Tag Archives: protests

Theocracy threatens bloodbath as mass movement grows

Iranian workers are on the offensive, reports Chris Strafford

2010 has begun the way 2009 ended in the Islamic Republic of Iran, with millions protesting in cities and towns across the country. But the dangers facing the Iranian people have undoubtedly increased over the last few weeks.

Further sanctions are being put in place, and Obama is holding back Israel for the time being, but has been promising “decisive action” if Iran does not halt all uranium enrichment. One Israeli diplomat was quoted in The Guardian as saying, “Obama has convinced us that it’s worth trying the sanctions, at least for a few months” (January 3). The imperialists seem to be moving towards military aggression this year – Washington has now dismissed the validity of the intelligence estimate which concluded that Iran was no longer trying to acquire nuclear weapons.

They have also been hypocritically talking about repression and democracy in Iran. Yet it was the CIA that put into power and propped up the vicious regime of the shah, under whom similar scenes to what we are seeing on the streets of Iran today were played out again and again. And today the US and Britain support regimes which are equally adept at violent oppression, such as that of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

While the alleged threat of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons is played upon, the only actual nuclear power in the region, which happens to have a history of bloody military adventures and aggression, continues to threaten Iran. Israel undertook joint war games with the US in October to test its new ground-to-air missile defence system.

Imperialist warmongering and sanctions have undoubtedly damaged the mass and working class movement in Iran, but despite that at present that movement is very much on the offensive. The funeral of ayatollah Montazeri, who died on December 20, became a focus for the latest opposition protests, with hundreds of thousands attending. A founder of the Islamic Republic, he later became a loyal oppositionist who was horrified by the mass murder that took place under Khomeini, along with the embarrassment of the Iran-Contra affair. His funeral procession and the gatherings in Qom were attacked by state repressive forces, which only fuelled the protests.

Tens of thousands of ordinary Iranians came out onto the streets on Sunday December 27. Clashes took place in Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, Ardebil, Arababad and Mashhad. Martial law was declared in Najaf-Abad and at least four were killed in the city of Tabriz. In every part of Iran security forces, backed up by bassij militia and Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran), resorted to violence to put down protests.

In Tehran the supreme leader’s residence was surrounded by massed ranks of Pasdaran and police. Throughout the day chants such as “This month is a month of blood! Khamenei will be toppled!” rang out in the streets. A clear indication of how far the movement has come since the initial protests against the rigging of the June 2009 presidential elections by one wing of the regime against the other.

In Tehran clashes erupted at many religious sites, as people started to gather for the planned opposition protests. The fighting was intense, with security forces being forced to retreat, as demonstrators burnt police vehicles and bassij posts and erected barricades. In a couple of instances police and bassij were captured and detained by demonstrators and three police stations in Tehran were briefly occupied. Demonstrators also attacked the Saderat Bank in central Tehran, setting it on fire.

As the day wore on, the security forces began to crack, with the first division of the special forces refusing orders to shoot protestors. There are many pictures and videos that show police retreating or being beaten back. There are also unconfirmed statements from sections of the army declaring that they will not be used to put down popular unrest.

Over a week on it is still unclear how many were killed – reports range from seven to 15, but it is known that the nephew of ‘reformist’ leader Mir-Hossein Moussavi is among them. The official cause of the deaths that have been admitted varies from ‘accident’ to ‘murder by unknown assailants’. Marxist groups and the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organisation (MKO) have also been blamed, although videos and pictures have been posted online of the bassij firing on demonstrators.

Hundreds have been incarcerated and 300 of those arrested during the recent protests have been moved to section eight of Gohardasht prison under the control of the Revolutionary Guards. Beatings, torture and rape of prisoners is continuing on a daily basis. Ebrahim Raiesi, first undersecretary of the judicature, said that the “rioters” will be prosecuted immediately and that charges range from “causing disorder” to “war against Islam” (which is punishable by death).

On December 30, 500 bassiji and Hezbollah attacked a gathering at the University of Mashhad armed with knives. They injured dozens of students and arrested over 200, possibly killing two. The day after, over 4,000 students and professors staged protests against the attacks and arrests at Ferdowsi and Azad universities, but were laid siege by security forces and militia.

Students, professors and parents have tried to find out information about those arrested and hospitalised. They sent a delegation made up of representatives from the university Islamic Society to meet with officials, but they were themselves arrested. Amongst them is Seyed Sadra Mirada, a relative of Khamenei.

