Women’s rights activists manhandled by Stop the War Coalition organisers in the demonstration in Manchester

On Saturday 23rd of September, during the Labour Party’s conference, a demonstration against war was held in Manchester. Tens of thousands of people gathered on the streets of Manchester to protest against the war, to condemn the US/UK policies towards Iraq and Iran and to demand withdrawal of the troop from Iraq.

During the demonstration a few flags of the Islamic regime of Iran were raised. The flag which represents a regime that has tortured and imprisoned millions of people in Iran; has executed tens of thousands of people during its 27 years of power; has assassinated the opposition abroad and has imprisoned many students and workers just because they defended their very basic rights. The flag which represents a regime that is suppressing people in Iran on a daily basis, stones women to death and executes homosexuals; the flag which represents the regime of gender apartheid, the regime which has been committing crime against humanity for 27 years. Yes, these are just some examples of what the flag of the Islamic regime represents!

How would you feel if you see a flag of such a criminal regime in a humanitarian demonstration? How would you feel if you are tortured and your friends got raped and executed by the same regime? Wouldn’t you protest against the attendance of this flag?

For all the above reason I did protest. I was carrying the picture of a woman who was due to be executed in Iran and I protested against the attendance of the flags of the Islamic regime of Iran; I got manhandled by the organizers of Stop the War Coalition because simply they couldn’t tolerate criticizing the Islamic terrorism; because they have decided to close their eyes on such a brutal crime.

I have been a women rights activist all my life, I was imprisoned by the Islamic regime of Iran for three and a half years at the age of 16, I was tortured and many of my friends got executed by a regime whose flag was raised in the demonstration in Manchester and yet I was manhandled by the Stop the War Coalition and specifically one of the organizers by the name of Ghada Razuki. Stop the War Coalition organizers also manhandled my colleague, Reza Moradi, who was also opposing the attendance of the flag of the criminal Islamic regime of Iran. Please see the following link which is from the demonstration in Manchester and was sent to me by a journalist by clicking here.

During the last few years, thousands of people have been participating in the demonstrations against the war, people who care about humanity and want to put an end to the war and slaughtering of people. However, unfortunately time after time their intentions and causes got hijacked by the Stop the War Coalition. Stop the War Coalition has always legitimized the criminal and misogynist acts of the Islamic regime and Islamic groups under the cover of anti-American slogans. How can Stop the War Coalition close its eyes on the situation of millions of women who are the victim of stoning, honor killing and suppression under the Islamic laws?

Take a few minutes and try to remember all the demonstrations organized by Stop the War Coalition, have you ever seen a speaker in these demonstrations talking about the dire situation of people under the Islamic laws? Have you ever asked yourself why? Some may say because we have to fight the US first; but how can one ignore the fact that the Islamic regimes and the Islamic groups are killing, torturing, abusing and suppressing millions of people, specially women and children, in Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, and all the other countries ruled by the Islamic and Sharia law? Even now that you are reading this piece of writing, Kobra Rahmanpour, Nazanin Fatehi, Fateme Haghighatpajoo and several women like them are awaiting execution. Perhaps this is not a crime from the Stop the War Coalition’s point of view!

To stop terrorism we must be against poles of terrorism, the US terrorism and the Islamist terrorism; being against one should not lead us to support the other one. No one must be allowed to legitimize and promote killing people including the Stop the War Coalition. Stop the War Coalition’s act of manhandling women’s rights activists in the demonstration in Manchester is disgraceful and outrageous and must be condemned by all the freedom loving people because their act is an insult to all the people who care about humanity and fight for human being’s dignity.

Please send letters to Stop the War Coalition to object the way they acted in the demonstration on 23rd of September in Manchester. office@stopwar.org.uk

Shiva Mahbobi
30/9/2006

Maryam Namazie

Save Kobra Rahmanpour from Execution now!

An open letter

To all noble humans, and all human right defender bodies

I, Abolfazl Rahmanpour, the father of Kobra Rahmanpour pledge you to protest to the unfair sentence of my young daughter.

Kobra, my young daughter, was forced to marry a man, 43 years older than herself. Kobra was a good student in her school and her wish was to study in the university but she was forced to forget all of her wishes because of the extreme poverty of the family.

