of even their prison rights and had no visitation rights, telephone calls, etc. But the letters and messages of these prisoners that made it out of prison confirmed their perseverance and resistance against the cruelty inside the prison.

Some, such as Tajzadeh, Mohammad Nourizadeh, Majid Tavakoli, Bahare Hedayat, Issa Saharkhiz, also wrote public letters that exposed what went on behind bars.

Perhaps the cruelest sentence went to Jaafar Panahi, Nasrin Sotudeh, Jila Bani Yaghoob, Ahmadi Zeidabadi, Emad Bahavar, Hossei Ronaghi Maleki, and Hossein Derakhshan, the two latter ones receiving 15 and 19 year prison sentences.

During the year, “safe houses”, which are secret detention centers, once again were used against political activists.

In 1389, regime officials even feared tomb stones of those it executed and so refrained from declaring the site of burial of many of those it murdered to their family members.

These atrocities were so gross that the Kahrizak prison had to be shut. This was the site of brutal murders, rape and torture of prisoners.

Even mothers of prisoners were not immune from arrest and detention. Mothers of Saeed Zeynali and Hesam Tarmesi were arrested as they were pursing to find out the condition of their imprisoned children. These two mothers were eventually released on bail, but Hakimeh Shokri and Neda Mostaghimi, two other mothers were arrested and charged with espionage and acting against national security.

This was [also] the year the people of Iran came to the streets and called the leader of the Islamic republic a dictator and announced that he too would face what Mubarak of Egypt and Bin Ali of Tunisia faced.

The complete article can be read here ...

Into the New Year at Hafezieh in Shiraz

Here is a video clip from a gathering in Shiraz at Hafezieh, tomb of the poet Hafez. People were bringing in the New Year at this old poet's tomb, shouting slogans against the dictatorship and singing songs of freedom.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Iran: Hundreds dead or injured in Ghezel Hesar prison

On the eve of the Iranian New Year, we can only post this bleak report. This is about the prison clashes that happened in Ghezel Hesar prison (in Karaj), on March 15, 2011. The clashes occurred as a result of prisoners protesting the executions at that prison. Found this on Persian2English.

Hundreds dead or injured in Ghezel Hesar prison clashes, phones cut off

According to the HRANA group, at least 150 prisoners are dead or injured after bloody clashes erupted in Karaj’s Ghezel Hesar prison on the night of March 15th. Thousands of prisoners from units 2 and 3 launched a protest after hearing the news of plans to execute ten inmates.

During the protest approximately 3,000 prisoners attempted to break the doors of their cells while chanting, “Executions must stop.” Security forces attacked the prison cells, resulting in bloody clashes and the transfer of some prisoners from their cells. Reports indicate that prison guards used live ammunitions to control the protesters. Consequently, nearly eighty prisoners were seriously injured or killed, but the number of those shot is at 150 or higher. A handful of officers along with the deputy warden of the prison, Mr. Safakhil suffered leg injuries during the clashes. The prisoners who protested are either serving a heavy sentence or facing imminent execution.

The Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners reported on March 16th that some people attacked the prison from the outside in an attempt to free some of the detainees. According to these reports, some prisoners escaped. The news of the escapes has not been confirmed by other sources.

1) Amnesty International: Deaths in Iranian Prison Must Be Investigated (March 17, 2011)
2) Take action on behalf of Iranian political prisoners: AI: Norouz Action

Friday, March 18, 2011

No Nuke Power Plants for Iran, Please!

As more detailed news reaches Iran about the disastrous Japan earthquake on March 11, the most powerful in the last century, and about the resultant tsunami that has devastated the Sendai area in northeastern Japan, the Iranian people -- especially those living in Bushehr, the sight of the nuclear power-plant-to-be -- must be feeling not merely a sense of sadness for the people of Japan in these days of severe hardship and suffering. As the people of Bushehr in particular start digesting the implications for them and start to find out about more details of the unfolding disaster in Japan, they certainly will be reflecting on their own situation and the possible threats directed at them by the nuclear power plant that has yet to go live, in their port city on Persian Gulf.

Bushehr residents must be in deep anxiety over the existence of this nuclear plant in their city, built by a government that has demonstrated its absolute disregard for people's lives, a government lacking any and all accountability. They must be dreading the certain oncoming disaster should the nuclear plant start its operations. They know that they too regularly feel the earth shake under their feet since southern Iran often experiences earthquakes. They know that the Iranian government is no Japanese government. Safety standards? Pure fantasy! Earthquakes strengths the power plant is supposed to have been built to withstand? How about, earthquake strengths the plant is actually able to withstand? Evacuation plans? The residents of Bushehr must surely be surveying the available roads leaving the city, and most likely shaking their heads in despair, over the disrepair of the transportation possibilities and the sacristy of available choices of possible refuge.

* * *
The Iranian people have a right to demand accountability for a series of issues involved with nuclear energy production in Iran: Where are the records of seismological surveys carried out to determine how near or 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 (as in, 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?

Equally important, do the people in Iran have any oversight rights over any of the nuclear activities conducted by the government? Of course not. As well, is there a reliable infrastructure available to help rebuild lives in a worst-case scenario? Or, is Bushehr as a city, much like Chernobyl and vicinity, an expendable entity? In other words, are the ruling gentlemen in Tehran - and all the capitals signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - offering the people of Bushehr, as guarantees for their safety, mere luck and divine protection?

Iran rests 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). As shown in the seismicity map, southern regions of Iran are regions of regular tectonic movements.

Of the major earthquakes that occur in Iran, a good many are stronger than magnitude 6.5 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; 500 killed (included for a comparative frame)
· 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 or tens of thousands more suffered also months and years of dislocation and loss of livelihoods, for which they were never compensated, nor were they helped in any way in rebuilding their lives. Now, imagine the (at least tenfold) additional casualties and displaced if any such earthquake is accompanied by the radiation contamination associated with the melt down of a nuclear reactor.

We cannot even imagine what nightmare we will face if a disaster of the same magnitude as that near Sendai occurred in Bushehr. We can, however, state categorically that not even a shade of Japanese building standards is likely to have been enforced or followed in the construction of Bushehr power plant; and we know for a fact that not one hundredth of the Japanese transportation infrastructure exists in Iran; and we know for a certainty that there will be little if any assistance provided the stricken people by the Iranian government in such a disastrous case.