Protestors have taken to chanting “Independence, freedom, Iranian republic” – a slogan that has been condemned by Moussavi as too radical, as the ‘reformists’ go to great lengths to try and impose some sort of control on the mass movement. Other slogans that have been used include “Not the coup government, nor America” and “No colour revolution here!”

The ongoing political crisis in Iran is compounded by the economic crisis caused by the neoliberal polices pursued by consecutive governments, the world economic crisis and sanctions. Inflation is running at over 25% and unemployment has reached 12.5% – nearing 30% for young workers – impoverishing millions of families. Workers in numerous industries have gone months without pay, and on January 4 those at the Mazandaran textile factory downed tools in protest against non-payment of wages and the laying off of workers on temporary contracts.

The economic situation and the political upheaval have fused the demands of the workers’ movement with those of students and the mass movement as a whole. More and more workers are taking part in, sometimes leading, the street protests. This has scared the authorities, who have begun rounding up known left and worker activists across Iran.

The regime aims to scare the movement off the streets with dire threats. On January 2 the Revolutionary Guard released a statement saying: “The devoted bassijis 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.” This came amongst calls by leading conservative clerics, such as the chair of the Guardian Council, ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, for the execution of leading activists. A motion has been submitted to the Iranian parliament calling for “enemies of the Islamic Republic” to be hanged within five days.

The international workers’ movement must be prepared for a new round of mass murder in Iran. We must support our comrades in any way we can. The majority of the left has indeed come out in support. To its credit the Socialist Workers Party has continued to back the movement, whilst opposing imperialism – something it previously said the anti-war movement could not do. Maybe the SWP will now permit the affiliation of Hands Off the People of Iran to the Stop the War Coalition, now that the SWP itself has taken up a watered down version of Hopi’s principled stance.

However, there remain nominal socialists who defend the mass murder and repression of the regime in Iran. Respect MP George Galloway, Andy Newman (Socialist Unity blog and Respect member) and groups like the Stalinist CPGB-ML have all defended the “mature democracy” of the Islamic Republic (Newman – www.socialistunity.com/?p=5051) and poured scorn on the mass movement as an attempt at some sort of colour revolution. Such claims have clearly been disproved by what is happening on the streets and the slogans taken up by the movement. Newman has been particularly idiotic, opting to ignore the murder of thousands of trade unionists, socialists, feminists and LGBT people under the clerical regime and instead defending the miserly welfare provisions that exist in Iran.

Defenders of the regime see it as anti-imperialist, forgetting that the clerics have made deals with the imperialists before and will no doubt do so again, if they think that will maintain their rule. The Iran-Contra affair and the welcoming of the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq are good indications of how consistently the theocratic regime ‘opposes imperialism’. No, the only genuine opponents of imperialism can be found on the streets: democrats, students and most of all the working class. It is these forces to whom we must give our support – in deeds as well as words.

It is essential to maintain a clear position of opposition to any faction of the Islamic Republic and to US-led imperialism. We must begin to strengthen the campaign against sanctions initiated by Hopi – Stop the War Coalition needs to take up this issue in a serious and organised way, so that the anti-war movement can begin to win the argument that sanctions undermine working class struggle through impoverishing the masses. We need to state loud and clear that sanctions are not some soft option, but part of the imperialist war drive.

Iran: regime crackdown disguises weaknesses in the face of opposition

“Khameneii, Khamenei, your guardianship (velayat) is dissolved”
“Khameneii, Khamenei, your guardianship is dissolved”

Mehdi Kia co-editor Middle East Left ForumKargar) discusses the mass movement in Iran and the weaknesses of the theocratic regime. This article is from the magazine Permanent Revolution and was written in November.

The coup in Iran, that took place through the June presidential elections, gave the appearance of the regime being firmly in the saddle. But in Iran appearances are deceptive. The large antigovernment demonstrations that took place on the last Friday of the month of Ramadan (18 September), and again on the anniversary of the occupation of the US embassy on 4 November, not only showed an opposition that is alive and well, but one becoming progressively more radical. Whatever happens over the next months the Islamic regime has crossed three bridges that have collapsed behind it. There is no going back. The road can only be downhill all the way to the abyss.

