"Natarsid! Natarsid! Mah hameh bah ham hastim!" – Another day of defiance in Iran

Defiance
Defiance

Thousands of people defied bullets, batons and death and came out onto the streets shouting “Natarsid! Natarsid! Mah hameh bah ham hastim!”  (Don’t be scared! Don’t be scared! We are all together!). June 20 saw the mass murder of demonstrators by security forces, it is unclear how many people are dead as estimates range from 11 to 150. With media outlets severely restricted it could be some time until we are given the true number. State organs such as Press TV have described the murdered protesters as “terrorists”. HOPI received an eye witness report of  yesterday’s violence which can be found here. We will try to acquire eye witness reports of today’s events, until then below is a brief outline of some of today’s events.

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Around 50,000 people converged on the United Nations office where the police attempted to disperse the crowd, however, they were met with rocks and barricades.  A candle lit vigil for those killed yesterday in Hafte Tir Square was attacked by police.  Fights and demonstrations broke out across Tehran, protestors in the South of Tehran on Fallah Street were attacked by special officers. It has been called a middle class rebellion by some commentators, as the South of Tehran has been quiet compared to the more affluent North of Tehran, today proved them wrong as young people and workers gathered in Eslamshahr to march towards the centre of Tehran. All across the South of Tehran fights broke out with today as thousands marched against the brutality of the Islamic Republic.
In the squares of Tehran security forces were again waiting for demonstrators, at Vanak and Enqelab demonstrators were viscously attacked by police and Basij, whilst outside of Tehran in Sanandaj, Saqz, Kermanshah and others, thousands of people have fought running battles with the police. As the night drew in, people took to their roofs and shouted “Marg Bar Diktator” (Death to the dictator) and “Allah Akhbar” (God is great).

“We did not give blood to give up now” – Eye witness report of June 20 Repression

Hands Off the People of Iran received this report from an activist in Tehran this evening. We have added some videos which have been spread across the internet.

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Sayyid Ali Khamenei in his speech yesterday said: there has been no cheating in the elections and that people are not going to get their demands through demonstrating in the streets. Many people were waiting to see what he was going to say, especially the reformists, and he made it very clear that he is on Ahmadinejad’s side, so it is not very hard to guess that reformists are backing down eventually and what we saw today in the streets of Tehran is very different than what we saw during the last weeks.

Many of the reformists who had been a part of demonstrations for the past few weeks and had said they will not stop protesting till they get their demands were not among people who were fighting and dying for freedom in the streets of Tehran today.

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The demonstrations started in the centre around 4 o’clock the police (including the official city police all three branches of Sepah and Basijis in plain clothing) had already settled in all the main squares and streets. We saw many members of Basij with plain clothing armed to the teeth ready to kill people who came in groups of 5-10 and stayed in corners at first you could say there was about 10,000 people around Enqelab Square (Revolution Square) who had not joined each other yet. What happened was like 3500-4000 people would gather and form a demonstration start yelling out things like: “We did not give blood to give up now” and “Khamenei you Pinochet Iran is not going to be Chile”. But none of the gatherings could last long because the police would hit people and Sepah would shoot people, and members of Basij stabbed people.

People who lived in the neighbourhood had left their doors open so injured people and the ones followed by the police could get in. It was the same in many other places, in Tehran at Tohid Square the police were settled in a bus and shot people from there, people who did not even carry weapons and had came to the streets just to have a calm demonstration to defend their basic rights as citizens and human beings.

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In Azadi square (Freedom Square) people were numerous and were also attacked, injured and killed by the police, but today the demonstrations were not only held in the city centre, they were spread out in most places of Tehran: Vanak Square, Ferdosi Square, Shahrakegharb, Tehranpars, Ariashahr and many other neighbourhoods. Tehran was a scene of ordinary people and even children fighting against the police, unarmed and unprotected, but brave and willing to sacrifice anything even their lives for freedom. People had burned down cars and other vehicles that mostly belonged to police, tear gas cannisters was fired in every place that people had gathered. Many of us had never seen so many members of Basij in all our lives. The regime had gathered all of its forces and supporters to kill its own citizens wildly in the streets. People stayed in Azadi and Vanak Square till 12 midnight and there are still battle going on in some streets.