We would therefore be right to question everything that has anything to do with nuclear activities in Iran. When it comes to nuclear power, transparency and accountability are essential. IAEA inspections are all fine and good for people living all the way on the other side of the globe. Inside Iran, however, and especially for those living in a city with a power plant, people need to have a guaranteed right of citizens' groups - consisting of independent scientists, environmental activists, citizens' direct representatives, etc. - to carry out on-demand inspections of nuclear facilities, the right to review books, regulations, safety measures, evacuation plans, and on and on. Transparency and open accountability are absolutely necessary exactly because nuclear activities can, in a variety of ways, cause very serious harm for hundreds of thousands of people and their entire environment, as well as the adjacent ecosystems.

In Iran, however, there is no accountability for anything the government does. As the world learned in the wake of the 2009 electoral coup in Iran, and in the course of the development of the movement by the Iranian people for the seven to eight months that followed (a movement which has now resumed), the Iranian government does not recognize any rights on the part of the people. The government's attitude toward the people is exactly as a king's would have been in feudal Europe some eight, nine hundred years ago, except that the government of Iran holds such antiquated attitudes towards 'its own' people, in a highly complex modern society in late capitalism.

Freedom of assembly and to peacefully gather in public spaces that rightfully belong to people, freedom of expression, freedom to organize independent labor unions, independent women's organizations or student organizations, freedom of attorneys to defend political prisoners and not be imprisoned themselves -- these are all luxurious terms in the Iranian context. People do not even have freedom from being tortured in secret illegal detention centers, no freedom from being raped (or threatened to), either by humans or objects if the interrogators deem it necessary to 'break' a prisoner; no freedom for parents to hold funerals for their children if those children are killed by the security forces of the regime; no freedom to have the graves of their children left alone by regime thugs who regularly vandalize those graves; and in some cases when the youth is politically imprisoned en-masse and are then mass-murdered in thousands, illegally and in an act of 'ideological cleansing', as happened in 1988, thousands have been denied the right to even have a known grave and are buried in mass graves (see, Khavaran).

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

It is therefore our duty to stand on the side of the wellbeing 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 held accountable for any adverse outcome of the nuclear activities of the Iranian government; particularly when nuclear facilities are built near densely populated areas, and most definitely if those densely populated areas are sitting on top of active tectonic plates, as is the case with Bushehr power plant.

Lacking transparent accountability for the preparations that have occurred so far, and the plans 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 lead to large numbers of fatalities and enormous health threats for hundreds of thousands of people, a threat that will last for at least thousands of years in the best of circumstances (in the case of storing nuclear waste that remains radioactive for millions of years) .

On the other hand, Iran does have access to vast and endless amounts of alternative sources of energy: solar and wind. The right engineers can do the necessary calculations, but it seems clear that cultivating solar panel farms or windmill farms, can easily match the energy produced by wasteful and radioactive-waste-producing nuclear power plants. If China can develop solar panels, why not Iranian engineers? It is not like the development of solar energy is supposed to remain the sole monopoly of the western societies.

It is time for the left in the west to start building international alliances against nuclear energy per se. As regards approaching the nuclear issue in Iran, this would require a reorientation toward solidarity with the people of Iran and to think and act independently of the power calculations of the ruling classes both in the west and the ruling class in Iran.

It is time to stand in unambiguous solidarity with the people of Iran and their wellbeing. To do that as regards the nuclear issue, it is necessary to redefine the issue and to bring to it those missing social dimensions deliberately kept out by both western powers and by the Iranian regime. It is time to approach the nuclear issue from a principled stance, that of the people's interests, and to refuse to accept the terms of the debate presented to us by the western powers or by the militarist theocracy that has taken complete control of the Iranian state apparatuses and is suffocating the Iranian people.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Happy Charshanbeh Suri!

There are lots of videos being posted of people in Iran taking to the streets on this third Protest Tuesday, this time to celebrate as well as to protest.

Here are a few, showing people having some oppositional political fun, while celebrating Charshanbeh Suri, (according to some) a 3,700-year old festival/celebration, based around a simple ritual of starting a bonfire and jumping over it; an act that is supposed to transfer one's negative energies to the fire, while the person absorbs the positive energies of the fire.

Happy Charshanbeh Soori to all Iranian people!

1) Tehran: Burning Ahmadi's & Khamenei's pictures:

2) Tehran:

3) Large crowd shouting slogans against regime:

4) Tehran: Burning Khamenei's picture:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Iran Workers' Message of Solidarity with Wisconsin Workers

Translation of a message of solidarity with the workers in Wisconsin, from Iranian workers; more specifically, from the Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers' Organizations. Many thanks to Revolutionary Fesenjan for sending the original our way.

Message of Solidarity with American Workers

American Workers,
We have heard the sounds of your protests against the brazen attack on your rights, imposed on you by the capitalist system. Wisconsin Governor's plan is only one of the latest attacks that, along with all the other attacks, have been conducted against you, our fellow class sisters and brothers. Based on what we have heard about this plan, the workers' share of contribution to the pensions has been raised by 5.8%, to the healthcare services by 12.6%, and the wages are to be cut by 8%, and their work-hours will be increased. [Also,] the legal responsibilities of workers' representatives in bargaining with the employers will be reduced, and special privileges will be granted to the employers for firing/laying off workers and ...

We remember how capitalism in the U.S. has always tried to resolve its crises by putting more pressure on you the workers. The state that protects capital (whether during Republican or Democrat administrations), in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis, in order to prevent the bankruptcies of more banks and financial and other companies, has been taking enormous sums of money from people's pockets and taxes in order to inject several hundred billions of dollars into these banks and institutions, so as to prevent a chainlike collapse of key institutions of capital. We know how during periods of growth of capital and capitalists, enormous amounts of wealth is extracted and stolen from our labor and lives, and during the periods of reduced profitability how those wages for us, wage slaves, get even more taken out of them, lest this exploitative system of capital gets harmed or collapses.

Under the guise of 'freedom' and 'democracy' and defense of American people's interests, and using the wealth produced by the workers, [American capitalists] militarily attack other countries in the world. While those who really get harmed by these attacks are the American workers and workers in countries under attack, capitalist states and capitalists in these states -- in short, the capitalist world-system -- find themselves new markets, new resources and new strategic positions that provide the conditions for increasing their power. We know that from these trickeries and deceits, capital's share is the ever more increasing concentration of wealth, and the workers' share is nothing but more misery and more wretchedness.

We are well aware that all of us workers, either directly or indirectly, are the main victims of the crimes of global system of capital, and capitalists and their states have amassed legendary profits and wealth from our work, pain and blood.

Workers' protests in the U.S., which has now gone beyond the state of Wisconsin, is a protest against the latest and the newest pressures that capital's grip is forcing on the throats of workers.