Firstly by excluding a significant portion of the ruling clergy from the corridors of power it has seriously disrupted the accepted practice of power sharing among the numerous factions of the regime. This ability to maintain unity, manoeuver and change tactics, has been a key to the survival of the regime through thirty years of upheaval. How else could a government with an ideology based on a nomadic mercantilism run a moderately advanced capitalist economy without imploding at the first decision forced on it by modern life? Factions were the inevitable product of every major decisionmaking moment over the last three decades. And the ability to keep the regime together while swinging frantically from one policy direction to another was its secret of survival. This regime has survived from one crisis to another through creating structures such as the Expediency Council to paper over the inevitable divisions.1 At one stroke the 2009 election coup removed many of those safety valves.

Secondly the country saw a three-million strong demonstration on June 17 that confronted the entire security apparatus of the country, an apparatus clearly taken off guard at the size of the turnout.

It was the inability of the reformist leadership to seize the moment that saved the government’s neck.

Faced with the masses on the streets, the pasdaran (revolutionary guards) did not risk a confrontation, but bided their time hoping, correctly as it turned out, that the street protests would slowly tire themselves out. Then as the protest gradually lost its momentum the security forces moved in and clamped down until demonstrations of no more than a few hundred people was possible.

Yet the people adapted quickly using “official demonstration days” (such as the anniversary of the occupation of the US embassy) to stage their own counter-demonstrations.

All the while the slogans have become increasingly radical. What began innocuously as “what happened to my vote” went through “Khameneii, Khamenei, your guardianship (velayat) is dissolved”2 to ” “death to the dictator”, “death to Ahmadinejad” and “death to Khamenei”. Taboo after taboo was broken and red line after red line was trampled upon. Nothing is sacred, not even the semi-divine supreme leader. This is a watershed.

The third body blow to the system has been the final discrediting of the reformists. They have been consistently trailing the people, lamely trying to keep up, or begging them to tone it all down.

Their marginalisation can be seen from the radicalisation of the slogans despite their entreaties.

Notwithstanding the desperate efforts of the western media, both print and broadcast, to cast the opposition as a “green” movement whose sole purpose is to overturn the election results, the opposition has increasingly become multicoloured, clearly targeting the entire Islamic regime. The efforts of the reformist movement to “reform” the unreformable was always doomed, but now can be seen in all its contradictions. 

Radicalisation

Since September we have witnessed a greater spread of the opposition movement to cities and towns other than Tehran. The November demonstrations also took place in Tabriz, Shiraz, Isfahan, Najaf Abad, Ahwaz, Shahre Kord, and many other towns.

The opposition is also being radicalised. This is shown in the evolution and radicalisation of the slogans, which have progressively marginalised the reformist leadership. The transformation of “what happened to my vote” finally to esteqlal, azadi, jomhuri irani (independence, freedom, Iranian Republic) has profound implications. “Independence, freedom, Islamic Republic” was the pivotal slogan of the 1979 revolution, the first two demands describing the content and the last the institution by which these were supposedly to be realised.

This was a democratic, antiimperialist revolution that was under the illusion that these goals could be achieved through an Islamic regime. By discarding the Islamic Republic but keeping the first two components, the people shouting this slogan today are making a clear link with the revolution of 1979, declaring it unfinished, reiterating its democratic and anti-imperialist aims, and proclaiming the new, secular government that could realise it.

While the slogan is only in its infancy, it has increasingly become more prominent. It betrays the seeds of a true anti-Islamic Republic uprising, that is both democratic and independent of foreign influence.

The slogan was supplemented on the 4 November with “na dowlate coup d’etat; na mennate amrica” (“neither the coup d’état government, nor relying on America”). No “colour revolution” here!3 The radicalisation has gone hand n hand with increasing prominence of left activists. The escalating casualty figures and arrests on the streets goes hand in hand with an increasing street presence of people from the poorer areas of south Tehran. But most striking is the continuous high profile of women activists – battling the basiji thugs in civilian clothes.

We have also witnessed a broadening of the demands to include those of women, of nationalities and other social movements, and of course the right to demonstrate. But in particular we have seen the early steps in bringing together the ever-growing protest movement of the workers with the general anti-regime movement.

Workers are protesting against job losses, real cuts in wages and destitution – a fight for their very survival in the face of neo-liberal policies of mass layoffs and privatisation. There are clear signs that the need to link the two movements is being increasingly recognized by the grass root leadership on both sides. Calls to set up neighbourhood resistance committees by the left are welcome but clearly only a beginning on a long road.

 Broadening and deepening

The old left, both Iranian and non-Iranian, is largely confused about what is happening in Iran today. The protests are either portrayed as a fully-fledged uprising, or more commonly, as another “colour revolution”. It is neither.

