Workers of Bandar Imam Petrochemical Complex in Mahshahr have been on strike since Sunday 25th september 2011 . According to reports from Iran , workers from Arvand, Amirkabir, and Tondguyan Petrochemical plants have joined this strike, making this the first nationwide strike by ‘oil’ worlers since 1980.
According to reports from Iran , 6000 workers employed in separate shifts are now participating in Mahshahr protest, gathering every day in front of the compnay’s headquarters chanting their demands.
The main demand of the petrochemical workers in Mahshahr’s Special Economic Zone is an end to ‘contract employmnet’. Contractors impose inhumane conditions on workers in this sector.
With the continued threat of war, the sanctions siege and the dual political and economic crisis within Iran the repression of opposition forces is continuing and intensifying.
On Tuesday May 17 two brothers, Mohammad (27) and Abdollah (29) Fathi, were executed by the Islamic Republic. After being torture they were sentenced for being involved with anti-revolutionary groups, armed robbery and Mohareb (waging war against god). Their father, Bijan Fathi, said that their confessions were “obtained under severe torture” and they were “deprived of all their basic lawful rights”.
Below is the video of their funeral:
Left-wing student and activist Mohammad Pourabdollah who has been in prison since February 12 2009 has been moved to the infamous Ghezal Hesar prison in Karaj a city to the west of Tehran. It is a prison known for its barbaric treatment of prisoners and the housing of violent thugs and rapists. He has been charged with propoghanda against the state and being a threat to national security. Pourabdollah was initially sentenced to six years but was reduced to three years on appeal. He has spent months in solitary confinement enduring methodical physical and mental torture.
He was moved along with ten other political prisoners to a prison where in March up to 150 prisoners were injured and a minimum of 14 killed when prison guards attacked prisoners. This is a common move by the theocratic regime that puts political prisoners and those on false charges in the wings and prisons of often violent prisoners.
On the same day of Pourabdollah’s arrest comrade Alireza Davoudi was taken from his home into secret detention. He would never be released alive. The Ayatollah’s thugs murdered comrade Davoudi on July 29 2009 by torturing him to death.
These moves come at a time when the regime is stepping up the murder and brutalisation of political prisoners. Habib Latifi, another left-wing student, is at risk of execution after his death sentence was upheld by Iran’s supreme court. The comrade was arrested in October 2007 during a massive crack down against left-wing students. He is accused of conspiracy against national security and insurgence. A massive campaign was launched to stop the execution which was originally scheduled for December 26 2010. This campaign has been reignited with hundreds of people in the Kurdish city of Sanandaj have signed a letter asking Ali Khamenei to pardon Latifi.
Hands Off the People of Iran is for the release of all political prisoners and an end to executions. Mass action in Iran backed up by grass roots international solidarity is desperately needed to push back the repression and end executions. There can be no liberation from the imperialist forces whose sanctions are causing unemployment and poverty on a massive scale. We are opposed to all sanctions and any military action directed against Iran.
Supporters of Hands of the People of Iran have produced a bulletin on working class struggle in Iran for trade unionists and anti-war activists. We will be giving out hundreds of copies at demonstrations, meetings and conferences over the coming months, starting with the PCS Conference beginning on May 18. If you would like copies for your trade union branch or would like to help distribute the bulletin please email office[at]hopoi.info
On March 4th five members of the Hands Off the People of Iran Manchester branch will be walking the Bogle, a fifty five mile walk round Manchester. We are walking to raise money for the charity Workers Fund Iran, which was set up in December 2005 with the aim to reduce and relieve poverty amongst Iranian workers (both employed and unemployed) who are victims of the economic policies of the Iranian regime, including mass non-payment of wages. The charity is not aligned to any political organisation. Funds sent to Iran will be distributed amongst the most needy working class families who are facing destitution. We hope the funds will stop families sending their children to the streets as beggars or peddlers and selling their body parts, which is a common practice.
In Iran at the moment, hundreds of thousands of workers are being consigned to poverty by the oppressive Iranian state. Practical solidarity is one of the greatest things we can do for Iranian workers; it helps the revolutionary struggle against the Islamic Republic continue. Give generously!
We are hoping to raise over £300 pounds for the charity. You can donate by going to our Charity Choice page here.
We demand the immediate release of Dr. Fariborz Raisdana
We have learned the astonishing news of “Dr. Raisdana’s arrest” by the security agents of the Islamic republic on the early morning of December 19th, 2010 at his home in Tehran. Dr. Fariborz Raisdana is a well known intellectual, economist, social activist, and …the active member of the Iranian writers’ association. He published several books and articles on political economy and sociology. He has been known as a leftist socio-economic expert who always considers working class in his economic impairment analysis. So that he can be firmly called as “Iranian working class economist”. Dr. Raisdana’s field of expertise is econometrics. He has tried hard to disclose how workers and wage earners have been implicated by the relations of political economy in the turbulent Iranian society and how they have been increasingly suffering.
Arrest of Dr. Raisdana , the member of the Iranian writers’ association which is a long-lasting core on the struggle against censorship in Iran , is a warning to the grass root movements who are seeking public justice and to the people whose main civil and democratic demand is focused on human rights and freedom of speech in spite of the extensive violation of civil rights in Iran. Moreover, his arrest, as a leftist economist who criticizes the Iranian government socio-economic platforms, points out the fact that social and political oppression apparatus in Iran is trying to implement its unfair plan to reduce the allocation of national subsidies. This is the unreasonable plan which has been evaluated by the majority of the experts as a plan to consolidate the military authority in the public sphere of Iran. It is out of question that the military economic plan results in reducing welfare and increasing pressure on the lower classes which Dr. Raisdana is their voice in the society to stand against the illegitimate resilient structure.
We, undersigned, condemn Dr. Raisdana’s arrest and with pledge to civil rights and freedom of speech we demand his immediate and unconditional release.
