Islamists’ slippery debates, US foreign policy towards Iran, Zahra Kamalfar and Mostafa Tabatabainejad

See TV International by clicking here.

In this week’s programme, I interview:

Fariborz Pooya on Islamists’ slippery debates on rights and choice in the west

Hamid Taqvaee on changes in US foreign policy towards Iran

Farshad Husseini on Zahra Kamalfar and her children’s languishing in a Moscow airport

And show a clip on the police attack on Mostafa Tabatabainejad at UCLA

Maryam Namazie

Mansoor Ossanlou re-arrested

PRESS RELEASE
19 November 2006

At 8am today (local time), Mansoor Ossanlou, President of the Union of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (“Sherkat e Vahed”), was arrested in Tehran.

Ebrahim Madadi, union Vice President who was with Mansoor Ossanlou at the time of the arrest, was reportedly beaten up by the plain clothes’ security forces who carried out the arrest. Ossanlou’s whereabouts are as yet unknown.

Mansoor Ossanlou, the head of Tehran’s bus workers’ union, was arrested in December last year, along with many other members and leaders of the union, during the bus workers’ protest. He spent more than seven and a half months in prison for his labour activities, without ever being formally charged. His release on 9th August 2006 came following a long worldwide campaign for his release and in support of the bus workers.

For more information, contact:
International Labour Solidarity Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran
Co-ordinator: Shahla Daneshfar (shahla_daneshfar@yahoo.com)Public Relations: Bahram Soroush (b.soroush@ukonline.co.uk)
www.kargaran.org www.wpiran.org

‘Beyond the Veil: Perspectives on Muslim Women in a Western Secular Context’

It is crucial to speak about the rights of ‘Muslim’ women, go beyond the issue of the veil, and talk about secularism, particularly in light of the political Islamic movement’s assault on women and their rights, but restricting the debate in this way is seriously flawed.

Firstly, the so-called grouping of Muslim women is a constructed one. Out of the innumerable characteristics women have, why focus on their beliefs? Doing so, implies that religion informs the rights of all those labelled as Muslim (including very often people like myself – an atheist). This is not usually the case.

More importantly, why must women’s rights issues be discussed within the framework of religion or for that matter, with regard to the beliefs – real or imputed – of the woman whose rights are being discussed? Generally, this is not how rights are examined. For example, do we discuss domestic violence vis-à-vis Christian women or in the context of Christianity?

This seems to happen especially when it comes to Islam because of cultural relativism and a policy of minoritism. The British state prefers it to be so as it can ensure that these so-called Muslim women are forever alien to British society, ghettoized in regressive fragmented “minority” communities where they continue to face sexual apartheid and Islamic laws and customs. Their rights are not the highest standards available in society as one would expect but the most regressive and reactionary. To help ensure that it remains so, the state leaves the running of these Bantustans on the cheap to self-appointed ‘Muslim community’ leaders and ‘consultants on Muslim women’s affairs’ and continues with business as usual in wheeling and dealing with repressive Islamic states. The left, which is the traditional defender of women’s rights, shamelessly endorses the situation as it sees Islam and political Islam as ‘anti-imperialist’. As a result, no matter what happens – stonings and hangings in city squares in Iran or segregated Stop the War Coalition meetings in Birmingham and the manhandling of Iranian women’s rights activists in Manchester – they are quick to ignore violations of women’s rights. Hand in hand, they excuse and justify Islam and the political Islamic movement at the expense of women and their rights.

Clearly, a rights based discussion can’t begin with Islam but has to begin with the woman and her rights. In my opinion, you can either defend women or you must defend Islam. You can’t defend both because they are incompatible with and antithetical to each other.

In Islam a woman is sub-human, subservient, vilified and the property of men. To say that women have an elevated position under Islam is an insult to our intellect. Islam has wreaked more havoc, slaughtered more women, and committed more misogyny than can be denied, excused, re-interpreted, or covered up with such feeble defences.

According to the Koran, for example, those who are guilty of an ‘indecency’ must be ‘confined until death takes them away or Allah opens some way for them.’ (The Women, 4.15). ‘Men are the maintainers of women’ and ‘good’ women are obedient. Those that men fear ‘desertion’, can be admonished, confined and beaten’ (The Women, 4.34). Wives are a ’tilth’ for men, which they can go into their ’tilth’ when they like (The Cow, 2.223) and on and on.

