Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A view from an Iranian reader

An Iranian reader sent me this (I cite with her permission): "I agree that social uprisings, like the current one in Iran, are generally unpredictable...The movement in Iran focuses on political goals rather than any particular parties or figures. The protesters have already moved beyond what the reformists can offer. I don't think the scenario of 1979, where Khomeni stole people's minds and hearts, can be repeated. In the current movement the protesters have no desire for a leader, and are instead focused on justice, and their civil rights. It's more individual frustration that has led to a collective movement. I agree that a progressive outcome is not inevitable but many radical institutions and ideas are growing. No option has been left for the people except to rebel against the government. The people don't seem to be satisfied with choosing from the "lesser-evil" options. Some people think that the current movement might produce a regime that is submissive to US-Israel or is reactionary, so protesters should go back to their houses and not fight; I take issue with that position. Why do some commentators think that Iranians have two options: either stay with their ugly reactionary government or be a client of US capitalism-imperialism? In this view, Middle Eastern people are deemed incapable of bringing radical change to their society. There are different groups of people in the movement such as women's rights activists, student's activists, worker unionists, human rights activists etc. To understand what the movement is asking for, why can't we look at each of these groups' agenda? I don't think one can discredit the movement in Iran because of the support and advocacy of some political groups or organizations, in Russia, Israel or the US, who have no effect or influence on protesters. If, for instance, Zionists support the movement, that doesn't mean that the movement in Iran is pro-Zionism; if monarchists support the movement, that doesn't mean that the movement is pro-monarchism. People in Iran don't even know some of these groups and have never even heard of them. Mousavi, Karoubi, and Khatami do not collectively reflect all aspects of the movement. Although they were to some extent responsible for the movement's emergence, they do not own it. Just as the liberal pacifist Martin Luther King does not reflect all aspects of the US civil rights movement, neither do Mousavi or Karoubi reflect the Iranian struggle. The government claimed that some Basij members have been killed or injured but no one knows their names or has seen their photos. Tell me their names. Show me their photos. There are many photos of Sohrab, Kianoush and others who were murdered by the regime. I honestly think that this is just fabricated propaganda of the Kayhan newspaper, which is unfortunately repeated by some progressives in the West. More than a hundred of people have been killed, thousands of people have been imprisoned, hundreds of people have been tortured, executions occur daily. Why do some in West worry about the murder of an amed Basiji without even investigating the accuracy of the news? Some Western commentators treat Basijis as Zionist media would treat Israeli soldiers, and Iranian protesters as Zionist media would treat Palestinians. The accusations of violence among Iranian protesters is largely fabricated by the Iranian state media. Some commentators think the movement is pro-capitalism and US imperialism because they believe the protesters to be mostly students or members of the middle class, and rarely poor. I once asked such a commentator to consider an analogous situation in which university students in the US protested, say, the Vietnam war. If the students' protests are oppressed by primarily working class police, it does not imply that the students' cause is pro-capitalism and imperialism or it doesn't mean that the war with Vietnam is a good thing. Alternatively, consider the gay rights movement, which is mostly supported by the middle class, but is not pro-imperialism, Zionism, interventionism, or capitalism and doesn't mean that their cause is not important....thinks that people in the Middle East are capable of bringing two kinds of government to their societies: reactionary hardliners who will be on the US bad guys' list or dictators who are submissive to US-Israel*. I think people are capable of shattering this false dichotomy and through their struggle they will come up with more socialist secular progressive institutions. Better to rebel than to submit to tyranny, regardless of the outcome. Don't you agree? *Each one of these governments people in Middle East have, are warned of the danger of the other one. If your country is run by US-Israel puppets, you will be warned of hardliners. If the country is run by reactionary hardliners, you are warned of the danger of a government that submits to US-Israel. Thus Middle Eastern people are asked to do nothing.
I don't know what you mean by sexist revolution. Women were a big part of the 1979 revolution but were told to not concentrate on women's rights issues since they had more "important" causes to fight for. People thought that gender equality will happen in the context of a just society, thus they should fight for social justice and not focus on "bourgeois" causes such as women's rights. The women's issues were not the main focus of the 1979 revolutionaries and post revolution government's rules were sexist and caused gender disparities but that doesn't mean women did not participate in the revolution or revolution itself was sexist. Even after the revolution, women protested against the mandatory hijab and stoning. Here is a video of one of them: Women are very active in the current movement too. In most student demonstrations, many of the protesters are women, which makes sense since women are 62% of the university population. There is also a movement of mourning mothers whose kids are murdered or are in jail. Women's rights activists are a very important part of the movement too. They have been imprisoned and tortured, and they protested alongside men. Here is a video of a young woman who is leading the protesters. She is standing on a chair, I think. Her slogan is: the one who claims to be just (meaning Khamenei) is lying, he is a murderer. I also think that it will be beneficial to attach Iran's movement to the Palestinian's struggle and show these two as the same instead of putting them into competition. I constantly compare the Iranian government and their supporters to Zionists in my Persian blog. It pisses them off more than anything and also causes Iranians to think that they have the support of Palestinians and identify with them, which is very important, I think. Yesterday I wrote this comment for someone who was asking not to compare the movement in Iran with Palestinian's cause since there is no ethnic or racial differences between the two camps in Iran. This is what I told him: Aren't the ethnic and racial differences a human construction? Can't we consider the notion of khodi (insiders) versus gheir khodi (outsiders) in Iran as the basis for the so called "ethnic differences"? Palestinians struggle to decolonize themselves from their occupiers, like the ghire-khodi-ha in Iran struggle to free themselves from the hegemonic dichotomy between khodi and gheire- khodi.""