ما خواهان آزادی فوری فریبرز رییس دانا هستیم
در نخستین ساعات بامداد 28 آذرماه 1389 ( 19 دسامبر 2010 ) فریبرز رییس دانا، روشنفکر ، اقتصاد دان و کوشنده ی اجتماعی و عضو هیات دبیران کانون نویسندگان ایران، توسط ماموران امنیتی در منزلش واقع در تهران، دستگیر شد . فریبرز رییس دانا مولف و مترجم کتاب ها و مقالات متعددی پیرامون نظرگاه های اقتصادی و اجتماعی و سیاسی است. او به عنوان اقتصاد دانی پیش کسوت و صاحب نظر اجتماعی، در تحلیل آسیب های اقتصادی کشورمان، همواره به طبقات فرودست و کم بضاعت ایران نظر داشت، به طوری که می توان به جرات او را « اقتصاد دان طبقه ی کارگر و زحمتکش ایران » نامید. رشته ی تخصصی رئیس دانا « اقتصاد سنجی » است و او به کمک معادلات و محاسبات کاربردی ریاضیات، می کوشید روابط و مناسبات اقتصاد سیاسی را در جامعه ی پر تلاطم ایران نمایان سازد و به ویژه نشان دهد که چگونه کارگران و مزد بگیران جامعه در محاق قرار گرفته اند و محنت روزافزون می کشند.
دستگیری عضو هیات دبیران کانون نویسندگان ایران ، به عنوان کانونی دیرپای در مبارزه با سانسور ، هشداری است به مردم عدالتخواه که نقض گسترده ی حقوق بشر و تهدیدهای بی شمار به آزادی بیان را در مقطع اخیر در صدر مطالبات مدنی و دموکراتیک خود قرار داده اند.
همچنین دستگیری رییس دانا، به عنوان اقتصاد دان چپ و منتقد برنامه های دولت فعلی ایران، مبین جریان ویژه ی سرکوب اجتماعی، در آستانه ی طرحی است که کاهش تخصیص یارانه های ملی را مدنظر دارد . بدیهی است که این طرح غیر علمی و نابخردانه که از سوی بسیاری از صاحب نظران در راستای تحکیم اقتدار نظامی و سیاسی حاکم بر ایران ارزیابی شده است، منجر به کاهش رفاه همگانی و افزایش فشار بر طبقات زیرین جامعه خواهد شد، همان ها که رییس دانا صدای ناله و فریاد فروخفته ی آنان بود. باری، چنین شده است که بی محابا بر منتقدین می تازند و ناروا، روا می دارند تا بیش از پیش بر ساختار ارتجاعی خود یکه تاز شوند.
ما ، امضاء کنندگان زیر ، ضمن محکوم کردن بازدداشت فریبرز رییس دانا ، با التزام به حقوق مدنی و آزادی بیان ، خواهان آزادی فوری و بی قید و شرط این فرهیخته ی آزادی خواه ایرانی هستیم
Shahla Jahed is due to be executed in Iran on December 1st, while the eyes of the world are on her fellow Iranian, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. Jahed had a temporary marriage with Nasser Mohammad-Khani, an Iranian footballer, and has been charged with murdering his full-time wife. She has withdrawn a confession made under torture, stating in court “everyone knows the conditions under which I confessed.” She has now been imprisoned for nine years.
Send protest emails to:
Head of the Judiciary in Tehran
Mr Ali Reza Avaei
Director, Human Rights Headquarters of Iran
Mohammad Javad Larijani
Please copy all emails to the Iranian Embassy in London: email@example.com
We condemn the continuance of Reza Shahabi’s detention and approval of one year sentence for Mansoor Osanloo.
Reza Shahabi board member of Workers of Tehran and Suburb Bus Drivers Syndicate was arrested on June 12, 2010, and has been in a limbo in Evin prison for more than 3 months.
This Syndicate board member has been suffering from pain in the lumbar region and the neck. He has been in contact with his family through phone calls on sundays and visits with them in cabin on Thursdays. We have also been notified of the approval of one year sentence for Mansoor Osanloo based on charges of propaganda against the regime which was issued by the primary court after and he is forced to serve the total of 6 years in prison including the 5 years he was given due to his activities in 2005 (1384 persian year).
Also Ebrahim Madadi another board member of this Syndicate whom has been imprisoned in Evin prison over 2 years and is serving his 3.5 years sentence due to union activities has been deprived of any vacation time. Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburb Bus Company condemns the continuance of detention of Reza Shahabi, Ebrahim Madadi and the approval of one year sentence for Mansoor Osanloo and has asked for the release of all imprisoned workers activists.
Syndicate of Vaahed workers, Tehran and Suburbs Bus
سندیکای واحد: ادامه بازداشت و احکام صادره علیه فعالین سندیکای اتوبوسرانی را محکوم میکنیم
سندیکای کارگران شرکت واحد ادامه باز داشت رضا شهابی ،ابراهیم مددی و تایید حکم یکسال زندان برای منصور اسالو را محکوم می کند و خواهان آزادی همه فعالین کارگری زندانی می باشد
ادامه بازداشت رضا شهابی و تایید حکم یکسال زندان برای منصور اسالو را محکوم می کنیم
رضا شهابی عضو هیئت مدیره سندیکای کارگران شرکت واحد اتوبوسرانی تهران و حومه که از تاریخ 22 خرداد ماه 1389 دستگیرشده ، بیش از 3 ماه به صورت بلاتکلیف در زندان اوین به سر می برد
این عضو هیئت مدیره سندیکای کارگران شرکت واحد به دلیل درد از ناحیه کمر و گردن در حالی در زندان می باشد که روز های یکشنبه به صورت تلفنی وپنجشنبه ها از طریق ملاقات کابینی با خانواده خود در ارتباط می باشد همچنین با خبر شدیم حکم یکسال زندان منصور اسالو که به اتهام تبلیغ علیه نظام در دادگاه بدوی صادر شده بود با گذشت بیش از بیست روز و عدم ارائه اعتراض برای رسیدگی در دادگاه های تجدید نظر استان تهران به قطعیت رسیده و نامبرده که به دلیل فعالیت های صنفی در سال 1384 به 5 سال زندان محکوم شده بود با تایید یکسال باید مدت 6 سال را در زندان باشد
همچنین ابراهیم مددی دیگر عضو هیئت مدیره سندیکا با گذشت بیش از 2 سال که به دلیل اجرای حکم 3.5 سال زندان به خاطر فعالیت صنفی در زندان اوین به سر می برد همچنان از امکانات استفاده از مرخصی بی بهره می باشد
سندیکای کارگران شرکت واحد ادامه باز داشت رضا شهابی ،ابراهیم مددی و تایید حکم یکسال زندان برای منصور اسالو را محکوم می کند و خواهان آزادی همه فعالین کارگری زندانی می باشد
Yassamine Mather exposes the concerted efforts of the Islamic regime against Iranian women
Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the 43 year old mother of two who awaits the death penalty by stoning in Iran on adultery charges brought by the sharia court in Azerbaijan province, is on the cover of many western newspapers and the subject of news broadcasts in Europe and the US. Last Sunday, protesters, including philosophers and singers, were among those taking part in a demonstration in Paris in solidarity with Mrs Ashtiani, while similar protests took place in cities throughout the world.
