Nothing could be more offensive! On St Andrews University’s invitation to ex-president Khatami

Mr Khatami, a former president of the Islamic Republic of Iran (1997-2005) has been invited to St Andrews University on October 31 to receive an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws in recognition of his ‘efforts to encourage interfaith dialogue’.

Giving a theocrat a degree in secular law and doing so ‘considering global tensions relating to… faiths’ that incidentally he and his regime have been instrumental in creating is like giving PW Botha or FW De Klerk honorary degrees in race relations in recognition of their efforts to encourage inter-race dialogue!

Nothing could be more offensive, not only to those of us who have fled or lost loved ones to this vile regime but also to the innumerable who have lost lives and limbs to Islamists everywhere.

But there is more. In its attempt to dispel any illusion that it is organising student protests against this action as reported in media outlets [it is the National Union of Students, we and others who are doing so], the University of St Andrews Students’ Association’s statement blatantly and shamelessly defends Khatami and his presidency.

It asserts that Mr Khatami was never the ‘highest ranking political or judicial authority in the land, and held minimal influence…’ Clearly, this is untrue. Saying so is a deliberate attempt at whitewashing his role in the crimes of the Islamic regime of Iran. Power sharing mechanisms in a government, however dictatorial, do not mean that the executive role lacks power.

One case in point is the April 1997 German court’s verdict that found the then president responsible for the September 1992 assassinations of opposition leaders in Berlin. The court found that the killings had been ordered by a ‘Committee for Special Operations’ whose members included the Leader (Khamenei), the president, the Minister of Information and Security and other security officials.

In the past week, too, Argentine prosecutors have issued warrants for a former president for directing Hezbollah to carry out the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded hundreds.

And today, there are reports of two Iranian exiles, Safa Einollahi, 29, and Ali Ebrahimi, 34, who have lodged complaints under the 1988 Criminal Justice Act against Khatami for his accountability in the atrocities and tortures they endured as political prisoners.

Far from the rosy picture often portrayed in the Western media, Khatami’s presidency has been anything but.

During his bloody rule, over 1,300 people were executed, including sweet 16 year old Atefeh Rajabi for ‘acts incompatible with chastity’; 27 people were stoned to death or sentenced to die by stoning, 18 of them women; student and other demonstrations were crushed and their leaders arrested or killed; Ahmad Batebi was given a death sentence for holding up a bloody t-shirt; an opposition activist in Kurdistan, Showaneh Qaderi, was shot and his body dragged through the streets; Arezoo Siabi Shahrivar was arrested along with up to 14 other women, at a ceremony commemorating the 1988 “prison massacre” in Evin prison, Tehran, in which thousands of political prisoners were executed. In detention she was suspended from the ceiling, beaten with a wire cable and sexually abused. Journalists and webloggers were detained; papers were shut down; the Canadian journalist, Zahra Kazemi was tortured and murdered in prison; the murders of two political activists and three writers – a case known in Iran as the “Serial Murders” took place; hundreds of labour activists were arrested and tortured and on and on.

Only in a topsy turvy world can a president who oversaw such murder and mayhem not be deemed accountable…

And it was not only his eight years as president that Khatami is accountable for. In the 1980s in the Majlis, Khatami was known as an active member of the Line of the Imam, the dominant grouping within a party set up via Khomeini’s decree and most closely identified with Khomeini’s policies, including his theory of velayat-e faqih, or absolute clerical supremacy in government. Mr Khatami was appointed the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and was the chief censor in film, media, arts and culture. As a member of the Supreme Council on Cultural Revolution, Khatami played an important role in purging dissidents from universities and educational centres. Moreover, he was the director of cultural affairs in the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces and the head of the War Propaganda Headquarters for years. Today, too, he remains a member of several organs of the Islamic regime.

Absurdly, though, whilst being declared powerless, Khatami is also always lauded as a reformer; the St Andrews Students’ Association statement asserts that he ‘strove for moderation and liberalisation whilst in office’.

This is a contradiction in terms.

One cannot have minimal influence and be a reformer at the same time. Moreover, reforms have a specific meaning in our world – changes, particularly in law, which improve the lot of the population at large. Again, this was never the case. In fact, Khatami and his ‘reformist’ faction were merely attempts by the regime to put forward a more palatable face in order to prolong its life given the explosive situation in Iran.