What we are witnessing in Iran is not an uprising in any real sense, let alone a revolution. However the seeds of an uprising have been planted, which if tended properly, can grow into an uprising that will unite the various springs of protest into one giant river with a single goal. The slogan of “independence, freedom, Iranian Republic” can provide one such goal. For this to be achieved a number of steps have to be taken. The grass root leaderships of the opposition need to be able to use everything at their disposal to widen, but also deepen, the movement.

To broaden the movement, it is necessary to draw in the disparate social movements, each with their own individual demands, into one huge movement that encompasses these demands. Thus the youth, the women, the nationalities and all the other movements have to be drawn into a co-ordinated single movement. Already youth and women play a critical role in the opposition and have been instrumental in its radicalisation.

The execution of Ehsan Fattahian, a Kurdish left activist, and the imminent execution of Shirko Moarefi another Kurdish activist, shows the regime’s dread of the active involvement of the nationalities of Iran.

The movement must also learn to use the relative safety of the umbrella provided by the reformists without falling under their spell. The fact that the regime cannot slaughter its errant “children” (what it used to call the khodiha – insiders) with the same equanimity and savagery that it can “outsiders” is witnessed by the scale of the current repression, bad as it is compared to previous waves when literally thousands were slaughtered. A vigilant radical leadership will use this umbrella for as long as it provides a cover while pursuing its own independent programme, pushing the movement to adopt tactics that will ensure its deepening and strengthening.

To deepen the movement requires, more than anything, the linking of the workers’ protest movement to the general movement for democracy. The workers’ protest movement has reached levels not seen previously. Most recently oil workers, central to the Iranian economy, have began to flex their muscles.4 In Iran today it is impossible to have a meaningful and lasting democracy without the self-organisation of the working class. The only democracy that has a chance of surviving the inevitable imperialist onslaught must have at its head the only class that is, by its very existence, opposed to imperialism.

Imperial domination functions, and is imposed, through the subjugation of the working class, and only the self-organisation of this class can stand up to this domination. Undoubtedly the working class of Iran is still not organised as a class. This generation of workers has not even experienced real trade unions. Moreover the massive unemployment in the country creates a large constituency of the poor, living on the margins of society in the countless shantytowns surrounding our major cities, providing real organisational challenges.

 Leadership

But perhaps critically an uprising, let alone a revolution, cannot take place without a leadership that can see the road ahead clearly and lead the movement towards its goal. That leadership, which can weave the various strands of the movement into a single party and ensure that the fruits of victory are not handed to the imperialists or to another reactionary regime, as happened after the 1979 Iranian revolution, can only come from the left. Only the left can lead an uprising beyond regime change into a change in the social structure of the country. A change not just in political relations, but in the economic relations of the people.

But for this we need a left in Iran with a vision and the understanding of how to achieve this. Not much of either is visible in what passes for the left today. A “left” that looks up to a regime whose president communicates with a ghost that died 1100 years ago,5 whose regime sacks workers in their millions as part of a neoliberal privatisation policy, whose security forces shoot down peaceful demonstrators and expects it to oppose imperialism, does not deserve that name. To these comrades we say “the sun is out in Iran. Get out from under your umbrellas”. No. We need a left with a vision. Yet that left is being born in Iran as elsewhere, though it has a long way to maturity.

And a final word for that section of the left abroad, like James Petras, Monthly Review and others, who have become an apologist for Ahmadinejad’s regime. We say to you, “if you cannot help us, if you cannot support the struggles in Iran, at least don’t harm us”. By all means oppose imperialist pressures on Iran. Keep up the opposition to sanctions with every weapon at your disposal; sanctions can only harm the people of Iran without damaging the regime. And of course stop any military adventure against Iran. You help us with that and the people of Iran will deal with their regime. It may take time, there may be many more sacrifices, but we will prevail in the end.