One of her lawyers has been forced to leave Iran, seeking political asylum in Scandinavia. European ministers, presidents and MPs are defending her right to live, yet in her home town of Tabriz very few seem to be aware of her plight. The local media has not mentioned her case except as a small column in the ‘accidents’ pages, official Iranian TV channels do not cover her story and, arriving in New York this week, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed: “reports of a woman being sentenced to killing by stoning in Iran were fabricated, made up and part of Western propaganda.”. All this after many official statements by Iran’s foreign ministry that the stoning of Mrs Ashtiani will be reviewed!.
It appears that her sentence, like the exaggerated claims about Iran’s nuclear and military capabilities, or the spying case against the three hikers (one of whom was released on the eve of Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York), are for foreign consumption. At times it looks as if the Islamic regime and its president are determined to attract publicity even if it is negative publicity. Of course, it is ordinary Iranians who pay the price of this adventurism.
Sakineh Ashtiani was first tried on May 15 2006 by a court in Tabriz, and pleaded guilty to an “illicit relationship”, although the so-called adultery occurred after the death of her husband. She was sentenced to 99 lashes, and the sentence was carried out that year. In September 2006, her case was re-opened when another court was prosecuting one of the two men involved in the death of her husband. She was then convicted of adultery while still married, and sentenced to death by stoning. She later retracted her confession. The case was held in Persian; though she only speaks Azeri.
Every time the Islamic regime faced a political crisis, a new crime was added to Sakineh’s case; and now, as Ahmadinejad embarks on a wave of media interviews in the US, we are suddenly told there is no ‘stoning’ case. Those people in Iran who know about her plight agree she is the victim of a cynical ploy by Ahmadinejad and his supporters to deliberately attract international condemnations – part of a strategy to divert attention from internal economic and political problems.
No one should be in any doubt about the concerted efforts of the Islamic regime against Iranian women, however. Hardliners are trying to reintroduce a family-law bill that is recognised as discriminatory against women not only by moderates but also by some staunch conservatives. For example, one article of the bill provides men with the right to marry a second wife without consent from the first.
As predicted, once the reformist faction was marginalised in terms of government executive power, conflict between Ahmadinejad’s government and the parliament, or majlis, deepened. The main parliamentary group, known as the principlist faction, is headed by the speaker, Ali Ardashir Larijani. The conflict has paralysed the state, with Ahmadinejad angrily withdrawing a number of bills presented by his government, claiming that they had been changed beyond recognition as they passed through various majlis committees. The government has stopped sending its decisions to lawmakers for confirmation, and it routinely fails to implement laws adopted by parliament.
In the last few weeks, another faction – the ‘pragmatists’ led by former Islamic revolutionary guard corps (IRGC) commander Mohsen Rezai – has also been critical of the government.
The ideological battles between Ahmadinejad and the conservatives has entered a new phase. He is constantly attacked for controversial statements made by his self appointed chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. In a complete departure from all the ‘principles’ of the Islamic regime, on August 4 Mashaei told a gathering of Iranian expatriates that “the country should introduce the ideology of Iran, rather than Islam, to the world … Islam would be lost if it weren’t for Iran”. And, a week later: “… if we want to present the truth embodied in Islam, we must fly the flag of Iran.” His remarks were attacked as heresy by conservative clerics who accused Ahmadinejad and Mashaei of advocating nationalism and secularism.
In early September, Ahmadinejad and Mashaei presided over the opening of the Cyrus ‘human rights’ cylinder exhibition. The cylinder was transferred to Iran from the British Museum in early September and will be on display for four months. Some regard it as the world’s first declaration of human rights, and a symbol of tolerance and respect for different peoples and faiths made under the orders of Cyrus II, founder of the Persian empire under the Achaemenid dynasty, in 539 BCE following the conquest of Babylon.
Herodotus and Aeschylus – Greeks who lived after Cyrus – praised him and called him merciful. The Bible describes him as the “anointed one”, because he allowed exiled Jews to return to Israel. However, modern historians doubt this flattering version of events. According Josef Wiesehöfer, professor of ancient history at the university of Kiel, in Germany, Cyrus attained his goals with “carrots and sticks”, but in truth, he was a violent ruler like all others.
Inside Iran this sudden obsession with ‘old Persia’ has been reminiscent of the last days of the shah. His lavish celebrations of 2,500 years of Iranian monarchy at the palace of Persepolis, and the reciting of Cyrus’s charter marked the beginning of the end of his rule. So Iranians of a variety of political persuasions are not impressed by Ahmadinejad calling Cyrus a ‘major prophet’ and draping a basij scarf around the shoulders of a man dressed as an Achaemenid soldier at Iran’s national museum during the inauguration of the Cyrus cylinder. All this has led to a new title for Ahmadinejad supporters: Archemedis Bassiji.
