WPI Briefing 208
February 28, 2009
Monthly of the Worker-communist Party of Iran
Editors: Maryam Namazie and Fariborz Pooya
Layout: Babak Kasrayi

In this Issue:
* The History of the Undefeated, A few words in commemoration of the 1979 Revolution, Mansoor Hekmat
* On the Fight against Religion, Radio International interview with Mansoor Hekmat
* Iranian Schoolteachers went on Strike, Siyaves Azeri
* Snapshot of the Worker-communist Party of Iran’s Activities, February 2009, Siyaves Azeri

****

The History of the Undefeated
A few words in commemoration of the 1979 Revolution
Mansoor Hekmat

This article is being reprinted to mark the 30th anniversary of the Iranian revolution.

It is said that in recent years, a process of ‘review’ has been taking place among revolutionaries and the leftist opposition of Iran. A glance at the numerous publications, which this grouping publishes particularly outside of Iran, confirms this, though it is seriously doubtful whether the term ‘review’ is suitable to describe this development. In solitude – when pronouncing the truth does not harm anyone – one could call this a process of repentance. But publicly where political correctness holds sway especially during these days, perhaps the term ‘new thinking’ is a more suitable equivalent. The concept of revolution and revolutionism in general and the 1979 Iranian revolution in particular have been the first victims of this ‘new thinking’. Every month, mountains of materials are published by individuals, circles and groups made up of remnants and aged revolutionaries of the 1979 revolution. To read and follow all these and share in the preoccupations and illusory worlds of their writers is both extremely difficult and futile. It is not difficult, however, to see the development of this ‘new thinking’. One can use the association method used by psychologists to check the reaction of this literature to key words such as the very concept of ‘revolution’. The picture that emerges leaves no room for ambiguity. Revolution: excess, revolution: violence, revolution: oppression, revolution: destruction.

And why not? Who of these survivors of the 1979 revolution can shut their eyes for a moment, think about the past 17 [now 24] years and have one pleasant recollection? Millions of people have been condemned to life under the most reactionary and brutal social system, a society based on terror, poverty, and lies in which happiness is forbidden, being a woman is a crime, living is torment and escape impossible. An entire generation, perhaps more than half the population, has been born in this hell and has no other recollection than this. And for many others, the most living memory is that of the unforgettable faces of admirable human beings who were slaughtered. Wasn’t 1979 – the year of the revolution – the beginning of this nightmare?

Perhaps for some, the tragic fate of the 1979 revolution plays a role in the development of this ‘new thinking’. Neither the extent of this repentance nor the bitter tone and hysteria of today’s ‘new thinkers’, however, can be explained by the defeat of the 1979 revolution. It is as if you are sitting by a bridge and witnessing the return of a defeated army. It isn’t unexpected to find them melancholy, bewildered, silent, and depressed. This crowd, however, has clenched their fists. When you listen more carefully, it’s as if they are whispering an anthem. Yes, you are not mistaken; they are going to war – a war on their own ‘land’ and ‘camp’ and ‘fortress’ or whatever they previously called it. They are returning to take revenge on ‘themselves’ and yesterday’s ‘insiders’. For someone who looks out from within the fortress, this is definitely a dreadful scene.

Few unsuccessful revolutions and defeated movements have so bitterly been bidden farewell by their former enthusiasts. The constitutional revolution, the movement for the nationalisation of the oil industry, the period during Allende’s rule, the Portuguese revolution and the miners’ strike in Britain, for example, have always received the greatest respect from their own veterans and participants. The reason for today’s ‘new thinking’ by yesterday’s revolutionaries must be sought elsewhere. The reality is that these years, the years after the 1979 revolution, coincided with a much more important development on a global scale. The fall of the Eastern Bloc – only lately called the ‘socialist camp’ by the propaganda of the most deceptive spokespersons of the Warsaw and NATO pacts and their idiotic supporters – was a political and social earthquake which shook the entire world. The elimination of one pole from a bipolar world was in itself earth-shattering enough – a world in which for many decades, everything from economics and production to science and art took shape based on the confrontation between these two poles. However, what was decisive in the realm of ideas and thoughts was the fact that the rulers of the world and their vast herds of spokespersons and scrounging propagandists in the universities and media were able to portray the fall of the East as the fall of communism and the end of socialism and Marxism. All these theatricals did not last more than six years, and all indications today suggest that this period of deceit has reached its end. These six years, however, shook the world. This was not the end of socialism, but was a glimpse of what a nightmare the end of socialism could really be and what a swamp the world could become without the herald of socialism, the hope of socialism and the ‘dangers’ of socialism. It became clear that the world – both ruler and the ruled – identified socialism with change. The end of socialism was called the end of history. It became clear that the end of socialism is the end of the expectation for equality and prosperity, of free thinking and progressiveness and of hope for a better life for humanity. They interpreted the end of socialism as the unchallenged rule of the laws of the jungle and the right of might in economics, politics and culture. And immediately fascism, racism, chauvinism, ethnocentrism, religion, and bullying spilled out of every crack in society.

The wave of ‘new thinking’ that followed on a global scale was a spectacle. In an international race of repentance and ingratiation, yesterday’s virtues were disdained, principals were scorned at and ideals were ridiculed. Contemptuousness and submission became the meaning of life. In the repentant culture of the new world order’s intellectuals, anyone who wanted a better life for human beings, believed that the current situation could and must change, believed in people’s equality and called them to a better life, spoke of the necessity for people’s collective efforts to influence their fate and share in the world, and held the state and society responsible for the individual and their peace of mind and freedom was labelled idealist, old fashioned, naïve and dim-witted from a thousand and one corners. Despair became the symbol of wisdom. Forsaking high human ideals was seen as a sign of realism and insight. It suddenly became evident that any newly appointed journalist and assistant lecturer or any recently retired general had ready-made answers to the intellectual giants of the modern world from Voltaire and Rousseau to Marx and Lenin and that the entire complexities of freedom and equality seeking and the efforts of hundreds of millions of people in recent centuries, was nothing more than a complete waste of time on the road to the grand monument of the ‘end of history’ that must be forgotten ever so quickly.

It is within this international environment that yesterday’s revolutionaries are engaged in the ‘review’ of the 1979 revolution and revolutionism in general. Rather than being the result of the defeat of the 1979 revolution, their conclusions owe themselves to global trends, which mocked ideals and principals, and became fashionable for some years.

It is said that history is written by the victors. It must be added, however, that history, which is written by the defeated is ever more false and venomous, since this latter is nothing but the former dressed in mourning, surrender and self-deceit. If history is the story of change, then real history is the history of the undefeated – the history of the movement and people who still want and are struggling for change, the history of those who are not willing to bury their ideals and hopes of a human society, the history of people and movements that are not at liberty of choosing their principles and aims and have no choice but to strive for improvements. In the history of both the victors and defeated, the 1979 revolution is a step for the rise of Islam and Islamism and the cause of the current situation in Iran. In real history, however, the 1979 revolution was a movement for freedom and prosperity, which was smashed.

The calamities of the period after the revolution in Iran must be attributed to those responsible. People were right to reject the monarchy and the discrimination, inequality, oppression and degradation that went with it and rise up in protest. People were right to not want a king, SAVAK [the secret police], torturers and torture chambers at the end of the 20th century. People were right to take up arms against an army, which massacred them at the earliest manifestations of their protests. The 1979 revolution was an act for freedom, justice and human dignity. The Islamic movement and the Islamic government were not only not the result of this revolution, but were rather a deliberate means of suppressing the revolution, and brought to the fore when the fall and failure of the Shah’s regime was confirmed. Contrary to commonly held views, the Islamic Republic did not primarily owe its existence to the network of mosques and the swarm of petty mullahs. The source of this regime was not religion’s power among the people; it was not Shiism’s power, people’s lack of interest in modernism and their hatred of Western culture, excessively accelerated urbanisation and lack of ‘practicing democracy’, etc. This nonsense might be useful for the career of half-wit ‘Orientalists’ or media commentators, but it does not have the slightest relation to the truth. The very forces that were supporting the Shah’s regime and training the SAVAK until the day before brought the Islamic current to the fore of the 1979 revolution – those who recognised the radicalisation and left leaning potential of the Iranian revolution and had learnt their lesson from the oil workers’ strike; those who needed a green belt for Cold War rivalries. Money was spent for the ‘Islamisation’ of the Iranian revolution; plans were drawn up, meetings were organised. Thousands of people – from Western diplomats and military attachés, to the ever honourable journalists of the world of democracy – worked intensely for months until a backward, marginal, rotten and isolated tradition in the political history of Iran was turned into the ‘revolution’s leadership’ and a ruling alternative for the urbanised and newly industrialised society of Iran in 1979. Mr. Khomeini did not come from Najaf and Qom and as the head of a swarm of donkey-riding mullahs from en-route villages but from Paris via air. The 1979 revolution was a manifestation of the genuine protests of the deprived people of Iran but the ‘Islamic revolution’ and the Islamic regime were the result of the Cold War, the result of the most modern political dealings of the world at the time. The architects of this regime were the strategists and policy makers of Western powers, the very same ones who today, from within the swamps of cultural relativism, once again legitimise the very monster they created as the natural product of ‘Islamic and eastern society’ and worthy of the people of the ‘Islamic World’. The entire West’s economic, political and propaganda resources were pulled together for months before and after February 1979 in order to establish and maintain this regime.

The very fact that this social engineering became possible in Iran, however, owes itself to the situation and condition of the political and social forces within Iran. There was enough material available for this task. Islamic currents existed in all countries of the region. Until the events in Iran, however, this movement did not at any point become a notable political force and a main player on the political scene of these countries. The Islamic (counter) revolution was not constructed on the insignificant force of the Islamic current, but rather on primary political traditions of the Iranian opposition. The Islamic counter-revolution was built on the nationalist and so-called liberal tradition of the ‘National Front’, which more than anything else feared workers and communists and had spent its entire life biting its nails under the monarchy’s cape and religion’s robe. It was a tradition, which in its entire history had been unable to organise even a semi-secular offensive against religion in Iran’s politics and culture. It was a tradition in which its leaders and personalities were among the first to swear allegiance to the Islamic movement. The Islamic counter-revolution was built on the Tudeh Party’s tradition in which anti-Americanism and strengthening its international camp at any price, made up the philosophy of its existence and which saw the Islamic regime, irrespective of its consequences for the people and freedom, as a playground for manoeuvre and manipulation. The Islamic counter-revolution was built on a corrupt anti-modernist, anti ‘westernisation’, xenophobic and Islam-ridden tradition dominant in a majority of the intellectual and cultural segments of society in Iran, which shaped the initial environment of the youth and student protests. Khomeini triumphed not because superstitious people saw his reflection on the moon, but rather because the traditional opposition and this corrupt nationalist and regressive culture saw him – who was the most imported and manufactured personage of Iranian contemporary political history – as ‘made in Iran’, anti-Western and one of their own and thus rose to praise him. The Islamic counter-revolution was the result of the fact that the modernist-socialist oil industry and big industries’ workers lost the initiative in the protest scene to the traditional opposition of Iran. It was they who received Khomeini’s personage and the Islamic revolution scenario from the West and sold it to the protesting masses of people.