Kobra had a hard life before marriage and after marriage her life became even worse. the extremeness of problems and sufferings that she had to take in a family that look at her first a servant and then a daughter-in-law, was so much that made a kind girl like her to commit a murder in an accident and while defending herself.

Kobra spent the best years of her youth in the prison and with the threat of death. She has suffered so much and has completely fall. It is so many years that she can feel the execution rope on her neck and her life goes on with sensing death, she shouldn’t suffer more tortures. When look at her colorless eyes, fallen teeth, and senseless body I always ask myself what did I do wrong? What shouldn’t I have done? Whose fault is this?

As she has said herself she wants to live and she is scared from the execution, the rope and the crane. She wants to go to university and study. Kobra is a very kind girl, her inmates can testify that. She should be free as soon as possible to go back to her normal life.

Our only hope is the protest of you noble people to this unjust sentence. The only way of preventing this sentence is the protest of all of the people, human rights defending bodies, committees against the executions and international bodies. Just for a second thought what me and Kobra’s mother are going true to realize how horrible are this days. I wouldn’t mind to be executed instead of Kobra, is that possible? I have always worked from day to night, but I don’t know why our destiny went this way? I and Kobra’s mother have no hope to life or another thing beside Kobra. Help us. Save my Family, my disabled son who always asks about her sister, Kobra, from this horror of execution of our dear Kobra. We are waiting for your definite actions. We all ask you to sign this letter. I know that there is no time and we are in last seconds. I ask for your help once more, in these last seconds. Sign this letter to show that you also demand Kobra’s Freedom.

Send your supports to this Email: campagne.kobra@gmail.com

We will declare the names of those who sign in this blog: www.save-kobra.blogfa.com

AbolFazl Rahmanpour
September 2006

CC: Amnesty International, Unicef

Maryam Namazie

The Third Camp is about Real Lives

Interview with Hamid Taqvaee
Third Camp TV

Maryam Namazie: You wrote the Manifesto of the Third Camp against US Militarism and Islamic Terrorism, which many people are now supporting. Why did you feel the need to write it?

Hamid Taqvaee: If you have a look at the political situation of our era, it seems that there are mainly two forces that actually determine everything in the political arena in the Middle East, the west and even the world. These two forces are the USA and its allies on the one hand and Islamic terrorism on the other. But the fact is that it is not only these two. What we are saying is that neither of these two forces actually represents people. Even people living in Islamist societies, and I can say especially those people, are not represented by political Islam, or by Islamic governments such as the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Third Camp addresses that force which represents the majority of people of the world – a majority which has no interest in the war between these two poles of Islamic and US-led terrorism. They reap no benefits from their war.

In the conflict between the two in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, it is people who are actually sacrificed. People have no reason to take part in this. But the question is what do they do? Must they stay home, witness the carnage that is unfolding before their eyes and do nothing? Of course not. The Third Camp enables people to make a stand against both poles of terrorism in our era. Since people are losing everything in this confrontation, we must establish and organise a third movement. The third camp is a movement not an organization; it is a movement against political Islam and US militarism.

Maryam Namazie: It’s not yet well known but one gets the sense that it is crucial…

Hamid Taqvaee: Yes, it is not well known and that is why one of our main aims is to introduce the movement to as many people as we can. I believe public opinion on the whole is with us. If they come to know about what we are saying, if they were able to find out our goals and purpose, I think they would join us. In Iran, and countries like it, I can say with confidence that more than 90 percent of the people are with us and that we are representing them. They are with us against Islamic terrorism; they are against US militarism. I think we can say that about today’s Iraq and other Middle Eastern societies that have been at the frontlines of the conflict. In Europe, too, people know what is going on after September 11, Madrid, London, Bali. Even in western countries, where people are faced with massive media propaganda, I believe that most people if they knew about us, if they heard what we say and represent, they would join us. They would join the third camp movement. As I said, I think the third camp represents a majority of people in any given country. They just need to know that such a force and movement exists, and that it is active. They would join as soon as we were able to reach them.

Maryam Namazie: I think that is one of the things that we are witnessing. When you talk to activists who are reaching out to people, they say that a lot of them feel a sense of relief that there is this human alternative and they don’t have to choose between bad and worse.