Most assuredly, you must be aware that in other parts of the world too, such as in Iran, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and ... various protests have been ongoing, since there are no limits nor no end to the greed and gluttony of capitalists. For example, in Iran, there are workers whose wages are more than thirty percent under poverty line, who have no food to eat, have no job security, who are forced into temporary, unsigned contracts; and yet, they are further subjected to removal of all price subsidies, which means even more will be taken out of their meager subsistence. Lack of freedom of expression [in Iran] and lack of any right to strike or to organize, lack of any and the least democratic rights, [mass] firing/lay-offs and threatening, assaulting and imprisoning workers and workers' rights activists, and suppressing independent workers' organizations, and many other [legal discriminations] are among the gifts that are showered daily on workers by capital.

This inhumane capitalist system, especially in countries such as [Iran], recognizes no rights whatsoever for the workers in the political, economic and social spheres; profit-orientation and brutality are the defining and essential characteristics of the capitalist system. The actual result of the domination of the capitalist class over human societies has been poverty, misery, hunger, injustice and inequality, gender-ethnic-national discrimination, oppression, [mass] imprisonment, wars, torture and violence, and lack of real freedom of expression and organization. Even parliamentarianism [and current representative institutions], here and there, display only shades of democracy.

American Workers,
It is necessary for us [workers] to rely on our own class power, and not to fall into the trap set by different factions of capital (in the U.S., the Democrats and Republicans), and to believe in the power of our unity and organization, and to strengthen or build our own independent organizations, so as to bypass the trap of yellow/collaborationist unions and institutions, which everywhere in the world cause a substantial waste of the working class energy. We must rely on our own autonomously-organized associations and organizations, and with international solidarity across the globe we must join hands so that we can act to rid not just the Middle East but all the world of the capitalist system.

Fellow Working Class Brothers and Sisters,
We have heard the voice of your protests! And we declare our solidarity with you, and we condemn any anti-workers' actions/steps/policies directed against you.

We strongly declare that any trespass or assault against economic and political rights of the American workers, is an assault on rights and existence and lives of the workers of Iran. We consider ourselves as your allies and share your ideals; as well, with the strengthening of your strikes and organized actions, as well as with the consolidation of your organized strength, we hope that you will be able to achieve your class demands step by step; we wish you success and all the best in your efforts until you reach the ultimate demand of human societies, which is the overthrow of capitalist relations.

Long live international solidarity of the working class!
Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers' Organizations
Esfand 1389 (February20-March20, 2011)

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Concise Look at Current Political and Economic Situation

Translation of an article from Raah-e Kargar/Workers' Path.

A Concise Look at Current Political and Economic Situation
by: Yousef Langroodi / March 11, 2011

A look at the current conditions in Iran makes it clear that the Islamic Republic continues to face unprecedented economic and political crises. It has not only not been able to take a step toward solving any of the problems it faces but has been spreading and deepening the dimensions of the crises with the policies it has pursued.

The Islamic regime, which in previous months had been using all its capabilities to portray the anti-dictatorial movement as defeated, suddenly -- and with the advent of the protests and demonstrations on February 14 and then 20th and then the Protest Tuesdays that ensued -- saw the reality of people confronting it.

On this year's Char-shanbeh-soori [ceremonies held for the last Wednesday of the year], the Islamic Republic will find out well and truly where it stands, and to what extent it has been able to control people's movement and their struggles. This Char-shanbeh-soori, which is to be held of on the last of the Protest Tuesdays of the current year [Iranian calendar, which ends March 19], will be another occasion for a nationwide opportunity for the people to shout, Death to Dictatro!, and to show this regime of Guardians of Jurisprudence and their planners and functionaries that the Iranian people most definitely wish to overthrow the Islamic Republic. On the eve of a new spring and a New Year and the celebrations for the New Year, people wish to declare the regime as one of the foulest and a thing to be gotten rid of and thrown into history's dustbin.

As well, the political crisis in the most central nuclei of the regime continues; there is not a day that passes that does not witness some conflict between the executive branch, the parliament, the Guardian Council, and the Expediency Council. Dragging the Supreme Leader into political matters, which was used to strengthen Ahmadinejad and his gang, has now become a routine daily occurrence. The elimination of Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who used to be the Number 2 in the line of succession in power, from the chairmanship of Assembly of Experts is one the last and most notable examples of the deepening of the crisis of the Islamic regime. The elimination [from that post] of Rafsanjani, who recently had in any case been sufficiently weakened and was stepping very carefully in the political arena, while giving more cohesion to the most central institutions of regime, at the same time exposes all the more regime's weak points and its [complete] lack of room for flexibility.

In the economic sphere too everything indicates that the economic bankruptcy is still sinking deeper into a crisis. [Mass] unemployment, mass lay offs and successive bankruptcies of productive units and service providers, and the fact of increasing millions of Iranian people falling under the poverty line have all become real threats and predicaments, whose dimensions expand daily. Not even the sudden increase in the price of oil -- due to the recent events in the Middle East/North Africa -- will be able to lend a helping hand to improve the current economic and financial situation for the regime. Due to the old age of [most] refineries and the lack of efficiency of the oil infrastructure and lack of effective investment in that sector, the Islamic Republic is effectively unable to increase production and export of oil products.

Additionally, with pursuing the policy of eliminating price subsidies [for essential goods], the regime has been and is causing increasing poverty and misery amongst a majority of the subjugated people in Iran. The policy of paying out insubstantial cash handouts to compensate for the elimination of the subsidies and to help people with their bills is reaching a dead end, due to the emptying of the country's treasury approaching fast. At the same time, people's grievances due to the sharply increased fuel costs [by 300-400%] as well as those of other necessities are spreading ever wider.

Alongside all these, there have been a number of workers' protests and strikes, including in the oil industry, most of which have been due to non-payment of wages at times going on for months, and these are optimistic signs indicating a counter-offensive against the onslaught by the Islamic Republic and the local capitalists.

We have had many reports of a series of labor actions, such as strikes and gatherings in different cities in Iran, including Abadan, Kermanshah, Rasht, Ahvaz, Isfahan and Shiraz. In two of the most recent labor actions in Iran, 1,800 workers in Tabriz petrochemical plant, in protests against their horrendous economic conditions, went on an 11-day strike. One of the workers' demands is to be contracted officially. The strike did come to an end eventually after the Azerbaijan provincial authorities, as well as the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, accepted the workers' demands. Also, hundreds of textile workers in [the northern province of] Mazandaran, gathered in protest against not-receipt of due compensation and against work conditions, carrying placards in front of Qha'em-shahr provincial offices.