***

In the face of escalating protests and opposition to Khatami’s visit, the university persists in its decision to confer an honorary degree upon him and in its rewriting of contemporary history. A spokesperson for the university has said the decision to invite Khatami was based on his “vision and willingness to change”. At least Chancellor Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democratic leader, has pulled out from presenting the degree before it turns into a scandal for him.

But this is not enough.

Far from honouring him with a degree, Khatami should be arrested for his crimes against the people of Iran.

On Tuesday, we will be there at St Andrews to remind the world that we will not allow it to forget what has taken and is taking place in Iran. We ask students and professors alike, along with concerned and outraged people everywhere to join us in preventing a centre of science from being transformed into a bastion of reaction.

And on this note, it is apt to end with Khatami’s own words at Harvard University this past September when questioned about the execution of gays in Iran:

We’re at a university, the cradle of science, so we can speak of it scientifically…In all schools of thought and in all religions there is punishment and punishment is not a form of violence…Punishment is seen as a response to violence or deviance in society and if there is no punishment in a society a society cannot run effectively…’

And that is Khatami’s unchanged vision pure and simple.

Maryam Namazie

Join protests against Khatami!

Join the protests
Khatami is a criminal!
He must be arrested and put on trial!

Scotland:
Tuesday 31 October
3:00- 6:00pm
In front of University of St Andrews
St Andrews
Fife KY16 9AJ
Scotland

Speaker:
Maryam Namazie, 2005 Secularist of the Year, Director of the Worker-communist Party of Iran’s International Relations Committee

London:
Wednesday 1 November 2006, 4:30 – 6:30pm
Chatham House
10 St James’s Square
London SW1Y 4LE
Nearest tube station: Piccadilly Circus /Green Park

Speakers:
– Sofie Buckl, National Executive of the National Union of Students
-Azar Majedi, Director of the Organisation for Women’s Liberation
-Maryam Namazie, 2005 Secularist of the Year, Director of the Worker-communist Party of Iran’s International Relations Committee
– Keyvan Javid, Worker-communist Party of Iran

For more information, contact 07984445278 / 07886973423.

Worker-communist Party of Iran – UK Organisation
International Federation of Iranian Refugees- UK
Communist Youth Organisation –UKOrganization for Women’s Liberation

Join Nov 1 protest against Khatami

Wednesday 1 November 2006
From 4:30 – 6:30pm
Chatham House
10 St James’s Square
London SW1Y 4LE
Nearest tube station: Piccadilly Circus /Green Park

Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami has been invited by Chatham House London and the University of St Andrews to deliver a speech and receive an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws.

Khatami has always been introduced to the world as the smiling and reformist face of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He is famous for his ‘dialogue of civilizations’, a term he first used in a speech to the UN general assembly in September 1998.

But reality is far from the western media’s portrayals of Mohammad Khatami. During the eight years of his presidency:

· more than 200 people were executed,
· tenfold of women were sentenced to death by stoning,
· 4 workers from Khatoon Abad (Babak Shahir) were killed for going on strike,
· Students’ demonstration in commemoration of 9 July 2004 was brutally crushed on his orders,
· The organised killings of dissidents known as the ‘serial murders’ took place when he was in power.
· Women had no rights and were constantly harassed. Any protest against the discriminatory laws was answered by whips, arrests, torture, humiliation and imprisonment,
· Many homosexuals were arrested and sentenced to long term imprisonment or execution,
· Thousands of people were arrested and tortured for trying to defend their human rights against the Islamic regime,
· Hundreds of workers’ strikes and demonstrations and students’ and women’s protests and nurses and teachers strikes were savagely attacked and suppressed,
And the list is endless…

Mohammed Khatami and the regime he was its president for eight years have done nothing but organizing terror and murder and oppression. Khatami and all other leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran are criminals and must be tried in the international courts for their crimes against humanity.

During the eight years of Khatami’s presidency, the persecution and murder of the Iranian people continued non-stop. As far as the Iranian people are concerned, inviting Khatami and providing him with podiums to speak and treating him as a respectable politician is condemned. Khatami has, doubtlessly incited violence against people in Iran and his government has helped Islamic terrorism in the Middle East; inviting him as a respectable person for civilized dialogue is despicable and unacceptable.