Hamid Taqvaee: Exactly.

Maryam Namazie: There has been an immense amount of support for the Third Camp, but also some criticism. It would be good if you could address some of them here. Some are saying that it is wrong to gather opposition to both US militarism and political Islam since one can’t deal with both at the same time and also because they say, both are not equally important. Groups like the Stop the War Coalition believe that the main issue is Empire or US imperialism.

Hamid Taqvaee: This is not new. As far as I remember, since the start of my political life, I have heard this sort of position from anti-imperialist activists. They ask “What is the main problem?” but never ask for whom and in what context. They imply that there is one main problem for every single person in our era. And they always say that the main problem is imperialism. During the Cold War, there were two different groups. One of them would say that the main enemy or the main problem was the Soviet empire; the other would say it was the US and western empire and they had ongoing discussions with each other. Now that the US is the only superpower, everything has become even more simplified for them. Now we have only one empire to address!

But let’s think of this from the point of view of women in the world, for example. In Islamist societies, or for women who are considered Muslim, what is the main problem? The empire or political Islam? For women in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Algeria, and even Muslim women in Scandinavia, Europe, and the US, what is their main problem? Their problem is that political Islam forces them to wear the hijab, prevents girls from playing with boys, and even allows 9 year old to ‘marry’, which is nothing more than legalising child sexual abuse. Political Islam is a massive movement and from their point of view, from the point of view of millions and millions of women, the main problem is not the empire or US imperialism.

Maryam Namazie: But in countries like Iraq, for example, it is US imperialism that has wreaked havoc….

Hamid Taqvaee: OK, but what about Iran? For 27 years, not only women, but a majority of the population have had no rights. In any sense of the word, the Islamic Republic of Iran is an every-day terrorism ruling Iran. In Iraq, too, Islamic sects are fighting each other and slaughtering children. Sunnis killing Shiites and vice versa. In Iraq, both the US and its allied forces as well as Islamic groups are killing left, right and centre in the name of democracy or resistance! It doesn’t matter what they call it! They are killing people everyday.

People, civilians, who have no interest and no participation in the resistance, get slaughtered. We don’t have resistance as such in Iraq. We have different Islamic and nationalist factions and the occupying forces of the US and Britain fighting each other. That is the situation in Iraq.

Maryam Namazie: Darren Cogavin has written a piece in the Blanket criticising Anthony McIntyre’s article in the same publication in defence of the Third Camp. He says that one of the most basic tenets of consistent democracy is solidarity with mass-based rebellions against occupation, national oppression and colonial rule when they actually occur.

Hamid Taqvaee: Again with the mass-based something! Mass-based what? Hitler relied on the masses. Initially in Iran, Khomeini had the masses with him. So what? Masses can go wrong and most of the time – when there is no left or progressive force present – they do. It happens all the time, everywhere. Masses go and vote for Bush in America and regret it after a few months. It happens everywhere. So don’t talk about ‘the masses,’ ‘what the masses say’ and ‘what the masses don’t say’. That is one point. The other point, even in this context, is that there are no masses behind Islamic forces in Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. That is a big lie. Like the mass media, it categorises all people living in the Middle East as automatically supporting political Islam because of where they were born. This is a big lie. It’s as if to say you are with Tony Blair because you were born in Britain since he is your prime minister! This is the same nonsense they spew about the Iranian people. There are no ‘masses’ behind political Islam, even in Iraq, in my opinion. The masses in Iraq want peace; they want a normal life; they want to get rid of all of the forces – Islamist and western – that are making life intolerable. They want to get rid of all of them so they can get on with their day-to-day life, go to school, have hospitals, have electricity, running water… That’s their main problem not resistance against the empire or the democracy that the empire wants to give them. They are defending life. So we have to have a force representing life in Iraq and in fact the masses are with that force. If there is not such a force there, we have to go and create it and organise it – a force defending life against both those poles and fighting against both of them. Going back to old terminology and Cold War logic won’t get us anywhere. Speaking of what the masses want doesn’t help. You don’t determine politics by what people say but by what they really need. What they really want. Even if they don’t know it. Even if nobody represents them. You have to find out what it actually is – it’s not subjective but objective. And you have to go out and be the voice of the people. And represent what they want and need and organise them around that and create a political force against the so-called “resistance” and forces for “democracy”. None of the two poles represent people in Iran, in Iraq, or elsewhere in the world. They merely represent different camps of the ruling classes.