Based on all the above, Islamic Republic's current situation is politically and economically very fragile, and far more vulnerable compared to the past. If we add all the above to the international sanctions against the regime, it becomes clear that with the onset of the workers' actions and struggles taking on a nationwide character and joining up with the [general] anti-dictatorial movement of the Iranian people, the Islamic Republic does not have much of a chance for survival.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Iranian People Preparing for Mass Revolution

Translation of an article by Mohammad-Reza Shaalgooni, activist/writer/analyst with Raah-e Kargar/Workers' Path (Revolutionary Workers' Organization of Iran).

Why a 'Velvet Revolution'? People are preparing for a mass revolution
by: Mohamad-Reza Shalgooni / March 9, 2011

The security/intelligence officials of the regime, in order to explain the re-emergence of the people's anti-dictatorial uprising in Iran, are again resorting to thread-bare worn out conspiracies about the American strategy of 'velvet revolution'. Hossein Ta'eb, Revolutionary Guard's chief of intelligence (meaning, regime's real intelligence service) on Wednesday, March 2, in a gathering of the country's attorneys general, announced that, "The Americans are planning to tie the sanctions with the elimination of subsidies in the first quarter of 1390 [next year in the Iranian calendar, which starts on March 20], so as to portray people as unsatisfied, and then by the fourth quarter [they want to] have a velvet coup."

This reaction is an implicit admission, out of weakness, to the actual re-emergence of the movement, which only until even a month ago they were announcing as completely dead and finished. Such reactions also indicate how desperately they are trying to find a solution for the situation. Those who think that with such fantasies they can explain away the vast oppositional movement of the people as the creation of the Americans must have an IQ of less than 50. [...]

First of all, it must be reminded that the very act of resorting to the 'velvet revolution' story-spinning is revealingly embarrassing enough. 'Velvet revolution' is a phrase usually used for bloodless revolutions, which, in particular, became known after the uprising of the people of Czechoslovakia (toward the end of 1989). However, the phrase 'velvet revolution' or 'velvet coup', according to the security apparatus of the Islamic Republic, apparently refers to particular movements. First of these is the Bulldozer Revolution, which in October 2000 took shape in Belgrade and brought down Slobodan Milosevic; next was the Rose Revolution in November 2003 that forced Edward Shevardnadze to resign; after that, it was the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in November 2004 [...]. Another similar event was the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, in April 2005, which was a reaction to Hariri's assassination and Syrian military presence in Lebanon. [...]

A look at all these events leaves no doubt that all those movements could only have occurred in countries whose governments, due to their corruption and oppression, could be threatened with the slightest of moves [on the part of people].

In his Friday prayers speech on June 18, 2009, attempting to prove the distinction between the Islamic Republic and those governments, Khamenei used the tale of the conspiracy of 'velvet revolution', and triumphantly declared that the planners of the sedition should know that Iran is not Georgia. However, the seventh-months long continuation of the protests by the people and the brutal and criminal suppression [of the activists] by the armies of paid thugs of the Supreme Leader's system revealed that Iran is far worse than Georgia and that Islamic Republic is a regime more on par with the Islamic dictatorship of Karimov in Uzbekistan: a government that in May 13, 2005, in the city of Andijan opened fire on unarmed demonstrators, killing hundreds and making a mount from their bodies. But, let us not forget the Iranian government's actions last year, killing our youth while they were participating in completely peaceful demonstrations, mounting their bodies in the cold-rooms of the vegetable market [in south Tehran; due to lack of room in morgues], and the tortures [and rapes] in detention centers like Kahrizak that go far beyond and are far more ruthless than what has occurred or been reported up to now in Karimov's dictatorship in Uzbekistan.

If it is the case that 'velvet revolutions' or 'velvet coups' occur only in countries suffering under corrupt and oppressive regimes, then all the sound and the fury by the security and the propaganda apparatuses of the Islamic Republic regarding the 'velvet revolution', must before anything else be interpreted as implicit and inadvertent admission on their part to the presence of dictatorship and complete lack of any rights for the people in Iran.

Take for example their claims that people's protest campaigns and demonstrations were a result of the propaganda by the BBC or Voice of America (VOA) etc. Can such a claim be anything other than an admission to political and cultural bankruptcy? [...]

The regime either has to say that the propaganda put out by BBC and VOA have some kind of magical properties that can easily send people out to face bullets, or else they have to admit that the Iranian people have had it so badly with the mullah's system that they can be nudged into a riot at any moment. In either case, the fear felt by the Islamic Republic regarding BBC or VOA and the like [...] indicates nothing as much as the political, intellectual, cultural and ethical bankruptcy of the mullah's regime.

The objectives of American imperialism and their allies in Iran and the region are well known. However, the hatred felt for the Islamic Republic by the people has reached such dimensions that not even the enmity between the U.S. and the regime can make the regime tolerable.

Additionally, for two reasons, the great Arab revolutionary storm has rendered obsolete regime's traditional use of the tactic of 'enemy at the gates' to justify its mass-detentions and imprisonments [of activists]. First, these revolutions, by attacking pro-American dictatorships and regimes, have severely reduced the space of maneuver for the U.S. itself in the region. The region's political atmosphere has changed to such a degree that the U.S. and its allies do not have a completely free hand in what they can do in our region. Second, these revolutions have shaken our dictatorship-ridden peoples so much that the abolition of dictatorship has become the primary demand of the masses in all the countries of the region. In a situation where, from the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean to the shores of the Gulf of Oman, dictatorships are trembling in fear of their people's revolt, the yarn spinning about foreign conspiracies is no longer under the sole monopoly of the Islamic Republic. These days, Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's dictator (who on numerously occasions has kissed American leaders' hands) openly speaks of White House plans to topple his regime; Gadhafi also talks nonsense about the western powers' collusion with Al-Qaeda; even Mubarak, in his last speech, attacked foreign powers.

The truth is the Islamic Republic leaders know better than any that their existence is threatened not by any forces from outside its borders but by the people of this very country who have had enough. It is no accident that the regime tries with all its might to prevent any form of public assembly or gathering for protests by the people. [...] But, how long can the leaders of the regime continue this game?

All signs indicate that the Iranian people are preparing for a mass revolution. In such an inflammable atmosphere, in which even lighting a cigarette can start a huge fire, any small incident can start and spread a revolution, whether any a foreign conspiracy is afoot or not.

[See original source, in Persian, here.]

Monday, March 7, 2011

Khiaban No. 86: Women's March for Liberation

Translation of lead article of latest Khiaban, #86 (Sunday, March 6, 2011). Khiaban's online archive is available (in Persian) here.