During the last few weeks Ahmadinejad has made a number of new appointments: Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei as his special envoy to the Middle East; Hamid Baghei, head of Iran’s cultural heritage foundation, as special envoy for Asian affairs; deputy foreign minister Mohammad Mehdi Akhundzadeh has been named Iran’s envoy on Caspian affairs; and Abolfazl Zohrevand, deputy head of Iran’s supreme national security council, is now the president’s envoy to Afghanistan. None of these appointments were approved by the supreme leader, ayatollah Ali Hoseyni Khamenei, who decides foreign policy issues; and, of course, they are a challenge to the dominant conservative factions of the majlis as well as a blow to Iran’s foreign ministry and foreign minister Manuchehr Mottaki, who is considered a pragmatist, and whom many believed was the supreme leader’s appointee in the government following the disputed 2009 presidential elections.
On September 7, 122 MPs in Iran’s 290-seat majlis called Ahmadinejad’s move “illegal”, and the supreme leader warned against duplication of foreign policy roles, reasserting his support for foreign ministry officials.
Mashaei has established his own news agency, Mashanews, which is campaigning for an Iran without clerics (presumably with military nationalists in power?): “Iran needs someone like Mashaei to get rid of mullahs once and for all in Iran and bring back the great civilization of Iran minus the Arab mullahs who have polluted and destroyed Iran for the past 31 years.” Almost word for word what royalists and ultra-nationalist Iranians have been saying.
The Islamic reformist reaction came from ex-president Seyed Mohammad Khatami: “I don’t want to speak about individuals. I believe that the clergy has played an important role in the regime. The thesis ‘Islam minus the clergy’ is fundamentally senseless, just like medicine without doctors, and has imperialist roots. Its goal is to marginalize the clergy from the arena and to give room to those who have deviated and have fundamental problems with the Islamic revolution and the regime. Therefore, this movement will not find a path among the devout and the principlist.”
So here we are – Ahmadinejad and royalists on one side, Khatami, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karoubi on the opposite side. Iran’s supreme leader has a difficult choice to make; his balancing act between the warring factions of the regime cannot last long and everyone inside and outside Iran is well aware of this.
The economy is in ruins. Sanctions are taking their toll and the government is paralysed. Sanctions on the banking and finance sector started three years ago; however it is only in the last few months that the new round of tougher sanctions and investment conditions has created problems for ordinary Iranians. Morteza Massoumzadeh of the Iranian business council in Dubai explains: “During this period we have seen the volume of economic activity in some cases drop by more than 50%”. New sanctions will make Iranian foreign exchange trade more difficult.
Economist Bijan Bidabadi told the BBC that sanctions on banking has put pressure on the economy. Some private banks have tried to substitute for banks listed in the sanctions bill, but their resources are too limited to cope with the country’s trade dealings.
Many importers and exporters are using loans to pay for transportation, others are entering deals without formal invoices and this will affect the economy. As greed, lack of spare parts (due to sanctions) and corruption continue to destroy manufacturing, including food production and agriculture, most of the country’s basic necessities are imported at colossal prices. Iranians are complaining that the price of most basic food items in major cities is more than the price of the same item in Europe. Most people, even amongst the professional classes, cannot afford to buy meat.
Last week ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, head of the clerical assembly of experts, told the annual gathering of the assembly that Iran would become a “dictatorship” unless current policies are reversed. He revealed the true extent of the sanctions:
“We have never been faced with so many sanctions … I would like to ask you and all the country’s officials to take the sanctions seriously and not as a joke.”
The remarks were aimed at Ahmadinejad, who has brushed away concerns about sanctions, calling them “pathetic” and less effective than “a used handkerchief”.
Disputes within the many factions of the Islamic regime have paralysed the functioning of the state. It is no wonder ‘regime change from above’ is once more openly discussed by the US administration, while Israel and ‘hawks’ in the US Republican Party are once more calling for direct military action. On August 17 John Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations told Fox news that “Israel has until the weekend to launch a military strike on Iran’s first nuclear plant before the humanitarian risk of an attack becomes too great”. Bolton was referring to the fact that on August 22 a Russian company was expected to help Iran start loading nuclear fuel into the Bushehr reactor. Contrary to all Barack Obama’s election claims, many of this summer’s statements regarding Iran’s nuclear programme and the need for regime change, as well as the dramatic escalation in the levels of sanctions imposed on the country, remind us of the Bush administration’s obsession with regime change in Iraq.
Let us be clear; Iran it is not an anti-imperialist state; its economy is that of a capitalist dictatorship; its foreign policy is limited to irrational, reactionary anti-Western rhetoric; and, given serious internal political conflict and its association with the occupation governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is neither in a position to challenge US aggression in the region, nor to support Palestinians. Yet, at a time of economic crisis, the hegemon capitalist world power is in no position to tolerate a rogue state in a strategic part of the Middle East. The severity of the sanctions can only be explained if we take these facts into account. Iran’s clerical rulers are busy fighting each other, the economy is in a terrible state and the US and its allies hope sanctions will bring about their desired regime change.
Reformists and US style regime change
Since the disputed elections of last summer, sections of the international left have tried to reduce protests by millions of Iranians to an imperialist plot for a colour revolution. In the US the World Workers Party stood firmly behind Ahmadinejad, denying any fraud took place and heralding the Iranian president as the champion of the poor, while leftist academic James Petras wrote:
“The demography of voting reveals a real class polarization pitting high income, free market oriented, capitalist individualists against working class, low income, community based supporters of a ‘moral economy’ in which usury and profiteering are limited by religious precepts.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. Far from being an opponent of privatisation or a champion of the poor, Ahmadinejad’s presidency has coincided with a period of unprecedented privatisations, deregulation of work, mass unemployment and a growing gap between rich and poor, and the abolition of all subsidies.
As Iran steadily moves up in the ranks of the most corrupt world states, contrary to James Petras’s claims it is the upper classes, the owners of capital, who benefit from the current government’s policies. Dictatorships work well for those seeking maximum exploitation of labour. Who but a neo-conservative Islamic regime could have created conditions forcing car plant workers (among the elite of the Iranian working class) work three consecutive shifts in order to survive?