To say it is a problem of interpretation as some ‘Islamic feminists’ do is at best self-justification of one’s beliefs or at worst the justification of a right wing political Islamic movement, which targets women first and foremost.

Let me give you an example of the absurdity of re-interpretations. On the verse that allows women to be beaten, so-called Islamic feminists say ‘Islam only permits violence after admonishment and confinement and as a last resort. They say, since men would beat their wives mercilessly at that time, this is a restriction on men to beat women more mercifully’ (Women Living Under Muslim Laws, For Ourselves Women Reading the Koran, 1997). Or another says ‘In extreme cases, and whenever greater harm, such as divorce, is a likely option, it allows for a husband to administer a gentle pat to his wife that causes no physical harm to the body nor leaves any sort of mark. It may serve, in some cases, to bring to the wife’s attention the seriousness of her continued unreasonable behaviour’ (Gender Equity in Islam Web Site).

Suffice it to say that misogyny cannot be interpreted to be pro-woman even if it is turned on its head.

Of course everyone has the right to believe anything they choose – however medieval and reactionary. Moreover, tolerance of the right to hold such beliefs is part and parcel of a civil society but that is very different to allowing beliefs to inform women’s rights or even tolerating the belief itself. Moreover, the question of choice is a questionable one when it comes to this situation. Of course an adult woman has the right to believe she must be veiled; must be beaten by her husband if she disobeys him; must be given the permission of her male guardian before she can travel or work; is not eligible for certain areas of study or work because of her ‘emotions’; should be stoned if she has sex outside of marriage and so on and so forth.

But if you remove all forms of intimidation and threats by Islamists, Islamic laws, racism, cultural relativism and ghetto-isation, the recruiting grounds for the political Islamic movement, etc., I can assure you that there will be very few women who will want to discuss their rights within the framework of Islam.

That rights are discussed in this way is more of an indication of the strength of the political Islamic movement in this country than anything else. Which is why ‘Islamic feminists’ or ‘consultants on Muslim Women’s affairs’ are more concerned about Islam than the woman and her rights.

Another example of this is their constant attempt at setting limits for who can and can’t discuss ‘Muslim women’s rights’. I thought the whole point of defending rights was to mobilise as much support as you can rather than establishing an exclusive club of the few who are allowed to say anything on the subject!

Anytime anyone discusses women’s status under Islam, s/he is labelled ‘Islamophobic’ and ‘racist’, a ‘white feminist’ supporter who ignores European and US imperialism’s battle over ‘Muslim women’s bodies’, a supporter of the USA’s threats and militarism, a ‘supporter of the war on terror’, and so on and so forth. Not to forget that s/he will be told that there are more important things in the world today – like poverty or US imperialism (this one crops up all the time), and of course that the crimes of the US government is much worse and must be the main and only focus…

What utter nonsense!

Criticising Islam (a belief) and political Islam (a right wing reactionary movement that has raised Islam as its banner) has nothing to do with racism no matter how many deceptively claim it to be so. Criticising the belief in and practice of Female Genital Mutilation does not mean you are vilifying or inciting hatred against girls and women who believe they should be or are mutilated.

Moreover, solidarity amongst people has nothing to do with their skin colour, place of residence or governments under which they were born or live under.

Also, saying a defence of women’s rights living under Islamic rules supports the war on terror or the USA’s militarism or colonialism and imperialism is like saying sex education promotes promiscuity. Saying so is more an attempt to defend religion than anything else.

And, why must a comparison be made with other outrages in the world. Yes the US government is one pole of international terrorism in the world today but what does that have to do with a defence of women’s rights living under the yoke of Islamic laws and rules?

Do we tell the environmentalist that children’s rights are more important because children are so vulnerable? Do we tell the anti-racist activist that poverty is more important than racism because you have to be fed to be alive? It is only when discussing women’s rights and those whose rights are deemed culturally relative that such arguments crop up.