Despite all this, the Islamic theatrics only created a delay in the development of the 1979 revolution. The events immediately following the February uprising showed that the dynamics of the revolution was still there. Irrespective of what was said, it showed that people had nevertheless come to and remained at the fore for freedom and social prosperity not for Islam. Eventually, the 1979 revolution, like most revolutions, was defeated not by deceit and lies, but by an extremely bloody suppression. During February 11, 19791 and June 20, 19812 was all the opportunity Islam and the Islamic movement managed to obtain for the guardians of the Shah’s regime. And of course, that’s all they needed. In the real history of Iran, June 20, 1981 is joined to September 8, 19783 and is the next link in the chain. Khomeini, Bazargan, Sanjabi, Madani, Forouhar, Yazdi, Banisadr, Rajaie and Beheshti are the names which must follow Mohamad Reza Pahlavi, Amouzgar, Sharif Emami, Bakhtiar, Oveisi, Azhari, and Rahimi as characters that came to the fore one after the other to block the revolution and people’s protests. The continuous blows of the protest movement defeated the monarchist regime and its various characters. In contrast, the Islamic government managed to buy time, restore the forces of reaction and smash the people’s revolution in the bloodiest form. The agenda of both regimes was one and the same.

More than half of the people of Iran are too young to hold even a vague recollection of the 1979 revolution. Their connection to the events of that period is not unlike the connection of the 1979 revolutionary generation with events during the Mossadegh period and 1953 coup – a spent and inaccessible period, which is only in the minds of and regarded as important by its own contemporary generation. Interpretations of that period are many and numerous, but more than saying anything about an historical truth, they pass judgement on the narrator and their place in today’s world. Human beings always look at the past from a contemporary perspective and seek justifications for their current will and deeds. In looking at the 1979 revolution, our ‘new thinkers’ are looking to raise a banner in today’s Iran. This banner, however, has always existed. Each time, who, and through which ceremony, and by reciting which verses assembles under this banner is secondary.

Footnotes:
1 February 11, 1979: the date of the Iranian revolution – Ed.
2 June 20, 1981: the eventual juncture that the Islamic regime’s suppression took place. – Ed.
3 September 8, 1978: the date when the Shah’s army massacred demonstrators in Jaleh Square in Tehran. – Ed.

First published in Persian in 1995. The English version is a reprint from WPI Briefin g and was translated by Maryam Namazie and Fariborz Pooya.

On the Fight against Religion
Radio International interview with Mansoor Hekmat

Azar Majedi: In a recent interview you said, ‘secularism is a set of minimum conditions’, and that [you] ‘do not just want just secularism, but a conscious fight against religion on the part of society.’ What are the characteristics of such a fight?

Mansoor Hekmat: In talking about religion, and particularly Islam in this period [in history], we should bear in mind that we are talking about a phenomenon that can be shown to be the source of suffering, oppression, indignity and humiliation for people. So, we are confronted by a problem, by a disaster that has to be mitigated in very much the same way that one deals with drug addiction, for example. Drug addiction is not considered a private matter alone, and there are efforts to eradicate it. [In other words,] even if people are allowed to use drugs, you will still not consider that enough of a reason for them to do so, and believe something must be done to urge them to grow out of that habit. It is the same with religion. Religion is a phenomenon involving the freedom of the individual to believe in anything, and yet believing in a set of intellectual, political, and civil beliefs called religion, [in general,] and Islam, [in particular,] has played havoc with people’s lives and, as a result, you fight against it in the same way you would fight against any other disaster. Relinquishing it to the ‘private affair of the individual’ is not, in my view, sufficient in and of itself. What I mean is society must do something so Islam is eradicated. Simply put, we must do something so the people themselves eradicate it willingly and voluntarily, are not influenced by it, held captive to it, and oppressed, made wretched, and drowned in superstition. What is the solution? Education. A free state that educates its citizens on political, social, civil, historical, biological, physical, and natural facts [of life]; civil laws that protect the people against the encroachments of religious firms, against the religion industry. In my opinion, religion is to be looked on as something like the tobacco industry. Everyone is free to smoke, yet you legislate against tobacco companies so they are not able to take advantage of people’s addiction, not cause too much damage to their health, and not have a free hand in drawing children and youngsters into addiction, etc. In the same way, there must be similar laws with regards to religion. There must be laws so that the religion industry, quite a business in its own right, cannot ruin people’s lives. It is possible to do something during a generation’s time so a free society would be built which will have eradicated religion just like malaria or drug addiction.

Azar Majedi: You finished your argument with exactly the point I was going to ask about. You spoke of the religion industry, and compared it to the tobacco industry. Did you mean that comparison as a joke?

Mansoor Hekmat: Not at all! I call it an ‘industry’ because there are people who think religion is, essentially, a combination of the people’s beliefs. That is not so. Religion is an industry. It has owners; there are people who benefit from it; it begets material wealth and political power for a certain social spectrum and serves the interests of a class-political rule. Religion is a multi-billion-dollar business. This money pays for its propaganda. And this money is swindled out of the people. As far as Iran, it is the state which takes care of that job! Religion is an apparatus for the propagation of falsities. It delivers lies to the people, frightens them, and scares them of violence in this world and of punishment in the next. Just like the Mafia! Religion, as an institution, be it Christianity, Islam or Judaism is a huge social structure standing on its own before being a set of social beliefs. It taxes [the people]; it takes money, and spends it on the survival of its rule. As a result, religion industries are great phenomena in the world. If you put together the money spent on Islam and the money spent on the Christian Church, you will see that the sum is comparable with the wealth of the largest multi-national corporations. It is comparable with the military budget of dozens of countries put together. Religion should therefore be looked on as an industry, one that consciously tries to sell its product, own its markets, and make addicts out of consumers.

A society seeking to liberate itself should confront religion exactly as that. It should not be under the illusion that religion is a set of beliefs in things like the Anti-Christ or in the weeping and wailing to commemorate Karbala.1 Religion is a huge industry designed to produce superstitions, to intimidate people, and to subordinate them and make them surrender to the power of the ruling class. If you want a liberated society, you have to spend money and assign human resources, in order to oppose that phenomenon, just as you oppose narcotic gangs, just as you oppose companies that steal and plunder and leave devastation behind. The religion industry is to be opposed in just the same way.

It is obvious that everyone is entitled to their opinion and everyone should be allowed to believe in whatever they want. However, if political, military and cultural structures are founded on the basis of those beliefs with the aim of subjugating the people, you should oppose them on behalf of citizens and by citizens.

Azar Majedi: There are people who may see only the Islamic Republic [of Iran], which is a theocracy, or the Vatican, as a state, in the same way as you see religion. But do you see religion in, for example, some parts of Western Europe where it is separate from the state and, in any case, does not play such a big role in people’s lives, in the same light? Would you compare these to the Mafia as well?

Mansoor Hekmat: First of all, I should say that in parts of Europe where religion does not play the role I said it plays, it is because they have done what I said should be done with it during the past centuries. They have confronted it and confiscated its properties and endowments. They have legislated against religion’s interference in education. They have legislated against religion’s interference with people’s social life, and so on. Today’s Europe, therefore, does not provide a good example for us to realise what religion can be; we can go back a hundred years and see what this same religion had been doing to people. After all, the Pope [John Paul II] has already had to apologise for the collaboration of the Catholic Church with Hitler and his human-burning ovens! Another example is Northern Ireland, where Protestants lined up in front of an elementary school and threw rocks, even makeshift bombs and hand-grenades, at school girls going to elementary school, just because those are Protestant and these are Catholic! Or look at the fate of Yugoslavia and the conflicts there! Look at Chechnya and Afghanistan! So, in my opinion, the role I described is the role of religion in general. It is just that in some places the people have reined it in and put it in its place to some degree. As a result, in those places it has taken on a civilised form. However, it is always present as a reserved power. Yes, I also include the Christian church in Western Europe in the exact same category. This religion does not play the same over the top role as Islam does, killing people in Iran and Afghanistan, for example, while it has still retained its role in oppressing women, in suppressing liberating thoughts, in stifling creativity and innovation, etc. Besides, it still has its hand in the people’s pocket. Its hand is still earnestly in the people’s pocket. It takes away resources that must be expended on the people’s well-being and expends them on spreading superstitions among them. The harm that comes from [Christianity] is not as visible as what you see in Iran, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, it is possible to show the role the church is playing [in Western Europe] with facts and figures.

It appears that in some places the church has turned leftwards; in Latin America, and so on, for example. However, it is not the church that has turned leftwards. It is the people who are left-inclined, and the church, therefore, in its endeavours to maintain a prosperous business, is only trying to keep pace with them. But at every single critical social turning point you see religion, you see Islam, right beside the ruling classes, giving them directions, and justifying social oppression and subjugation.

Azar Majedi: You mentioned that if the business of religion is to be shut down, money must be spent and human resources must be assigned to that task. What forms will this take, should there be a socialist republic established in Iran and will the Worker-communist Party be a partner in political power? You said that the people’s beliefs are respectable.2 But this might not show how exactly religion, the mullahs, and the believing Muslims would be addressed. Would you explain these?

Mansoor Hekmat: In my opinion, the people’s personal beliefs are respectable only for themselves. I may not have any respect for someone’s racist beliefs, which I do not, but if they want to believe in them, it is, to the point where they have not inflicted any harm on anyone, their personal opinion. Every human being is free to think about any part of this world in any way they want. No one is allowed to legislate for the internal world of the individual and say they are not allowed to think in this or that way. This does not mean, of course, that we will not try to change people’s thoughts. People must have choices between various thoughts and opinions. They must be free to choose. It is one of the roles of religion, on the other hand, to deny people access to other, liberating thoughts with prejudice and force, and to legislate against them. The Taliban have captured some people in Kabul and are going to execute them for having intended to bring another religion to the people! This response may be excessive there [in Afghanistan], but it is what all [religions] do characteristically. The master key is education so people would not need to believe in superstitions, and be aware that the world is about something else. Education, however, is not sufficient by itself. Legislation is needed in order to bring religious institutions under control. For example, their finances should be subject to scrutiny like all other firms. After all, the same law that applies to such and such biscuit making or water-heater manufacturing company, the same law that applies to tobacco companies like Winston or Camel, must equally apply to the so-called Islamic structure, that is, the mosques and Ayatollahs. Their books must be opened and reviewed in order to find out where they have got their money from and how they have spent it; whether they have paid their taxes or not; swindled the government or not; committed extortion or not; and so on.

There is a series of laws which will, even in their present form, ensure the prohibition of many religious acts. If we take the Animal Protection Act seriously, a big part of Islamic rituals will be swept away, because the way animals are treated in them are intensely violent. If we protect children with laws worthy of children’s rights, a big part of religious activities must come to a halt, because they negate children’s freedom, for children must be protected against all threats, intimidation, torture, forced labour, etc. If we guard women’s rights properly, the religious will not have the freedom to implement many of their laws. If men and women are to have equal rights in the society, all family, marriage, and inheritance laws prescribed by Islam, for instance, become impractical and have to be set aside, and if someone somewhere makes an effort to raise them, they will be in contradiction to the civil laws of the country. What I am driving at is that if we defend the people’s civil rights, a big part of religion will be swept away. And if we defend science and freedom of thought, yet another part of it will be swept away. Now if at the end of the day about two hundred and fifty people out of the sixty million population of Iran continue to believe that yes, there is a doomsday, and that one must pray five times a day, and that if you do not, this and that will happen, or that one must slaughter a sheep once in while because some day prophet Abraham the Friend of God almost slaughtered and sacrificed his son, and so on, it is their choice. There are even stranger people to be found in the world! Such beliefs will not, however, become social laws, and will not cause anyone any disturbance. And if this group of people, a superstitious bunch, supposedly treat their family, their children, in a way that it has its origins, not in their civil rights, but in their religion and prejudices, the state will confront them and stop them.

I do not believe violence should be used against Islam, or any other existing social issues, for that matter. I do believe, however, that Islam’s business can be shut down with the combination of education and legislation. The head of the Church of England, for example, has stated that Christianity is in bad shape, and that there will not remain any trace of it. Why? Because there the people have no need for it anymore, and it cannot bully them either.