Owners of major capital have benefited from the policies of consecutive Islamic governments, especially since 1988. That is why they tolerate minor inconveniences caused by the interference of religion in private lives. In fact, unlike the working classes and the poor, they are not too concerned about sexual apartheid, bans on alcohol, restrictions on gatherings. They can afford to bribe their way into living a Los Angeles style life right in the middle of the capital city of the Islamic Republic of Iran. And both in maintaining a Western lifestyle and in their ultra rightwing Persian nationalism, they have an ally in Ahmadinejad’s most trusted deputy, Mashaei.
On the political scene, the leaders of the Green movement are not considered regime-change forces by the US. There are many reasons for this, amongst them the fact that they remain loyal to the constitution of the Islamic republic. Also because their coming to power would not be seen by anyone as the US regaining control of Iran, not a sufficient enough reversal of the 1979 revolution. On the contrary, they remain the last card of the Islamic republic, a safeguard against downfall of the entire regime. The overwhelming majority of the political groups and parties behind the foundation of the Islamic republic in 1979, as well as senior ayatollahs, both in the council of experts (ayatollah Rafsanjani) and those acting as source of shia guidance (ayatollahs Yousef Sanei, Bayat-Zajani, Dastgheyb, etc) are currently in the reformist camp.
This above all else explains why Iran’s supreme leader tolerates this legal opposition and why so often in recent weeks his office played the role of intermediary and peacemaker between conservatives (the majority faction in the majlis) and reformists, even at the cost of isolating Ahmadinejad. Of course, should other more trusted allies, such as royalists, republicans and former religious figures currently gathered around the regime change camp in Washington, fail to increase their support base, the US and its allies might then consider supporting leaders of the Green movement.
Opposition to the entire regime and the reformist camp
The last few weeks have been turbulent times for the reformist movement. Despite new arrests, the return to prison of activists on bail and impending court cases, sections of this movement seem to have found new confidence in confronting the regime. Attempts at gaining televised confessions from imprisoned reformists have failed and some have started proceedings against their jailers and torturers. Karoubi and Mousavi have launched a new satellite and internet station. However the gap between the radical young supporters of the Green movement and a conservative and rather ineffective leadership remains as wide as ever.
Two weeks ago Karoubi’s house was surrounded by a pro-Ahmadinejad mob who smashed windows and damaged security cameras; but they had to retreat having failed to gain any support from revolutionary guards. Even amongst Iran’s paramilitary forces there are divided loyalties between conservatives and neo-conservative pro-Ahmadinejad forces. In a clear sign of shifting alliances, revolutionary guard commanders issued a statement condemning the attack on Karoubi’s house. On September 15 plain clothes security agents raided the office of Mousavi and took away computers and some of his belongings. His office and website claimed this marked a “new phase in restrictions” on him.
Throughout the 14 months since the rigged elections, leaders of the Green movement have complained about repression and attacks by security forces. However no Green movement supporters have faced the kind of repression meted out day in day out to labour activists (such as Tehran busworkers Reza Shahabi and Mansoor Ossanlou), to defenders of women’s rights such as Shiva Nazarahari or to hundreds of leftist student activists arrested in the last few months. Having said that, a positive aspect of the continued internal conflict between the various factions of the regime is that it allows a limited breathing space to workers, women and students who are waging the real struggle for regime change from below – its revolutionary overthrow.
While conflicts between plain clothes security forces and military and Pasdar leaders who call them ‘rogue agents’ are escalating, reformists and conservatives are attempting a new alliance against neo-conservatives around Ahmadinejad. With severe sanctions and renewed talk of military attacks against Iran, all of this heralds a new phase in the post-election period.
There is the danger of increased repression, imprisonment of all opposition figures, imposition of terror and further attacks on the working class. However there is also a possibility that the cracks between the majlis and the president are too deep to permit a reconciliation, that protests will continue and that the next round of mass protests against unemployment, abolition of subsidies and the lack of freedom and democracy will be more radical and effective than last year’s demonstrations.
In the first of a series of articles for Hands Off the People of Iran Aida Foruzan looks at the mass murder carried out by the theocratic regime in the summer of 1988.
In the summer of 1988 the rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran committed one of the greatest crimes against humanity, they massacred at least 10,000 Iranian political activists, some of them only a sympathizer or reader of a political paper, the statistics which detail how many were murdered varies from 5000 this is the number of the ones who are defiantly known and identified, many who got executed including a family member of my own are not on this list) to 100,000 the statistic that Mujahedin have given (which seems exaggerated). I believe that the the quantity is not important when it comes to killing human beings for the way they think, even if the Islamic republic had killed only one person in this way every person responsible for this had to answer and pay for it, but still of course it is important to follow-up the exact statistics of the number of the people who lost their lives in that deadly summer, but falling in the trap of just arguing about the number which is done by some political tendencies consciously, and some individuals with out knowing the consequences is just what helps the Islamic Republic, because the statistics are vary drastically! The Islamic Republic is using this disagreement between political groups and individuals and witnesses to confuse people, of course the fundamentalists and the reformists (whom now days consider them selves as the opposition to Ahmadinejad’s government) have different reasons and attitudes doing this which I will discuss soon in another article.
In this article I want to go through why we should not fall in the trap of numbers there are different reasons why we should not emphasize and put too much time on this. Firstly logically we can not! We can never be sure how many people exactly died in that summer, before the fall of the regime and having access to the governmental documents of those days it is impossible to find a exact number, people who are trying to find the number using the names of the people who got executed and their relatives declared their names to the UN or other international organizations are never going to be close to the real number because the names are usually given by the families or sometimes friends who were in the same prison with them and got out alive. There are many families (specially from small towns or villages) who never sent out the name of their executed beloved ones. Some of them feared that the regime would make life harder for them, some were frankly threatened by the regime that they should be silent or wait for revenge and some (not many of course) were religious and a supporter of the regime so obviously they didn’t give out the name (I know people who gave up their own children). Some were illiterate or living in very small towns and villages and had no connection to send out the name, or they did not have the knowledge to know doing so is needed and finally some were very depressed after loosing their lost ones and simply they didn’t think that giving out a name or trying to revile the murderers is going to ease their pain.
People who think that the number of the executed is close to the number of the identified names, may argue that the families were not the only sources for these names, I would answer no some of the executed people were among the known leaders and some of the names were reported by the witnesses who survived, but as we know according to the testimony of the witnesses for example,
out of a section with 250 people in Evin prison only 35 remained alive, so it is possible that in some part of smaller prisons every one has been killed and there are no witnesses, or there are a few witnesses who live in Iran or for any reason they have not witnessed what happened to Mujahedin or leftists. Many families were not sure if they were in prison or in the partisan camps and were never informed of their deaths.
Above I discussed some of the reasons why we can not believe that the number of the executions is a close number to the names that we have, on the other hand making up numbers (like Mujahedin are accused of doing it) is not going to help reviling this great crime and seeking justice. The attitude that leads to making up numbers by guess work and without sources is an attitude which does not really respect the value of human life, the ones who are doing this probably think very pragmatically that if they raise the numbers people are going to be more concerned and the leaders of the Islamic Republic have to face justice sooner. What they forget is that making up numbers has only helped the Islamic Republic so far to get out of this case in the international courts and in the minds of some people, they forget that the life of any human being is sacred and any dictatorship which takes a life has to pay back for it.
Arguing about the number has led us to an endless fight which will never end until we get the official documents. Firstly for this happen we have to fight for the collapse of the theocratic regime. This disagreement has been helping many to have an excuse for not opposing the theocratic regime, above all western media which makes hundreds of documentaries against the Cuban regime for having political prisoners and what Stalin did during the 30’s have kept almost quiet for the past decade over one the greatest mass murders in history. This useless fight about the numbers is one of the reasons that some of the tendencies of the European left which support the Islamic republic for being anti imperialist! (a very anti-Marxist, anti-socialist and opportunistic reason!) These groups have been able to keep defending the Islamic Republic without feeling responsible to explain and condemn what happened in the summer 1988 in Iran.
But the ones who are using it most of all are the former members of the regime, the reformist wing who consider themselves as the opposition these days, to hide their bloody hands behind their back and fade their fingerprints from the mass graves of a revolutionary generation.
What is to be done?
I think, we should admit that we can not have the exact numbers yet, I am sure the day is not far away when we will have access to the full details of this crime, but until that day we should act and agitate over the facts that we have. In the summer of 1988 thousands of political prisoners who had already been put through a trials and detention were mass murdered by the orders of the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, ayatollah Syed Ruhollah Moosavi Khomeini, they had no chance to defend themselves and most of them were killed after answering negative to questioning on whether they prayed, believed in god and rejected their political organisations in a so called court. Court sessions were held for 2 or 3 minutes and one Mullah was the only person present in the room in many cases, they sentenced thousands of prisoners to death, they killed them in the most severe ways some were hanged, some of them were put all together in a room and exploded many never got the chance to even write a goodbye letter.
They buried them in mass graves with their cloths on, never told their families were they were buried and threatened their families to be silent. One of these mass graves has been found today, it is called: Khavaran and some of the families followed the vans that came out of Evin prison and saw the bodies of their loved ones being buried all together in these area in the east of Tehran, even now after 22 years the people who go there to mourn their loved ones or to remember their comrades and friends are usually arrested, beaten, insulted and mistreated.
These are the facts that we have for sure, these are things no one can question or deny, and we have to stop fighting about the details we can not be sure of and condemn the ones responsible for this crime by any means possible. There are some young brave Iranian lawyers in exile nowadays who believe and are trying to prove that the mass murders in the summer of 1988 in Iran was a genocide, killing defenseless people who belonged to one generation and had a different way of thinking.
In the next article I will discuss more about what happened in the summer of 1988 and the attitudes of the different wings of the regime towards this event after 22 years and their attitude of the executions they have committed in the past 30 years. I will also look at the reasons why some activists do not like to attract any attention to the crimes of 1988.
I want to end my article in the memory of Mojtaba my cousin, who was killed in summer 1988, he was 17 when he was arrested, he was a sympathizer of Mujahedin and was arrested with an illegal paper. He was only a school student so he was told to write something asking for forgiveness, he didn’t do it and as a reader of the Mujahedin’s paper he was sentenced to life in prison! During his prison time once he went on a two month long hunger strike which was the reason the other prisoners started calling him Bobby Sands out of respect, in the last time he met his father in prison, he told him: they are doing chemical exams on us, the things that they want to use against Iraq in the war first they try it on us, he looked very pale and under his eyes had turned purple, after that he never got a chance to see or call or write to his family, one year later, in that unforgettable summer of 1988, the manager of the prison called my uncle he said: “we want to release your son, get ready to celebrate”, my uncle and his family prepared a big party and invited a lot of people, my uncle went to evin prison in the day he was told, they put a blindfold on his eyes, and led him through some halls and floors, he said: “I felt strange and unsecured, I felt something is wrong but I never even guessed how cruel they could be.” They led him to a room finally and gave him a bag: inside was Mojtaba’s two shirts and a small towel and a few other personal things, they told him that his son was executed and that he should go home and not to speak a word about this otherwise the authorities “will take your daughter to same place that he is now! No we can not tell you were he is buried.” My uncle went home and all the preparation for the party was spent for Mojtaba’s small funeral, when he is talking about Mojtaba’s childhood or a memory from him he puts his hand on the shoulder of his other son and tries to smile, Mojtaba’s name is not in any list, we never knew were they hide his warm and kind heart, but he and the memory of his braveness and his way of life remains among the family, and I strongly believe that the one’s who could not stand his social consciousness and human like way of living will one day pay for their guilt, and I know that none of us is never going to forget nor forgive their crimes.
As the US steps up it efforts to provoke regime change from above, Yassamine Mather looks at the reasons for the failure of the working class to win leadership of the opposition movement
New sanctions imposed by the United States government last week were the most significant hostile moves against Iran’s Islamic Republic since 1979. They marked a period of unprecedented coordination led by the US to obtain the support of the United Nations and European Union.
After months of denying their significance, the government of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was forced to react by setting up an emergency counter-sanctions unit, whilst Iranian aviation officials accused the UK, Germany and the United Arab Emirates of refusing to supply fuel for civilian Iranian airplanes. As it turned out, this was not true. However, the EU banned most of Iran Air’s jets from flying over its territory, because of safety concerns directly related to previous sanctions. It is said that most of the national airline’s fleet, including Boeing 727s and 747s and its Airbus A320s, are unsafe because the company has not been able to replace faulty components.
The US is adamant that ‘severe’ sanctions are necessary to stop Iran’s attempts at becoming a military nuclear power. Scare stories are finding their way into the pages of the mass media. According to US defence secretary Robert Gates, Iran is developing the capacity to fire scores, or perhaps hundreds, of missiles at Europe. Ten days after making that claim, Gates alleged that Iran had enough enriched uranium to be able to build two atom bombs within two years.
However, it is difficult to believe the Obama administration’s claims that the new sanctions have anything to do with Iran’s nuclear capabilities, which is why we should consider other explanations.
Why is there such an urgency to increase the pressure on Iran? One likely possibility is that the Obama administration has observed the divisions within the current government (between neoconservatives, led by Ahmadinejad, and traditional conservatives, such as the Larijani brothers, who control Iran’s executive, parliamentary and judicial system) and sees an opportunity for regime change from above.
After weeks of infighting between Ahmadinejad and the conservatives, involving angry accusations and counter-accusations in parliament over Azad University, this week the reformist website, Rah-e-Sabz, posted an article claiming that “the supreme leader and former president Hashemi Rafsanjani had agreed a resolution of the conflict” over who controls Azad.
The university, one of the world’s largest, is part of a private chain with branches throughout the country and is considered a stronghold of Islamic ‘reformists’. Since 2004 Ahmadinejad has been trying to reorganise its board of governors in order to take back control. When the Islamic parliament opposed his moves to replace the board, the Guardian Council, which has to approve every bill, took the side of the Ahmadinejad camp, creating yet another stalemate between the two conservative groups within the ruling elite.
The supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, had no choice but to intervene. He did so by ordering the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution to stop Ahmadinejad’s attempts to overrule parliament (in other words, he supported Rafsanjani, who, together with members of his family, are trustees and on the board of the university), In return Rafsanjani publicly praised Khamenei.
Some see this as a clever move. For the first time since last year’s disputed presidential elections, Khamenei has been forced to take a public stance against Ahmadinejad, resulting in a retreat by the president and his allies in the revolutionary guards. Azad University remains under the control of Rafsanjani and his family. No doubt if the rift between Khamenei and Ahmadinejad continues, the balance of power could shift in favour of the former president.
Meanwhile, Tehran’s bazaar was on strike for most of last week, in protest at a decision by Iran’s government to raise bazaar taxes by up to 70%. The government declared July 11 and 12 public holidays in 19 Iranian provinces, citing hot weather and dust, but there were rumours that the real reason was to conceal the possibility of strikes on those days.
All this is a reflection of Iran’s political paralysis and the state’s inability to deal with a combination of economic crisis and growing opposition amongst the majority of the population.
Successive Iranian governments have denied the effectiveness of 30 years of crippling sanctions, but most economists inside the country estimate that sanctions have added 35% to the price of every commodity. Iran had been forced to buy spare parts for cars, planes, manufacturing equipment, agricultural machinery, etc on the black market, and now it will be forced to buy refined oil in the same way, causing a further jump in the rate of inflation. The smuggling of refined oil from Iraq started earlier this month, but the quantity received is unlikely to be sufficient to meet demand even during the summer months.
The new financial restrictions that came with the latest sanctions have crippled Iran’s banking and insurance sector. Iran already attracted little foreign investment, but now even China is pulling out of industrial ventures, such as the South Farse oil project. The proposed policing of ships and containers travelling to Iran means shipping insurance rates in the Persian Gulf are now the equivalent of those in war zones.
Despite the absence of the large demonstrations that followed the rigged elections of a year ago, most Iranians agree that the religious state is today weaker than it was in June 2009 (at the height of mass protests) and that could explain renewed interest in the US for regime change from above. At a time when anger against Iran’s rulers and frustration with leaders of the green movement amongst youth and sections of working class is tangible, it is difficult to predict what will happen next. From bloggers to journalists, from students to the unemployed, opponents of the regime are blaming ‘reformist’ leaders Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi for the current stalemate – people’s patience is running out. Could it be that the Obama administration is planning to replace the Islamic Republic with a regime composed of selected exiles, à la Ahmed Chalabi in Iraq or Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan? After all, there is no shortage of former Islamists currently residing in the US who have converted to ‘liberal democracy’, including Iranian disciples of Karl Popper. Such people are paraded daily in the Farsi media and portrayed as the voice of reason.
In contrast to the hesitation and conciliationism of green leaders, others within the opposition have been stepping up their protests against the Islamic regime and two potentially powerful sections – the women’s movement and the workers’ movement – are conducting their own struggles. Yet here too Moussavi’s patronising attitude to both groups (he called on workers to join the green movement to safeguard their interests, while his wife claimed to support women’s rights) have backfired badly. In the words of one feminist activist, the green movement should realise it is one section of the opposition, but not the only voice of the protest movement.
Superficial analysts abroad labelled last year’s anti-dictatorship protesters in Iran as middle class. However, those present at these demonstrations were adamant that workers, students and the unemployed played a huge role. In May, the Centre to Defend Families of the Slain and Detained in Iran published the names of 10 workers who were killed in post-election street protests, and there is considerable evidence that workers, the unemployed and shanty town-dwellers were among the forces that radicalised the movement’s slogans (crossing the red lines imposed by green leaders, such as the call for an end to the entire regime, and for the complete separation of state and religion). In addition we are witnessing an increasing number of workers’ demonstrations, sit-ins and strikes against the non-payment of wages, deteriorating conditions and low pay. The workers’ protest movement has been dubbed a tsunami, and in recent months it has adopted clear political slogans against the dictatorship.
Last week was typical. Five hundred workers staged protests outside Abadan refinery against unpaid wages, blocking the road outside the refinery. Two of their comrades filming the action were arrested, but these workers are adamant they will continue the strikes and demonstrations next week. Three hundred Pars metal workers staged a separate protest against non-payment of wages and cuts in many of the workers’ benefits, such as the bus to and from work and the subsidised canteen, which managers of the privatised company intend to close. Similar protests have taken place in dozens of large and small firms throughout Iran. Most have moved on from purely economic demands to include political slogans against the regime.
However, we still see little coordination between these protests and workers have yet to make their mark as a class aware of its power and historic role. Despite much talk of mushrooming industrial action and even a general strike, so far we have not seen the Iranian working class taking its rightful place at the head of a national movement.
So how can we explain the current situation? A number of points have been raised by the left in Iran:
1. The working class and leftwing activists have faced more severe forms of repression than any other section of the opposition, even prior to June 2009. However, it is difficult to accept that fear of arrest or detention has played any part in the reluctance of workers to make their mark as a political force. Clearly repression has not deterred workers from participating in strikes, taking managers hostage or blocking highways. In fact incarcerated activists include the majority of the leaders of Vahed Bus Company, serving Tehran and its suburbs, the entire leadership of Haft Tapeh sugar cane workers and activists from the Committee to set up Independent Workers’ Organisations.
2. Workers have been misled by the leaders of the green movement. Yet throughout the presidential election debates they did not hear any substantial difference between the economic plans proposed by Moussavi and Karroubi, who, for example, defended privatisation, and those of Ahmadinejad and other conservatives. Workers are opposed to plans for the abolition of state subsidies. However, they remember that this was a plan originally proposed by the ‘reformist’, Mohammad Khatami, during his presidency, as part of the much hated policy of ‘economic readjustment’.
Workers are also well aware that the leaders of the green movement aspire to an Iranian/Islamic version of capitalism, where the bourgeoisie’s prosperity will eventually ‘benefit all’ – an illusion very few workers subscribe to. It should also be noted that the Iranian working class as a modern, urban force is primarily secular, with no allegiance to the Islamic state, and constitutes a growing wing of the protest movement that wants to go beyond adherence to legality and the reform of the current constitution. Kept at arm’s length by leaders of the green movement and yet incapable of asserting its own political line, the working class is facing a dilemma in the current crisis.
3. The opportunist left has diverted the class struggle. However, the Iranian working class is wary of claims made by leaders of the green movement, as well as sections of the opportunist left like Tudeh and the Fedayeen Majority, that the first decade of the Islamic Republic under ayatollah Khomeini constituted the golden years of the revolution. Older worker activists realise that it was the clergy and the Islamic regime that halted the revolution of 1979 and threw it into reverse. The Khomeini years coincided with the worst of the religious repression, and it was not only the radical left who were the victims (thousands were executed), but workers in general. The state was constantly calling on them to make sacrifices, to send their sons to the battle front and produce more for the war economy, while ruthlessly suppressing workers’ independent actions as the work of traitors and spies. So, contrary to the opinion of Tudeh and the Fedayeen Majority, the first decade of Khomeini’s rule – under Moussavi’s premiership, of course – were the dark years for Iranian workers and no amount of rewriting history will change this.
4. The current economic situation is so bad that the working class is unable to fight effectively for anything more than survival. Striking for unpaid wages is symptomatic of this, on top of which there is the threat of losing your job and joining the ranks of the unemployed. In other words, the defensive nature of workers’ struggles hinders their capability to mount a nationwide struggle. Of course, if this argument is correct, the situation will get worse once further sanctions bite. There will be more job losses, more despair amongst the working class.
5. Despite many efforts to create nationwide workers organisations – not only the Committee to set up Independent Workers’ Organisations, but the Network of Iranian Labour Unions (founded in response to the bus drivers’ actions and the imprisonment of their leader, Mansour Osanlou), workers have failed to coordinate protests even on a regional level.
6. The confusion of the left has had a negative impact. Workers have not forgotten how the Fedayeen Majority and Tudeh apologised for and supported the ‘anti-imperialist’ religious state. The majority of the working class was aligned with the left, and so went along with the dismantling of the workers’ shoras (councils) that played such a significant role in the overthrow of the shah’s regime. Later, during Khatami’s presidency (1997-2005), the Fedayeen Majority and Tudeh advocated collaboration with the state-run Islamic factory councils, although the majority of workers considered these anti-trade union organisations, whose main task was to spy on labour activists and support managers in both private and state-owned enterprises. The Shia state claimed to international bodies such as the International Labour Organisation that the councils were genuine trade unions, even though they were set up to destroy labour solidarity within and beyond the workplace. Despite all this the opportunist left not only refused to expose their true function: it called on Iranian workers to join them as a step towards the establishment of mass labour organisations!
Over the last few years the left has publicised workers’ demands and organised support for them. Yet there have been big problems. We have seen two distinct approaches regarding the form working class organisation should take. Some advocate the need to unite around the most basic of demands in trade union-type bodies independent of political organisation. Others argue that a struggle within such a united front between reformist and revolutionary currents over strategy and tactics will be inevitable and the revolutionaries will win over the majority of the working because of the superiority of their arguments.
Then there are those who emphasise the need for a different form of organisation altogether: underground cells of class-conscious workers capable of mobilising the most radical sections of the class. Of course, it is possible to combine both options, but proponents of both strategies imply that the two paths are mutually exclusive. Those calling for a workers’ united front label advocates of cells ‘sectarian ultra-leftists’, while the latter allege that those who want to work for the creation of mass, union-type bodies are succumbing to reformism and syndicalism.
While recent attempts amongst sections of the left to discuss these issues should be welcomed, it has to be said that the working class and the left have a long way to go before the ‘tsunami’ of workers’ protests becomes a class-conscious nationwide movement capable of overthrowing the religious state and the capitalist order it upholds.