Norman Paech, a prominent member of the German left Party Die Linke, has joined others in withdrawing his support for the Iran Tribunal after approaches from supporters of Hands Off the People of Iran, reports Tina Becker
This is an edited version of an article recently published on the website of the German magazine Hintergrund.[i]
The Iran Tribunal continues to divide the left. Yassamine Mather’s articles in the Weekly Worker have been hotly debated in Iranacross Europe and the United States. Since she started to expose the links of the organisers to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a number of organisations and individuals have withdrawn their support. Other groups and parties have split over the issue.
It is therefore timely to take a closer look at the tribunal, its gestation, its corruption – and the fallout from Hopi’s criticism.
During the 1980s, tens of thousands of political activists in Iran were arrested, tortured and sentenced to death. Many leftists abroad and around 20,000 dissidents were murdered. The worst massacre in the summer of 1988, when between 5,000 and 7,000 political prisoners were systematically executed in a matter of weeks, their bodies dumped in anonymous mass graves.
Since then, the relatives and former comrades of those killed have fought for justice. But how to do that in today’s ? That’s the question that has heated debates amongst the Iranian left. They are united in the view that a first, important step should be the publication of the details of the massacre. After all, the government in Teheran has never the crimes and continues . Many of those responsible remain in power.
For many years, we have been fighting for an independent commission examine the horrific murders and name the guilty parties. Our model is the Russell Tribunal, which was established by Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre in 1967 and which exposed very effectively the crimes US military in Vietnamsays Yassamine Mather, who has been living in exile in London for almost 30 years and today is chair of Hands Off the People of Iran. After dozens of her comrades were executed in the early 80s, Mather and other members of her organisation Fedayeen (minority) fled to Kurdistan to continue their struggle. From exile, she many more of her comrades and political friends were murdered.
Like other exiled Iranians, she initially supported the preparations for the Iran Tribunal. She even supplied it with evidence. An impressive range of international politicians and lawyers were won to the project – from Germany Norman Paech, a prominent member of Die Linke and respected professor of law.
The first stage of the tribunal from June 18-22 in Amnesty International’s HQ, 60 witnesses (all of them survivors of the massacre or relatives of those murdered) truth commissionand their family members (had supplied written statements beforehand). A report of 359 pages has since been published on the tribunal’s website. It contains an overview of the horrific conditions the prisons, a list of the names of the torturers and a detailed report of some executions. But the fully published witness statements throw a light on the brutal events. Rapes, beatings and torture were not just common, but the norm.
None of evidence is really new or unknown – but the of that the opposition was systematically exterminated. Thousands of political prisoners were to be released in 1988. Their crimes? Some had been arrested for distributing leaflets, others were members of banned organisations, some had helped to organise strikes and demonstrations. Most were arrested in the first wave of oppression in the early 1980s and sentenced to six or seven years in prison.
Their looming release came at a inconvenient time for the government in Tehran. The and unpopular war against Iraq had come to an end, leaving the theocratic regime weakened. prospect of thousands of left and militant oppositionists and the growing discontent wide of the population And so all political prisoners were dragged before makeshift courts, where an Islamic judge, a prosecutor and a representative of the intelligence services judged if they were to live or die. There were no defence lawyers, no evidence, no jury.
he Iran Tribunal that the prisoners were Muslim, if they prayed to god and if they had changed their political beliefs. If judge didn’t like an answer, the defendant was sentenced to death. The were piled into lorries and hanged or shot – often in intervals of 30 minutes. Many relatives were informed only months laterothers have never been told.
This gruesome report of the truth commission will be handed to a court in a second stage of the . This court, made up of human rights lawyers from around the world, will meet in The Hague from October 25-27 in order evaluate the and announce a judgement.
Of course we cannot implement this judgement or the results of the commission, the organisers. But the proceedings give tens of thousands of families a voice for the first time.
So far, so supportable.
However, Yassamine Mather and others when they noticed that the materials the war plans of the US and Israel. The danger of war grows every day. I am a strong opponent of the regime in Tehran – but a war would be disastrous for the forces in Iran who have a real interest in : the workers, women’s groups and social movements in . Without clear opposition to war and sanctions, all those a military attack on Iran, Mather says.