March 8: Women's Great March for Liberation
Khiaban, #86 / Sunday, March 6, 2011

1. A majority of Iranian women and girls in private gatherings, in casual settings, and in any space that is bereft of state power -- with its police and the morality patrols and the detentions -- take off their hejab [Islamic cover]. In private parties, in their profile pictures on Facebook, out in the nature in mountains, etc., few girls or women would be seen wearing hejab voluntarily. For Iranian girls and women, to be free is predominantly equated with not having to wear hejab. Hejab is something that is forced, an unpleasant necessity. In those spaces where the state has power and presence, hejab is obeyed; however, in any space that is not thick with state presence or empty of it completely, women let their jehab slip or throw it off entirely.

It is only the rule of the Islamic Republic that is forcing and obligating women to keep their cover over their heads. However, wherever girls and women are free and can choose their own clothing, they take the cover off their heads. In the depths of the society, fundamental events have taken place. Girls and women do not want the hejab; hejab for them is a prison, from which they must free themselves. This prison however has ferociously murderous wardens, called the Islamic Republic. The ruling state power is the first and most immediate form of violence that is forced on women on a daily basis. Each day, before leaving the house they must check their hejab before going to school, university, place of work, to buy groceries or go shopping, [visit a sick family member] or to do anything else. Any unintended fault or shortcoming can expose them to verbal, actual or legal violence, directed at them by morality police agents, school principals, police officers, ethics patrols, Basiji's and on and on. Women don't want the hejab, but the system imposes it forcefully and violently.

2. Unwanted pregnancies, whether among couples not married officially or those officially married, are known to occur often. In many cases, for a variety of reasons, women may decide not to carry the pregnancy all the way to birth. Among girls who are not officially married, it is usually because of the social, legal and psychological hell they would face that they choose abortion; while at the same time, some of them would opt to keep their babies if the society provided a supportive attitude that guaranteed the mother and the child physical and psychological security [and peace of mind]. As well, among officially married couples, there are various causes, such as economic or personal reasons, that would push people to such a decision. However, in a society that has made abortion illegal, such a decision would put women and girls through horrendous experiences: unhygienic environments, unsanitary conditions, exorbitant costs, inhumane behavior and actions of some of the profiteers and on and on, have all struck and been experienced by numerous women in Iran. The story of this dark aspect of the feminine experience in Iran has not yet been written. But, its wounds are there for all. A Woman has no right of choice regarding her own body and has no support system [in that struggle]. The Islamic regime has already made all the decisions for her. Therefore, if a woman does not obey, which she usually does not, she'd have to be wandering the banned back alleys. Iranian women do not want such wanderings. They want to end this pain they are suffering. In order to have an abortion, they need medical health facilities that are free, have some standards and are protected. The ruling regime, however, has banned all those things.

3. Women constitute a substantial part of the unemployed. They have the proper education and they want to participate in the building of their society in whatever fields their university disciplines have trained them for, and want to gain their independence. However, clerical/secretarial office work and working as sales clerks [as well as teaching] are the only large labor markets for them. In their [mostly] temporary places of employment, they daily face sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, and they make the lowest wages. They are employed in the least stable jobs, have the least rights, and work the most temporary jobs in the labor market. They are exploited much more generously than men are, and they do not have any [legal] means of pursuing their rights and demands. Women want and demand a fundamental change of the [social] relations of the workplace, but the state is the armed protector of the current situation.
This list could continue for a long time, and is very long; it will need the voices of all Iranian women for it to be written down.

Women in Streets
It is therefore not without reason that in these two years women have been standing at the forefront of the fight against the regime in the streets. No matter who may retreat, women will not. Collectively, and without exchanging thoughts and ideas in a big conference or gathering, women have realized the importance of defeating this regime. Decades of struggling over their most basic rights have raised Iranian women into unbeatable warriors.

International Women's Day and the Struggle in Streets
International Women's Day, March 8, is [at least] as old as the history of women's fight for achieving freedom and equality. It is a day to organize the struggle; so that through the joining up and connecting of disparate places through time, women can organize the struggle for their liberation. This day has also shaped a particular history of battles and struggles in Iran. March 8 is an innovation in the direction of going beyond women's spontaneous and daily resistances and struggles against oppression, and to elevating them to an organized and equipped level so that this movement can change the society. At different important junctures of history, whether in Iran or elsewhere in the world, it has been in the streets where women's voices of protest have been heard.

The first March 8 after the 1979 revolution, with the announcement of the slogan, "We didn't revolt to go back in history!" turned into a confrontation and a battle between women, people fighting for freedom and communists on one side, and on the other side the reactionary Khomeini's and other religionists' forces who were issuing fatwas against women. This year, too, March 8 is going to re-engage that historical battle in the streets, and attempt to bring an end to this misogynistic system.

Women's Issues Are Political Issues
In order for women to grow, they must break up the current [political] superstructures. That which is official, legal and legitimate, is in complete conflict with the growing vitality of girls and women in Iran. Those spaces that are unofficial, concealed, secret, illegal, black and invisible must become visible, uncovered and official. A fundamental transformation, a complete overhaul, a revolution: that is what girls and women take to the streets for.

The Green Party and Women
We know that the Green Party has also issued a statement for March 8 this year; this and that political figure, this party and such organization [have all done so]. Many are preparing and organizing for women's protests, and trying to connect them up with the general nationwide protests. However, March 8 and women's issues have exposed the true nature of many of the reformists, especially the Green Party. One of the most important criteria for judging any political formation created after the birth of the Islamic Republic is the status of women in such organizations.

By looking at the kind of future promised to women [in their platform/charter/etc.], we can better understand the more general plans of any party or organization. Which one of women's demands and social needs does the Green Party recognize and would fight for? How about, for the elimination of hejab and the freedom of choice for clothing? For the legalization of abortion? For the freedom of choice of who to pick as a spouse? For the unconditional freedom of speech for women? For the freedom of organization among women?

It is enough to take a look at their published statements. Nothing! On March 8, they [reformists] just want women to take to the streets for the freedom of Green leaders. And not even the freedom of all political prisoners, a lot of whom are women. They do not point to any issue of any particular interest to women. They do not paint a picture of future with any particular hopes for women. They only need women's forces to repair their hardly-holding structure. They escape from engaging with any of women's issues since they know that women's problems will not be solved by merely changing a few faces [in the government]. To really solve women's problems in Iran would require a vast and deep-rooted transformation, and the Green Party is against any such thing.

However, the women who will come to the streets will do so armed with stones and a voice. Stones to break the ruling system, and the voice to shape the society into something, the dreams of which they have been nurturing for years in secret. A free and equal society. Freed from organized religion and tyranny, and equal in ownership over social wealth.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Current Necessities of the Movement

Still demanding the same!