Many people are in hospital, were the police are making a list of their names. Many of the activists are arrested and some have disappeared. Today the Islamic Republic showed every one once again, that they will not obey peoples will and they are ready to kill as many as it takes to stay in power. Some on the Left will support the Islamic Republic against us and Western Governments may try to meddle, their support is poisonous, the Iranian people will decide their fate alone, against imperialism and against the Islamic Republic. We do need the support of our comrades across the world. The people showed that they want more than just tiny reforms, they want what has been taken away from them all these years, they want their freedom and their dignity back. A regime that is so afraid of  the majority of its citizens that kills unarmed people in the streets is not a regime that could last and we will take on this fight till we are a free nation.

A Day of Blood and Fire in Iran

Thousands defy Khamenei
Thousands defy Khamenei

Across Iran security forces have attacked barbarically any gatherings and have fought running battles with youth and workers. The death count at this time is up to 40 people with hundreds of injured still streaming in to hospitals and medical centres. Even the injured are being rounded up and attacked in the Hospitals.

Thousands of police and Basij militia were deployed across Tehran, in many areas they were heroically pushed back by youths armed with stones and barricades. Security forces have discriminately opened fire on crowds across the city, many videos and pictures have been circulating the internet, some will be posted on here.

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Students beaten, tortured, raped and killed in Iran – Statement of surviving students arrested in Tehran University Dormitory

Students have faced violence for being at the forefront of anti regime demonstrations
Students have faced violence for being at the forefront of anti regime demonstrations

Hands Off the People of Iran received this a couple of hours ago, it details some disturbing acts of violence committed by the security forces. The following statement is written by 4 of the Tehran university students who were arrested in Tehran university dormitory on Sunday night, when Basij, Sepah, and the anti rebellion guard attacked Kuieh Daneshgaheh Tehran ( the dormitory of Tehran university). These were the students who were asleep in their rooms or studying in the library and their only fault (according to the regime) was being a student of Tehran university and living in the dormitory. Many of the students who were a part of the demonstrations are still in prison and up to 15 students have been killed and there bodies have been taken away by Basij.

The students who wrote this text were picked randomly by the savage unnamed forces and were taken to the basement of the interior ministry:

‘A night in the 4th  underground floor of the interior ministry:

“ Here is a hundred times worse than  the Guantanamo”

We are a group of 46 students who had been arrested in our rooms or in the common rooms, they put us all on a bus and put blindfolds over our eyes, there was a metal cover over our heads –on the top of the seats that the Basijis kept hitting on it with clubs all the way which made a very horrible sound and was the worse kind of white torture (mental torture) for us in that time.

After a while we felt the bus is going downwards and later from the whispers of the officers and Basijis and Sepahis in plainclothes we found out that we are in the basement of the interior ministry. The basement was about 100 square meters large and its ground was covered with smoking ash, after we entered they made us lay down on the hot ash and roll around, we had to watch but were not allowed to touch the person next to us while rolling, if it happened they would start to hit us with clubs and kick us, all the time they kept saying: “so you wanted to have a revolution, did you?” They used sexual swearing words and a abusive language all the time. There were about 20 soldiers, guards of Basij and Sepah for the 46 of us.

Next they would keep making us to stare at the floor and the ceiling after we stared at the floor for a few minutes they would start hitting us very severely and saying: “why aren’t you looking at the floor?” although we were all looking at the floor. And all night long we could here a sound as if some workers were smashing bricks outside which made us all very nervous.

What they did to the students who wanted to use the bathrooms was very savage and inhuman like the W.C had no door or cover and anyone who used it would be seen by the guards and anyone who went there had only 30 seconds to use the bathroom after 30 seconds they would pull us out of the bathroom even before we had pulled up our pants.

One of the students was injured in his eye, he told the guard who was standing next to him that his eye hurt so much and he could not see properly, they didn’t even give him a small bandage to put on his eye but they started to punch him in his face. Another student had a broken leg and he couldn’t move but they did not stop hitting him.