Footnotes:

1 A reference to the mourning ceremonies held to commemorate the killing of Imam Hoseyn and his family. The anniversary of their ‘martyrdom’ in the battle in Karbala (in today’s Iraq) is held for ten days in Iran during Moharram, the first month of the lunar-Islamic calendar. The mourning ceremonies come to a peak on the ninth and the tenth day of the month, a.k.a. Taasuaa and Aashuraa, and are accompanied by self-flagellation with chains or cutting one’s scalp, including that of children’s as young as five, with a machete for hours during the processions.

2 The common equivalent of plain, non-glorified English, or Western, rather, expression ‘everyone is entitled to their opinion’ in Farsi is ‘everyone’s opinion is respectable’! Although Mansoor Hekmat has not used the latter in his response to previous questions, but, on the contrary, has used the former expression (in the last paragraph of his answer to the second question), he resolves the misunderstanding arising from the Farsi, or Iranian, rather, expression used by the interviewer in the opening part of his response to this question.

Source: Mansoor Hekmat’s Public Archive website (www.hekmat.public-archive.net).

The above is an edited transcript of Azar Majedi’s interview with Mansoor Hekmat about an earlier interview in Porsesh magazine entitled ‘The Rise and Fall of Political Islam.’ The interview was conducted in Persian and broadcast on Radio International on Feb. 15, 2001. The English translation is by Jamshid Hadian. It has been first published in English in WPI Briefing 208, dated February 28, 2009.

Iranian Schoolteachers went on Strike
Siyaves Azeri

As Iranian schoolteachers prepared to go on strike on February 22 and 23, 2009 the Guild of Schoolteachers of Iran (the semi-official organisation of Iranian schoolteachers) called for a postponement. The Guild tried to justify this retreat with reference to Ahmadinejad’s promise that the teachers’ salaries would be regulated based on the Code of National Service Law. The Worker-communist Party of Iran condemned the call for postponement and the collaboration between the Guild and the regime in Iran against the interests of the schoolteachers and called on teachers to strike.

The Worker-communist Party of Iran was aware of the pro-regime tendencies of those in charge of decision-making in the Guild. WPI, thus, had published a communiqué a few hours before the official declaration of the Guild to suspend the strike and called on teachers to participate in the strike not only to acquire their demands, but also to prevent the collaboration between the leadership of the Guild and the regime. Their demands included a raise in salaries to guarantee a living wages, regulation of wages, permanent employment for contract teachers, defrayal of the debt to all retired, permanent, and contract teachers, a resolution to teachers’ housing problems, free healthcare, the right to association and strike, and an end to prosecutions against teachers.

According to the news that has been conveyed to WPI and New Channel TV, teachers reacted resolutely and went on strike! On February 22, most of teachers in Tehran, Ahvaz, Shiraz, and Khomein didn’t go to work. In Shiraz, 80 to 100 percent of the schoolteachers of municipal districts 1, 2, 3, and 4 went on strike. Most of teachers in Abadan and Ahvaz didn’t go to work on February 22.

The strike continued on February 23. In Tehran, almost all schools of District 2 were shut down. The schools in other municipal districts were debilitated due to participation of a large body of teachers in the strike. In the province of Fars, almost all schools in the cities of Shiraz, Abadeh, and Mamassani were shut down. In Isfahan all the schools of three municipal districts were closed; all other schools were debilitated by the strike. In Tabriz all the schools were closed. In Province of Khouzestan, in the face of massive participation in the strike, the Ministry of Education had to announce all school closed “due to bad weather!”

The large-scale participation of schoolteachers in the strike despite the pro-regime and collaborationist policies of the Guild’s leadership marked a great victory in the workers’ movement in Iran and in intensifying the anti-regime movement.

Snapshot of the Worker-communist Party of Iran’s Activities
February 2009
Siyaves Azeri

The Worker-communist Party of Iran organised a number of activities worldwide in defence of the struggles of students of Shiraz University to inform public opinion about the situation of students, the regime’s atrocities perpetrated against them and to mobilise support for the cause of the students. To this end the WPI’s Germany Committee formed an information table and photo exhibition in University of Frankfurt on January 23, 2009. Some other German student organisations also participated in this activity. On January 27, the Bremen Unit of WPI Germany Organisation organised a photo exhibition in University of Bremen. Hundreds of students signed the petition demanding an end to the pressures against Shiraz University students and condemning the atrocities of the Islamic regime and the wave of executions. On January 28, 2009, the Switzerland Organisation of WPI also held an information table and photo exhibition in downtown Zurich in defence of the struggles of Shiraz University students. Hundreds of brochures and pamphlets were also distributed among people and passer bys. The WPI Organisation Abroad launched a campaign in defence of Shiraz University students on January 15, 2009, that was reported in the former issue of WPI Briefing.

In response to the international campaign to save the life of Iranian schoolteacher Farzad Kamangar, who is in prison and has been condemned to death by the Islamic regime of Iran on the accusation of “activities against national security” the Union of Schoolteachers of Malmo, Sweden issued a communiqué on February 2, 2009 and demanded the immediate release of Kamangar. In the communiqué that was signed by general secretary of the union, it was maintained, “The Union of Schoolteachers of Malmo strongly condemns the death sentence of Farzad Kamangar, schoolteacher and reporter. Farzad is “guilty of the crime” of defending human rights. The Union demands his immediate release and recognition of human rights in Iran.”

On February 15, 2009 Hamid Taqvaee, leader of the WPI gave a speech titled “The Present Political Situation in Iran and the Characteristics of the Impending Revolution” in Gotteborg, Sweden. In his speech Taqvaee discussed the political conditions and processes in Iran, the situation of the Islamic regime, and the anti-regime movements and parties. He also discussed the questions of “why revolution is necessary and desirable?” and “what are the characteristics of the upcoming revolution?” He also considered the specificities of situation of WPI in Iran and the WPI’s response to the question of political power in contradistinction to the answers proposed by other movements. Taqvaee also considered the role of the New TV Channel and other satellite TV stations in forming the future political developments in Iran. Moreover, he sought to answer the question concerning the organisation of massive strikes and uprisings.

On the anniversary of March 8, International Women’s Day, the Worker-communist Party of Iran has organised a number of activities worldwide including Sweden, Germany, France, US, Canada, UK, Switzerland, and Norway.

TV International English, a half hour program that is broadcast from New Channel TV and which is produced and presented by Maryam Namazie has continued its programme on different issues during the past period. Recent topics of discussion in the programme include Israel’s attack on Gaza and the relation between Sharia Law, political Islam, and Civil society.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/maryamnamazie/2009/02/28/718/

Act now to defend labour leaders in Iran

On Sunday, 22 February, there is going to be a court hearing in Iran at which the fate of five jailed labour leaders may be decided.Those men have been charged with “acting against national security” and face potentially long prison sentences. Their only crime was to do their job as labour activists.

We have only a few hours to flood the Islamic regime of Iran with messages of protest from around the world.Please take a moment and send off your message — click here to do so.

Two women labour activists flogged in Iran – their crime celebrating May Day

Two Iranian women labour activists, convicted of participating in May Day celebrations, have been punished by flogging in Iran.

According to local sources, on 18 February, Sussan Razani and Shiva Kheirabadi were flogged inside the central prison in Sanandaj, capital of the Iranian Kurdistan province. Razani was flogged 70 lashes and Kheirabadi received 15 lashes.

The court also sentenced two other labor activists, Abdullah Khani and Syed Ghalib Husseini, for participating in the same event to prison terms and flogging.

Last year the Judiciary also flogged workers who had participated in May Day celebrations. On 16 February 2008, Sanandaj’s Revolutionary Court issued a flogging sentence and fines for 11 workers who participated in the 2007 May Day celebration. On the same day, the authorities carried out the flogging sentences of 10 lashes each for three of the workers, Sadeq Amjadi, Fars Gooyilian, and Habibollah Kalehkani.

We had to flee to escape Sharia

To listen to Maryam Namazie’s Another Thought for the Day for February 18, 2009 on Sharia on The Guardian’s Comment is Free site, click here.

This is a series of podcasts offering a secular alternative to the BBC Today programme’s Thought for the Day, in association with the Humanist Society of Scotland.

You can see the transcript of the podcast here.

Pegah has finally been given refuge

We have just informed that Pegah Emambakhsh, an Iranian lesbian, has finally been granted refugee status in the UK after almost four years. This is fantastic news and a great reward for all the hard work you all Iranian queer supporters put in to ensure she was not sent back to Iran.
IRanian Queer Railroad is following Pegah’s case since 2006. We remember a day that British authorities decided to deport her back to Iran and hundreds of people protested this inhuman action. Pegah supporters sent multitude of emails and faxes to British Home Office and their Members of Parliament to stop her deportation.

The widespread international campaign to save Pegah’s life, which has involved governmental institutions, human rights organizations, GLBT activist groups, intellectuals, experts in international law and millions of people who have come to love Pegah, has succeeded in achieving a positive outcome.

“I could not believe it. I did not read any papers so far” Pegah said in a telephone conversation with IRQR today at 11:00 PM London time zone. She continued “Few hours ago I received a phone call from my lawyer that I granted refugee status. I will meet my lawyer tomorrow and I have to read that paper several time to make sure I am free from now. I hope all of people can achieve their dreams”

This has been a long struggle but is a real vindication of what can be achieved when we all work together.

IRQR express great thanks to Friends of Pegah Campaign and all Iranian queer allies for supporting us. We have many cases in England that their asylum application has been rejected several times and we are working on their cases. We have hope that the same will be done for other Iranian queer asylum seekers in the UK as soon as possible because being refugee is unbelievable difficult.

IRQR needs international support to help Iranian queers especially those who escaped of persecution.

For more information please visit IRQR website.

A few words in commemoration of the 1979 Revolution

The History of the Undefeated
Mansoor Hekmat

This article is being reprinted to mark the 30th anniversary of the Iranian revolution.

It is said that in recent years, a process of ‘review’ has been taking place among revolutionaries and the leftist opposition of Iran. A glance at the numerous publications, which this grouping publishes particularly outside of Iran, confirms this, though it is seriously doubtful whether the term ‘review’ is suitable to describe this development. In solitude – when pronouncing the truth does not harm anyone – one could call this a process of repentance. But publicly where political correctness holds sway especially during these days, perhaps the term ‘new thinking’ is a more suitable equivalent. The concept of revolution and revolutionism in general and the 1979 Iranian revolution in particular have been the first victims of this ‘new thinking’. Every month, mountains of materials are published by individuals, circles and groups made up of remnants and aged revolutionaries of the 1979 revolution. To read and follow all these and share in the preoccupations and illusory worlds of their writers is both extremely difficult and futile. It is not difficult, however, to see the development of this ‘new thinking’. One can use the association method used by psychologists to check the reaction of this literature to key words such as the very concept of ‘revolution’. The picture that emerges leaves no room for ambiguity. Revolution: excess, revolution: violence, revolution: oppression, revolution: destruction.

And why not? Who of these survivors of the 1979 revolution can shut their eyes for a moment, think about the past 17 [now 24] years and have one pleasant recollection? Millions of people have been condemned to life under the most reactionary and brutal social system, a society based on terror, poverty, and lies in which happiness is forbidden, being a woman is a crime, living is torment and escape impossible. An entire generation, perhaps more than half the population, has been born in this hell and has no other recollection than this. And for many others, the most living memory is that of the unforgettable faces of admirable human beings who were slaughtered. Wasn’t 1979 – the year of the revolution – the beginning of this nightmare?