Maryam Namazie: Let’s leave the masses out of it for now; the same writer says that the biggest obstacle to US domination in Iraq and the Middle East is the armed resistance without which US imperialism might well be preparing for a full scale invasion of Iran. So basically he says the manifesto contradicts itself because it is actually this very political Islamic resistance that has stopped the US from entering Iran.

Hamid Taqvaee: With this logic, one could say, ‘if there was no US forces in Iraq, Islamic forces would make the country much worse than what we have in Iran today. Women in Iraq would be in a much worse situation if they had a regime like Iran’s.’ The problem with this writer is that he doesn’t see both poles in the conflict. Automatically, he thinks that whoever resists the US is good. Is pro-people. That’s wrong. This sort of logic has never worked throughout history and it doesn’t work here either. It is not the case that because the US is against the people, therefore, whoever resists the US is with the people. The same logic would be the reverse in Iran. The Islamic Republic is against the people based on what it has done for the past 27 years ruling Iran, and the US is against the Islamic Republic of Iran so the US is with the people of Iran. That’s wrong! That sort of logic won’t get us anywhere. It depends what point of view you are looking at it from. If you look at it from the point of view of only opposing the Islamic Republic in Iran then you will conclude that the US is pro the people. And if you think of it in terms of only opposing the forces that are occupying Iraq, you will come to the conclusion that Moqtada al-Sadr or Islamists in Iraq are with the people. Either way, this is incorrect.

The point is that you don’t have to choose between these two poles. We have to go and create a third camp against both. That’s the whole point.

Maryam Namazie: He goes on to say that the third camp is social chauvinist and “has chosen to position themselves against the growing movement challenging US imperialism arms in hand at a time when revolutionary Marxism is most urgently needed.”

Hamid Taqvaee: Revolutionary Marxism defends itself and defends the people. If there is a force that we can refer to as “revolutionary Marxism”, why doesn’t this force go and create and organise its own movement? Why do we as Marxists have to support somebody else all the time? In the Cold War, why did we have to support the Soviet Union vis-à-vis the USA? And why now, do we have to support Islamists against the USA. And every time, we have a big enemy – the empire or whatever they call it – and we have to support those who are seen to be against it. Why shouldn’t others support us? Why are we not creating our own movement with our own political aims and goals and calling on everybody to come and support us!

There are Islamists against the USA. Fair enough. I accept that. We are against the USA as well. Why shouldn’t Islamists have a discussion among themselves about supporting Marxists? And actually when Marxism was more fashionable in the 60’s, we did have this sort of thing. There were so many religious groups that called themselves ‘Marxist’. Now it is the opposite. Now some Marxists call themselves ‘Muslim’ and that is the main problem of the anti-US movement. The upper hand in this movement is with the Islamists, unfortunately. And Marxists like the one you are quoting, always think Marxists have to go join a big front and support somebody else against the US. If today, it is Sheikh Nasrullah or Hizbullah, then we must all go and support them. At the time of Khomeini, they supported Khomeini. But then you think of it from the point of view of ordinary people. People in the streets. Public opinion all over the world. They don’t buy this sort of logic because it has nothing to do with their real lives. They don’t go by terminology and abstract concepts of ‘who is the main empire of this era?’ They don’t think that way. They simply think about what benefits them; what’s for them and what’s against them. And the people of Iran who have been living under the yoke of Islamic rule know what Islam is. It doesn’t matter whether you tell them that Islam is against the US. It it not their criteria. What is important, and really matters is not the Islamic Republic-US relationship, but the relationship of both of these poles with the people. That’s the way we Marxists should judge and criticise different political movements, parties, and governments. So again referring even to Marxists as a political group or party or movement and then demanding that we as Marxists go and support political Islam or Islamic forces is just ridiculous.

Maryam Namazie: The author goes on to say that the manifesto ‘recycles the odious garbage of Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations, directing liberals outside the ranks of the ‘Irrelevant Left’ to enlist in the crusade for western secular and enlightenment values against savage, fanatical Islam.’