They did not even let us drink water after all that they made us go through, the one time that they gave us water they made us look up and keep our mouths open and they purred water from one meter above us! When one of their leaders came in to check us he asked them: “did you give them water?” and he looked around and saw the student with the broken leg he said: “why is he dying then? Give them water” They brought in a plastic pipe and we thought they are really going to give us water and we were so thirsty that we ran towards it but what came out of it was boiling water which made our lips and mouths burn.

The food was also a part of the torture they put some cold macaroon on our palms and said: you must eat it. Even if we dropped one noodle they made us pick it up from the floor that was covered with ash and blood and eat it, anyone who disobeyed would be hit in the head till he passed out. The same thing happened over the so called breakfast they gave us a piece of dry bread and told us to divide it in half with the person next to us and since the bread was dry little pieces would fall on the floor and we would be beaten. Another thing that is very painful for us to talk about and go to the details is the sexual abuse and rape that happened to us in the 4th  underground level of the interior ministry. The same thing happened to most of us after we were sent to the security police a few hours before we were released.

The one day we spent in the basement of the interior ministry was the worst day of our lives, a day we will never forget. When they first took us there some of the guards said: here is a thousand times worse than Guantanamo. And they were right we will never forget what we went through just because we lived in the dormitory of Tehran University, there were moments when we thought we are going to stay here forever and no one will ever help us. When they had gathered us to move us to the security police one of the students started to cry and then we all started crying.

When the security police was about to release us Dr. Farhad Rahbar the dean of Tehran university showed up at last! He was with one of the parliament members and some photographers who were taking pictures of his bravery. He gave us each a T-shirt as a present. They made us wear them so no one would see our bloody shirts, what we all thought of was: where were you on the night they illegally attacked the dormitory? Why didn’t you defend us? Why did you leave us on our own, with no protection so they could do what ever they felt like to? Why did you let our classmates to die innocently in the libraries of the dormitory? Why did say nothing when the dormitories turned all red of our blood? No Dr Rahbar, sir, we do not want T-shirts to cover up our blood and their filth we want you to answer, we want you to go and see the basement of  the interior ministry, we want you to make them answer for what they did because we are not going to keep quiet anymore we are going to make them answer for what they did and if you keep quiet, the blood of our classmates is going to be on your hands just as well as them.’

This is what some ordinary students of Tehran university went through 2 days ago, it is not hard to imagine what is happening to the activist students who were arrested.  As the students who wrote the above text said anyone who keeps quiet and does not protest against what is going on in Iran right now is just as responsible as the Islamic regime of Iran who is killing people now  in the street the universities and in prisons to prolong its pathetic existence which is built on the blood of Iranian people.

Mass protests in Iran: Death to the Islamic Republic! Victory to the Iranian people!

Yassamine Mather, Hopi chair, looks at the social upheaval englufing Iran and the tasks of internationalists

The election campaign of the four presidential candidates was largely ignored by the majority of the population until early June, when a series of televised debates triggered street demonstrations and public meetings. Ironically it was Mahmood Ahmadinejad’s fear of losing that prompted him to make allegations of endemic corruption against some of the leading figures of the religious state, including former president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani and Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, former interior minister and adviser to supreme leader ayatollah Khamenei.

In doing so he crossed one of the red lines of the Islamic regime. Once that was done, the floodgates were open. The language used by all three of his opponents – Moussavi, Karroubi and Rezaii – became more colourful. As Ahmadinejad continued to rail against 20 years of corruption and political and economic interference by the “economic mafia” associated with important figures, including Rafsanjani (currently chairman of the ‘assembly of experts’ charged with electing the supreme leader), his opponents wasted no time in using equally strong language to condemn his own presidency, pointing out the worsening economic situation, mass unemployment and 25% inflation, as well as Iran’s “embarrassing international profile”.

28th Khordad-June 18th-08In response to these accusations, Ahmadinejad’s election campaign made some historic claims. Apparently he is the man who brought Islam to Venezuela and Latin America! He has secured a written apology from Blair (prompting a denial by the foreign office). And he is the only president who is so feared by the US that it has been forced to drop regime-change plans for Iran. At times Iranians must have thought their president and his supporters lived in a parallel universe.