Perhaps for some, the tragic fate of the 1979 revolution plays a role in the development of this ‘new thinking’. Neither the extent of this repentance nor the bitter tone and hysteria of today’s ‘new thinkers’, however, can be explained by the defeat of the 1979 revolution. It is as if you are sitting by a bridge and witnessing the return of a defeated army. It isn’t unexpected to find them melancholy, bewildered, silent, and depressed. This crowd, however, has clenched their fists. When you listen more carefully, it’s as if they are whispering an anthem. Yes, you are not mistaken; they are going to war – a war on their own ‘land’ and ‘camp’ and ‘fortress’ or whatever they previously called it. They are returning to take revenge on ‘themselves’ and yesterday’s ‘insiders’. For someone who looks out from within the fortress, this is definitely a dreadful scene.

Few unsuccessful revolutions and defeated movements have so bitterly been bidden farewell by their former enthusiasts. The constitutional revolution, the movement for the nationalisation of the oil industry, the period during Allende’s rule, the Portuguese revolution and the miners’ strike in Britain, for example, have always received the greatest respect from their own veterans and participants. The reason for today’s ‘new thinking’ by yesterday’s revolutionaries must be sought elsewhere. The reality is that these years, the years after the 1979 revolution, coincided with a much more important development on a global scale. The fall of the Eastern Bloc – only lately called the ‘socialist camp’ by the propaganda of the most deceptive spokespersons of the Warsaw and NATO pacts and their idiotic supporters – was a political and social earthquake which shook the entire world. The elimination of one pole from a bipolar world was in itself earth-shattering enough – a world in which for many decades, everything from economics and production to science and art took shape based on the confrontation between these two poles. However, what was decisive in the realm of ideas and thoughts was the fact that the rulers of the world and their vast herds of spokespersons and scrounging propagandists in the universities and media were able to portray the fall of the East as the fall of communism and the end of socialism and Marxism. All these theatricals did not last more than six years, and all indications today suggest that this period of deceit has reached its end. These six years, however, shook the world. This was not the end of socialism, but was a glimpse of what a nightmare the end of socialism could really be and what a swamp the world could become without the herald of socialism, the hope of socialism and the ‘dangers’ of socialism. It became clear that the world – both ruler and the ruled – identified socialism with change. The end of socialism was called the end of history. It became clear that the end of socialism is the end of the expectation for equality and prosperity, of free thinking and progressiveness and of hope for a better life for humanity. They interpreted the end of socialism as the unchallenged rule of the laws of the jungle and the right of might in economics, politics and culture. And immediately fascism, racism, chauvinism, ethnocentrism, religion, and bullying spilled out of every crack in society.

The wave of ‘new thinking’ that followed on a global scale was a spectacle. In an international race of repentance and ingratiation, yesterday’s virtues were disdained, principals were scorned at and ideals were ridiculed. Contemptuousness and submission became the meaning of life. In the repentant culture of the new world order’s intellectuals, anyone who wanted a better life for human beings, believed that the current situation could and must change, believed in people’s equality and called them to a better life, spoke of the necessity for people’s collective efforts to influence their fate and share in the world, and held the state and society responsible for the individual and their peace of mind and freedom was labelled idealist, old fashioned, naïve and dim-witted from a thousand and one corners. Despair became the symbol of wisdom. Forsaking high human ideals was seen as a sign of realism and insight. It suddenly became evident that any newly appointed journalist and assistant lecturer or any recently retired general had ready-made answers to the intellectual giants of the modern world from Voltaire and Rousseau to Marx and Lenin and that the entire complexities of freedom and equality seeking and the efforts of hundreds of millions of people in recent centuries, was nothing more than a complete waste of time on the road to the grand monument of the ‘end of history’ that must be forgotten ever so quickly.

It is within this international environment that yesterday’s revolutionaries are engaged in the ‘review’ of the 1979 revolution and revolutionism in general. Rather than being the result of the defeat of the 1979 revolution, their conclusions owe themselves to global trends, which mocked ideals and principals, and became fashionable for some years.

It is said that history is written by the victors. It must be added, however, that history, which is written by the defeated is ever more false and venomous, since this latter is nothing but the former dressed in mourning, surrender and self-deceit. If history is the story of change, then real history is the history of the undefeated – the history of the movement and people who still want and are struggling for change, the history of those who are not willing to bury their ideals and hopes of a human society, the history of people and movements that are not at liberty of choosing their principles and aims and have no choice but to strive for improvements. In the history of both the victors and defeated, the 1979 revolution is a step for the rise of Islam and Islamism and the cause of the current situation in Iran. In real history, however, the 1979 revolution was a movement for freedom and prosperity, which was smashed.

The calamities of the period after the revolution in Iran must be attributed to those responsible. People were right to reject the monarchy and the discrimination, inequality, oppression and degradation that went with it and rise up in protest. People were right to not want a king, SAVAK [the secret police], torturers and torture chambers at the end of the 20th century. People were right to take up arms against an army, which massacred them at the earliest manifestations of their protests. The 1979 revolution was an act for freedom, justice and human dignity. The Islamic movement and the Islamic government were not only not the result of this revolution, but were rather a deliberate means of suppressing the revolution, and brought to the fore when the fall and failure of the Shah’s regime was confirmed. Contrary to commonly held views, the Islamic Republic did not primarily owe its existence to the network of mosques and the swarm of petty mullahs. The source of this regime was not religion’s power among the people; it was not Shiism’s power, people’s lack of interest in modernism and their hatred of Western culture, excessively accelerated urbanisation and lack of ‘practicing democracy’, etc. This nonsense might be useful for the career of half-wit ‘Orientalists’ or media commentators, but it does not have the slightest relation to the truth. The very forces that were supporting the Shah’s regime and training the SAVAK until the day before brought the Islamic current to the fore of the 1979 revolution – those who recognised the radicalisation and left leaning potential of the Iranian revolution and had learnt their lesson from the oil workers’ strike; those who needed a green belt for Cold War rivalries. Money was spent for the ‘Islamisation’ of the Iranian revolution; plans were drawn up, meetings were organised. Thousands of people – from Western diplomats and military attachés, to the ever honourable journalists of the world of democracy – worked intensely for months until a backward, marginal, rotten and isolated tradition in the political history of Iran was turned into the ‘revolution’s leadership’ and a ruling alternative for the urbanised and newly industrialised society of Iran in 1979. Mr. Khomeini did not come from Najaf and Qom and as the head of a swarm of donkey-riding mullahs from en-route villages but from Paris via air. The 1979 revolution was a manifestation of the genuine protests of the deprived people of Iran but the ‘Islamic revolution’ and the Islamic regime were the result of the Cold War, the result of the most modern political dealings of the world at the time. The architects of this regime were the strategists and policy makers of Western powers, the very same ones who today, from within the swamps of cultural relativism, once again legitimise the very monster they created as the natural product of ‘Islamic and eastern society’ and worthy of the people of the ‘Islamic World’. The entire West’s economic, political and propaganda resources were pulled together for months before and after February 1979 in order to establish and maintain this regime.

The very fact that this social engineering became possible in Iran, however, owes itself to the situation and condition of the political and social forces within Iran. There was enough material available for this task. Islamic currents existed in all countries of the region. Until the events in Iran, however, this movement did not at any point become a notable political force and a main player on the political scene of these countries. The Islamic (counter) revolution was not constructed on the insignificant force of the Islamic current, but rather on primary political traditions of the Iranian opposition. The Islamic counter-revolution was built on the nationalist and so-called liberal tradition of the ‘National Front’, which more than anything else feared workers and communists and had spent its entire life biting its nails under the monarchy’s cape and religion’s robe. It was a tradition, which in its entire history had been unable to organise even a semi-secular offensive against religion in Iran’s politics and culture. It was a tradition in which its leaders and personalities were among the first to swear allegiance to the Islamic movement. The Islamic counter-revolution was built on the Tudeh Party’s tradition in which anti-Americanism and strengthening its international camp at any price, made up the philosophy of its existence and which saw the Islamic regime, irrespective of its consequences for the people and freedom, as a playground for manoeuvre and manipulation. The Islamic counter-revolution was built on a corrupt anti-modernist, anti ‘westernisation’, xenophobic and Islam-ridden tradition dominant in a majority of the intellectual and cultural segments of society in Iran, which shaped the initial environment of the youth and student protests. Khomeini triumphed not because superstitious people saw his reflection on the moon, but rather because the traditional opposition and this corrupt nationalist and regressive culture saw him – who was the most imported and manufactured personage of Iranian contemporary political history – as ‘made in Iran’, anti-Western and one of their own and thus rose to praise him. The Islamic counter-revolution was the result of the fact that the modernist-socialist oil industry and big industries’ workers lost the initiative in the protest scene to the traditional opposition of Iran. It was they who received Khomeini’s personage and the Islamic revolution scenario from the West and sold it to the protesting masses of people.

Despite all this, the Islamic theatrics only created a delay in the development of the 1979 revolution. The events immediately following the February uprising showed that the dynamics of the revolution was still there. Irrespective of what was said, it showed that people had nevertheless come to and remained at the fore for freedom and social prosperity not for Islam. Eventually, the 1979 revolution, like most revolutions, was defeated not by deceit and lies, but by an extremely bloody suppression. During February 11, 19791 and June 20, 19812 was all the opportunity Islam and the Islamic movement managed to obtain for the guardians of the Shah’s regime. And of course, that’s all they needed. In the real history of Iran, June 20, 1981 is joined to September 8, 19783 and is the next link in the chain. Khomeini, Bazargan, Sanjabi, Madani, Forouhar, Yazdi, Banisadr, Rajaie and Beheshti are the names which must follow Mohamad Reza Pahlavi, Amouzgar, Sharif Emami, Bakhtiar, Oveisi, Azhari, and Rahimi as characters that came to the fore one after the other to block the revolution and people’s protests. The continuous blows of the protest movement defeated the monarchist regime and its various characters. In contrast, the Islamic government managed to buy time, restore the forces of reaction and smash the people’s revolution in the bloodiest form. The agenda of both regimes was one and the same.

More than half of the people of Iran are too young to hold even a vague recollection of the 1979 revolution. Their connection to the events of that period is not unlike the connection of the 1979 revolutionary generation with events during the Mossadegh period and 1953 coup – a spent and inaccessible period, which is only in the minds of and regarded as important by its own contemporary generation. Interpretations of that period are many and numerous, but more than saying anything about an historical truth, they pass judgement on the narrator and their place in today’s world. Human beings always look at the past from a contemporary perspective and seek justifications for their current will and deeds. In looking at the 1979 revolution, our ‘new thinkers’ are looking to raise a banner in today’s Iran. This banner, however, has always existed. Each time, who, and through which ceremony, and by reciting which verses assembles under this banner is secondary.

Footnotes:

1 February 11, 1979: the date of the Iranian revolution – Ed.

2 June 20, 1981: the eventual juncture that the Islamic regime’s suppression took place. – Ed.

3 September 8, 1978: the date when the Shah’s army massacred demonstrators in Jaleh Square in Tehran. – Ed.

First published in Persian in 1995. The English version is a reprint from WPI Briefin g and was translated by Maryam Namazie and Fariborz Pooya.

Bahman Salimian is to be executed in Iran today

Mohammad Mostafaei, a prominent lawyer working on child execution cases reported that Bahman Salimian, a minor on death row, is in imminent danger of execution. He is scheduled to be executed on February 5th in Iran.

150 lawyers have written an open letter to Iran’s head of Judicary Ayatollah Shahroudi demanding a stay of execution for Bahman as well as an end to executions of juveniles.