The Worker-communist Party of Iran is against giving the criminal leaders of the Islamic regime any opportunity to travel around the world and pretend that they are opening civilized dialogues, while at the same time they are murdering and torturing Iranian people and clearly supporting international Islamic terrorism.

We call upon all freedom lovers, individuals and international human bodies to make their protest heard and to demand Khatami’s arrest and international trial as a criminal.

Please send your protest letters to:
The Chatham House Press Office: [email protected]
Foreign Secretary: email: [email protected], fax: 020 7219 5365
University of St Andrews, Menzies Campbell, Chancellor, [email protected]

For more information about the protest call 07950924434.

Worker-communist Party of Iran – UK Organisation
International Federation of Iranian Refugees- UK
Communist Youth Organisation –UK

Two sides of one coin

A 21st century worthy of human beings is difficult to envision when our lives, our rights, our children, cities, schools and homes – are caught in the crossfire in a war of terrorists.

On the one hand, we are faced with US-led militarism. Iraq is a model for what the USA represents for the 21st century. No claims of weapons of mass destruction, liberation from dictatorship, a defence of rights and a war on terror can conceal its real nature. In
Iraq, it is stripped naked and bare. But that is only one part of 21st century reality. The other pole of international terrorism in the world today – political Islam – is no better. It hangs the likes of sweet 16 year old Atefeh Rajabi for ‘acts incompatible with chastity’, stones Maryam Ayoubi for adultery, throws acid in the faces of those who refuse to veil, and places bombs on buses and in trains in crowded city centres. While this movement makes many claims as the USA does in order to legitimise its barbarity -from people’s liberation, resistance, to rights – they are only claims to dupe and legitimise. It cares as much for the liberation of the people of Palestine and Iraq as the USA does – not more, not less.

Both will indiscriminately maim and slaughter the very people they claim to defend. Both in fact target civilians.

For you and me, in practical terms – notwithstanding the differences – the USA and political Islam are two sides of one coin. They have the same agenda, the same vision, the same infinite capacity for violence, the same reliance on religion and reaction, the same need for hegemony and profitmaking. They represent the same new bleak world order for 21st century humanity. They would both turn this world into another Iraq if they could.

But only if.

This is where we – the third camp – come in. Only civilised humanity can defend its own interests and push back reaction. This is our historical task.

Join us.

Stop Stonings Now!

28 September 2006
UA 257/06 Death penalty/ stoning
IRAN
Parisa (f) ]
Iran (f) ] full names known to Amnesty International
Khayrieh (f) ]
Shamameh Ghorbani (also known as Malek) (f)
Kobra Najjar (f, aged 44)
Soghra Mola’i (f)
Fatemeh (f)

The women named above are at risk of execution by stoning.

Parisa was arrested in April 2004, while working as a prostitute in the city of Shiraz in southern Iran. She confessed to the charge of adultery during the preliminary investigations, claiming that she had been forced into prostitution by her husband due to the family’s poverty. Her trial took place in June 2004, during which Parisa retracted her confession. Nevertheless, on 21 June 2004, Branch 5 of Fars province Criminal Court sentenced her to death by stoning for adultery. The sentence was upheld by Branch 32 of the Supreme Court on 15 November 2005. Her case is currently being reviewed by the Supreme Court. Parisa is detained in Adelabad prison in Shiraz.

Iran, an Ahwazi Arab from the Bakhtiari clan, was reportedly talking to the son of a neighbor in the courtyard of her house, when her husband attacked her with a knife. She was badly beaten and left bleeding and unconscious on the floor.

While she was unconscious, it is alleged that the man killed her husband with his own knife. While police were interrogating her about the killing, Iran reportedly confessed to adultery with the son of her neighbor. However she later retracted her confession. A court in a city in Khuzestan sentenced her to five years’ imprisonment for being an accomplice in the murder of her husband, and to execution by stoning for adultery. The verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court in April 2006. Her lawyer has appealed against the sentence. She is detained in Sepidar prison, in Ahvaz city.

Khayrieh, an Ahwazi Arab, was reportedly subjected to domestic violence by her husband. She allegedly began an affair with a relative of her husband, who then murdered him. She was sentenced to death by Branch 3 of Behbahan Court, in Khuzestan in southwestern Iran, for being an accomplice in the murder of her husband, and death by stoning for adultery. Khayrieh has denied any involvement in her husband’s murder, but confessed to adultery. The sentence was upheld, and the case has reportedly been sent to the Head of the Judiciary for permission to be implemented. Talking about her fate, Khayrieh said ”I am ready to be hanged, but they should not stone me. They could strangle you and you would die, but it is very difficult to have stones hitting you in the head”.