In just 10 days the two opposed factions between them managed to expose every unflattering aspect of the 30-year-old Islamic regime. No-one in opposition could have done a better job – no-one else had such in-depth knowledge of the levels of corruption and incompetence prevalent among the inner circles of power.

It was unprecedented for the authorities, including Ahmadinejad’s government, to tolerate the various election gatherings and slogans. But the eyes of the world were now on Iran and the regime put on a show: Bassij militia and Islamic guards turned a blind eye to women who failed to adhere to Islamic dress code for the duration of the campaign. Comrades and relatives inside Iran were telling us the atmosphere was like the pre-revolution days of 1979. Political discussions were held at every street corner, political songs of the late 70s became fashionable amongst a generation born long after the February uprising.

Those who had advocated a boycott of the elections were constantly reminded that it was the mass boycott of the 2005 presidential elections that had allowed Ahmadinejad to come to power. Consequently many life-long opponents of the regime reluctantly decided to vote, if only to stop the re-election of the incumbent. On polling day the regime’s unelected leaders basked in the euphoria of a large turnout, yet they were already facing a dilemma: how to keep control in the post-election era.

If Mir-Hossein Moussavi did become president, those who voted for him would expect serious change and the supreme leader was well aware that neither he nor the new president would be able to meet expectations. That is why he and the senior religious figures around him decided to do what most dictators do: rig the elections and declare Ahmadinejad the winner. Nothing new in such measures; but the supreme leader and his inner circle made two major miscalculations: they underestimated the anger and frustration of the majority of the population; and they failed to realise that the high turnout could only mean a massive ‘no’ to Ahmadinejad and, by proxy, to the entire Islamic order.

Added to this was the sheer incompetence of the vote-rigging. In previous presidential elections, the vote had been announced province by province. This time the results came in blocks of millions of votes. Throughout the night the percentage of votes going to all four candidates changed very little. It seemed obvious that the interior ministry was playing with the figures to make sure the overall percentages remained constant.

Early on Saturday morning, the supreme leader congratulated Ahmadinejad, which was seen as official endorsement of the results. But by Sunday afternoon, under the pressure of impromptu demonstrations, he was forced to reverse this decision, and called on the council of guardians to investigate the other candidates’ complaints. By the afternoon of Monday June 15, with a massive show of force by the opposition – over a million demonstrators on the streets – he was instructing the council of guardians to call for a recount. By Tuesday there was talk of new elections.

Had our supreme leader studied the fate of that other Iranian dictator, the shah, he would have known that at a time of great upheavals, as in 1979, once the dictator hesitates and dithers he loses momentum, and the thousands on the street become more confident.

The slogans and militancy of demonstrators in Tehran and other Iranian cities is today the driving force in Iran – and not only for the supreme leader and his entourage. These slogans also dictate the actions of the so-called ‘official opposition’. The meek, scared Moussavi, whose initial response to the vote-rigging was to seek a reversal of the results by the “centres of Shia religious guidance”, suddenly gained courage and appeared at Monday’s protests. After promising that he would protect people’s votes, he could not ignore the tens of thousands who on Saturday and Sunday were shouting, “Moussavi, return my vote”, “What have you done with our vote?” and even one of the students’ slogans, “Death to those who compromise”.

28th Khordad-June 18th-06There can be no doubt that Ahmadinejad’s press conference and victory rally on Sunday played a crucial role in increasing the size of the anti-government demonstrations on Monday and Tuesday. As riots were taking place all over the capital, the reference to Iran as a “very stable country” reminded many of the shah’s claims that Iran was an island of tranquillity, less than a year before he was overthrown. In response to a reporter’s question about protests in Tehran, the president referred to his opponents as “dust and tiny thorns”. A comment that he will regret forever, as the huge crowds on Monday and Tuesday kept taunting him.

Demonstrators in Tehran are also shouting slogans adapted from those of 1979, often prompted by leftists and students: “Tanks, guns, Bassij are not effective any more”, “Death to the dictator”, “Death to this regime that brings nothing but death”. Clearly the supreme leader’s standard response of bussing in supporters from the countryside to put up a well-orchestrated show of force (as they did for Sunday’s and Tuesday’s pro-Ahmadinejad rallies) does not work any more. Sunday’s event failed miserably, with reporters claiming that many of those arriving by bus could only speak Arabic. By Tuesday some of Ahmadinejad’s non-Iranian supporters arrived at the rally with yellow Hezbollah flags. As Mr Ahmadinejad has no supporters amongst Sunni Arabs in the Khouzestan province of Iran, if these reports are correct one could guess that participants at the state-organised rallies included the thousands of Shias invited in June every year from Iraq, Lebanon and Pakistan to participate in the events commemorating the anniversary of the death of Khomeini.

It is difficult to predict what will happen in the next few days. However, one can be certain that nothing will be the same again. No-one will forget the fact that both factions crossed many ‘red lines’, exposing each other’s corruption, deceit and failure. No-one will forget the obvious vote-rigging that makes a mockery of ‘Islamic democracy’ – when Moussavi called it a “charade” he was only echoing the sentiments of the masses.

On Tuesday another presidential contender, Mehdi Karroubi, said: “This week ‘the republic’ was taken out of the Islamic regime”. No-one will forget that the immediate response of the regime to peaceful protests was to arrest, beat up and shoot opponents. No-one will forget that at least seven people have been killed in these protests.

There is little doubt that Moussavi /Karoubi/Khatami and Mohsen Rezaii will look for compromises and will ultimately sell out. However, these protests have gained such momentum that already in Tehran people compare the plight of Moussavi (if he does become president) with that of Shapour Bakhtiar – the last prime minister appointed by the shah, whose government lasted a few short weeks before the revolution overthrew the entire regime.

However, before the British left gets too excited and starts sending its blueprints for revolution to Iran, let us be clear about some facts: working class organisation remains very weak during this crucial period; most of the Iranian left is as confused and divided as it was in 1979, but now, of course, it is much smaller. Repression against labour activists and leftist students is harsher than ever.

Yet students’ and workers’ organisations have been very active in the anti-government demonstrations and they have managed to change some of the slogans of the protests, turning anti-Ahmadinejad slogans into slogans challenging the entire Islamic ‘order’. There was talk of a one-day general strike. However the organisations discussing this decided to try to improve the left’s intervention in current events before contemplating such ambitious calls. We should not expect miracles, but one can see that unlike the Iranian exile left (some of whom have benefited from the largesse of organisations offering regime-change funds, while others have tailed rightwing-controlled international trade unions) the left inside Iran has been conscious of the revolutionary potential of this period and, given its relative weakness, is doing what it can to make an independent, principled, but systematic intervention. That is precisely why the authorities’ attacks on university campuses, where the left is strongest, have been so severe; and why we must do all in our power to support comrades in Iran.

When it comes to predicting Iranian politics, no one can claim to have a crystal ball. However, it is reassuring to see that the unique position Hands Off the People of Iran took – against imperialism, against the threat of war and for the overthrow of Iran’s Islamic regime – has been vindicated by the events of the last two weeks. Imagine what would have happened if during the last year we had witnessed a military strike by Israel against Iran’s nuclear industry, or various US plans for regime change from above had materialised. Political Islam in Iran and the region would have been the undisputed winner of such a scenario. We were right to argue that positive change can only happen from below and from inside Iran and we will continue to maintain this position.

28th Khordad-June 18th-04At the same time, these events have exposed the ignorance of groups such as the Socialist Workers Party, whose leaders kept informing us about the virtues of Islamic democracy in Iran. We have seen the selection of candidates by an unrepresentative nominated council of guardians; the role of the supreme leader in inventing the results of an election; and the brutal repression of legal and official opponents. If that is what the regime can do to its own, one can imagine the kind of treatment reserved for its opponents.

But even under the threat of beatings and executions, an overwhelming majority of the Iranian people have shown that they do not believe SWP-type apologia. No-one in their right mind should ever make such claims again. Hopi’s judgement was correct and we did not compromise our principles; that is why, now that the Iranian working class is in need of international solidarity more than ever, we are in a good position to help deliver it.