Attacks on Mashhad University Students

Mashhad University students protest Basij and Hezbollah violence
Mashhad University students protest Basij and Hezbollah violence

On December 30 two students were critically wounded and scores injured by knife wielding members of Ansar-e Hezbollah and Basij militia, up to 500 thugs were brought in to attack students at Mashhad University after they staged anti-regime protests during Ashura. One of the students professors was also attacked and sustained knife wounds, whilst a young female student was badly injured after being struck repeatedly over the head with a piece of wood. Students at the university were holding silent mourning ceremonies for the Ashura were they opposed the repression of popular protests. The police aided the Basij and Hezbollah by blocking the roads leading up to the University and attacking crowds of students with tear gas and batons. Around 210 students and youth were arrested by the state-repressive forces throughout the recent Ashura protests. Below is the video of the brutal attack by Basij and Hezbollah on students:

The day after over 4000 students and professors staged protests against the attacks and arrests at Ferdowsi University of Mashhad and Azad University of Mashhad but were laid siege by security forces and militia. Students, professors and parents have trie dto find out information on the arrested and injured. The local judiciary is refusing to release information on the two seriously injured students, leading to speculation that the student have died and the authorities do not want there funerals to become a focus of further anti-regime protests. Students sent a delegation of representatives from the Islamic Organisation of the university to a meeting with university officials where they were arrested. Amongst those arrested is Seyed Sadra Mirada a relative of Khamanei. Below is a video of the gathering of students and youth on December 31:

Regime threatens mass murder whilst left activists are arrested

 

 

We will fight until all of our classmates, comrades and friends are released. we wont let the Islamic republic take the revenge of its inevitable collapse on activists.
We will fight until all of our classmates, comrades and friends are released. we wont let the Islamic republic take the revenge of its inevitable collapse on activists.

Below is a brief report of the moves the regime has been taking against known leftwing activists and the threats that leading officialis have been giving on state television. This report was sent to us by  Anahita Hosseini of the ‘Independent Leftist Students’ who represent an anti-imperialist socialist tendency within the student movement in Iran

After the mass protests of Sunday December 17 the regime is showing its fear of people uprising by going to well known activists homes one by one and arresting them. This morning armed plain cloths forces went to Mahin Fahimis home who is a member of the organization of: mothers for peace and arrested her and her son Omid Montazeri who is a known leftist student activist. Omid is Hamid Montazeriz son a known communist activist who was executed by the regime during the mass murders of the leftists and Mujahadeen in prison in 1988.

Ardavan Tarakameh another leftist student activist who was staying in Omids home this morning was arrested, afterwards the plain cloths forces went to Ardavan’s parents home and searched it all and took some books and notes, and told his mother she is not allowed to ask any questions about what they are doing or where her son is. Zohreh Takaboni one of the mothers for peace whose husband was also executed as a leftist in 1988 has also been arrested.

The regime has started a new scenario since this morning on all of their TV channels they are talking about what happened in the 80s they are talking about the leftist opposition of Iran in those days and how the regime killed them! because of their activities, they are frankly threatening people that they are not afraid of repeating the history.

After yesterdays uprising it became more obvious that no one is of the illusion of re-running the elections. The slogans are aimed at the regime and Khamenei himself, radicalization of the movement has made the regime fearful of the effect of the lefftist and the other radical activists on the current uprising. They are threatening to bring back the black and the bloody decade of 80’s in which they mass murdered thousands of the bravest, purest and the true believers of freedom and equality especially in 1988 when they executed thousands (possibly 30 thousand) leftists and Mujahadeen and buried them in the mass graves. Now they are threatening their children and all the other activists and all people who are yelling their anger against them, in their official news today they said: the rebels have crossed the red lines by having slogans against Khamenei and they will all pay back for it. what is obvious is that they will not be able to repeat the bloody years of 80s because they cant mass murder a nation. But we should take the threat serious on the level that we know this regime has nothing to lose and before its final collapse they may do anything for revenge. They may try to limit the number of activists against them, the threats they have started against people is important on these levels, and it is our responsibility to fight until the release of each and every political prisoner in Iran alongside supporting the peoples uprising. Underestimating the threats of the dictator regime in taking revenge on the protesters can end in a catastrophe.

We will fight until all of our classmates, comrades and friends are released. We wont let the Islamic Republic take the revenge of its inevitable collapse on activists.

Unity – Struggle – Victory

 

 

 

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:





Hopi activists at Azar 16 demo outside Iranian Embassy in London

hopibannerhigh On Monday December 7, Hands Off the People of Iran activists attended a demonstration outside the Iranian embassy to mark Students Day. It was particularly important for those outside Iran to express our solidarity because this year’s commemorations in that country have highlighted a deepening radicalisation of the student movement, with demonstrations spreading beyond the campus and onto the streets.

It was encouraging that around 350 protesters attended what was a rather impressively prepared event in London. There were marquees, generators, a powerful PA system, a green laser lighting up the Iranian embassy and green glow sticks available on demand. But the demonstration reflected much of the confusion prevalent amongst Iranian exiles (the Hopi contingent was the only non-Iranian group that took part). This was to be expected, since it was organised by the Iranian Green Movement in London. Official chants and slogans were limited to opposing Ahmadinejad and Khomeini, rather than the Islamic Republic as a whole.