And it only seems to come up with Islam and political Islam. No one says we shouldn’t condemn the Israeli occupation of Palestine or Tony Blair because US militarism is the main problem of our times.

And of course we keep hearing about how Jack Straw or the French government have mentioned the veil and our doing so puts us in the same boat as them. How so? I want a ban on the burka, neqab and child veiling. I think child veiling is a violation of children’s rights. I want the veil banned in all public institutions and the educational system. I will criticise the hejab as a tool for the repression of women even if some have the ‘right’ to ‘choose’ veiling. And I want much more done to religion, including an end to faith schools and the taxation of all these religious ‘charities’ and mosques…

Are we really supposed to stop speaking against the death penalty – for example – because Tony Blair is also against the death penalty in some way shape or form?

In this context, I think the defence of the veil as ‘a form of clothing’, ‘expression of faith’, ‘matter of choice’ and so on and so forth is more of the same. Saying we need to go beyond the veil implies that it is a superficial matter and that there are more important issues at stake. This is not the case.

The veil is a symbol like no other of what it means to be a woman under Islam – hidden from view, bound, and gagged. It is a tool for restricting and suppressing women. Of course there are some who choose to be veiled, but you cannot say it is a matter of choice because – socially speaking – the veil is anything but. There is no ‘choice’ for most women. In countries under Islamic rule, it is compulsory. Even here, in Britain, according to a joint statement about the veil from ‘Muslim groups, scholars and leaders’, including the Muslim Council of Britain, Hizb ut Tahrir and Islamic ‘Human Rights’ Commission, it is stated that the veil ‘is not open to debate’. The statement goes so far as to ‘advise all Muslims to exercise extreme caution in this issue since denying any part of Islam may lead to disbelief.’

And you know what they do disbelievers when they can – kill them.

As I have said before, take away all the pressure and intimidation and threats and you will see how many remain veiled.

In my opinion, debating the issue of women’s rights within an Islamic context is a prescription for inaction and passivity in the face of the oppression of millions of women struggling and resisting in Britain, the Middle East and elsewhere. Stripped bare it is a dishonest defence of Islam pure and simple and has nothing to do with women’s rights.

We must not allow the political Islamic movement to shift and redefine the debate on women’s rights. Anywhere they have power, to be a woman is a crime. In places like Britain, however, where they are vying for political power, they aim to control women relegated to their constructed regressive community via a deceptive discourse on ‘rights’ and ‘choice’ whilst defending Islamic law and repressive groups and states in the Middle East and elsewhere. They are an extension of the same movement that stones women to death and throws acid in their faces if they are improperly veiled. The stronger they become, the more repressed are women in the so-called Muslim community.

In the face of this onslaught, secularism, universalism and values worthy of 21st century humanity have to be defended and promoted unequivocally. 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 not even ending in Human. We must not allow concessions to religion at the expense of women; we must not allow the respect for and toleration of misogynist beliefs and practices. We have a duty to criticise and challenge Islam and its movement especially given what it is doing to women today.

At a minimum, we must demand 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.

Only an unequivocal defence of universal rights, secularism and the de-religionisation of rights and values will begin to defend women and their rights and challenge head on the outrage of this century.

The above is a speech given at Goodenough College on November 13, 2006.

Maryam Namazie

Challenges to Zahra Kamalfar’s imminent deportation to Iran

Moments of resistance
Latest Update from Farshad Hoseini, Executive Director of the International Federation of Iranian Refugees

Today was a very important day in the life of Zahra Kamalfar and her children who have been languishing in Moscow’s airport for some time now. It was like a hidden war between a mother and her two innocent children on the one hand and the officers and security guards of the airport on the other.

I contacted Zahra every hour. She is disappointed, disturbed and afraid. She asks herself, can anybody really save my life? She tells me she suspects that the authorities are going to do something today; she is under constant surveillance.

I am on the phone with every organisation and personality I can think of – from Geneva, Moscow, to London to demand that they help and intervene.

I will write all I can about her case. I will publish all my conversations with her and all the responses I have received thus far to show the world how humanity has been forgotten.