Shamameh Ghorbani (also known as Malek), arrested in June 2005, was sentenced to execution by stoning for adultery by a court in Oromieh in June 2006. She is reportedly held in Oromieh prison. Her brothers and husband reportedly murdered a man that they found in her house, and she too was nearly killed after they stabbed her with a knife. Shamameh Ghorbani’s case is reportedly being re-examined.

Kobra Najjar, who is detained in Tabriz prison in northwestern Iran, is at imminent risk of execution. She was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment for being an accomplice to the murder of her husband, and execution by stoning for adultery. She was scheduled to be executed after serving her prison sentence, which was finished two years ago. She has reportedly written to the Judicial Commission for Amnesty to ask for her sentence of execution by stoning to be commuted, and is awaiting a reply. Kobra Najjar was allegedly forced into prostitution by her husband, a heroin addict who was violent towards her. In 1995, after a severe beating by her husband, she told one of her regular customers that she wanted to kill her husband. The customer allegedly murdered her husband after Kobra Najjar took him to an arranged meeting place. He was sentenced to death, but he was pardoned by the victim’s family, to whom he paid diyeh (blood money).

Soghra Mola’i was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for being an accomplice to the murder in January 2004 of her husband Abdollah, and to execution by stoning for adultery.
During interrogation she said ”My husband usually tormented me. Nevertheless, I did not intend to kill him. On the night of the incident … after Alireza killed my husband, I ran away with him because I was scared to stay at home, thinking that my brothers-in-law would kill me.” Alireza was sentenced to death for the murder of Soghra Mola’i’s husband, and to 100 lashes for ”illicit relations”. The sentences are pending examination by the Supreme Court. It is believed that Soghra Mola’i is detained in Reja’i Shahr prison, Karaj, near Tehran.

In May 2005, Branch 71 of the Tehran Province Criminal Court sentenced Fatemeh (surname unknown) to retribution (qesas) for being an accomplice to murder, and execution by stoning for having an ‘illicit relationship’ with a man named Mahmoud. Her husband was sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment for being an accomplice to the murder of Mahmoud. The case is currently being examined in the Supreme Court. According to a May 2005 report in the newspaper Etemad, an altercation occurred between Mahmoud, and Fatemeh’s husband. Fatemeh confessed to tying a rope around Mahmoud’s throat, which resulted in his strangulation. She has claimed that she intended merely to tie his hands and feet after he was unconscious and hand him over to the police.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Amnesty International is aware of two other women under sentence of execution by stoning in Iran, Ashraf Kalhori (see UA 203/06, 27 July 2006; and updates), and Hajieh Esmailvand (see UA 336/04, 16 December 2004; and updates).

The Head of the Judiciary announced a moratorium on the use of stoning in December 2002, but reports indicate a man and a woman may have been stoned to death in May 2006.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:
– calling for the sentences of execution by stoning of the seven women named above (naming them) to be commuted immediately;
– stating your unconditional opposition to the death penalty, as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and violation of the right to life;
– reminding the Iranian authorities that the UN Human Rights Committee (in the case of Toonen v Australia) has made clear that treating adultery and fornication as criminal offences does not comply with international human rights standards.
Therefore the sentence of execution by stoning for adultery breaches Iran’s commitment under article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that death sentences will be imposed ”only for the most serious crimes”;
– calling for the abolition of execution by stoning in Iran as a positive step towards implementing international law and standards for the protection of human rights.

APPEALS TO:
Leader of the Islamic Republic:
Ali Khamenei, The Office of the Supreme Leader Shoahada Street, Qom, Islamic Republic of Iran
Email: [email protected] OR [email protected]
Head of the Judiciary:
Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi Ministry of Justice, Park-e Shahr, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Email: Please send emails via the feedback form on the Persian site of the website:
http://www.iranjudiciary.org/contactus-feedback-fa.html

Help Nazanin!

CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE ONLINE PETITION

On January 3, 2006, 18-year-old Nazanin Mahabad Fatehi was sentenced to death for murder by court in Iran after she stabbed one of three men who attempted to rape her and her 16-year-old niece in a park in Karaj (a suburb of Tehran) in March 2005. She was seventeen at the time. Iran is signatory to international treaties which forbid them to execute any one under the age of 18; however they continue to do so.