Mather wrote to the committee that many of those killed were socialists who the Iranian regime, but also capitalism and imperialism. Surely, . I never even got a reply
Mather and other Iranians were taken aback by this and took a closer look at the committee and its funding. They the tribunal is supported by the Iran Human Rights Documentation, whose founder Payam Akhavan acts as the chair and spokesperson of the steering committee.
he IHRD has over the years received large from the US government.[ii] Akhavan is also active in Human Rights and Democracy for Iran (also known as the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation) is financed by American and European foundations, amongst them the infamous National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The NED was founded in 1983 by former US president Ronald Reagan to spread democracy around the globe.
It is that the US has coup and . The CIA finances, organises and trains local opposition groups. In Chile, Guatemala and many other countries, democratically elected governments were overthrown and replaced by dictators for decades. In 1953 the CIA – with the help of the British government – toppled the democratically elected prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh.
he US‘ strategy has been refined and regime change
In the Iranian presidential elections of 2009, the West heavily supported presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Moussavi. e was prime minister of Iran in 1988 and directly responsible for the mass murders and the extermination of the opposition (even if he didn’t order them personally). opposition split; the wave, which brought more than a million people onto the streets of Iran, has largely away.
“The NED is supposedly a private, non-government, non-profit foundation, but it receives a yearly appropriation from the US Congress”, explains the former CIA agent Philip Agee in an article on the website Clearing Hous[iii] In 2009, it was funded $135 million by the US government.
No left activist should accept money from such sourcessays Mark Fischer, chair of Hands Off the People of Iran. , totally . The has become part of the to topple the Islamic government and replace it with a US- and Israel-friendly regime.
is so bad about accepting money from the US government? it possible to receive funds from pigs without to grunt yourself
Of course it Fischer. But only if the financier places no conditions or demands on you. But the NED is an important of US-sponsored foreign policy.” Fischer says it is no coincidence or oversight that the website of the does not come out in opposition to war and sanctions. Or that it does not mention once that many of the victims of the 1988 massacre were communists and socialists.
he is part of the campaign for regime change from abovesays Fischer. This campaign bombs military threats killer commandos by the Israeli Mossad. support of politicians of the opposition is .
“first and foremost the people in Iran. The workers‘ movements and women’s organisations are currently than they have been for many yearseople struggle to get by in worsening economic conditions.”
Comrade Mather also criticises the steering committee of the , whichreads like Who is whoof fight for human rights in a total political vacuumSir Geoffrey Nice is a supporter of the Human Rights Commission of the British Conservative Party. Payam Akhavan was voted young global leader at the World Economic Forum in 2005. John Cooper QC has stood for the Labour Party in elections. All three are well-known, high-ranking lawyers who in the name of he international communithave over the years many dictators and government heads in international courts (turned on their former sponsors in the US).
The government in Tehran was able to dismiss the as part of a Western plot against Iran: the radio stations ‚Voice of America‘ and Radio Free Iran – both financed by – broadcast the witness statements uncut and for many hours.
Israeli socialist Moshé Machover believes that some of the organisers and participants have acted with evident good will, but that is not enough. It often happens that people of good intentions lend themselves out of naivety to be exploited by evil forces. This is a danger that we must always guard against. Many good people, out of genuine and justified concern for women’s rights, were duped into lending legitimacy to the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001; and similarly good people, with genuine horror of Saddam Husain’s atrocities, were duped in 2003 into lending legitimacy to the disastrous invasion of Iraq.”
number of former political prisoners have been criticising the and its links to the US government. But only the subject of an international when Yassamine Mather to publish research in the Weekly Worker June 2012.
“I have indeed supported the intention and the work of the committee to prepare this tribunal. I still think it is absolutely necessary that all facts about the horrific murders, the torture and the crimes of the 1980s are brought to light. But the background of the funding and the obvious links to the NED, of which I had no knowledge and which have only just been brought to my attention, make it impossible for me to continue this support. I find myself in particularly strong disagreement with the committee when it comes to my resolute opposition to sanctions and the threat of war on Iran. I do not want to part of a project which is supported by the pro-war Mujahedin.”