I have been with Zahra via telephone. She tells me they have picked up their belongings and are ordering her and her children to follow them. She begins resisting. Via telephone I can clearly hear her anger. They try to remove her mobile phone. For a few seconds, I could only hear the voices of the Russian police and Zahra demanding that they return her phone. She says: ‘You have no right to keep my telephone’. I can hear her children crying. I am disconnected.

After 30 minutes I manage to contact Zahra again. It was very near to the time she was to be forcibly placed on an Aeroflot flight to Iran. I find out that that Zahra and her children are surrounded by police and airport guards. My next contact with her is after 15 minutes. Anna, her daughter has drunk shampoo to protest their deportation. I could only hear crying, groaning, and the voices of emergency aid workers. The Aeroflot flight has left without Zahra and her children.

So with this resistance, we have another day to stop their deportation to Iran. Another day to secure their legitimate right to asylum. Tomorrow (Wednesday 22 November) is another important day in the struggle to save Zahra and her children. We have to win.
Don’t wait for a tragic end to this story. We must do some thing to end this drama in their favour.

Saddam Hussein, Veil and US elections

To see this week’s TV International Programme, click here. The programme interviews:

● Sohaila Sharifi (a survivor of chemical bombardment in Iraq) on her grievance against Saddam Hussein and her opposition to his execution
● Clip of Maryam Namazie’s debate with Islamists on More4 TV on Muslims and Islam in Britain
● Interview with Azar Majedi on the veil
● Interview with Hamid Taqvaee on the US mid-term elections

In next week’s programme I wil be highlighting the case of Zahra Kamalfar. Given its urgency, please click here to find out about her situation. She is trapped in the Moscow airport with her two children awaiting deportation to Iran. To defend her, sign a petition organised by the International Federation of Iranian Refugees.

On ‘Muslims’ in Britain, the Veil and Secularism

  • On November 10, Maryam Namazie took part in a debate on ‘Muslim in Britain’ on David Starkey’s Last Word on More4 with two Islamists from the Muslim Council of Britain and Hizb ul Tahrir. More to follow on the programme. However, for now, to see a clip of the programme, click here.
  • On Monday 13th November, Maryam Namazie will be speaking at a talk in London entitled ‘Beyond the Veil: Perspectives on Muslim Women in a Western Secular Context’ as a part of a run up to the Goodenough Conference, The Mosaic of Multiculturalism: Pieces Falling? Changing Perceptions and Reality in Britain. She will be debating with Humera Khan, consultant on Muslim affairs, founder of An-Nisa Society for Muslim women and families in the UK and Maleiha Malik, Lecturer in Anti-Discrimination Law at King’s College, and author of the book, Feminism and Muslim Women. The talk will take place at the Churchill Room at 8pm. The talk is being sponsored by the Women’s Forum, Goodenough College, Mecklenburgh Square, London WC1N 2AB.
  • On November 26 at 6:30pm, Maryam Namazie will be speaking on ‘Secularism and Humanism are not Religions or Belief Systems’. Namazie will discuss the dangers of regarding secularism and humanism as a form of religion, belief or dogma. She will argue that, in addition to this being untrue, it tends to prevent proponents of these ideas from challenging religion head on and putting human beings first. The Leicester Secular Society is the oldest secular society in the world. For more information, go to Leicester Secular Society site.

Certainly not justice: on Saddam Hussein’s execution

Clearly, Saddam Hussein has committed crimes against humanity and acts of genocide – many of them whilst on the payroll of western governments. He must be held accountable and justice must be served but not in this way. Not in a sham victor’s court. And not the death penalty.

In a country which has been turned into a swamp and nightmare, the death penalty only further brutalises a brutalised society. It cannot be allowed to take place.

According to Mansoor Hekmat, ‘capital punishment is the most deplorable and appalling form of intentional murder since a political authority, publicly, with prior notice, on behalf of society, with the utmost legitimacy and ruthlessness, decides to murder someone, and announces the date and time of the event.’ (See full interview below.)

*****

Read the Worker-communist Party of Iran’s PR and an interview with Mansoor Hekmat on Capital Punishment, the most Deplorable form of Deliberate Murder, below:

On Saddam Hussein’s Death Sentence

On Sunday, November 5 right wing international press outlets published the verdict of Saddam Hussein and his step brother’s death sentences with hysterical jubilation and euphoria. They sold this verdict as ‘serving justice’ on behalf of the victims of Saddam’s criminal rule and declared that people in Iraq, except in ‘the Sunni dominated areas’ celebrated this verdict. They broadcast an image of the Iraqi people as vengeful and supportive of the US government and its army.