This is a part-translation of a longer piece in Persian by Mina Khanlarzadeh. Many thanks to the writer, who keeps a blog at Revolutionary Fesenjan.

Some Current Necessities of the Movement
by: Mina Khanlarzadeh

The first and most basic deficiency of the movement is the lack of a decision making council that at a minimum consists of activists working for women's rights, unions and workers' rights, students' rights coming from different political trends, rights of national minorities, university professors [etc.] and political activists from different viewpoints. Such a body must be created immediately.

After the February 14 protests, a Coordinating Council of the Green Path of Hope was formed, which we do not know who its members are, and also we do not know how pluralistic it actually is. Let's not forget that pluralism of voices is a favorite slogan of the reformists, which of course they only use when they are addressing the fundamentalists [in the regime] and asking them to let them [the reformists] to play too. Other than that, some of the reformists even stay away from the religious-nationalists. Any coordinating committee or council to be formed for the movement must at a minimum include several people from among activists in the women's movement, unionists and workers movement, student activists, national minority activists, university professors active in the movement, and political activists from different groupings. Otherwise, such a coordinating council/committee would not have a correct understanding of the society [and its demands], and would only pay attention to groups from its own ranks and will remain [willfully] ignorant of others.

For example, if the Coordinating Council had within it some women's rights activists, it would not cancel the March 8th protests; although it did reinstitute it after widespread criticisms. If the Coordinating Council were in contact with workers' rights activists, it would be aware of all the protests and strikes by workers around the country, and could issue statements in their support, thereby creating the conditions for the people to join the workers in their struggle. However, the Council is perhaps completely uninformed about such workers' actions since the word 'workers' reminds it of 'socialism' [...].

Whenever [ordinary] citizens -- those not considered to be regime's base and those who actually constitute the majority -- reach some political-social awareness [that's in opposition to the regime], the regime would call them 'seditious' gigolos who are disrespecting the blood of martyrs [of the 1979 revolution], American or Zionist agents, microbes, [history's] tumbleweeds, CIA spies, etc., or ignore them or with the use of overt violence of its security forces would attempt to disappear them. The reformists [must not use the same methods]. [...]

General Strike
Many are waiting for the workers to go on [a general] strike, and then ask: Why aren't the workers going on [a general] strike]? A general strike is not possible right now for many reasons. First, all forms of independent workers' organizations have been destroyed for [more than] thirty years, and the supporters of such organizations are in prisons, or been fired, or are perishing while chained to some [prison] hospital beds, just like Hashem Khastar, Mahmoud Salehi, or Mansour Osanloo. In order to organize a general strike you need workers' [independent] organizations, which don't exist. Second, many large factories and productive companies were security-privatized [meaning, bought by the Revolutionary Guards], which means that strikes in such militarized plants would have severe consequences for the workers. Third, the [historical] record of the reformists is as problematic as those of the fundamentalists in the eyes of the workers. Even though the workers' conditions are the worst they have been since the revolution, we must not forget that the neo-liberal and anti-independent-union policies have been the overall policy of the entire regime, and are not particular to the current government. On the other hand, the reformists consider the Green Movement as a reform movement, and this too could have led to doubts and suspicions among the workers as a class.

So, now that a general strike does not seem likely, what other means are available [for workers' participation to increase]?

__ One of the most basic necessities is for the participation of unionists and workers' rights activists in the decision-making council of the Green movement [or similar councils formed independent of the reformists but with nationwide structures]; this can strengthen the connections between the workers and the different parts of the movement, and can spread the news about workers' issues, actions and their demands. Indeed, there is a big absence of workers' rights activists to be issuing statements and bringing the workers' discourse into the movement.

__ Another [thing that can be done] is the boycott of imported goods by all who consider themselves as part of the movement. Cheap imported goods [mostly from China] have broken the backs of small producers inside the country, and have caused mass unemployment among the workers [...]

__ One of the bigger weaknesses of the movement is a lack of adequate response to the 'rationalization' of [or, removal of price] subsidies on basic goods. In fact, the elimination of subsidies was the most important events of the past year, and is currently among the biggest [political] weaknesses of the government, but the movement's media lost its chance to use the opportunity to express the protest of the movement [against the subsidy eliminations], exactly because this media is in the hands a particular layer of the reformists with neo-liberal economic tendencies. However, it is not too late. [...] It is here that the reformists must realize that pluralism is a necessity of the movement, and they must find the merits of having a multiplicity of social layers in the movement. By raising the demands of the workers, workers' rights activists and leftist social layers, inside and outside Iran, can combine their protests with demands against the subsidies' eliminations on one of the Protest Tuesdays; which will lead to the growth of the movement [...].

__ Every week, we read some piece of news about hundreds of workers getting fired, or else about protesting or striking workers who have not received pay for several months, sometimes up to a year. In such protests, workers are alone but there is a potential/possibility for the student activists and women activists to join them, and to combine democratic demands and demands for the restoration of human dignity with the workers' demands, since restoring human dignity and achieving democracy are not possible without restoring the workers' rights, and restoring workers' rights is not possible without having real democracy and without respect for human dignity. Workers and the toiling classes know this, and as a result they participate in the protests, even if only as individuals not a social class or layer, and many of them have been killed or are in prisons [...] Workers are present in the movement; it is the movement that must connect with and reflect their demands. [This] of course depends on whether workers rights activists and leftist political activists are present in the coordinating council or the Green media, to issue their statements.

__ Some of the Protest Tuesdays must be used to protest against the conditions of workers in prison, conditions of temporary workers, those who have been laid off and those whose wages have not been paid. Such workers presently participate in the movement, albeit in a voiceless manner, and how painful that some even deny their presence [in the movement]. By protesting against the working/living conditions of the workers [and by raising their demands], first, we destroy the delusional claims by the regime about its popularity among the working classes; second, [we follow the principle that] democracy and justice are not possible without fighting for economic and political justice for the working classes; and third, by bringing into the struggle the workers' [demands and] discourse we create the conditions for the movement to grow and spread. Otherwise, the workers themselves will participate in the movement [as individuals], but their agenda and demands will be absent from the movement.

What about the Kurds?
Some among the Kurds are rightly suspicious of the reformist tendency, and may ask, "Why should we fight in this movement, so that tomorrow when the reformists come [back] to power, we will be their first target?" [trans. note: paraphrased] [...]