Bahman Salimian is accused of killing his grandmother in 1996 at the age of 15. He repeatedly claimed in his trial that his 70-year old grandmother talked of committing suicide so he killed her to minimize her suffering.According to Bahman’s attorney, he was not in a normal state of mind at the time of the offence that he even attempted suicide shortly after he realized what he had done.The trial judge had Bahman psychologically assessed. Expert concluded that he was suffering from a mental disorder therefore, his sentence was reduced to 5 years imprisonment and the payment of blood money. Other members of his grandmother’s family appealed the decision wanting retribution. Bahman was sentenced to death after 12 year imprisonment. Bahman is now 27 years old and kept in Isfahan prison. His execution had been scheduled to take place on 28 August 2008 but was halted a few days prior by judicial authorities to allow for further reconciliation attempts in order to negotiate a pardon from the only relative who still insists that the execution is to go ahead. Two of his uncles had pardoned him, but the third uncle did not.

For more information on Bahman, click here.

For more information on what to do and on child executions, go to Stop Child Executions.

Unveiled No. 2; Join the struggle against sexual apartheid and sharia

Unveiled No. 2, January 31, 2009

Publication of Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran
Editor: Maryam Namazie

Thirty years of struggle for freedom and equality
Sohaila Sharifi

There is a short video clip on some websites showing Iranian women’s 1979 historic march on International Women’s Day. Each time I watch this clip I feel overwhelmed with emotion and pride. The black and white, not so great quality, video clip shows thousands of women from all walks of life – veiled and unveiled – marching through the streets of Tehran protesting Khomeini’s latest speech in which he had said that it was the duty of Muslim women to cover themselves and spread the message of the ‘Islamic revolution.’ His fatwa was to become law and every woman was forced to observe it. In the clip, some of the women are holding up banners and some have their fists raised and are chanting slogans. After all, for many of them it was also their revolution – that had been crushed by the political Islamic movement.

Whilst the protestors are mostly women there are a considerable number of men supporters among them too. The majority of women are wearing modern, smart clothes, some according to the latest fashion and some simply in jeans and a coat or a jumper. Some have their hair loose and parted in the middle; others have it tied back or clipped to the sides. They don’t look very different from women anywhere else in the world. It is their angry faces and their passionate cries though that differentiates them as brave revolutionaries who had fought shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the country and had just managed to overthrow one of the most powerful dictatorships in the region. It is the slogans they are chanting that give me goose bumps each time I watch the video clip. Because what they demanding, the slogans they are chanting and the songs they are singing are still as relevant as they were thirty years ago: ‘Freedom is our culture; to stay at home is our shame;’ ‘Liberty and equality are our undeniable rights;’ ‘ We will fight against compulsory veiling; down with dictatorship;’ ‘In the dawn of freedom, we lack freedom for women;’ ‘women’s rights are neither eastern nor western; they are universal;’ ‘Freedom does not take rules and regulations,’ ‘We want equal rights;’ and ‘we haven’t had a revolution to be taken backwards.’

A young girl is telling a French reporter how she and her friends have been out demonstrating against the Shah for nearly a year hoping that they would get a better life, freedom and equality, and how things are moving in the opposite direction. It is like going back many centuries, she says. Somewhere else a middle-aged woman wearing a floral chador is explaining that she had grown up with her veil and her chador and doesn’t mind wearing it, however, ‘it is not for myself that I am here,’ she says, ‘I have young daughters who are educated and independent and they don’t want to be told what to wear. It is to support them that I am here today.’

Thirty years on, many of these women (or at least those lucky enough to survive the Islamic regime’s brutality) still dream of the freedom they have fought for and which had been so brutally suppressed. They have passed on the dream to the next generation and are now watching with a mixture of fear and fascination at how their young sons and daughters are pursuing the same dream and fighting the same regime with even more passion and bravery. Some like Mina Ahadi refused to let go of the banner and carried it all the way from Tabriz and Tehran to Berlin and London and proudly lead the fight for secularism and freedom across the world.

The battle between the Islamic regime and the Iranian people, particularly women, started from that historic demonstration and has continued. Throughout these decades, the veil has remained the main focus on both sides. The Islamic regime and its hezbollah thugs have brutally thrown acid on made up faces, slashed uncovered legs and literally pined the hijab to the foreheads of those who refused to comply. They sacked any working women who refused to observe the hijab and throughout the past thirty years they have come up with more restrictions and tricks to keep the veil on women only to face increasing resistance and a stronger and more militant movement especially from the younger generation. It is interesting to note that unlike their parents and the older generation, the majority of young people who are standing up against the government and bravely shouting that they don’t want an Islamic regime have never seen anything different; they have been born and raised under the strict rules of Sharia and yet they demand unconditional equality and freedom. One can only conclude that despite the government’s every effort, it has never managed to kill the dream of those who marched the streets of Tehran thirty years ago.

The women’s liberation movement in Iran is a growing and uncompromising movement that has taken the lead in the fight against political Islam not only in Iran but in some European countries too. It has become an international movement. The hijab has become one of the main pillars of not only the Islamic government in Iran but also of political Islam worldwide. Today we have to fight the veil not only on the streets of Tehran and Isfahan, but on the streets of London and Berlin. Today we have to fight against Sharia law not only in Iran but in Canada, Britain and Sweden. Today we have to save children from faith school and religious indoctrination not only in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iran but in Britain and many other European countries.

Iran, however, remains the main battlefield, because that is political Islam’s stronghold; and as long as it is so, there is no other alternative but for freedom lovers, secularists and those who dream of equality and a free life to topple the regime of sexual apartheid in Iran. The movement for equality and freedom in Iran, the women’s liberation movement, the worker’s struggle and the growing Left and secular movement in Iran are the pillars of the international Left, secularist and humanist movements. This movement in Iran needs to be heard, supported and strengthened.

Join the fight against sexual apartheid

Sexual Apartheid is the outrage of our century. In Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and countries ruled by Islamic laws, millions of women and girls are segregated, degraded and relegated to second class citizenship. Keeping women and girls separate and unequal are important pillars of Islamic rule, affecting every aspect of people’s lives. Just as a mass movement rejected Racial Apartheid in South Africa, so too must it reject segregation based on sex in Iran and everywhere.

8 March 2009 will be the 30th anniversary of the mass demonstrations against veiling and sexual apartheid that took place in Iran after Khomeini proclaimed the day before that women were to be veiled in workplaces. The protests were suppressed and the Islamic regime in Iran went on to impose compulsory veiling for girls and women and segregate the society at large.

The women’s liberation movement in Iran, however, continued to mobilise and grow in strength and numbers. Today, it is a resolute movement against sexual apartheid and discrimination against women and for freedom and equality.

Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran is calling on people everywhere to pay tribute to this movement by recognising 8 March (International Women’s Day) as the International Day against Sexual Apartheid.

We also call on individuals, unions, parties and organisations to condemn sexual apartheid and the political Islamic movement that perpetrates it by continuing to sign on to the below declaration.

Declaration against sexual apartheid

We, the undersigned, unequivocally oppose sexual apartheid and the subjugation of millions of women living under Islamic rules and laws.

We condemn regimes and the political Islamic movement that perpetrate sexual apartheid, including in Iran.

We support the legitimate struggle of millions of women and men for freedom, equality and universal rights.

Sexual apartheid, like racial apartheid, has no place in the 21 century.

This declaration has already been signed by: Norm R. Allen Jr., Executive Director, African Americans for Humanism, USA; Ophelia Benson, Editor, Butterflies and Wheels, USA; – Shahnaz Bokhari, Chairperson, Progressive Women’s Association, Pakistan; Pamela Bone, Journalist and Author, Australia; A. C. Grayling, Author and Philosopher, UK; Maria Hagberg, founder of organisation against honour killings, Sweden; Hope Knuttson, President, Sidmennt, the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association, Iceland; David Pollock, President of the European Humanist Federation, UK; Terry Sanderson, President, National Secular Society, UK; Michael Schmidt-Salomon, philosopher; CEO of Giordano Bruno Foundation, Germany; Joan Smith, Novelist, Columnist and Human Rights Activist, UK; and Peter Tatchell, Human Rights Campaigner, UK.

Add your name to the declaration.

Join the fight against sexual apartheid!

ERN joins One Law for Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain

Equal Rights Now is a signatory to and coalition partner of the One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain. This campaign gives people a chance to voice their opposition to political Islam and Sharia law in Britain, but also Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, demand one secular law and full citizenship rights, demand an end to cultural relativism and racism, and defend universal rights.

On the 7th, the campaign is organising a rally in the North Terrace, Trafalgar Square, London, 3:30-4:30pm followed by a march towards Conway Hall from 4:30-5:30pm. Then it is organising a public meeting entitled Sharia Law, Sexual Apartheid and Women’s Rights from 6:00-8:00pm at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL. Speakers include: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (Journalist and British Muslims for Secular Democracy Chair), Naser Khader (Democratic Muslims Founder), Gina Khan (One Law for All Spokesperson), Kenan Malik (Writer and Broadcaster), Maryam Namazie (Equal Rights Now and One Law for All Spokesperson), Fariborz Pooya (Iranian Secular Society and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain Chair), and Carla Revere (Lawyers’ Secular Society Chair).

Prizes for the One Law for All Art Competition will be awarded at the March 7 public meeting. Anyone can participate in the competition by submitting a painting, drawing, photograph, animation or short video in digital format no later than February 27, 2009. The goal of the art competition is to expose the discriminatory nature of Sharia and religious-based tribunals and/or promote equal rights for all citizens, as embodied by the campaign’s emblematic phrase: One Law for All. All submissions will be reviewed by a panel of prominent judges, namely, AC Grayling (Philosopher), Deeyah (Singer), Johann Hari (Journalist and Playwright) and Polly Toynbee (Writer and Columnist).

You can sign the petition or find out more about this campaign by visiting its website.

Join the international campaign against the civil law of Kurdistan, Iraq

The Kurdistan parliament in Iraq has recently passed the Civil Law of Kurdistan, despite the protests and objections of many activists and secularists. The recently-passed Civil Law establishes the enslavement and inferiority of women. It makes gender discrimination legal. The new law encourages men to marry more than one wife whilst imposing a male ‘guardian’ on women; it promotes the practice of trading women for money at marriage, and maintains the inferiority of women in cases of inheritance, in addition to other discriminatory rules derived from Sharia law. The acceptance of this reactionary law by ruling nationalist-Islamist forces dominating the parliament is a stark violation of women’s rights. It is a continuation of the past 17 years track-record of these forces, which has resulted in violations of women’s rights, the promotion of religious and tribal practices and values, and the heinous crimes of ‘honour killings.’ We believe that humanitarian forces can and must fight this discriminatory law and get rid of it.

We, therefore, announce the launch of our international campaign against the Civil Law in Kurdistan – Iraq which demands the immediate abolition of the Civil Law, passed by the parliament of Kurdistan and firmly opposes all forms of slavery and sexual discrimination against women. It also calls for the prohibition of any form of interference of Sharia or any religious laws in the family or public life, and the complete separation of religion from the state. The Campaign aims to propose an alternative secular Civil Law which is based on the principals of full equality between women and men and the most contemporary standards. This secular civil law prohibits polygamy, trading of or dowry for the bride or any such practices in marriage, any form of pressure and coercion whether by an individual or party on the woman in her right to choose a partner or spouse, and decide about their mutual life, and any restrictions on women’s equal right to proceed with separation or divorce.

We call upon all egalitarians and secularists, all groups or individuals who believe in gender equality, whether in Kurdistan, Iraq, or around the world, to endorse this campaign by adding their support to our campaign.

For further information or to add your name as a signatory to this important campaign, please contact:

Let’s turn International Women’s Day into a day of protest against the regime of sexual apartheid in Iran!

8 March, International Women’s Day, the international day of protest against all forms of oppression and discrimination against women. To mark this day, Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran and others are calling for the condemnation of the Islamic Republic of Iran for its systematic misogyny and sexual apartheid.

In this day and age, apartheid is no longer identifiable with racial apartheid but with the sexual apartheid of regimes like the Islamic Republic of Iran. This regime has intensified, legitimised and strengthened the subjugation of women with its laws and legal system. From the outset, it has enforced compulsory veiling with brute force, including by throwing acid on unveiled women’s faces and imprisoning and flogging those deemed to be transgressors. Like the former racial apartheid of South Africa, it has also segregated women in buses, workplaces and all other public spaces. Women are barred from many occupations. They don’t even have the right to enter sport stadiums. According to Sharia law, women are the property of men and have no duty but to serve their male ‘guardian’ and take care of their husbands and children. Women’s right to inheritance is half that of men’s. Women’s testimony is worth half that of men’s. Women can hardly get a divorce without their husband’s permission yet men can divorce their wives without reason and even without their being present. Women don’t have the right to travel, work, study and more without their male ‘guardian’s’ permission. The marriage of an adult woman is not valid and cannot be registered without her father’s consent. Sexual relations outside of marriage are punishable with death by stoning, the most brutal form of execution. Any protest against sexual apartheid and women’s enslaved position is met with brute force.

In light of this stark reality, the Islamic Republic of Iran must face the same public outrage and condemnation as did Apartheid South Africa. The Islamic Republic of Iran must be condemned and isolated by 21st century humanity. The political isolation of Apartheid South Africa in the early 90’s is a successful example of the shared efforts of people across the world in getting rid of an inhuman regime. The Islamic Republic of Iran can and must meet the same condemnation and expulsion. Any appeasement toward this regime only helps it at the expense of the rights and lives of people in Iran.

On March 8, Equal Rights Now calls for solidarity with the egalitarian struggle of women and men in Iran. Over the last 30 years, the movement against sexual apartheid has been taking shape there in universities and schools, in factories and workplaces, in the family and on the streets. This movement is becoming increasingly expansive. According to official statistics, in Iran, hundreds of thousands of youth and women are arrested and punished annually for not observing the veil. They are sometimes lashed. This shows not only the regime’s oppression but also the massive scale of resistance and struggle. The appeal against the situation of women in Iran under the Islamic regime in Iran is an appeal against a reactionary regime and the political Islamic movement that is resorting to terror and medievalism. The emancipation of women in Iran is a call for the emancipation of women in countries and communities ruled by political Islam and Sharia and will strengthen the women’s liberation movement internationally.

On March 8, we call on public opinion to support the women’s liberation movement in Iran by demanding an end to political relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, and an end to sexual apartheid.

WPI Briefing 207: Palestinian people: victims of two terrorist camps

Palestinian people: victims of two terrorist camps
New Channel TV’s interview with Hamid Taqvaee on the massacre of innocent civilians in Gaza

Nasser Asqary: Israel continues its mass killings in Gaza. Political Islamic forces, including the regime in Iran, have seized on the opportunity to promote their propaganda and shed crocodile tears for the Palestinian people. What is this war all about? What role is political Islam playing?

Hamid Taqvaee: Well, first of all, as you mentioned, this war has been a total catastrophe from a humanitarian point of view. I think the scale of the killings of Palestinians by Israel is almost without precedence even in the bloody history of the wars between Arabs and Israelis. As you know, Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Over a million and a half people, mostly children and teenagers, live in a tiny strip of land. Clearly, any air or ground assault on such an area would be disastrous, resulting in very high human casualties. The lives and livelihoods of thousands of innocent people who do not have the least interest or role in this war will be lost over nothing. The tragedy is that the Palestinian people are the only people in the world who live in refugee camps in their own land; and Israel, the very root cause of that situation, once in a while attacks them from the air and on the ground! Israel has always denied the Palestinians the right to a normal life. It has always responded to the legitimate demand of the Palestinian people with an iron fist. That is the root cause of the current war too. It is not the first time Israel passes through Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps with the deadly fire of its military might. That is what it has always done. That is its strategy, and this time too it is busy creating another humanitarian catastrophe.

On the other side, Hamas is also an agent in creating this catastrophe. Its rocket fire and other blind terrorist operations against the people of Israel have resulted in casualties, although not quantitatively comparable with those caused by Israel. Hamas’ rocket fire since the end of the last ceasefire has killed a few people, whereas so far close to a thousand Palestinians have been killed in Gaza. But a crime is a crime. After all, both sides kill as much as they have the power to. Hamas kills tens of people with its rocket fire, and Israel kills hundreds and thousands with the most powerful army in the Middle East, which has been essentially created with the objective of crushing the Palestinian people and their legitimate demands. Two terrorist forces have come face to face, not willing to stop short of any crime against the people. From a humanitarian perspective, this war is a criminal war on both sides and must stop immediately and unconditionally.

The other aspect of this war, which your question raises, is the political causes and motives behind it. From this perspective too this is a reactionary war on both sides. It is being waged over the Palestinian question – in the name of defending the displaced Palestinian people, on the one hand, and in the name of defending the existence of the state of Israel, on the other. When you scratch beneath the surface, however, you will see that this war is not over the rights of the Palestinian people at all. They are merely its victims, and the two sides have their own political reasons for the continuation of this situation. In my view, as both the 33-day war of Lebanon in 2006 and the current war have shown, it is no longer a question of forces fighting to resolve the Palestinian question and securing the rights of the Palestinian people, be it under a nationalist banner or any other, as was the case with, for example, Al-Fatah or organisations led by left-leaning Palestinian leaders such as Nayef Hawatmeh and George Habash. Those circumstances do not prevail any longer. Today, what you have on the [Palestinian] side of this war is the reactionary political Islamic movement which, ideologically, follows a strategy, a political line, totally irrelevant to the demands and aspirations of the Palestinian people. The formation of a viable Palestinian state on equal footing with Israel and other states is not on the agenda of political Islam. Its proclaimed goal, spelt out time and time again by Hamas’ leader Khalid Mish’al and the Islamic regime of Iran’s president Ahmadinejad, is to not recognise Israel and to throw all Israelis into the sea! Well, what this means in practical-political terms is that the formation of an equal Palestinian state is absent from the agenda of political Islam. What Hamas ultimately aspires to achieve is the creation in Palestine of a state similar to that of the Taliban regime or the Islamic Republic in Iran – a state founded on religious and ethnic hate-mongering against Israel and the Jewish people (or ‘belligerent infidels,’ as Iran’s so called supreme spiritual leader Khamenei calls them). That will not resolve the Palestinian question, but turns it into a more deeply rooted chronic, bloodier question.

The political Islamic forces intend to create faith-based states similar to Iran in the Middle East, and that is essentially why the regime in Iran actively supports them. It is common knowledge that if Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah of Lebanon, etc., are in existence today it is basically thanks to the political, military and financial support of the regime in Iran. Political Islamic forces need war. They feed on war. War prepares a fertile ground for their growth. It is through war that they get a chance to tug at the heartstrings of people and beat the drum for Islam against Israel, which they know is hated by the people in the region. They thus provide a platform, a political raison d’être, for themselves. In my opinion, although the Israeli assault may weaken political Islam militarily, it will ultimately strengthen it, and secure a fertile ground for their growth. This is the service the Israeli military assault provides the ultra-reactionary movement of political Islam.

Nasser Asqary: Doesn’t Israel and the United States know this?

Hamid Taqvaee: I think they do. But they do not have much of a problem with it. Israel doesn’t mind seeing the Palestinian question, i.e., the statelessness of the Palestinian people, being buried under the rubbles of a religious war. Ever since the Lebanon war in 2006, Israel has claimed it is defending the camp of global democracy, i.e., the state terrorism of the West whose standard bearer is, as we know, the Bush administration, against Islamic terrorism. It is no longer a question of Israel fighting Palestinian forces of independence or defenders of refugee rights or even forces of Arab nationalism. The question has been politically re-moulded into one in which Israel is fighting Islamic terrorism, and this, from a political perspective and within the framework of the reactionary strategic goals perused by the Israeli ruling class, is of benefit to that government. When, at the time of Yasser Arafat, Al-Fatah had the upper hand [in the Palestinian movement], Israel even helped Hamas to paint the question in a religious light. Israel itself is an ethnic-religious state drawing, for its legitimacy, on the Old Testament, the Torah, etc., and their promise of land to the Children of Israel. It, therefore, needs, politically and strategically, to have a rank of Muslims lined up against it, that is, to be faced with a fight between Muslims and Jews over Jerusalem, for example, rather than a fight between a force fighting for independence and an oppressive state, that is, between several million displaced people and a state which is a usurper and an aggressor. So, from this strategic standpoint, Israel benefits from tainting the fight as a crusade between Muslims and Jews. This distortion of the Palestinian question by tainting it with ethnicity and religion is common between Israel and the political Islamic forces such as Hamas and the regime in Iran. And it is this fact that puts the current war, like the 33-day war in Lebanon in 2006, in the framework of an opposition between two terrorist camps in the Middle East.

It is for these reasons that I believe this war is, politically and strategically, favourable to both Israel and political Islam, and that therefore neither of them truly wants a ceasefire. So much so that when Hamas is asked about a ceasefire its response is: remove the economic siege and recognise the government of Hamas in Gaza. By making this demand, Hamas is, in fact, proposing its own victory as the pre-condition for a ceasefire. Israel also claims that the forces it is fighting are Islamic terrorist forces, so they must stop their rocket fire, recognise Israel, and so on. Neither side is, therefore, willing to go for an immediate, unconditional ceasefire. Hamas thinks the longer this war drags on, and the higher the death toll rises, at the end it will be enjoying, like Hezbollah at the end of the 33-day war in Lebanon, a more favourable social and political footing. On the other hand, the more this opposition becomes an opposition between Islam and Judaism the more it is, as I said, to Israel’s benefit strategically. Israel is aware that in a conflict between forces wanting all Israelis to be thrown into the sea and a state that is defending its very existence, it will no longer appear as usurper and aggressor but as just another country fighting for its survival.

Hamas says it will not recognise Israel, Ahmadinejad wants to wipe it off the face of the earth, and Khamenei issues a Fatwa commanding all Muslims to fight ‘the belligerent infidels.’ This is the precious service the forces of political Islam are doing for Israel. One may, indeed, say that the Palestinian question has been hijacked by political Islam. And this is a boon for Israel as an aggressor. Two reactionary forces are fighting over their own reactionary agendas, and the people of Palestine are the innocent victims of their conflict.

Nasser Asqary: The Islamic regime of Iran’s brutal paramilitary force, Basij, has been called to sign up for deployment to Jerusalem. A bounty of $1 million has been put on Hosni Mubarak’s head, and so on. What role is the regime in Iran playing here?

Hamid Taqvaee: Well, I think the role of the regime is a significant one here, from the political perspective, as well as from the point of view of its financial and military backing of Hamas and Hezbollah. You see, this war is transpiring at a time when the regime has been weakened both domestically and regionally. As far as the domestic political conditions are concerned, you can see, on the one hand, that Khamenei is backing Ahmadinejad, forming a bloc with him, in preparation for the upcoming so-called elections. On the other hand, you see the dissenters, who are increasingly standing up to the so-called Supreme Leader [Khamenei]. Even among the hardliners there are now many people who disagree with Khamenei and Ahmadinejad. Division within the regime is on the increase. Kargozaran newspaper has been banned, Rafsanjani is being attacked, and he is, in turn, questioning Khamenei’s judgments and decisions, and, generally speaking, nobody thinks very much of the so-called Supreme Leader anymore! From the regional perspective, during the past several months the United States has pursued a policy of pushing the regime further away from Western states which has led to a certain kind of political isolation. So much so that today even Syria has closer ties to the West than Iran. Western states have taken initiatives to establish closer relations with Arab countries but have excluded Iran. Therefore, under such internal and regional circumstances the regime also needed this war for its short term, transitional, or diplomatic goals. Khamenei has had a chance to, once again, raise the same old banner and issue a Jihad Fatwa addressed to ‘Muslims of the world.’ The Shariatmadari controlled Keyhan newspaper has declared it ‘halal’ to shed the blood of all Zionists and Jews, wherever possible. They are dispatching Basijis to the war zone. And all this is, of course, happening in the midst of acute domestic cracks within the regime. It is all happening within the framework of the comic situation the regime finds itself in today. For example, the Basiji’s who are all packed up to go to war are expecting to be given a free hand so they can hijack a plane to fly to the belligerent infidels! There are now such ludicrous arguments as this going on between different factions of the regime. It needs this war out of sheer desperation. It needs that whole masquerade to be able to, once again, seize on such sham causes as defending Palestinian children (while it itself executes children) in the hope of getting out of its muddled condition, and by so doing buy itself some justification.

Nevertheless, as far the Iranian people are concerned I think they are the most conscious people about the Palestinian question. They have experienced the Islamic Republic’s regime. They know political Islam perfectly and will not believe the mullah’s crocodile tears no matter who they happen to be shed for. They know that the regime’s concern is not the people of Palestine, and they know that it is supporting terrorists and organisations such as Hamas and Hezbollah to advance its own agenda. For the Iranian working class, for the great majority of people who have, for the past thirty years, suffered the regime’s oppression, torture and mass killings in the name of the ‘struggle against the Great Satan,’ ‘struggle against Israel, ‘conquering Jerusalem by way of Karbala,’ and similar nonsensical slogans, the regime’s support of the Palestinian people is nothing more than a farce. But, unfortunately, this mentality is not shared, or, at least, not so strongly shared, in the region as a whole. And that is why the regime can count on its own mockery of helping the Palestinian people, hoping to gain a socio-political footing in Arab countries, in Palestine itself, in Lebanon, even in Iraq, and thus be able to revive itself politically in the region. This is the necessity of war for the regime. As some Western analysts have put it, this war is a proxy war. It is a kind of indirect clash between the Islamic Republic and Israel. It is a confrontation between two terrorist camps. This war, in my view, as I mentioned earlier, in terms of both its substance and the political circumstances that have caused it, is a war within the framework of the international war of terrorists. It is the war of US-led militarism against political Islam, and not a war within the framework of the struggles of the Palestinian people for independence against Israel, the usurper. This is a terrorist war and therefore, from a political standpoint, reactionary, anti-human and deplorable. It is the Palestinian people, as well as the Israeli people, who are its only victims. Their interests are not, by any means, represented in this war.

Nasser Asqary: The leaders of some Islamic states, and Islamist and nationalist political currents, claim that Hamas has been elected by the people and is, therefore, their representative. What do think of this representation of the Palestinian people by Hamas?

Hamid Taqvaee: As I alluded earlier, the people of Iran know best the true meaning of this claim. The same is said about Ahmadinejad having been elected by the people, or that Khomeini or Khatami were elected by the people. We are quite familiar with the mechanism by which, depending on the circumstances, a political current can emerge form the ballot box, especially in countries like Iran or Palestine. Such governments bring someone out of the ballot box at their discretion. In this particular case, even assuming a fair and square election, the policies carried out by Hamas now have no relevance to the interests of the Palestinian people.

In a sense, even Hitler was elected and enjoyed a large social base, but it did not mean that he represented the interests of the working class and the honourable masses of Germany. It was the same in the case of Khomeini. The newly established Islamic Republic initially obtained 90 percent of the votes, and truly so, because the people had illusions about the nature of this regime. But it was obvious from day one that it had nothing to do with the interests of the people. And people know this today. Now, there is even no need to mention later ‘elections’ such as that of Khamenei’s, Khatami’s, Ahmadinejad’s, and so on. Therefore, one should set aside the argument regarding elections, especially when it comes to countries like Iran and Palestine, as elections do not prove anything whatsoever in the field of veritable politics.

The question is, essentially, about the policy carried out by Hamas which is criminal from the humanitarian perspective, and irrelevant to the interests and legitimate demands of the Palestinian people from the political perspective. Hamas’ objective is not the creation of a Palestinian state. Its ideological aspiration is the annihilation of Israel. It does not recognise the existence of Israel. Well, then, with such a banner, the political Islamic movement can, of course, go on retaining the bone of contention forever. Because not recognising Israel means, in fact, that there cannot be any negotiation, any diplomacy. No government will ever negotiate with someone who says ‘I do not recognise you!’ Well, this becomes a god given gift to Israel, as it too is not willing to negotiate and recognise a Palestinian state. In the best case scenario, Israel is willing to show its iron fist and recognise the existence of some sort of ‘self-government’ in the refugee camps. That is the maximum Israel is willing to do. It, therefore, needs an opposite camp which raises the banner of Islam against the ‘belligerent infidels’ saying Israel must be wiped off the map, so it can respond by saying, well, then, here ends negotiation and begins the ‘fight to the last breath!’ Hamas has created that situation, and it does not bear any relevance whatsoever to the interests of Palestinians who want to live in peace, have their own country, be recognised and, like any other country in the region, send their ambassador to the United Nations, elect Presidents, and so on.

In the current political atmosphere, and in the wake of the indignation caused by the mass killings perpetrated by Israel, the popularity of Hamas is quite likely to increase. It is clear that under these circumstances the more people Israel kills the more Hamas will benefit, though Hamas is just as criminal as Israel. And if you look closer and heed the conditions in which the people are living and their need for a dignified life, for a Palestinian state, for a measure of normality so they would not have to live under the fire of tanks, fighter jets and cannons on a daily basis, then you will see that Hamas is moving in the opposite direction. War mongering is part and parcel of Hamas’ policy; just as much as Ahmadinejad throws the Israelis into the sea once a week. And this is not a stupid mistake. It is not that the regime in Iran does not understand its own rhetoric. It knows very well what it is doing. Similarly, Hamas has raised the banner of the annihilation of Israel because it is under such a banner that it can gather the reactionary movement of political Islam around itself. We [in the Worker-communist party of Iran] have always said that one of the political assets of and one of the sources, which political Islam feeds on, is the Palestinian issue. This crime against the Palestinian people has been historically perpetrated by Israel, backed by the United States and other Western powers, and another reactionary movement has capitalised on it just as much in order to advance its own interests, and does not, therefore, even want the question to be resolved. Who would want to put their own capital assets on sale? It does not want the question resolved because as long as it is there political Islam can remain hopeful to be somebody in the ‘who’s who?’ of politics, a force to be reckoned with, and thus gain a social footing. These are the reasons why Hamas is not willing to see the Palestinian question ever resolved and, as I said, the Islamists, in general, have hijacked this cause to advance their own agenda.

Nasser Asqary; A number of forces, both Iranian and non, such as Rah-e-Kargar and Tudeh Party in the Iranian opposition, Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in Britain, and so on, have only condemned Israel as the party responsible for this war. They have thus indirectly sided with Hamas.

Hamid Taqvaee: Well, mind you, they have sided with Hamas directly in some cases! SWP, one of your examples, openly defends Hamas. In the 33-day war in Lebanon, the SWP raised pictures of Hasan Nasrollah and called him the Che Guevara of Lebanon! And now they are saying Hamas has been elected by the people of Palestine, that it represents their interests, is revolutionary, anti-imperialist, and so on. One can call the likes of the SWP the lunatic Left – a Left that hears voices in its head and is totally irrelevant to the realities of people’s political life.

The agenda of these forces has been founded on anti-Americanism. They will back just anyone who happens to be against America for whatever reason. From Ben Laden to Nasrollah, from Moghtada Sadr to Khomeini, from Khamenei to Ahmadinejad, they are all considered ‘revolutionary’ and supportable in the political lexicon of this lunatic Left. In the case of such groups as SWP and other anti-American Leftists in the West, one may consider mitigating circumstances like the fact that they might not know the true nature of the regime in Iran very well or that, after all, it is not their cause to overthrow it. But, as far as the Iranian lunatic Left is concerned, even that excuse will not apply; in which case taking such a position, i.e., a one-sided condemnation of Israel and silence towards political Islam, signifies, quite directly, indeed, a defence of the regime in practice. The characteristic feature of this Left is that every time there is a row between the regime and the US or Israel, it sides with the regime. For instance, at the time of occupation of the US embassy in 1979 (at that time the revolution was still alive and the people still pushed forward their radical demands in spite of the new regime. It therefore played the trick of embassy occupation on the people to appear revolutionary, to not lose its socio-political base among the masses, and to stand up to them in the name of revolution.) At the time this same lunatic Left declared the regime to be anti-American and progressive! As a result, it stopped the struggle against the regime, and later some of these groups even fully supported it. A more recent example is that every time the threat of a US attack on Iran is raised, they immediately side with the regime, claiming that it is not the right time for the slogan ‘Down with the Islamic Republic!’ but the time to stop fighting against it and opposing the US full force. Their slogan was ‘No to war,’ period. We raised the banner of ‘No to war! No to the Islamic Republic of Iran!’ But they put aside the ‘No to the Islamic Republic’ part. Well, you need not be a Marxist, or delve deeply into politics, to understand that taking such a position in the context of Iranian society means de facto support for the regime. The regime has put on this charade of being anti-Great-Satan and anti-Israel essentially with the intention of picking these very political fruits. And then this sectarian, lunatic Left falls right into the trap and, starting from the intention of opposing the US and Israel, ends up on the side of the Islamic regime in Iran.

We have, from an opposing standpoint to these farcical positions, propounded our policy domestically since the beginning of this regime, and internationally since September 11. We have declared that, in the conflict between the USA and political Islam, we stand with the people, that is, we stand in the camp of civilised humanity against this Islamist vs. New World Order barbarism. We are the standard bearers of a world that has risen up for its humane demands. No one has to choose between Osama Ben Laden and George Bush, between Ariel Sharon and Hasan Nasrollah, between Ehud Olmert and Khalid Mish’al. The people of the world do not have to. The people of the world can and should rise up to defend their rights, and in this case, that is, as far as the Palestinian question is concerned, they should stand up to both political Islam and the Israeli government’s bullying and mass killings. The Palestinian question can be truly resolved only by secular, Left forces, and not by Anti-Arab Jews or anti-Palestinian Zionists or anti-Jew and anti-belligerent-infidel Islamists, and so on. Khamenei’s recent Fatwa according to which Israelis are ‘belligerent infidels’ and Muslims across the world must rush to fight them, and so on, this kind of Islam vs. Judaism Crusade is not only not the solution, but it is itself the root cause of many of the problems.

The policies of Israeli and Western governments are the root, the cause and the source of the plight of several million Palestinians, which has existed for 60 years, and must come to an end. However, political Islam is an immense obstacle and is part of the problem. It is only the secular, Left and communist forces that are capable of resolving the Palestinian question based on the creation of an independent, secular state.