The injustice of this case propelled Nazanin Afshin-Jam to take immediate action and start a petition to help save the life of her namesake. The petition now has over 200 000 signatures from around the world.

Since initiating the Save Nazanin Campaign with Mina Ahadi- the Head of the International Committee Against Execution and Stoning- and through the help of other human rights groups and individuals, they have been able to engage the UN, Canadian Parliament, the EU, Amnesty International and others to pressure the Iranian Officials to spare the life of this child.

On June 1st 2006, the Head of Judiciary Ayatollah Shahroudi announced a stay of execution and the call for a complete new retrial. Nazanin Fatehi’s retrial will take place at the end of August.
In this new trial the Islamic Republic Court will either: a) spare the life of Nazanin and release her from prison or b) announce a prison sentence of x number of years or c) re-condemn Nazanin for execution or d) ask Nazanin to negotiate “Dieh” (Blood Money) with the family of the alleged rapist and have her released subject to her paying that amount.
In the meantime the Nazanin Fatehi Trust fund has been set up to help cover her legal fees and campaign costs. See Donations page.

The fate of Nazanin Fatehi is still up in the air, please continue to spread the word about her case and the plight of other women in similar circumstances such as Delareh Darabi, Kobra Rahmanpour, Ashraf Kalhori, Fatemeh Haghighat-Pajouh and Malak Ghorbani and continue to pressure the Iranian Government to free these women.

From her prison cell, Nazanin Fatehi wanted to thank everyone that has been working so tirelessly on her behalf and everyone who has signed the petition.

Thank you,
Team at www.HelpNazanin.com

To the second annual secularist of the year award ceremony

To the second annual secularist of the year award ceremony

Dear friends

I am sorry that I am unable to be with you today. I planned to attend but had to go abroad to a last minute meeting due to the pressing circumstances in Iran.

I wish, however, to use this opportunity, to send my warmest greetings to the NSS organizers, Michael Irwin and participants of the second annual secularist of the year award ceremony. I also want to congratulate this year’s winner and hope this award will bring him or her as much honour and opportunity as it has brought me.

Clearly, this ceremony is an important moment in highlighting the crucial battle between the forces of religious reaction and that of civil society. A secular world must become the order of the day if we are to stop religion’s regressive role in our world and defend a world worthy of 21st century humanity.

In solidarity,
Maryam Namazie

Congratulations to the geneticist and anti-creationist Professor Steve Jones who won the award this year. To read more about him, click here.

Chavez’s Embrace of Iran Leader Insults Women

Run Date: 09/27/06
By Jennifer Fasulo
WeNews commentator

Venezuela’s Chavez has publicly embraced Iran’s reactionary President Ahmadinejad. Jennifer Fasulo says this shows how women’s lives are maneuvered on the playing board of nationalist realpolitik.

Editor’s Note: The following is a commentary. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the views of Women’s eNews.

(WOMENSENEWS)–Hugo Chavez, one of the key figures in the left populist movements spreading throughout Latin America, has publicly lauded and embraced Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Moments like this show just how little women’s lives matter in the world of nationalist politics.

Of course Venezuela and Iran have strategic political and economic interests in each other based on their roles as oil producers.

And one expects Chavez to condemn all U.S. military threats against Iran.

But there is no excuse for declaring solidarity with a theocratic regime that treats women like sub-humans. By embracing Ahmadinejad, Chavez is adding steam to the growing and dangerous alliance between left-wing and right-wing anti-imperialism.

In this equation, the only thing that matters is opposition to U.S. military power. Women’s rights, worker’s rights, student’s rights–the things that are supposed to matter to socialists, progressives and people of conscience–be damned.

Chavez appears not to have noticed that the current government of Iran has turned Iran into a country where gender apartheid and hatred of women are enshrined in law.

Regime of Violent Repression
This is a country where women are stoned to death for the “crime” of adultery, buried up to their necks and pelted in the face and head with stones until they die, where women have no right to divorce or child custody, are legally forced to veil under threat of physical beating or imprisonment, can’t travel without the permission of a husband or father, where their testimony in a court of law is considered half that of a man, and where political dissent of any kind, for women and men, is punishable by imprisonment, often torture and death.

This is the government that Chavez compares to his own as a “heroic nation,” one which he even deems “revolutionary.”

Chavez’s lack of concern for women’s rights in Iran is all too common among male leftists. Among too many of them, the status of women is often simply not on the radar screen. If it does get mentioned, it’s often dismissed as an issue of “culture.”

The insidious use of the word “culture” implies that women are brutally subjected not through force and violence, but because they or their “culture” wants it that way, and therefore it’s OK.

Aside from insulting the human spirit, which never passively accepts subjugation, this attitude ignores the actual conditions and historical facts in Iran.

People Are in Revolt
A cursory investigation of Iranian society will show that the Iranian people are in utter revolt against their despotic rulers, with women leading the way.

For 27 years women have resisted and defied the regime’s persecution of them, often at great risk to their lives. Along with an inspiring women’s movement, there are strong, secular workers and student movements, all of them opposing not only the Islamic Republic, but also U.S. threats of military attacks and sanctions on Iran.

How can Chavez–a declared socialist and defender of the downtrodden–align himself with the leader of such a reactionary regime, rather than the inspiring socialist and feminist movements which are fighting against it?

It is a terrible political choice that he need not make.

Chavez can and should renounce his solidarity with Ahmadinejad and place it with the people of Iran where it belongs.

He should be standing, not by the side of the executioner, but by the side of the unjustly accused and condemned, like 17-year-old Nazanine Fatehi who awaits execution for the crime of defending herself and her niece from a gang of rapists.

Or Kobra Rahmanpour, who also awaits execution and writes in a public letter, “I have suffered enough . . . Please help me! I don’t want to die. But right now I am more like a lifeless body who has forgot happiness and laughter in the scare from the execution rope . . . My only hope lies in people and my fellow humans.”

How must Kobra and Nazanine feel to see Chavez throw his arms around their executioner?

Chavez’s stance needs to be condemned by all progressive forces within the international community.

One group that has already issued such a condemnation is the Worker Communist Party of Iran. In a Sept. 14 statement they write, “We see the attempts by right-wing pro-America forces to overthrow Chavez and we value every bit of positive reform by the Chavez government in the interest of deprived and hungry people, but defending the murderous and terrorist leaders of the Islamic Republic, rolling out the carpet for them under the guise of anti-imperialism is nothing but throwing dust in the eyes of the people and covering up the brutal reality of the Islamic regime.”

The WPI–a leading leftist group in Iran that emphasizes human freedom and prioritizes women’s rights–goes on to challenge the very notion that the Islamic Republic is an anti-imperialist force.

“We must make it clear to Chavez and Castro that the Islamic current, without the support of the U.S. government and Western powers, could not have come to power; and without their help could not have stayed in power.” (This refers to various deals made between the United States and Iran, such as the Reagan administration’s secret arms deals with Iran known as “Contra-gate.”)

Some Credit Due
Chavez deserves credit for the things he’s done to improve the lives of poor people and curb the abuses of capitalism in Venezuela.

He has pushed economic initiatives for women and has recognized the financial contribution of women’s unpaid labor in the home. Recently, he initiated and signed a bill that would compensate women for their unpaid housework, something that socialist feminists have been fighting for several decades.

None of this, however, erases the fact that he has been criticized for his authoritarian leadership, including by the Venezuelan women who are pushing him to make good on his promises.

Critics point out his strong anti-abortion stance. He even attempted to put an anti-abortion amendment in the constitution, but strong resistance forced him to back off. And among feminists, the issue of paying women for housework is not clear-cut. While some argue that it will help raise women out of poverty, others believe that it will further institutionalize women’s place in domestic servitude.

All of these issues deserve to be reconsidered in light of Chavez’s alliance with an anti-feminist fundamentalist like Ahmadinejad.

After the recall election in which Chavez triumphed over efforts by the opposition to unseat him, he declared, “God has spoken.”

But to some of us, that is more like the sound of demagoguery. The true ideals of justice, equality and human liberation are better represented by the brave activism of those in Iran who are fighting to save women’s lives and chart a third course between U.S. domination and right-wing opposition to it.

Now, more than ever, we must stand up and defend them.

Jennifer Fasulo co-founded a solidarity group in support of women’s liberation movements in the Middle East. She is also an assistant producer for Joy of Resistance, Multicultural Feminist Radio on WBAI 99.5 FM in NYC.

Maryam Namazie