On May 13th around 30 members of Hands Off the People of Iran along, Iranian students and exiles demonstrated in support of the general strike in Iranian Kurdistan and protest the executions of five political prisoners on May 9th in Evin prison. Those executed were school teacher and trade unionist Farzad Kamangar, Ali Haydarian, Farhad Vakili, Shirin Alam-Houli and Mehdi Eslamian. We rallied outside the University of Manchester Students’ Union and the BBC building spreading leaflets and literature on the situation. There were speeches by Iranian refugees who explained the situation in Iran the recent repressive measures in both English and Farsi.
Chris Strafford from HOPI’s national steering committee condemned the executions and the ongoing torture and incarceration of political prisoners within Iran, he also spoke about the negative impact of sanctions and that the key task for socialists in the UK is to oppose sanctions and military threats whilst building solidarity with the truly democratic movements. Afterwards he read out a letter by Farzad Kamangar sent to other prisoners titled ‘Be Strong Comrades’ you can see the videos here and here.
Hands Off the People of Iran demands:
* The immediate end to executions in Iran
* The unconditional and immediate release of all political prisoners
* An end to the sanctions regime and imperialist threats
December 27 was the bloodiest and most violent convulsion in Iran since the June elections. Millions of ordinary Iranians came out onto the streets to use the Ashura ceremonies and mourning as a focal point of opposition protests. In every part of Iran security forces backed up by Basij militia and the revolutionary guard (Pasdaran) resorted to ever intensifying violence as swarms of protestors over-ran state-repressive forces. It is unclear how many have been killed and arrested at this time, the regime say that only 4 have been killed, whilst student websites and news feeds from Iran put the number around 15. ‘Reformist’ leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s nephew is among the dead. The official reason for these deaths have been accidents and murder by ‘uknown assailants’. The regime has admitted to arresting over 300 protestors yesterday, this number will undoubtedly be much greater.
Clashes took place in Shiraz, Isfahan, Ardebil, Arababad, Mashhad. Whilst Marshal Law was declared in Najaf-Abad, at least four have been killed in the city of Tabriz and the house of recently deceased Ayatollah Montazeri was the scene of heavy fighting in Qom.
Protests began in the morning around 10 am with heavy security presence on major streets, squares and transport links. In Tehran the supreme leader’s residence was surrounded by massed ranks of Pasdaran and police. Throughout the day chants against Khamanei, such as ‘this month is a month of blood!- Khamanei will be toppled’. A clear indication of how far the protest movement has come since June, not only is the regime fearful of a re-run of the election, but are now considerably worried that a revolution is underway. In Tehran clashes erupted at many religious sites as soon as people started to gather for the planned opposition protests. The fighting was intense, with security forces taking several defeats as demonstrators burnt police vehicles, stations, Basij posts and erected barricades. In a couple of instances police and Basij were arrested and detained by the people and three police stations in Tehran were briefly occupied by protestors.. Demonstrators also attacked the Saderat Bank in central Tehran, setting it on fire.
As the day wore on the security forces began to crack, the first division of the special forces refused orders to shoot protestors. There are many pictures and videos that show police retreating or being beaten back by protestors (some are in this report). There is also unconfirmed statements from sections of the army declaring that they will not be used to put down popular unrest. During the evening clashes erupted outside the IRIB headquarters with security forces firing tear gas and bullets into the crowds who responded with rocks and burning barricades. Later on there was fighting in and around Hospitals in central Tehran.
Following the protests several aides to opposition leaders have been arrested whilst injured protestors have been interviewed, beaten and arrested whilst in hospital, the many injured have had to endure interrogation with painful injuries. In response to this it has been reported that medical staff have been patching people up instead of admitting them to the already overcrowded wards. In many parts of Tehran residents opened their doors to the injured and exhausted demonstrators.
The Ashura protests saw a qualitative change in the protests, the people of Iran attacked and won street battles in Tehran, attacked a set fire to police stations and security forces vehicles, demonstrators arrested and detained many riot police and Basij throughout the day. Possibly more importantly the regime has undermined its own religious credibility by making martyrs on Ashura day. Neither side of the regime can now back down, and through this split the mass movement is breaking down the Islamic Republic. Many calls have come not just for the end of Khamanei’s rule, or Ahmadinejad’s government but for the end of the Islamic Republic itself. On the streets protestors have begun chanting ‘Independence, freedom, Iranian Republic’, a slogan which has been condemned by ‘reformist’ leader Mousavi as too radical. The Ashura protests have further underlined that the Islamic Republic is facing the greatest existential threat since its inception and the Iraq-Iran war.
Mohammad Pourabdollah a member of Freedom and Equality Seeking Students in Iran was arrested during a brutal attack on his home in Tehran on February 12th 2009. Mohammad was a chemical engineering student at the University of Tehran. He has been kept in Evin prison in terrible conditions, suffering torture and abuse on a regular basis.
Today he was sentenced to 6 years of imprisonment by the Islamic Republic’s revolutionary court. He has been in prison over 300 days already moving from the notorious Evin prison to the equally harsh Ghezel Hesar prison. His only crime was to take part in the student protests against the Iranian regime and the encroachment of the revolutionary guard onto campuses in Iran.
We call for his immediate and unconditional release along with all other political prisoners in Iran.
Imagine going to a Celtic vs Rangers derby and seeing both sides fans chant the same slogans, march together afterwards and defend each other from the police. You would probably think you have entered an alternative universe. In Iran that is what happened on October 2 at Azadi stadium when Perspolis (باشگاه فوتبال پرسپولیس) and Esteghlal (باشگاه فرهنگی ورزشی استقلال ایران) met. These clubs are the most successful clubs in Iranian football and have had a bitter rivalry on par with that of Celtic and Rangers. Fans chanted “As long as Ahmadinejad exists – this will be the result of Derby”, “Down with the dictator!”, “Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein” and other slogans of the opposition movement. Below are some videos of the protests: