Never forget! Never forgive! The massacres of 1988

khavaranIn 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.

Ramin Aghazadeh: fourth victim of Kahrizak detention center

Ramin Aghazadeh
Ramin Aghazadeh


 In an interview with Panjereh Weekly, Abdolhossein Ruholamini revealed the death of Ramin Aghazadeh. Abdolhossein Ruholamini, Mohsen Ruholamini’s father, claimed that this is the fourth death because of the treatment of prisoners at Kahrizak detention center.

Ramin Aghazadeh died following his release from Kahrizak detention center. Mr. Ruholamini believes that his death was a result of injuries caused in Kahrizak. He stated, “Authorities did not release reports on the fourth victim of Kahrizak, because they believed that it would harm the conscience of society.”

Mohammad Kamrani, Mohsen Ruholamini, and Amir Javadifar are the other victims of Kahrizak detention center.

Parliamentary reports named Saeed Mortazavi as the responsible individual for the Kahrizak incident. Saeed Mortazavi was the former prosecutor of the Islamic Revolutionary Court and Prosecutor General of Tehran.

Translation by: Xan I.

رامین آقازاده” چهارمین قربانی کهریزک معرفی شد”


گزارش چهارمین مرگ کهریزک از سوی مسوولان منتشر نشد چرا که به عقیده آنها ممکن بود وجدان عمومی جامعه خیلی جریحهدار شود.

کلمه: عبدالحسین روح الامینی پدر محسن روحالامینی از قربانیان بازداشتگاه کهریزک از قربانی چهارم این بازداشتگاه خبر داد.

به گزارش کلمه، روحالامینی در گفتگویی با هفته نامه پنجره اعلام کرد که رامین آقازاده قهرمانی چهارمین قربانی وقایع بازداشتگاه کهریزک است.

وی همچنین گفته که این فرد پس از آزادی از بازداشتگاه کهریزک بر اثر شدت جراحات وارده جان باخته است.

وی تصریح کرد: «گزارش چهارمین مرگ کهریزک از سوی مسوولان منتشر نشد چرا که به عقیده آنها ممکن بود وجدان عمومی جامعه خیلی جریحهدار شود»

پیشتر اعلام شده که بود که محمد کامرانی، محسن روحالامینی و امیر جوادیفر کشته شدگان وقایع کهریزک هستند.

گفتنی است بر اساس اعلام کمیته پیگیری مجلس شورای اسلامی در خصوص بازداشتگاه کهریزک سعید مرتضوی دادستان سابق تهران مقصر اصلی این وقایع معرفی شد.

Iran executes another political prisoner

Murdered for opposing tyranny

On the morning of Wednesday, January 6th at 4:00am, Fasih Yasamani, a political prisoner, was hanged in Khoy Prison.

According to a report from the Committee of Human Rights Activists in Kurdistan, the execution officials unexpectedly and without following the legal procedure executed this Kurdish citizen who was a native of the village Khoy (located in north-western Iran). He was in prison since 2007. The officials refuse to hand over the body to his family.

Mr. Yasamani was accused of belonging to an opposition party (Pajvak). However, there was no evidence to support the accusations, except for Mr. Yasamani’s own confessions which, according to him, was said under torture.

Fasih was 28 at the time of his execution. After Ehsan Fatahian [who was executed on Nov 11th], Fasih is the second political prisoner to be executed in the Kurdish region in recent months.

At the moment, there are 17 other political prisoners on death row in Kurdistan.

Here are their names:

Ms. Zeynab Jalalian, Habibollah Latifi, Shirkoo Moarefi, Farhad Vakili, Farzad Kamangar, Ali Heydarian, Hossein Khezri, Rashid Akhondaki, Mohammad Amin Agooshi, Ahmad Pouladkhani, Seeyed Sami Hosseini, Seyyed Jamal Mohammadi, Rostam Arkia, Mostafa Salimi, Anvar Rostami, Hasan Talei, and Iraj Mohammadi.

(From Persian2English blog)

Ashura protestors face possible death penalty for "war against Islam"

In a clear display of desperation  the Revolutionary Guard has released a statement saying:  “The devoted Basijis of Greater Tehran will smother all the voices that come out of the throat of the enemies of the sacred regime of the Islamic Republic.” (Persian2English blog) this comes amidst further calls from clerics, members of the Iranian parliament and chair of the Guardian Council Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati for the severe treatment and death to those who insulted religious sanctity, Ruhollah Khomanei and are waging war against Islam and the Islamic Republic. Ali Saremi who was arrested in 2007 for attending a memorial ceremony for the 19th anniversary of the massacres that took place in 1988 and spent 23 years in the Shah’s prisons has warned that the regime is preparing to carry out further mass killings of political opponents. He was condemned to death on December 29 where he wrote “It is clear that my death sentence lacks a legal basis and their only goal of hanging me is to intimidate the people and youths of this country, and scare them away from pursuing their demands.” His full statement can be read here.

Many protestors who were arrested during the Ashura protests are being indicted for trial with some possibly facing death. According to Iran Khabar News Agency over 300 people arrested on the day of Ashura have been passed on to the Judicature. Ebrahim Raiesi who is the first undersecretary of the judicature said that the “rioters” will be prosecuted immediately and that charges range from “causing disorder” to “war against Islam (Moharebeh)” which can be punishable by the death penalty. On December 28 Anahita Hosseini of the Iranian anti-imperialist socialist student organisation Independent Leftist Students (link) warned that the regime is preparing to murder political prisoners and those arrested for participating in protests since the disputed June elections.


27 December: Iran’s bloody Sunday

Mass protests rock Islamic Republic
Mass protests rock Islamic Republic

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.

Below are some videos of the protests:

Ehsan Fattahian murdered by the Islamic Republic

Ehsan Fattahian partisan
Ehsan Fattahian partisan

The Iranian authorities have reportedly executed a Kurdish militant whom they charged with being an “enemy of God”. Ehsan Fattahian, 27, was hanged yesterday in the western city of Sanandaj, according to Ali Akbar Gharoussi, head of the judiciary in Kurdistan province.

Ehsan Fattahian’s executioners ignored pleas from international human rights organisations, and petitions signed by many thousands of people, appealing against the death sentence.

Ehsan had admitted membership of the banned Kurdish movement Komeleh, which has a long history of fighting for Kurdish rights and self-determination. He denied involvement in killings, and said he was tortured for three months. His initial 10-year jail sentence was changed to death by a higher court.

Ezzatollah Fattahian, the defendant’s father, told Human Rights Watch that prison officials had prevented the family from visiting his son in prison for the past three months.

Amnesty International, which appealed on Tuesday for Ehsan Fattahian’s life to be spared, has warned that two other Iranian Kurdish men are at risk of execution, and at leastleast 10 other men and one woman are believed to be on death row in connection with membership of and activities in support of proscribed Kurdish organizations.

Oppositionists say the Iranian regime is using incidents like last month’s explosion in Baluchistan, in which 41 people including senior Revolutionary Guard officers were killed, to come down hard on minorities. A Baluchi group called Jundullah claimed responsibility for the attack. The regime accused US, British and Israeli intelligence agencies of supporting separatists.

“The Iranian regime is trying to intimidate ethnic minorities from joining the Green Wave,” Komeleh leader Abdullah Mohtadi told al-Arabiyya TV, referring to the movement led by Mir Hossein Mousavi, who claims to have beaten Ahmadinejad in the elections. “One of the methods to deter people is stricter sentencing in ethnic provinces such as Kurdistan, Baluchestan and Ahwaz.”

The Komaleh, and Kurdish aspirations, go back much further than the present Iranian regime and its troubles at home or abroad. Like neighbouring Iraq and Turkey, Iran has a chunk of Kurdish lands, with around four million Kurdish people. Sanandaj, the capital of Iran- Kurdistan province, is in an area where Kurdish guerrillas have clashed with Iranian security forces. In September there were a number of attacks, often targetting religious leaders and judges. No group claimed responsibility. The authorities variously blamed a Kurdish Independent Life Party and “hard-line Sunni fundamentalists” linked with outside powers. But Komaleh is a secular organisation, which some even see as Marxist.

Amnesty International condemned the September killings, but opposed the use of the death penalty against political prisoners. Amnesty lists Iran as the world’s second most prolific executioner in 2008 after China, and says it put to death at least 346 people last year.

Ehsan Fattahian was detained on 20 July 2008 and said in a letter smuggled from prison that he was regularly beaten in detention. Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj sentenced him to ten years imprisonment, to be served in exile, after a trial in which he was denied access to a lawyer. Both Ehsan and the prosecutor appealed this verdict, and in January this year the Appeal Court overturned the first sentence. Instead he was sentenced to death for “emnity to God”. He said the new sentence was passed because he refused to confess, or to renounce his beliefs.

Here are the concluding paragraphs of Ehsan Fattahian’s letter from the condemned cell:
“… shortly before my sentence was changed to the death sentence, I was taken from Sanandaj prison to the Intelligence Ministry’s detention center, where I was asked to make a false confession on camera, show remorse for the actions I had not committed and reject my beliefs. I did not give in to their illegitimate demands, so I was told that my prison sentence would be changed to the death sentence. They were fast to keep their promise and prove to me how courts always concede to the demands of intelligence and non-judicial authorities. How can one criticize the courts then?

All judges take an oath to remain impartial at all times and in all cases, to rule according to the law and nothing but the law. How many of the judges of this country can say that they have not broken their oath and have remained fair and impartial? In my opinion the number is countable with the fingers on my hand. When the entire justice system in Iran orders arrests, trials, imprisonments and death sentences with the simple hand gesture of an uneducated interrogator, what is to be expected from a few minor judges in a province that has always been discriminated against? Yes, in my view, it is the foundation of the house which is in ruins.

Last time I met in prison with the prosecutor who had issued the initial indictment, he admitted that the ruling was illegal. Yet, for the second time, it has been ruled that my execution should be carried out. It goes without saying that the insistence to carry out the execution at any cost is a result of pressures exercised by political and intelligence groups outside the Judiciary. People who are part of these groups look at the question of life and death of a prisoner only based on their own political and financial interests. They cannot see anything but their own illegitimate objectives, even when it is the question of a person’s right to life – the most basic of all human rights. How pointless is it to expect them to respect international treaties when they don’t even respect their own laws?

Last word: if the rulers and oppressors think that, with my death, the Kurdish question will go away, they are wrong. My death and the deaths of thousands of others like me will not cure the pain; they will only add to the flames of this fire. There is no doubt that every death is the beginning of a new life.


Ehsan Fattahian,

Sanandaj Central Prison

from Random Pottins

Protests at the start of Ramadan outside the Islamic Republic's Evin Prison

Families of detained, tortured and murdered protesters have been gathering daily in front of Evin Prison as well as the Revolutionary Court of the Islamic Republic. The families demands include visitation rights to see their loves ones and the immediate release of all political prisoners. These protests have been attacked by militia and security forces during the recent troubles. The video below was filmed on the first day of Ramadan (August 22).


Moussavi to attend Friday prayers

From Reuters India:

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran’s opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi will attend Friday prayers this week in his first official public appearance since last month’s disputed election, a statement on his website said.

Mousavi’s statement, posted late on Wednesday, confirmed a media report earlier this week that he would attend the prayers at Tehran University to be led by former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a rival of re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mousavi, Ahmadinejad’s main challenger in the June 12 presidential election, says the vote was rigged in the hardline incumbent’s favour.

The authorities reject charges of vote fraud, but the official election result sparked days of mass street protests by supporters of Mousavi and exposed deepening divisions within the Islamic Republic’s leadership.

“Since I regard as obligatory responding to the invitation of the sympathisers and supporters in the path of safeguarding legitimate rights of a free and honourable life, I will maintain a presence alongside you on Friday,” Mousavi said.

Mousavi’s website said he made the statement “in response to the public’s invitation for him to participate in Friday prayers in Tehran.” Friday prayers in Iran have the potential to reach a wide audience as they are broadcast live on radio.

On Tuesday, the Etemad newspaper said both Mousavi and reformist former president Mohammad Khatami, a supporter of his, would attend the prayers, which are broadcast live.

Iran’s most powerful figure, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, upheld Ahmadinejad’s landslide win in his Friday sermon one week after the vote.

But Mousavi, who was prime minister in the 1980s, has said Ahmadinejad’s next government would be “illegitimate”.

He has also called on authorities to release hundreds of people detained in the turbulent aftermath of the election, including leading reformists, journalists and rights lawyers.

Rafsanjani will lead the prayers after two months of absence. Some of his relatives, including his daughter Faezeh, were arrested briefly for taking part in pro-Mousavi rallies.

State media say at least 20 people were killed as protesters clashed with riot police and members of the Basij militia, but some rights activists believe the figure is higher.

The authorities and Mousavi blame each other for the bloodshed. Hardliners have called for Mousavi to be put on trial.

Iran has accused Britain and the United States, which have criticised a crackdown on opposition protests, of interfering in its internal affairs. London and Washington reject the charge.

Sohrab Arabi: 19-year old Iranian Student Killed in Evin Prison


We are shocked to hear that an Iranian student, Sohrab Arabi, has been killed in Evin prison.

He is pictured here alongside his mother, who has been campaigning for his release.


Iran: their solidarity and ours

Yassamine Mather examines a regime in crisis and looks to working class forces for a solution

The continuation of demonstrations and protests against the Islamic republic of Iran, albeit on a smaller scale than two weeks ago, have fuelled further divisions at every level of the religious state: the Shia scholars of Ghom oppose the clerics in the Council of Guardians; leaders of the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guard) are arrested for siding with the ‘reformist camp’; senior ayatollahs are divided, with Ali Saneii and Ali Montazeri declaring the election results fraudulent, while most other grand ayatollahs have remained loyal to the supreme leader.

oursolidarityNearly a month after the elections, the political crisis in Iran still dominates events in the Middle East, while in the country itself most people, irrespective of their political allegiance, agree that the situation has changed so dramatically over the last few weeks that nothing in the Islamic republic will ever be the same again.

With the exception of isolated believers in conspiracy theories, no-one doubts that the Iranian people have expressed loud and clear their desire for an end to the current political system and – in view of the fact that the ‘reformists’ keep wasting valuable time, still expecting miracles from above – it is the entire Islamic order, not just the conservatives, whose future is called into question.

Let us be clear: most Iranians do not believe a word of government claims that the protests were organised from outside Iran. As far as they are concerned, this crisis has all the hallmarks of one made in the Islamic republic. The regime has relied on crisis after crisis to survive over the last 30 years, constantly using real and imaginary foreign threats as an excuse for failure to deliver on any of its promises of equality and prosperity for the masses. A victory for Mir-Hossein Moussavi, coinciding with a new administration in the US, carried the ‘danger’ of reducing, albeit temporarily, tensions with America, thus depriving the Islamic regime of its convenient external scapegoat. That could not be allowed to happen.

The supreme leader, ayatollah Ali Khamenei, admits he favoured Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and clearly as early as this spring, before the ‘selection’ of the final candidates, plans for an Ahmadinejad victory were in the pipeline. Our arrogant supreme leader could not resist the temptation of a premature announcement. From April he used a number of public occasions to declare his wish for, and confidence in, four more years of an Ahmadinejad presidency. Presumably this is when plans for the stuffing of ballot boxes were organised – boxes that were still being discovered in the corridors and libraries of the ministry of the interior last week.

However, at a time of conflict over the country’s nuclear programme, Iran’s rulers needed to demonstrate their legitimacy to the ‘international community’. Ignoring the level of dissatisfaction and opposition that existed in the country, once the number of candidates was reduced to four members of the inner circles of the religious state’s factions, an election show beyond anything seen in the last 30 years was sanctioned. The press and the media of the reformist faction were given a short-lived relative freedom. Within the framework of the existing order, all four candidates were allowed to expose the shortcomings of their opponents.

Corruption, incompetence, lies and deceit came out into the open, and even Ahmadinejad, certain of Khamenei’s backing, went beyond the normal red lines of the Shia state. But the elite of the Islamic republic, in both factions, underestimated the level of hatred and anger towards the regime amongst the young, who make up over 70% of the population. An Iranian sociologist, speaking from Tehran, compared this anger to a glass of water getting fuller and fuller: “We all failed to notice it, until the last drop – but then the election process caused it to overflow.”

Most Iranians were already familiar with the huge wealth, accumulated through corruption, of Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, former president and current chairman of the Assembly of Experts. It was the foreign account of Khamenei’s close relatives (including his son, whose personal account of £1.6 billion has been frozen in London) and the charts showing the position of Ahmadinejad’s relatives in the most important financial posts that deprived the conservative front runner of any credibility. Looking back at the turbulent election period, clearly workers’ organisations and Marxist groups who advocated a boycott, at a time of mass hysteria around Moussavi’s candidacy, were right to do so.

It is obvious that Khamenei, surrounded as he is by subservient advisers, underestimated the fury that followed the dashing of hopes – otherwise he might have chosen a more modest percentage for the Ahmadinejad ‘victory’. But in order to establish Ahmadinejad as the truly legitimate leader of the Iranian people, Khamenei needed a higher vote than the 20 million claimed by Khatami in 1997.

Looking back at the election, it is possible that the Islamic order could have been saved had the regime decided to pull an Ahmadinejad victory with a smaller margin or even in the second round. Alternatively, a Moussavi presidency, despite the problems posed by his exaggerated promises of personal freedom within the religious state, would undoubtedly have lengthened the life of the Islamic regime by a few years, until yet another generation of Iranian youth, fooled by promises of reform, witnessed the ineptitude and unwillingness to change of our modernist Islamists. Once the results were announced, however, it soon became clear that Moussavi is a weak character – and his popularity continues to plummet, as he struggles to tail the mass movement.
Working class

According to reports from Iran, on June 13, as the Moussavi camp dithered, it was students and activists of the left who first took to the streets of Tehran in the initial protests. They were joined by demonstrators from working class districts of Tehran who hate Ahmadinejad.

In the words of a leaflet by Iran Khodro workers, his “exhibitionist distribution of cash in the poor districts of major cities is an insult to the Iranian working class”. Oil workers in Tehran state that Iranian workers, whose strikes in 1979 brought down the shah, do not want charity and remind us of their demands over the last four years: the abolition of ‘white’ (temporary) contracts, an end to mass unemployment and low wages, the prompt payment of wages, better housing – the real grievances of the poor and the working class. Workers in Iran are well aware that Ahmadinejad’s government cannot and will not respond to such demands – it is still seeking to maintain its position as the IMF’s model for the implementation of neoliberal economic policies.

Iran Khodro workers warn of the disastrous consequences of printing money during hyperinflation and compare Ahmadinejad’s economic policies with those of Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Addressing fellow workers, they say: “It is the Iranian working class who will pay for Ahmadinejad’s mad economic policies.”

In fact right from the beginning it has been workers, unemployed youth and students – who have suffered under four years of military presence on campuses – who have been in the forefront of the protests. Young women in particular hate the regime for its constant interference in their daily lives. They are the ones whose early presence on the streets of Tehran on June 15 encouraged hundreds of thousands of people – including, yes, people from Tehran’s middle class districts – to join the protests, which prompted Moussavi to attend the demonstration himself late in the afternoon. They are the ones who are continuing the protests even as the repression intensifies. In the absence of any clear direction from Moussavi or fellow reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi, these are the forces that have called for demonstrations on July 9, the anniversary of the student protests of 1998.

No-one can doubt the significance of June 15. For years Iranians had felt isolated, demoralised and fearful of the regime. On that Monday, according to Tehran’s mayor, around three million people were on the streets of the capital. In Isfahan, the historic Shah Jahan square – one of the largest open squares in the world – was jammed with protesters. Shiraz and Tabriz saw similarly huge demonstrations. The Iranian people had finally spoken and the solidarity they found in those protests has given them unprecedented confidence and the sense of victory.

As in 1979, it is this confidence that encourages them to confront the most brutal forms of repression with courage and determination. Unarmed demon-strators confront the Bassij, apparently with no fear for their lives, and those who claim that such courage and determination are a feature of the middle classes have no understanding of the realities of Iranian society. Last week during a protest in a shanty town near Tehran, where the regular battles of those living beyond the official Tehran border with the authorities has resulted in the deployment of the Bassij (the hated Islamic militia used against protesters), the crowd shouted “Death to the dictator”, attacked the Bassij and succeeded in forcing them to retreat, leaving behind their motorcycles.

In working class districts of Tehran, groups of people have been throwing paint on photos of the supreme leader, writing slogans under his portraits and using every opportunity to taunt the religious militia with slogans such as ‘Death to Khamenei’ and the rhyming chant, “Rahbar ma ola-gheh – ye dastesham cholagheh” (“Our supreme leader is an ass – one of his arms is paralysed”). Iran’s state television is also under attack after broadcasting the ‘confessions’ of young demonstrators, who, bruised and exhausted, are shown on TV admitting they are ‘agents of foreign powers’.

If the middle class districts of Tehran have been quiet during the day (at night people do go on rooftops throughout the city), the working class districts – in the factories, mines and shanty towns – have been the scene of impromptu protests. On July 1 thousands of workers in a mine in Khouzestan province started a strike and when security forces arrived to disperse a sit-in, the workers shouted “Death to the dictator”. Haft Tapeh sugar cane workers restarted their strike on Sunday July 5, accusing the authorities of failing to deal with their previous demands.

Discussions about a general strike are continuing and last week after almost three weeks of organising demonstrations, an organisation calling itself the Workers’ Committee in Defence of Mass Protests issued a number of statements regarding the organisation of demonstrations – security measures that should be taken, advice on what to do if the Bassij attack, as well as detailed suggestions regarding civil disobedience.

With every day that passes the two reformist candidates are losing support. Having spent two weeks hoping for a breakthrough with the cleric-led Guardian Council, Karroubi, Moussavi and finally former reformist president Mohammad Khatami issued statements calling the election results, together with the new government, illegitimate. However, ordinary Iranians are furious at Moussavi’s reference to the current debacle as an argument “within the Islamic family”, while the reformists’ ally in the Council of Experts, ayatollah Rafsanjani was seeking the vote of enough ‘councillors’ in order to demote, or at least put pressure on, the supreme leader.

As always, the reformists are aware that their destiny is tied to the that of the regime, yet by seeking solutions within the ruling circles, while promising the impossible to the crowds in the street, they are digging their own graves. They know they only gained support in June 2009 because many Iranians decided to opt for the lesser of two evils. Once the clerical regime denied this limited opportunity and slammed the door, the days of support for Moussavi and Karroubi were numbered. However, no-one should underestimate the effect this unprecedented schism at the highest level of the Islamic regime will have.

The Islamic republic is a complicated beast. Power lies in a twisted web of clerical, executive, judicial and military circles: the Guardian Council, the Council of Experts, the majles (Islamic parliament), Council for the Safeguarding of National Interests, the government led by the president, civil, criminal and ‘revolutionary’ (political) courts, the army/Pasdaran, Bassij, various Islamic associations (some calling themselves parties) …

Until now all of these forces, whatever their differences and factional allegiances, ended up obeying the supreme leader. In fact throughout the last 30 years the most important role played by both Khomeini and Khamenei, as vali faghih (supreme leader), was as an arbiter of power between the various factions. All this came to an end on June 19, when Khamenei declared the presidential voting results accurate and sided with Ahmadinejad. It is therefore correct, as Hamid Dabashi does in the Cairo weekly, Al Ahram, to identify the supreme leader as the principal loser in the current situation (June 25-July 1).

The second loser is Ahmadinejad – the incompetent racist who in the 1980s was an interrogator in Evin prison, often leading the post-torture questioning of leftwing activists, and who is in his element as the loyal servant of the supreme cleric.

The reformists are also losers in this process – every day that goes by, their support continues to drop. They are caught in a corner, trying to save an Islamic order that is not prepared to compromise even with them.

But there are winners too – the peoples of Iran, the demonstrators, those who risk their lives every day against the regime and its military might. The repression is severe, brutal and unlike anything seen since the 1980s. However, this only shows the desperation of the regime. The demonstrators are winning.

The creative way in which they have used every opportunity to voice their hatred of the current regime has given them hope and confidence, which makes it certain that the current conflict will not end until the regime is overthrown. It has made too many enemies, especially amongst the youth and the poor, for anyone to be able to contemplate its survival.

In the forefront of those who have defied fear and repression to go onto the streets of Tehran are women (many of them under 30) who will never forget how Pasdars arrested them for showing a fringe of hair and how they were subsequently flogged (in many cases 60-80 lashes) for this ‘crime’. Young men and women who over the last decades have been arrested, humiliated and imprisoned not just for expressing political opinions, but in hundreds of thousands of cases for failing to adhere to strict interpretations of Islamic dress or behavioural codes.

Students who are tired of the interference of the state in every aspect of their private and public lives; workers who have faced poverty, non-payment of wages; shantytown dwellers who are in daily conflict with the authorities over lack of water or electricity; relatives of those killed by the regime, and not just in recent protests, when at least 100 people have lost their lives, but also of those executed by the regime for their political beliefs in 1979, the 1980s and 90s (and let us not forget that the executioners of Iran’s political prisoners belong to both the ‘reformist’ and the conservative camp): none of them will forgive or forget the criminals responsible.

In the last few days parents of those arrested in recent demonstrations have been gathering every lunchtime outside Iranian prisons, demanding the release of the prisoners and justice for those killed by the Bassij. Too many people in Iran find another four years of Ahmadinejad too awful to contemplate – they will not stop their protests, with or without Moussavi and Karroubi.

The Islamic regime had the chance to entice people with promises of a slightly less repressive order under a Moussavi presidency, but blew it. However, faced with severe repression at home and the continued threat of military attack (a second Israeli nuclear submarine is now getting close to the Persian Gulf), the one kind of ‘solidarity’ the people of Iran do not need is the one offered by the imperialist states and their ‘regime change’ associates in Iran. The enemies of the Iranian working class – in the Moussavi camp, amongst royalists or within the confused left – will seek support from European states, the US administration, rightwing trade unions, liberal NGOs, media personalities … while the defenders of the Iranian working class will remain vigilant in choosing our allies.

In Hands Off the People of Iran we have maintained our consistent, principled, anti-imperialist, anti-regime stance, and we are in an excellent position to build a much larger campaign in support of the struggles of the Iranian people. In doing so we welcome the cooperation of all Iranian and international forces that share our principles. But let me be clear – we cannot unite with supporters of Moussavi or those who seek war or sanctions instead of, or as a short cut to, revolutionary change from below. We will not suspend our criticisms of those prepared to tolerate imperialist war or economic sanctions – measures that will harm Iranian workers first and foremost.

There are calls for political sanctions against Iran now being proposed by liberals such as Shirin Ebadi and by two of the three splinters from the Worker-communist Party of Iran.

It is not our business to advise Washington or London what measures they ought to take against Tehran – quite the opposite. We say they should stop interfering in Iran. Instead we seek solidarity from below – amongst workers, trade unionists and anti-capitalist forces – with the struggles of the Iranian people. That is the essence of our politics and we will not be diverted from it.