The nature of Saddam’s regime and its record is very clear for the people of the world and the majority of people in Iraq. For decent people everywhere, Saddam, Khamenei, the Taliban and Bush are all criminals and, to the same extent, deserve to be brought to justice.

However, this puppet court does not have the right to do so, does not represent the people of Iraq, is not an independent institution nor is it serving ‘justice’ by executing Saddam Hussein. The timing of this verdict which coincides with the USA’s mid-term elections exposes the political motivation of this charade. The court verdict seems to be on order of the US government amidst the electoral contest and an attempt to defuse people’s opposition to Bush’s policies which in the last month alone has brought home more than a hundred body bags to the US.

One day, Saddam Hussein and his co-criminals have to stand trial in an independent and just court with full access to a defence. However, apart from political exploitation of the verdict of the puppet court, this verdict restores the death sentence in Iraq, and this itself reveals the foundations on which ‘project Iraqi freedom’ is to be built upon. The death sentence for Saddam and his brother is the continuation of the invasion of Iraq, destruction of Iraqi society, destruction of civility and life of Iraqi people, the abandonment of the Iraqi people to the mercy of ultra-reactionary groups and re-establishment of state promoted murder in Iraq. This court and its verdict declare the moral and political bankruptcy of the United States government and the allies.

The Worker-communist Party of Iran resolutely opposes capital punishment and fights for its abolition internationally. The execution of prisoners of war only demonstrates the military barbarity and criminality which sees its survival in the continuation of the same crime and order. A humane outlook and opposition to capital punishment is not only for sunny days; on the contrary it must be implemented when criminals are on trial. Defence of human dignity and humanity is not an empty slogan, but must be applied to criminals as well. The restoration of capital punishment has always been argued as an attempt to ‘safeguard society from crime’ but in reality, it has been the main tool of the ruling classes to suppress and physically remove opponents of the dominant force. The hanging of Saddam Hussein and his brother will not reduce even an iota of the miseries of the people of Iraq, but will enhance the dimensions of terror, revenge, vengeance, intimidation and crime. The execution of this verdict, not only moves Iraqi society into another cycle of tribal and religious hatred and confrontation, but in the name of ‘the people of Iraq’ and ‘justice’ will sanction the setting up of gallows to hang citizens and opponents of the pentagon appointed government in Iraq.

Justice has never been achieved with killing and hanging criminals. We must remove the source of injustice and crime. The Worker-communist Party of Iran calls for a vast and comprehensive movement to abolish capital punishment internationally. In opposition to the deceitful actions of the leaders of the ‘New World Order’ and outrageous celebration of ‘freedom of people’ with setting up of gallows, the socialist movement must more than ever before insist on the abolishment of capital punishment and condemn such criminal state policies.

Worker-communist Party of Iran
6 November 2006

Capital Punishment, the most Deplorable form of Deliberate Murder
Interview with Mansoor Hekmat

Question: In its literature, the Worker-communist Party of Iran has clearly spoken about the necessity of abolishing capital punishment. What is the WPI’s reasoning behind the necessity of abolishing capital punishment?

Mansoor Hekmat: Capital punishment is the state’s terminology for murder. Individuals murder each other, but states sentence individuals to ‘capital punishment.’ The demand to end capital punishment and prohibit murder stems from opposition to intentional, deliberate and planned murder of one by the other. That a state or ruling political force is responsible does not make the slightest difference to the fact that we are dealing with intentional murder. Capital punishment is the most deplorable and appalling form of intentional murder since a political authority, publicly, with prior notice, on behalf of society, with the utmost legitimacy and ruthlessness, decides to murder someone, and announces the date and time of the event.

Question: With the abolishment of capital punishment, how can grievances be filed against murderers?

Mansoor Hekmat: It is an interesting question. With the abolishment of capital punishment, right from the start, a leading murderer, the state, will immediately be stopped. Your question implies that capital punishment has been invented to file grievances against murderers or that lawmakers found it suitable for the crime of murder after lengthy deliberations. Capital punishment, however, has nothing to do with murder in society. It has its own history. It is the state’s rights and powers over citizens today as a continuation of the state’s rights and powers in the past. When Agha Mohammad Khan Ghajar blinds and kills residents of an entire town, he is not objecting to a specific crime. When a horse thief in America is hanged or a soldier who has escaped military service is executed, they are not registering a grievance in a judicial sense, but rather they are putting people in their places and forcing them to submit to rules and regulations. They are terrorising people. They are governing. In today’s world, capital punishment is not just a so-called punishment for murder, it is also a punishment for unauthorised sex, hoarding, believing in common ownership, forming opposition parties, mocking of god and prophets, homosexuality, etc. From the beginning of state rule, the killing of inhabitants has always been and is a pillar of forcing people into submission. The history of capital punishment is not found in judicial debates about crime and punishment, but rather in the history of class rule and the state. States kill their citizens today. This must be stopped.

You ask if there is no capital punishment, what we can do with murderers. The killing of murderers is a repetition of murder. This cannot be done. What else can be done depends on the judicial philosophy of society. In the current system, a murderer could be imprisoned. Perhaps in an ideal society, people could be protected from the repetition of murder, or the murderer could be made to understand its offensiveness, without even taking away his/her freedom. In an ideal society, it may even be possible to create conditions so that pre-meditated murder does not occur.

Question: How would the WPI treat the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) and torturers who are captured and found guilty of murder?

Mansoor Hekmat: There are no capital punishment or life sentences in our system of laws. Clearly, these people should be imprisoned and worked on so that they can return to society and be forgiven.

Question: Without capital punishment, how will families of the murdered obtain justice?

Mansoor Hekmat: The idea that the family of the victim owns the victim’s blood and that justice is a debt owed by society is a backward and unacceptable concept. The victim’s family’s sadness and sorrow is undeniable. But if capital punishment is allowed to appease their sorrows, why is murder not excused for similar emotions? Can anyone who has suffered humiliation, been crushed, lost everything, become a drug addict, bankrupt or homeless commit murder to appease bitter emotions? Is the state a killing machine, which individuals refer to for retribution? Is justice a concept replacing retribution? The meaning of justice should be discussed later. The concept is not so objective and beyond the class system that some might think.

Question: Would not the abolition of capital punishment result in increased crime?

Mansoor Hekmat: No, the reverse. As I said before, the long list of state sponsored murders will immediately stop. The US government and its prosecutors are the busiest professional murderers in that country. The abolishment of capital punishment is like arresting 150 serial killers at once! Furthermore, a society that legally permits the killing of human beings can never prevent its repetition by the general public. The abolition of capital punishment and declaring the value of human life is the first step in the struggle against a culture of murder in society. Official statistics clearly show that in Holland, Scandinavia and Britain where capital punishment are prohibited, the murder rate (in ratio to the population) is far less than in the United States.

Question: In your opinion, what should be the objectives of punishing criminals?

Mansoor Hekmat: I am not sure if punishment is basically a good word for a humane judicial system. In my opinion, aside from prevention and removing the social, economic and cultural bases of crime, society must first, with minimal use of force and minimal deprivation of the offender’s normal life, protect itself from the repetition of an offence. Secondly, it must help these individuals transform. I think that retribution and punishments that make examples of persons must be banned. We must reach a point where society so distances itself from violence that it treats it like natural disasters, rushing in to help the victims, making efforts to avoid its repetition and minimise the damage, without sacrificing anyone by throwing them in the volcano or the sea.

Question: If the abolition of capital punishment is to value human life and the right to live, then how do we pursue the demand for the freedom of political prisoners who have killed innocent human beings during the course of their political actions? What should be done to a fighter who has planted a bomb on a bus or other place and consequently killed one or more persons? Must we demand their freedom?