[It must reminded that] people who take to the streets in Shiraz, Isfahan, Tehran, Eslaam-shahr, Rasht, Tabriz and ... and who shout out their slogans, have never [thought or] said that they are facing bullets in the streets so that the reformists would come to power. They are shouting out, "Death to Dictator!", "Not eastern, not western; Iranian Republic!", "Mubarak, Ben-Ali; Next is Seyed Ali!" and more. They shout slogans in defense of Mousavi and Karroubi because these two figures have stood with the people and have moved forward with the people; however, very few [if any] slogans are ever heard in defense of Khatami, the flag-bearer of reformists. Therefore, reducing the Green Movement to a struggle for bringing to power the supporters of ayatollah Rafsanjani and Khatami is short-sighted, although the danger of such a reduction does threaten the movement, and can become a deeper problem if non-reformist groups [...] start leaving the movement. The danger is not the coming to power of the reformists; the danger is rather that such an interpretation can lead to the defeat of the movement. [...] The reformists [...] have no choice but to move forward with the people since they have been completely ousted from power, and the regime could not let them back into power even if it wanted to, since that would signify a retreat and would lead to its downfall. Therefore, the most effective solution is to minimize the schism between the ranks of the forces of the people in the streets who want the end of dictatorship and the ranks of reformists. [...]

[The same logic applies to the Kurdish question]. In this view [that sees only a scenario of reformists coming back to power and nothing else changing] Kurds do not believe in themselves as a social force and don't believe that with their participation in the Green Movement they can change the balance of powers in their favor. Green Movement is nothing but the struggle of courageous people who stand in front of bullets and are unafraid of death, torture, and truncheons; and not even prison can silence them, and would write letters from prison and would still continue the fight [...] The importance of the relation/connection between the Kurdish people and these people in the streets should not be underestimated, for such would be a historical mistake [...] It should be needless to say that the Kurds are present in the movement anyway, and have been killed in this movement, but as a unique social force, their demands and discourse is not present in the movement. [...]

First, presence of the Kurds as a social force in the Green Movement can lead to the spreading of information [and awareness] about Kurdish people's numerous problems. Kurdish people's predicaments have not yet been raised as they should have, and the Iranian regime has been able to de-legitimize their struggle by portraying the Kurdish rights activists as violent separatists. [...] The presence of the Kurds in the movement can help eradicate stereotypes created by the regime, and the demands of the Kurds can be raised in a language that is bereft of [negative] nationalism and a view that set Kurds and non-Kurds against each other. Let us not forget that the immense and widespread protests, by many different political forces, following the execution of four Kurdish activists (Farzad Kamangar, Shirin Alam-houli, Ali Heydarian, and Farhad Vakili) were among the achievements of the Green Movement. Many a times before the onset of the Green Movement, may a Farzad Kamangar's would be executed, but no Mousavi's or Zahra Rahnavard's would issue statements questioning such executions, but the Green Movement made it possible that Kurds and non-Kurds from different political tendencies showed their disapproval to these individuals' executions. This is not an insignificant achievement; though obviously it is not enough.

Whether or not the Kurds enter the movement as a social force, there are many Kurds waiting to be executed, and many more other Kurds are daily suffering poverty, unemployment and lack of safety, as well as systematic violence. Regardless of the absence of Kurds from the movement, will there be an inevitable justice and freedom for the Kurdish prisoners? The answer is negative. Any oppression must first be defined and named, and then must be recognized as an oppression by the people as a result of great effort among the people of different layers, and in this process a [concrete] struggle shapes up for the eradication of that oppression. Presence of Kurds as a social force in the Green Movement can define the oppression against Kurds, and so the groups within the movement can come to understand the problems faced by Kurds as violence against Kurdish people. [...]

International Relations
Green Movement can move [much] more strongly in relation to international events and struggles. Statements issued by university students in solidarity with the student demonstrations in England, women in solidarity with Tunisia and Egypt, and Mousavi's statement in support of Tunisian and Egyptian movements were among the high points of the movement building relations with international events, but of course the number of such statements in the past two years have been very limited. A part of the coordinating council [or various councils] of the movement -- which is supposed to include women's, workers', students' movements as well as political activists of different tendencies -- must be dedicated issuing/publishing statements and building solidarity between the Green Movement and regional and supra-regional movements. [...] The Green Movement must issue real substantive, not clichéd, statements [regarding the current events in the region]. We do need to find legitimacy in the region and the world; that is a reality. For example, we must issue statements in support of Palestinian women and workers, so that the peoples of the region know that the Iranian regime's support of the Palestinians is a pretence, and that the people of Iran are subjected to oppression [like the Palestinians]. For example, [we must issue statements] in support of Libyan people, or the protesting teachers in Madison, Wisconsin, or the Afghans who have demonstrated in support of the Green Movement [...] Every time such a statement [of support is issued and] gets reflected in the international media, it becomes a more difficult job for regime's liars to claim that the movement [against them] does not exist or does not have legitimacy.

Invisible Presence in the Movement
As long as we [...] do not say that we are in the movement, the media can doubt or shed doubt on our existence, and claim that the movement is just a bunch of 'middle class' people from uptown; which god knows what it means! The best way of fighting against this doubt and suspicion mongering is to write various statements coming from various social groups, no matter how small, comprising of workers, university students, women, the unemployed, teachers, mourning mothers [who have lost their kids to the political prisons, or disappeared], and the rest; statements that present to the movement their demands and social needs. It is possible that some will ignore some of our demands and portray them as unimportant, due to the "crime" of being too radical or "against the system' [wishing to overthrow the system]; however, we must insist on our demands and our presence to such a degree that those with more political power and media capabilities would have to take us and our demands into account. It is in such a process, that such groups can be forced into moving forward with the people, or to put it another way, that would lead to more radicalization.

The Women's Movement
On International Women's Day [Tuesday March 8th], it is the best opportunity to combine and connect, by aid of a careful selection of slogans and posters/placards, the different predicaments of working women (whether as home makers or working for wages) with those of mourning mothers, with that of mothers of political prisoners, as well as the predicaments of women prisoners. It is the best opportunity for re-reading, re-remembering and re-asserting women's demands. It is the best opportunity for the women's movement to issue statements and assert their struggle and demands within the Green Movement, and to announce their solidarity with the struggles of women across northern Africa, the Middle East and the rest of the world. Let us not forget that one of the first victories of the women's movement is the creation of a coordinating council in the Green Movement, in which women's rights activists play an active in all its decisions. Success in having a clear and strong voice and entry into decision-making processes must be started from today. Why delay this to the next day?

Video clip (in Persian) of Mourning Mothers of Laleh Park; title of video clip: We Are Standing!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Khiaban No. 85: To Protest Or Not?

Translation of lead article from Khiaban's latest issue (# 85).