The statement on the website of the Iranian Green Movement (www.londongreen.org/en/index.php) includes some supportable demands on freeing all political prisoners, freedom of the press and calling for public trials for those agents of the Islamic Republic who have committed crimes and tortured detainees (does that include leading ‘reformists’ like Mir-Hossein Moussavi?).

However, it has absolutely nothing to say on sanctions or war on Iran. Worse, it sows illusions in what the green movement claims is the “neutral” United Nations and its platitudinous Human Rights Declarations – calling for the UN to “oversee” a “free election” in Iran. Like the sham elections in Iraq and Afghanistan, presumably …

In order to challenge this perspective, a smaller ‘red’ demonstration had been organised right next to the green tents and marquees. It was vociferous and energetic in calling for opposition to both imperialism and the whole Islamic regime, as opposed to this or that individual mullah, but – presumably by mutual consent – they were physically separated from the main demonstration by steel barriers and a row of police. The noise of the ‘green’ PA often drowned out the more principled politics.

Hopi activists distributed a leaflet entitled ‘Solidarity with the Iranian people, not Moussavi’. As well as outlining our internationalist, working class perspectives for Iran, the leaflet also carried a translation of the Iran Khodro car workers’ statement on the political crisis in the country.

Given our clear message, we were expecting to be met with a rather frosty reception. However, comrades found that there was very little difference in the way we were received by the ‘green’ and ‘red’ parts of the demonstration. Almost everybody appreciated the solidarity we have shown and many wanted further information about Hopi. We leafleted and sold papers to both sections in an atmosphere which contrasted favourably to other occasions. Following the rigged presidential elections, our comrades’ red flags were torn away by Moussavi supporters in Manchester, for example.

In view of this it was a little puzzling that the anti-regime left did not attempt to interact more directly with the ‘greens’ and those who hold illusions in Moussavi. Rather than mounting what was in effect a counter-demonstration, and being unable to make themselves heard, the ‘red’ section could have demanded speaking rights from the official organisers. The comrades were correct to retain their independent voice, however. We should not blur lines of principle. We should not encourage support for the theocrat Moussavi or seek to prettify his sordid record.

One Iranian comrade pointed out that many of those now in the ‘green’ part of the demonstration were actually familiar faces from past leftwing actions – people who consider it their duty as ‘Marxists’ to uncritically tail Moussavi.

As the mass movement inside Iran grows in confidence and the regime’s days appear increasingly numbered, the tasks of the solidarity movement remain the same: a fight on two fronts – against imperialist designs on Iran, and for unequivocal support for the Iranian masses. This necessitates taking a clear stand both against imperialist sanctions and war and against Moussavi, a butcher of the Iranian left. Both have the blood of workers, the left, democrats and secularists on their hands.

Ben Lewis

On Monday December 7, Hands Off the People of Iran activists attended a demonstration outside the Iranian embassy to mark Students Day. It was particularly important for those outside Iran to express our solidarity because this year’s commemorations in that country have highlighted a deepening radicalisation of the student movement, with demonstrations spreading beyond the campus and onto the streets.

It was encouraging that around 350 protesters attended what was a rather impressively prepared event in London. There were marquees, generators, a powerful PA system, a green laser lighting up the Iranian embassy and green glow sticks available on demand. But the demonstration reflected much of the confusion prevalent amongst Iranian exiles (the Hopi contingent was the only non-Iranian group that took part). This was to be expected, since it was organised by the Iranian Green Movement in London. Official chants and slogans were limited to opposing Ahmadinejad and Khomeini, rather than the Islamic Republic as a whole.

The statement on the website of the Iranian Green Movement (www.londongreen.org/en/index.php) includes some supportable demands on freeing all political prisoners, freedom of the press and calling for public trials for those agents of the Islamic Republic who have committed crimes and tortured detainees (does that include leading ‘reformists’ like Mir-Hossein Moussavi?).

However, it has absolutely nothing to say on sanctions or war on Iran. Worse, it sows illusions in what the green movement claims is the “neutral” United Nations and its platitudinous Human Rights Declarations – calling for the UN to “oversee” a “free election” in Iran. Like the sham elections in Iraq and Afghanistan, presumably …

In order to challenge this perspective, a smaller ‘red’ demonstration had been organised right next to the green tents and marquees. It was vociferous and energetic in calling for opposition to both imperialism and the whole Islamic regime, as opposed to this or that individual mullah, but – presumably by mutual consent – they were physically separated from the main demonstration by steel barriers and a row of police. The noise of the ‘green’ PA often drowned out the more principled politics.