As far as the situation in Iran is concerned, the Left-leaning revolution that is taking shape can, in my view, be of decisive help to the resolution of that question. As I have already said, Iranian society is unique in that it is totally indifferent towards the anti-Americanism of the regime’s sort or anti-Israelism of Nasrollah’s sort. It is, in fact, not only indifferent towards them, but has been completely immunised against them. The people in Iran are deeply cognizant of the inhuman content of such anti-American and Anti-Great-Satan charades. At the same time, the Left movement, the movement for freedom, and especially the secularist movement against political Islam, is more powerful in Iran than anywhere else in the world. The revolutionary movement of the Iranian people against the regime is diagonally opposite the positions taken by the lunatic Left. The overthrow of the regime in Iran will liberate the Palestinian people as well. This Left, anti-religious, secularist movement does have a footing in Iran. It is represented by the Worker-communist Party. And we believe in the present conditions – as we also said in the past when, with the rise of the chance of US attack on Iran as a result of which the lunatic Left sided with the regime again – the only fundamental solution of the problem lies in mobilising the ranks of the people, helping them to rise up, and organising them to overthrow the regime. It is also true of this very day. The plight of the Palestinian people will persist as long as the influence of political Islam exists in Palestine as well as in the region at large. The Palestinian people must be rid of political Islam. To achieve that, its backbone must be broken, that is, the regime in Iran must be given the boot. This can be achieved in Iran with the force of the revolution of the workers, women and the youth. And we are representing this movement…

Political Islam is taking advantage of the Israeli government’s bullying, of US militarism, of the situation in Iraq, of the situation in Afghanistan, and of the current situation in Palestine. It has hijacked the Palestinian question. My advice to the lunatic Left that thinks it is defending the Palestinian people by raising the banner of ‘Down with Israel!’ alone, on the one hand, and raising the banner of remaining silent or even supporting Islamist forces, on the other, is that our fundamental slogan must be ‘Down with both terrorist poles!,’ i.e., it must be against both Israel and political Islam. It is only with slogans such as ‘Long live the people,’ ‘Long live secularism,’ ‘Long live freedom,’ ‘Long live equality’ and ‘Long live socialism’ that we can, and should, wage our war against both terrorist camps, put an end to this war and its mass killings, and prepare the ground for the foundation of an independent Palestinian state on equal footing with the state of Israel.

The original Farsi version of this interview has been transcribed and typed by Hadi Vaqfi. The English version was translated by Jamshid Hadian and first published in WPI Briefing 207, January 31, 2009.

Let’s turn International Women’s Day into a day of protest against the regime of sexual apartheid in Iran!

8 March, International Women’s Day, is approaching. This day is the international day of protest against all forms of oppression and discrimination against women. To mark this day, the Worker-communist Party of Iran calls for the condemnation of the Islamic Republic of Iran for its systematic misogyny and sexual apartheid. We also call for the political isolation of the regime as a solidarity measure with the women’s liberation movement and the people in Iran.

Today, apartheid is no longer identifiable with racial apartheid but with the sexual apartheid of regimes like the Islamic Republic of Iran. This regime has intensified, legitimised and strengthened the subjugation of women with its laws and legal system. From the outset, it has enforced compulsory veiling as a physical barrier to isolate and segregate women from men and has done so with brute force, including by throwing acid on unveiled women’s faces and imprisoning and flogging those deemed to be transgressors. Like the former racial apartheid of South Africa, it has also segregated women in buses, workplaces and all other public places.

In addition to segregation, sexual apartheid aims to push back women into the home. Women are barred from many occupations. They don’t even have the right to enter sport stadiums. According to Sharia law, women are the property of men and have no duty but to serve their male ‘guardian’ and take care of their husbands and children. Women’s right to inheritance is half that of men’s. Women’s testimony is worth half of that of men’s. Women can hardly get a divorce without their husband’s permission yet men can divorce their wives without reason and even without their being present. Women don’t have the right to travel, work, study and more without their male ‘guardian’s’ permission. The marriage of an adult woman is not valid and cannot be registered without her father’s consent. Sexual relations outside of marriage are punishable with death by stoning, the most brutal form of execution. Any protest against sexual apartheid and women’s enslaved position is met with brute force. Moreover, the regime’s propaganda machinery and its officials have made the humiliation and enslavement of women business as usual.

In light of this stark reality, the Islamic Republic of Iran must face the same public outrage and condemnation as did Apartheid South Africa. The institutionalised and legalised misogyny against women in Iran is sufficient reason for public opinion to demand the political isolation of this medieval regime internationally. The organised and brutal oppression and suppression of women in Iran is enough to demand that the heads of this regime be tried in an international tribunal for crimes against humanity. The abysmal status of women is sufficient reason to demand an end to this situation.

The Islamic Republic of Iran must be condemned and isolated by 21st century humanity. The political isolation of Apartheid South Africa in the early 90’s is a successful example of the shared efforts of people across the world in getting rid of an inhuman regime. The Islamic Republic of Iran can and must meet the same condemnation and expulsion. Any appeasement toward this regime only helps it at the expense of the rights and lives of people in Iran.

The WPI calls for solidarity on March 8 with the egalitarian struggle in Iran. Over the last 30 years, the movement against sexual apartheid has been taking shape in universities and schools, in factories and workplaces, in the family and on the streets. This movement is becoming increasingly expansive and is intensifying. According to official statistics, in Iran, hundreds of thousands of youth and women are arrested and punished annually for not observing the hijab. They are sometimes lashed. This shows not only the regime’s injustice and oppression but also the massive scale of resistance and struggle. The appeal against the situation of women in Iran under the Islamic regime in Iran is an appeal against a reactionary regime and the political Islamic movement that is resorting to terror and medievalism. The emancipation of women in Iran is a call for the emancipation of women in countries and communities ruled by political Islam and Sharia and will strengthen the women’s liberation movement internationally.

On March 8, we call on public opinion to support the women’s liberation movement in Iran by demanding an end to political relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, and an end to sexual apartheid.

Shiraz University students in Iran need your urgent support!
Khalil Keyvan

In mid-January the students of the University of Shiraz in Iran have been subjected to heavy and wholesale persecution by the Islamic regime in Iran. Scores of students have been suspended from their studies and/or arrested by the security forces for taking part in Student Day (Dec 7) rallies and for protesting against the regime for its repression and imposition of economic austerity.

37 students have been summoned by the University’s Disciplinary Committee, of whom 18 have been suspended for a period of 28 terms in total. However, this is not the end of the story. Ten students were called to report to the Intelligence Ministry’s headquarters in the city of Shiraz, upon which they were all arrested and detained. Some of those students have been released on heavy bail; however, seven are still in jail.

Despite these attacks, students of the University of Shiraz have not remained silent and are continuing to hold protest rallies to demand the release of those imprisoned. In their gatherings, students have been vehemently speaking out against the Islamic regime’s leaders, Ayatollah Khamenei, President Ahmadinejad and the Islamic Assembly leader, Larijani. Alarmed by the protests, the regime has launched a brutal suppression of the students.

Students’ demands include the immediate and unconditional release of all detained students; revoking of all disciplinary orders; revoking of all detention and summons orders; revoking of all bail orders; and the dismantling of the University’s draconian Disciplinary Committee and Security.

The Worker-communist Party of Iran calls on student groups, rights organisations, and public opinion to condemn the Islamic Republic of Iran; support the Shiraz students and their just demands; and to call for the immediate and unconditional acceptance of the students’ demands.

The above was translated by Babak Kasrayi.

A Snapshot of WPI’s activities
November 30, 2008-January 15, 2009
Siyaves Azeri

30 November 2008 marked the seventeenth anniversary of the formation of the Worker-communist Party of Iran. The anniversary of the formation of the party was celebrated by different Party organisations, the largest of which was organised by the Organisation Abroad and German Committee in Köln. The celebration started with a concert by the band Tapesh 2012, and a welcoming address in Farsi and English by Sima Bahari and Maryam Namazie. The WPI leader Hamid Taqvaee also made a speech during this event. He emphasised the unique role of Mansoor Hekmat in the WPI’s formation and maintained that the formation of the party was the communist answer to capitalism in the post-Berlin wall era. He also pointed to the Party’s progression and expansion in recent years and stressed the importance of the party in the struggle against the Islamic Republic. Issam Shukri, General Secretary of the Left Worker-communist Party of Iraq, also delivered a speech. He pointed to the importance of the continuation of the WPI’s activities and struggles in order to lead the revolutionary movement of the people in Iran against the Islamic Republic. Shukri also emphasised the importance of strengthening the relationship between the two parties. Abdulqadir Peyman from the leadership of Worker-socialists Organisation of Afghanistan, and Basir Nasibi, Iranian film director and critique in exile, were among the guests that delivered speeches. Messages of congratulations were also read during the event.

On December 6, 2009, in solidarity with Iranian students and in support of their struggle on Iranian Student’s Day the WPI organised rallies in Frankfurt, Germany and Malmo, Sweden. The protest in Frankfurt took place in front of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Mina Ahadi spoke in Farsi and German in support of the students and the people’s struggle against the Islamic regime. In Malmo, Navid Minaee, head of the Young Communists Organisation spoke. WPI members in Iran distributed leaflets in Tehran University and Allameh University amongst other activities.

December 10 marked another victory for WPI. Maximilian University had invited three representatives of the Islamic regime –Mohammad Langhausen, Shahram Pazouki, and Seyd Mohammad Abtahi—to deliver speeches about Islam’s role within the framework of a ‘dialogue of religions’ but the event was cancelled due to the pressure exerted by the WPI German Committee. Several human right organisations supported the campaign against Maximilian University.

The most important event in the past period was the 31st Plenum of the WPI’s Central Committee that was held between November 28 and 30, 2008. Most of Central Committee members and its consulting members and many WPI cadres attended this three-day plenum. Hamid Taqvaee made the opening speech of the Plenum in which he explained the all-encompassing crisis of the Islamic regime and the role of party organisation in leading the movement of the people in Iran against the Islamic Republic toward success. He maintained that the Party should become aware of its role in order to emerge as an all-embracing alternative against the Islamic regime and to impose itself onto the regime as a dual force. Asqar Karimi, head of the Executive Council, gave a briefing about party activities both in Iran and abroad in the period between the two plenums. He also stressed the role of the party and party media, especially New Channel TV, and emphasised the immediacy of finding solutions to funding the TV. The Plenum also discussed and ratified two declarations, one concerning the ongoing international capitalist economic crisis and the other about the role and importance of party organisation. A seminar concerning religion took place at a fringe meeting of the Plenum where worker-communist policies against religion as a political force and as an ideological framework were introduced and discussed. The opening speech of Hamid Taqvaee and the seminar on religion were broadcast via New Channel TV during the plenum.

On January 9, 2009, the WPI’s Abroad Committee held a meeting. The agenda of the meeting included an evaluation of activities of the Abroad Committee in the period since the Second Congress of the Organisation Abroad. The meeting discussed the policies and activities in the aforementioned period and decided on the policies and directions for the coming period. Nazanin Boroumand, Mohammad Shokouhi, Khalil Keyvan, and Hassan Salehi were elected as members of its Executive Committee. Khalil Keyvan was also elected as the Secretary of the Organisation Abroad.

On January 15, 2009 WPI-Organisation Abroad launched a campaign in defence of students of Shiraz University. WPI’s communiqué in this regard calls upon all human rights and labour organisations around the word to protest the attacks of the Islamic regime against students of Shiraz University. Following the protests organised by students in December 2008, 37 of the students became subject to disciplinary prosecution; 18 students were suspended from studies for different periods; 10 students were arrested by police forces and were charged with ‘acting against national security.’ Some of the students were temporarily released through large bails; seven of them are still under arrest. Students of Shiraz University continue their struggle and have declared that they won’t stop until their demands are met: immediate release of arrested students; abrogating disciplinary verdicts; abrogating any form of prosecution against students; cancelling the bails; removing police and security forces from the university. WPI calls for immediate solidarity with students of Shiraz University and in support of their demands.

WPI Briefing 207
January 31, 2009
Monthly of the Worker-communist Party of Iran
Editors: Maryam Namazie and Fariborz Pooya
Layout: Babak Kasrayi

In this Issue:
Palestinian people: Victims of two terrorist camps, New Channel TV’s interview with Hamid Taqvaee on the massacre of innocent civilians in Gaza
Let’s turn International Women’s Day into a day of protest against the regime of sexual apartheid in Iran!
Shiraz University students in Iran need your urgent support, Khalil Keyvan
A Snapshot of WPI’s Activities in the Past Period, Siyaves Azeri