Today, March 1: To protest or not?
Khiaban # 85 / Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March 1 protests. Should we go to them or not? It is doubtful that this question has much currency among that segment of the youth and the people who, in a long march lasting two years of struggle, have been fighting one of the most ruthless regimes on earth. What will happen, of course, depends on the possibilities and the collective capabilities.

However, isn't it the case that the call to action has been issued by a council that calls itself the Coordinating Council of the movement, has offices, definitions and particular goals? A council that, just like that of Khomeini's Revolution Council, is suspect [and secretive] and the youth, women, workers and the poor of the society have no place or representatives in it. Hasn't this council put forth such idiotic slogans as, "Oh Mehdi, Sheikh Mehdi [Karroubi]" for people to shout? Isn't their Charter the same [current] constitution, for the abolition of which people in February 14 protests shouted so loudly? So, how can we go to such protests? Why do people go? Is everybody still living with the illusion that this system is capable of being reformed?

Two Views Regarding the People
Are people, as social human beings, akin to docile puppets, whose movements and behaviors are determined by puppet-masters who control everything, by manipulating connected strings, through, say, their websites or satellite television channels or radio programs or newspapers?

Or, is it the case that people are not puppets? That they are human beings, and they work on and engage with the currents and the signals that reach them, and through re-thinking, re-imagining, re-interpreting, re-evaluating and even rebelling against those [received notions], proceed to act proactively?

A. The Islamic Republic
The Islamic Republic undoubtedly assumes people to be a bunch of puppets, whose heads can be filled with anything you wish. And in order to render our generation into docile Muslim people who believe in their superstitions and not question their rule, they spent stupendous amounts of the oil money, and from the profits of their exploitation of workers, on their Islamist propaganda; and for [thirty-two] consistent years tried to control all schools, factories, all television networks, magazines and newspapers and ... All that, in order to control the puppets in this geographical location called Iran. The result, of course, was a gigantic defeat. Yes, we all read all those books on religion and on morality and Islamic Revolution and on and on. But, we also read thousands of other things too, and also saw and looked at the life around us, and see also what is being done to our society. So now, while they are supposed to be docile puppets kissing Supreme Leader's feet, people are instead shouting in one voice their demand for the overthrow of the system.

B. The Green Party
Previously, we would refer to the 'Green Industry', to distinguish between the people's movement in the streets and the groupings that, with the aid of websites and periodicals and other material capabilities, were producing a particular product that was not the same as the movement of people on the streets. Now, however, those groupings have auspiciously been transformed into a political party. They have published their own charter (Green Charter) and it has formed its own organizational leadership (Coordinating Council [of Green Path of Hope]). This political party has announced its goals as: a return to the [current] constitution; a merciful and lenient reading of Islam; to have a share of state power in order to facilitate implementation of suspended parts of the constitution; preventing the formation of more radical political parties and organizations within the movement; etc., and using non-violent means it wants to talk the government into changing its mind and wising up.

The Green Party too regards people as puppets. They think it is enough to hold the control of the puppet strings in their own hands. As a result, they have started up at least a hundred and some websites and periodicals, and in all of them they provide very similar content. In their view, it is necessary that there be no competing strings. If all the media space is controlled by the reformists, then people will of necessity be controlled by their fingertips. In their view, people do not have the power of thinking, making decisions and acting on their own accord. If at times people do not shout, "Oh Hossein, Mir Hossein", and instead shout, "We are women and men of war, so fight, and we'll fight on!" then this must be because some agent-saboteur must have snatched the control of the strings. The Green Party sees no reason for seeking to find out what people are really demanding, where do the roots of their problems lie, and what they want. The Green Party just keeps repeating its own line: "Bring a candle and a Koran; stay silent and murmur our name!"

C. The Abdicators
There also exist a large group of political forces, in whose view people are puppets in the hands of powerful actors, and not proactive human beings. "Don't go! Don't you see who has issued the call? How come they didn't call for any action when [the regime] was executing Farzad Kamangar, or even during these past few months of executions? How come there exist all these political prisoners, from Mansoor Osanloo to Behrooz Javid-Tehrani to ... (and unfortunately, the list of he political prisoners is so long that it wouldn't fit into any periodical, and requires its own special book), but only Mousavi and Karroubi's detention is worthy of a call to action? And, who said that this particular group is the leader of the movement? Who elected them? Is all of the movement supposed to be covered under their robe? And what about others who are not in the same party but who are in the movement, and have given blood and limb for this movement and have paid some price, what about them?"

Some of these thoughts and utterances are completely right, to the point and must definitely be expressed. However, their conclusion is strange. They say, 'Don't go to these protests if you disagree with this leadership'. And then, they call anybody who goes to the protests, 'members of the green party'. And previously, they would say, "Don' go to the 13 Aban protests." "Friday prayers? Who, with a brain, would go to Friday prayers to demonstrate against the regime?" "Ashura? Isn't it the case that Islam itself brought us to this wretchedness?"

This view too, though it brings up some arguments worth considering, has a major flaw, which is how it views the people. This view too regards people as a bunch of puppets, and not proactive actors who at each [historical] moment is in the process of evaluating, judging, analyzing and making [social] decisions. The abdicators want to disconnect the puppet strings, and the strings controlled by the reformists.

People Participate in Ways They Consider Feasible
Such views, however, are empty of substance and invalid. People are not puppets to be remote-controlled from afar. Before acting, people constantly go through a process of evaluating and making decisions. They wisely take advantage of whatever opportunities arise to open up their own path. Just as no amount of religious books could render people into slaves of Islam, no amount of slogans of, 'Allaho Akbar' [God is Great] by Green Party members can render people into slaves of secret/underground councils.

People evaluate their own resources, see and analyze the opportunities, and they organize their own political actions against the regime and in order to achieve a free and egalitarian society. The degree of their success depends on their resources and their capabilities. The more equipped they are, the more powerful they are, the more organized they are, the more room for maneuver they will have. Obviously, if the peole had their own powerful organizations, powerful unions or political parties, they would not need to wait for such opportunities to express their demands and needs. In such a disproportionately unbalanced war, in which people are heroically standing up, we must try our best to strengthen the movement, to equip it, to distribute and disseminate political, social and class awareness, and use any means necessary to widen the space and domain of collective maneuvering.

The dissident people and the youth in Iran are engaged in a great war in the streets. They know this, and they have not taken to the arena to lose, either. In order to achieve victory against the Islamic Republic, we must help people become more powerful, more organized, more aware and more on the offensive. No puppets make a revolution. However, people are in the process of a revolution throughout the Middle East and in Iran as well.