Hamid Taqvaee: Why must the achievements of humanity, secularism, defending human beings, humanity, civil society and so on belong to the west or to the east or… They belong to the human race. They are the results of thousands of years of human history. They are latest achievements in politics, sociology, and science. The same way that everybody uses the latest achievements of technology, for example, everybody uses a TV, cars, and planes. In the same way we have social and political achievements that belong to human beings. One of them is secularism; another is civil society; another universal values. They are defended in any country all over the world. So they don’t belong to any one culture at all. Saying they do has to do with relativism. People like the author think that culture is a relative thing. So to them we have Islamic culture, western culture, eastern culture, and when we are defending the achievements of human beings, the achievements of science, technology, sociology they just put us in one of those categories. They say: ‘you are defending western culture’. In reality, east or west is irrelevant. Human beings, humanity, the human race has the same values everywhere in the world. We believe that secularism, having a civil society is a good value and it is good for everybody. Everybody benefits from it; it doesn’t matter whether you were born in Iran or in France. Civil society is one of the latest achievements of human history. It doesn’t belong to any culture and we don’t divide cultures in this way. We believe and support the culture that defends humanity and human beings and oppose the culture which is against them. If you think about it, you will see that a culture which is against human beings belongs to a class which rules across the world. They have different versions: the Islamic culture defends the ruling class in Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran belongs to that eastern culture and the culture of Mr. Rumsfeld and Bush belongs to the ruling class in the USA and it is in the category of western culture.

The above is an edited transcript of Maryam Namazie’s interview with Hamid Taqvaee on Third Camp TV on August 29, 2006. It was transcribed by Arash Sorx. The programme can be viewed on www.thirdcamp.com.

Maryam Namazie

Cultural Relativists have it all wrong!

Rights trump culture & religion
Cultural relativism is not only a prescription for inaction and passivity in the face of the oppression of millions of people struggling and resisting in the Middle East and here in the west but is in fact racist in and of itself
September 6, 2006
iranian.com

Cultural relativism and its more seemingly palatable multiculturalism have lowered standards and redefined values to such depths that not only are all cultures and beliefs deemed equally valid, they seem to have taken on personas of their own blurring the distinction between individuals and beliefs (whether theirs or imputed).

As a result, concepts such as rights, equality, respect and tolerance, which were initially raised vis-à-vis the individual, are now more and more applicable to culture and religion and often take precedence over real live human beings.

This is why any criticism and ridiculing of or opposition to beliefs, cultures, religions, gods and prophets are being deemed racism, disrespecting, inciting hatred and even violence against those deemed believers. Moreover, the social inclusion of people into society has come to solely mean the inclusion of their beliefs, sensibilities, concerns and agendas and nothing more.

The above is particularly applicable to and spearheaded by Islam and political Islam as it is a religion in state power like in Iran or vying for political power in the likes of Britain and Canada. Cultural relativism has become the channel through which it and its apologists have sought to deflect criticism of its inhumane nature and at the same time undermine the very fabric of society here and elsewhere.

Needless to say, cultural relativists have it all wrong.

The distinction between humans and their beliefs is of crucial significance here. It is the human being who is sacred, worthy of the highest respect and rights and so on and so forth not his or her beliefs.

It is the human being who is meant to be equal not his or her beliefs.

Of course, people have the right to their beliefs no matter how absurd they may seem but that is a different matter. Having the right to a belief, culture, or religion does not mean that the belief or culture or religion must be respected or that those who disagree, oppose or choose to mock said beliefs must refrain from doing so because it is unacceptable to believers. (As an aside, given that much is unacceptable to the Islamists – including holding hands and dancing to music – there wouldn’t be much left to say or do if they had their way.)

The demand of cultural relativists for ‘sensitivity’ and ‘responsibility’ (whilst thoughtfully reminding us that we have the right to mock and criticise – at least for now – in the west) are savvy attempts at actually restricting expression on and opposition to religion and culture and its adverse effects on people’s lives. After all, cultural relativism is brisk business for the many self-appointed cultural and religious ‘leaders’ working hand in hand with the state.

But are we really expected to respect, for example, a belief that women are sub-human, that ‘disobedient’ children need to be exorcised, or that gays are perverts because someone or some religious groups believe it to be so? How about the belief that girls who date non-Muslim men should be murdered in the name of honour? Or that little girls should be veiled and not mix with boys or swim? And does anyone in their right mind really think that such beliefs are equal or equally valid to humanist, secularist, left and progressive ideals fought for by generations?

This is of course not to deny that racism, including against Muslims, exists, but racism exists because of the profitability of racism for the class system and not because of critical thought and freedom of expression however offensive and insulting it may seem to those who hold those beliefs.

And anyway, how can criticising or mocking or opposing a belief, culture or religion be racism against or disrespectful of those who believe them? Firstly, you cannot be racist against an idea or belief or ideology. Racism is distinctions, exclusions, restrictions or preferences based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin (albeit constructed) of individuals – of human beings – not their beliefs. Saying a criticism or mockery of Islam, Mohammad, or political Islam is Islamophobia or racism against Muslims is like saying condemnation of Judaism and Zionism fans anti-Semitism.

Clearly, there is a big difference between Muslims and political Islam – as a contemporary right wing political movement like many others, as well as between Muslims and Islam, which is the ideological aspect of this contemporary movement and a belief like many others.

Blurring the distinctions between the two and the use of rights and anti-racist language here in the west to do so are devious ways of silencing criticism and opposition – criticism which is particularly crucial given the havoc that political Islam has inflicted in the Middle East and North Africa and more recently here in the west. Needless to say, the language calling for restraint rapidly becomes one of threats and intimidation when Islamists has some form of political power. In Iran, Iraq and elsewhere, they kill and maim indiscriminately, tolerate nothing and no one, hang the ‘unchaste’, ‘kafirs’ and ‘apostates’ from cranes in city centres, and say it is their divine right to do so.

Cultural relativism is not only a prescription for inaction and passivity in the face of the oppression of millions of people struggling and resisting in the Middle East and here in the west but is in fact racist in and of itself.

This is because it implies that masses of people choose to live the way they are often forced to and imputes on them the most reactionary elements of culture and religion, which is that of the ruling class, imams and self-appointed leaders. I am supposedly automatically Muslim because I was born in Iran as if that is the only option available; the Muslim Council of Britain, the Islamic Human Rights Commission and the rest of them supposedly automatically represent me – though I wouldn’t touch any them with a ten foot barge pole.

Cultural relativism also implies that Islam and political Islam represent all those who are considered Muslims – whether they were born or living in the Middle East, Asia or North Africa or once came from there umpteen generations ago. It would be similar to assume that the Catholic Church (that is during the inquisition) and the right wing British National Party represent all British.

It’s as if there are no classes, political, social and rights activists, communists, atheists, progressives, humanists, rationalists or secularists among this group – all are Muslims and the most reactionary of Islamists at that!

In addition, for society, cultural relativism promotes a policy of minoritism where people deemed to be different because of their culture are ghettoized in regressive fragmented “minority” communities where they continue to face apartheid and Islamic laws and customs. Their rights are not the highest standards available in the given society as one would expect but the most regressive and reactionary ones. They live in Bantustans with somewhat separate legal, social, cultural, and religious systems. They are compartmentalised to the lowest reactionary denominator and are relegated to second and third class status. They are forever minorities and never ever equal citizens. They are denied access to universal standards and norms. They are denied equal rights and the secularism fought for and established by progressive movements over centuries.

The idea of difference has always been the fundamental principle of a racist agenda not the other way around.

The defeat of Nazism and its biological theory of difference largely discredited racial superiority. The racism behind it, however, found another more acceptable form of expression for this era. Instead of expression in racial terms, difference is now portrayed in cultural terms.

In the face of this onslaught, secularism, universalism and values worthy of 21st century humanity have to be defended and promoted unequivocally.

We must not allow any more concessions to cultural relativism; we must no longer allow the respect for and toleration of inhuman beliefs and practices. We must hold the human being sacred. We must start first and foremost with the human being. We must stop sub-dividing people into a million categories beginning with religion and nationality and ethnicity and minority and not even ending in Human.

At a minimum, we must have the complete separation of religion from the state and educational system. Secularism is an important vehicle to protect society from religion’s intervention in people’s lives. A person’s religion has to be a private affair. All religious and religious-inspired notions and references must be omitted from laws. No reference must be made to them in any official documents or in the media, whether as individuals or groups.

Faith schools, religious education and religion in assemblies must be abolished. Child veiling and religious symbols in schools and public institutions must be prohibited. Children and under 16s must be protected from all forms of manipulation by religions and religious institutions. Cultural and religious practices or ceremonies, which are violent, inhuman, or incompatible with people’s rights and equality must be banned. Any kind of financial, material or moral support by the state to religion and religious activities and institutions must be stopped. All religious establishments must be registered as private enterprises, taxed…

And it is the state that is duty bound to implement these. Everyday, the state intervenes to protect people whether they want it or not (e.g. in domestic violence or child neglect cases). It has to do so with regards to religion as well. Not necessarily because it likes to but because civil society and established norms force it to.

Civil rights, freedom and equality, secularism, modernism, are universal concepts that have been fought for by progressive social movements and the working class in various countries.

That people worldwide, including in Iran, continue to struggle for equality, freedom, secularism and to overcome their lack of rights and repressive regimes is a confirmation of this universality.

Of course, cultural relativists have said and will say that universal rights are a western concept. This is just more deception on their part. When it comes to using the mass media to broadcast their decapitations, or using the web to organise terrorist attacks, and the internet to issue fatwas and death threats, the Islamists do not say it is western and incompatible with an Islamist society. It is only when it comes to universal rights, standards and values, and secularism, that they suddenly become western. Even if such rights and values are western, it is absurd to say that others’ are not worthy of them.

In fact, though, rights are gains forcibly taken by the working class and progressive social movements. Therefore, any gain or right obtained anywhere is a gain and a right for all humanity.

Only an unequivocal defence of universal rights, secularism and the de-religionisation of rights and values will challenge cultural relativism and its racism head on and relegate it to where it belongs – the dustbins of history.

Maryam Namazie

Watch TV International English and Third Camp TV

You can watch TV International, broadcast on New Channel TV today by clicking here.

In this week’s programme, I interview:

● Babak Yazdi on the massacre of political prisoners in the summer of 1988 in Iran
● Hamid Taqvaee on Khatami’s visit to the USA
● Sohaila Sharifi on the campaign to collect a million signatures against discriminatory laws in Iran
● Mahmood Ahmadi on Islam and human rights

You can also see Third Camp TV which is broadcast right after by clicking here. In this programme, I talk to Hamid Taqvaee about comments and criticisms raised in various blogs.

If you want any issue or question raised on the programme, or want a response to a criticism, email me at m.namazie@ukonline.co.uk.

One of the largest massacres of political prisoners in recent history

Interview with Asqar Karimi

WPI Briefing: During 27 July 1988 (5 Mordad 1367) until the beginnings of September (Shahrivar) that year, the Islamic regime of Iran carried out one of the largest massacres of political prisoners in recent history. What happened; how many were killed and why?

Asqar Karimi: In a matter of weeks an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 political prisoners were executed in the two main prisons in Tehran, namely Evin and Gohardasht, and in a number of other cities. The brutality that the heads of the Islamic regime displayed against the prisoners is unspeakable. The victims were mainly members of communist organisations and Mojahedin-e Khalgh. They were the lucky prisoners who had survived the mass executions of the early 1980s, who had already been tortured and tried and – in the case of many – whose sentences had long been ‘spent’.

The background to the executions was the end of the Iran-Iraq war. On 16th July that year, Ayatollah Khomeini had been forced to accept a ceasefire, which he described as ‘drinking the cup of poison’. Immediately afterwards, the plan for the massacre of political prisoners was drawn up. The Islamic regime has maintained itself in power only through terror and repression. Its mission was the smashing of the 1979 revolution, a revolution which the Shah had failed to stop. By protesting against the war and the miseries and destitution imposed as a result of the eight-year war, and by deserting the war fronts, people had forced the regime to accept the UN resolution. Now they were coming out to reclaim their rights. People were enraged. They had lost tens of thousands of their loved ones in that utterly reactionary war, they had been robbed of their livelihood and their protests and strikes had been put down in the name of the war. The regime itself was ridden by infighting and splits, and it looked more and more vulnerable in the face of the looming tide of popular anger and protest. It sensed that its survival depended on more repression and terror. It attacked before people could get a chance to re-organise. And it targeted the most vulnerable section of society – political prisoners.

Ayatollah Khomeini commissioned a special committee to carry out the killings. The Committee was composed of the representatives of Khomeini, President Rafsanjani, the Prosecutor General, the Revolutionary Courts, the Offices of Evin and Gohardasht Prisons, the Information Ministry and the Judiciary. On a Friday Prayer, Rafsanjani announced this ghastly plan. The members of the Committee, ferried by helicopter from one prison to the next, carried out the massacre with the help of a horde of other professional killers.

Visits to prisoners were stopped, no newspapers were allowed in and all contact with the outside world was cut off so that the plan could go ahead smoothly. The hearings would last no more than one to two minutes. The prisoners would be subjected to a swift inquisition. If the answers they gave were not to the liking of the Committee, they would be hanged immediately. They were asked: Do you believe in Islam? Will you denounce the political organisation in which you were a member? Will you reveal the names of its activists? Will you walk through the minefields planted by Iraq? And a few other similar questions. Answers to these questions were enough for a decision. Thus, in less than two months one of the biggest massacres of political prisoners by the leaders of the Islamic Republic was carried out. The names of more than 5,000 of the victims have so far been published by opposition organisations, but the exact figures are not known. Many mass graves have been discovered by the families of the victims and political opponents of the regime. The precise number of those executed and the details of this macabre undertaking will no doubt come out during the trial of the leaders of the Islamic Republic.

WPI Briefing: What is the Worker-communist Party of Iran doing to commemorate the victims of this massacre and to expose both this crime and others committed by the Islamic regime of Iran?

Asqar Karimi: We must continue to let the world know about the crimes of the Islamic Republic so as to stop the wheeling and dealing of the Western governments with the regime. We must expose the right-wing, hypocritical and time-serving media in the West and draw the support of the world’s decent and concerned people for the struggle of the people of Iran against one of the most vicious regimes of contemporary history. During the past 25 years, the Western governments have cooperated with the Islamic Republic, supported it and tried to embellish its hideous face so as to publicly justify their ties with it. We only need to remember that the news of the massacre of the political prisoners in 1988 failed to appear in a single paper in the West. They knew about it, but right then the Western governments – from the US and Sweden to West Germany and the UK – were busy selling arms to the regime. They had no intention of weakening it. So the right-wing and toadying media also fell into line. What blatant shamelessness! The world must get to know about this dirty deal and call them to account. On the anniversary of this massacre, as on other occasions, the Worker-communist Party of Iran regards it as its duty to let the people of the world know about the nightmare that the people of Iran have been through all these years.

Part of our work will be to commemorate the unknown victims of this massacre buried in unmarked mass graves; to step up the current climate of protest against the regime so as to hasten its overthrow; to encourage people to join the families of the victims in their gatherings in the cemeteries, in the parks and in the homes of the relatives of the victims. This is part of our effort for the indictment of the heads of the Islamic regime. Highlighting the plight of the political prisoners currently in jail and securing their freedom is another aspect of our work.

Finally, the story of the horrendous crimes of political Islam and the role of the Western governments, specifically the USA, in fostering this plague must be recounted for humanity by us, by the immediate victims of this reactionary, misogynist and murderous movement. The world must get to know political Islam as a fascistic movement of the recent decades and challenge it on a global scale. The struggle of the people of Iran for freedom is a powerful and deeply anti-Islamic movement. With the smashing of the Islamic Republic, a deadly blow will be delivered on the movement of political Islam in the region. Building up a global front against this dark force not only needs exposing its crimes, it also needs a global movement. The Worker-communist Party of Iran, as an anti-Islamic, egalitarian and deeply humanist party fighting for freedom, stands at the forefront of this struggle. We are proud to be engaged in this struggle and have no doubt that on our side we will have the overwhelming majority of the people of the world who are thirsty for freedom and justice. Exposing the crimes of the Islamic Republic is part of this larger world struggle.