Mansoor Hekmat: I do not call an individual who plants a bomb on buses and planes, a fighter. Unfortunately, for a specific period, this method became popular in some legitimate movements and was later elevated to an art of killing under the guise of politics by some reactionary movements. I do not have general formula to deal with them. It depends on the state they are fighting against, on the judicial standards of the given country and its legal legitimacy and on the conditions under which it occurs. In my opinion, the case of those who bomb non-military targets is not a political case. It is possible to provide secondary political reasons for the crime, but the case is not a political one. However, if those who have attacked non-military targets are to be arrested and tried, several Western presidents and prime ministers, hundreds of American and European bureaucrats, generals and commanders will be the first to be accused. I see no difference between Timothy McVeigh who committed such a massive crime in Oklahoma and those who bombed shelters, schools and houses, killing so many in Baghdad.

Question: Which authority must try these?

Mansoor Hekmat: A power that has legal legitimacy. According to their definition, despotic governments do not have such legitimacy. In my opinion, to try the general Schwartzkopfs and the Bin Ladens, acceptable courts could be found or created even in this bourgeois world.

Question: What is your definition of a political prisoner?

Mansoor Hekmat: In my opinion, there are two categories of political prisoners and prisoners of war, which are relevant to this discussion. A political prisoner is someone who is in prison for opposing a government. Accordingly political prisoners must be freed. There should not be any trial. Anyone who has carried out political activities against a government must not be arrested. Moreover, prisoners of war have not committed any crimes and must not be deprived of their civil rights, including freedom. This of course is not only a matter between states. In my opinion, members of guerrilla organisations who have declared war on states and have been captured must be entitled to the same rights as prisoners of war. Current laws must profoundly be changed in favour of these prisoners. Imprisoning an individual and depriving him/her of their normal life must be banned. But arrangements could be made to prevent the individual from re-joining his/her army until the end of the war or until it is ensured that s/he will not take part in the war again. Finally, we have another concept of war crimes. This concept must be seriously redefined and include all instances in which forces attack non-military and civilian structures. In recent years, we have witnessed the most widespread war crimes committed by western and local governments in different countries such as Iraq and Yugoslavia. There are many war criminals that roam freely among people as leaders, national heroes and patriots who must be tried.

Question: What are the reasons behind Islamic fundamentalists’ insistence and eagerness on annihilating and killing their opponents?

Mansoor Hekmat: I have not researched whether someone is first attracted to murdering and then becomes an Islamic fundamentalist or vice versa but I am sure the answer is somewhere in your question.

The above is a summary of an interview first published in Persian in Khavaran, the quarterly of the Organisation in Defence of Political Prisoners in Iran, Fall 2000. It was reprinted in International Weekly No. 26, November 3, 2000. The English version is a reprint from WPI Briefing. Translators: Maryam Namazie and Fariborz Pooya.

Maryam Namazie

In pursuit of Khatami, a wanted man

The visit to the UK of Khatami, the ex-president of the Islamic regime of Iran, was an attempt by the British government and its cohorts in academia and foreign policy think tanks to promote a kinder gentler Islam with Khatami as the poster boy. They failed in their attempt to cover up the ugly face of this brutal regime because of our protests. We showed the world that he is a wanted man for crimes against the people of Iran, despite the absurd protestations that he was only the president and a ‘reformist’ at that!

Of course he came and went but not in the manner they had wanted. Whilst St. Andrews gave Khatami his honorary doctorate of law, the laureation address had to say: ‘Our University cannot offer … endorsement for each of his beliefs or for actions carried out in his name.’ Khatami also had to enter via a side entrance when he got to Chatham House in London because of the protests by hundreds who had gathered there to expose him. Moreover, much of the media reports around his visit mentioned his crimes and role in the vile Islamic regime of Iran.

Clearly, we will not allow him or any of the other heads of the regime to come and go as they please and deceive the world with talk of civilisations and cultures and what not in an effort to whitewash the slaughter that has taken place in Iran.

We will continue to represent the desire of the people of Iran and the world to rid itself of this inhumanity.

Until next time.

Maryam Namazie

Update on Protest at St. Andrew’s University

The protest was covered in several papers:

The Herald

The Guardian

International Herald Tribune

Jerusalem Post

The West Australian

A couple of media outlets also pictured Sirvan Qaderi at the protest including the BBC and Scotsman:

For those who live in London, hope to see you at the demo today at Chatham House.