Hopi activists distributed a leaflet entitled ‘Solidarity with the Iranian people, not Moussavi’. As well as outlining our internationalist, working class perspectives for Iran, the leaflet also carried a translation of the Iran Khodro car workers’ statement on the political crisis in the country.

Given our clear message, we were expecting to be met with a rather frosty reception. However, comrades found that there was very little difference in the way we were received by the ‘green’ and ‘red’ parts of the demonstration. Almost everybody appreciated the solidarity we have shown and many wanted further information about Hopi. We leafleted and sold papers to both sections in an atmosphere which contrasted favourably to other occasions. Following the rigged presidential elections, our comrades’ red flags were torn away by Moussavi supporters in Manchester, for example.

In view of this it was a little puzzling that the anti-regime left did not attempt to interact more directly with the ‘greens’ and those who hold illusions in Moussavi. Rather than mounting what was in effect a counter-demonstration, and being unable to make themselves heard, the ‘red’ section could have demanded speaking rights from the official organisers. The comrades were correct to retain their independent voice, however. We should not blur lines of principle. We should not encourage support for the theocrat Moussavi or seek to prettify his sordid record.

One Iranian comrade pointed out that many of those now in the ‘green’ part of the demonstration were actually familiar faces from past leftwing actions – people who consider it their duty as ‘Marxists’ to uncritically tail Moussavi.

As the mass movement inside Iran grows in confidence and the regime’s days appear increasingly numbered, the tasks of the solidarity movement remain the same: a fight on two fronts – against imperialist designs on Iran, and for unequivocal support for the Iranian masses. This necessitates taking a clear stand both against imperialist sanctions and war and against Moussavi, a butcher of the Iranian left. Both have the blood of workers, the left, democrats and secularists on their hands.

16 Azar: The entire regime is the target!

“Mousavi is an excuse, the entire regime is the target”
“Mousavi is an excuse, the entire regime is the target”

The 56th anniversary of a murder of a student by the Shah’s security forces during Vice-president Nixon’s visit in 1953 may prove to be the last held under the heel of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Possibly millions of students, youth and workers took to the streets in protests against the regime and the barbaric repression since the rigged June elections. Though hard to confirm, today’s protests could be the biggest since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Protests have taken place in Tehran, Isfahan, Mashhad, Arak, Karaj, Orumieh, Kerman, Rasht, Shiraz, Ahvaz, Kermanshah and Hamedan and there have been reports of soldiers protesting at Qom Airbase. Protestors carried Iranian flags that omitted the Allah sign showing that the movement is moving beyond the slogans of the June protests.

In preparation for these demonstrations the regime formed lines of police, Basij and Pasdaran around the universities, squares and monuments in the major cities. The government also attempted to limit internet access with up-to 50% of attempts to connect failing, however, the regime failed to stop the flood of information that is now on hundreds of blogs, twitter and news sites. The mobile phone network was also shut down in central Tehran and limited in other parts of the city. At one point the Basij were scene frantically searching computer rooms at Tehran Polytechnic University in an attempt to stop pictures and videos coming out. Protestors managed to organise the protests and relay information of road blocks etc through the internet and land lines in defiance of the government. Once again the Iranian youth has shown the world that the state cannot keep a lid on protests and unrest.

Repression and Resistance
Repression and Resistance

On the streets the state repressive forces backed up by militia assaulted and arrested protestors but were met with courage and defiance.

At Hamedan University two students were thrown from the second floor by Basij scum, reports indicate that both students have sustained severe injuries. There were also heavy clashes between students and security forces here. At the hospitals in Tehran police with dogs prevented injured protestors from entering, arrested and attacking people who looked like protestors. At Amir Kabir University students were savagely beaten by security forces, where a prominent student leader; Majid Tavakoli was arrested. At the Medical College in Tehran Basij thugs attempted to break up a demonstration beating several students, there were reports of some badly injured protestors at this demonstration. At the Polytechnic University students clashed with the police and managed to repel them for a time shouting “Marg Bar Khamanei” (Down with Khamanei!) as the focus of popular anger shifts from Ahmadinejad and onto the Supreme Leader and the entire Islamic Republic. At Razi University in Kermanshah militia and police had a massive presence but failed to stop the student demonstration. At Sanati University in Isfahan in Kermanshah student protests were attacked by security forces. Professors at Beheshti University joined with the 2,000 strong protest to scenes of massive cheering and chants of ‘Death to the Dictator’. In Kurdistan students burned images of Khomanei and Khamanei in the University, they were also protesting the murder of socialist fighter Ehsan Fattahian who was executed on the 11th November. There were protests and clashes at Azad Shahrkord University, Elm o Sanat University, Sharif University, Azad University of Mashhad, Azad University of Najafabad, Sanati University in Isfahan, Hormozgan University, University of Zanjan, Yasooj University and others. School students have also taken part in the demonstrations, at a high school for girls in Tehran they gathered and chanted slogans, the video is below.

There was heavy fighting across Tehran with students turning the tide against security forces and militia at times. Basij who were carrying Hezbollah flags were attacked and thrown out of Khaje-Nasir University by brave students. Outside Tehran University, the streets approaching Enghelab Square and Valiasr Street saw shots fired by security forces, it is not clear whether they were warning shots or fired into the crowd, some reports claim that some students have been shot. There were reports of security forces refusing to attack students and at times taking water from students who were calling for them to join the protests. It also seems that around Enghelab Square Basij abandoned their positions and vehicles which were swiftly used to form burning barricades by the youth. It has been reported that riot police attacked Basij who were attacking demonstrators. If this wavering from security forces and demonstrations from soldiers are confirmed then this could undermine the regimes confidence in its ability to suppress the protests and may possibly signal an acceleration of the regimes collapse.

Proving that the protests go far beyond the student movement, elderly women dodged bullets and tear gas to bring water, sandwhiches and first aid to the student demonstrators. Some were attacked by security forces, one women was beat savagely by Basij thugs. Below is the video of her after the attack:

Where fighting was taking place residents rushed to aid the students and young workers and many have formed voluntary medical groups, helping the injured into nearby homes and distributing water to crowds. Many workers joined the demonstrations after finishing work swelling the numbers in central Tehran and other cities.

Many students posting on social networking sites Twitter and Facebook have been asking where are the reformists? The mass movement has kept the colour of Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s presidential campaign yet it seems he has abandoned the movement he helped to stir up. As students chanted across Tehran “Mousavi is an excuse, the entire regime is the target” the reformists will have been made acutely aware that the movement is far beyond their control now.

Protests have continued on into the evening with sporadic clashes between protestors and police. It is unclear how many have been arrested today, though we expect it to be in the hundreds. The workers movement internationally must get serious in organising solidarity and demanding the immediate release of all of those who are in prison and secret detention sites. An analysis of today’s events and a wider report will be posted shortly.

Below are some videos from today’s protests:





Abadan oil refinery workers protest against unpaid wages!

Oil workers fight back
Oil workers fight back

After their wages and bonuses went unpaid a group of Abadan oil refinery workers began a protest on Wednesday November 11. Around 300 workers have not been paid for more than three months.

Tehran Emrooz daily reported that when the workers protested outside the Abadan oil refinery on November 12 the “Abadan oil refinery officials told the workers that as they are working in the third phase of the refinery then they are working for a private contractor and their wages have nothing to do with the refinery.”

This protest is highly significant in that oil industry workers have had no major protests for a number of years. They are paid regularly, unlike most workers in Iran, and their work environment is very heavily policed and controlled.

The Abadan oil refinery in the southern Khuzestan province is over 95 years old and was the biggest refining facility in the world for many decades. It is one of the oldest and most important centres of the Iranian workers’ movement.

Iranian Workers’ Solidarity Network
13 November 2009.

Azadi Stadium erupts against the regime

Fans defy calls to keep protests away from stadium
Fans defy calls to keep protests away from stadium

Imagine going to a Celtic vs Rangers derby and seeing both sides fans chant the same slogans, march together afterwards and defend each other from the police. You would probably think you have entered an alternative universe. In Iran that is what happened on October 2 at Azadi stadium when Perspolis (باشگاه فوتبال پرسپولیس) and Esteghlal (باشگاه فرهنگی ورزشی استقلال ایران) met. These clubs are the most successful clubs in Iranian football and have had a bitter rivalry on par with that of Celtic and Rangers. Fans chanted “As long as Ahmadinejad exists – this will be the result of Derby”, “Down with the dictator!”, “Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein” and other slogans of the opposition movement. Below are some videos of the protests: