Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Crisis in Iran A Statement from the Campaign for Peace and Democracy

[Here's a good statement from THE CAMPAIGN FOR PEACE AND DEMOCRACY (CPD) which advocates a new, progressive and non-militaristic U.S. foreign policy -- one that encourages democracy, justice and social change. Founded in 1982, the Campaign opposed the Cold War by promoting "detente from below." It engaged Western peace activists in the defense of the rights of democratic dissidents in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and enlisted East-bloc human rights activists against anti-democratic U.S. policies in countries like Nicaragua and Chile. The Campaign sees movements for peace, social justice and democratic rights, taken together, as the embryo of an alternative to great power politics and to the domination of society by privileged elites.]

We are horrified at what the Iranian government is doing in the aftermath of the June 12th elections. In a wave of state terror, security forces have arrested hundreds of oppositionists, reformist officials and ex-officials, and human rights activists. Using clubs, whips, chains, machetes and guns, they have viciously attacked protestors; many have been killed. Media, both domestic and international, have been shut down or restricted, and the authorities have attempted to prevent people from communicating with one another via cell phone, text messaging and Internet networking sites. All protest demonstrations have been banned.

Despite the savagery of the Republican Guards and the religious thugs of the Basij militia, however, opponents of Ahmadinejad have thus far refused to back down. Furious over an apparent clumsy and cynical manipulation of the election results, hundreds of thousands have marched in nonviolent protests in defiance of the ban. In the face of this courageous resistance, the government has retreated slightly, and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has offered to allow a partial recount. The protestors have said no to this offer -- they are demanding totally new elections.

We do not claim to know the true results of the elections. But there are certainly many indications of massive fraud; that, plus the fact that election monitoring by opposition groups and independent observers was barred, can only raise grave doubts about Ahmadinejad’s claim to a landslide victory. What is clear is that the results lack credibility for masses of Iranian citizens.

Even if the votes were fairly counted, it must be remembered that Iranian elections are far from democratic. The unelected Council of Guardians vets candidates to be sure they support the theocratic order before their names are ever allowed to appear on the ballot, which usually guarantees that anyone the authorities seriously oppose is disqualified from running in the first place. And while the Islamic Republic allows far more freedoms than many other countries in the region, it is still extremely repressive. Gay people have been brutally persecuted, women are forced to endure a host of restrictions on their rights, and workers have been beaten and jailed for striking and trying to organize trade unions.

Mir Hossein Mousavi does not represent a decisive break from the status quo. As Iran's prime minister during 1981-89, he didn’t challenge the fundamentals of the system. As Shirin Sadeghi pointed out in the Huffington Post, Mousavi was “a man known for upholding the values of a Republic that has systematically deprived Iranians of basic civil rights; a man who, as senior adviser to President Khatami stood by as the second ‘cultural revolution’ of the late 1990's and early 2000's swept students off the streets, shut down semi-free newspapers, terrorized dissidents, and paved the way for the so called ‘hardliners’.” Nevertheless, Mousavi’s support, albeit limited, of women’s rights and political freedom, has given him the backing of millions of Iranians.

This election has opened up new possibilities for Iranian politics that go far beyond Mousavi. As women’s rights activist Noushin Khorasani noted, its has already provided an opportunity for the formation of independent coalitions of women’s and students’ organizations, which had faced terrible repression; it is to be hoped that trade unions, too, will be able to take advantage of this new opening to function and play an independent role in Iranian society. Long-simmering splits among the ruling elite have become open fissures. Protestors in the streets and on the rooftops have cried “no to dictatorship,” referring to Ahmadinejad; perhaps the movement will soon take the next step and demand an end to the dictatorship of Khatamei, the Guardian Council, the Republican Guards and Basiji, and the whole corrupt ruling apparatus.

As for the response of our own government, given the long, sordid record of U.S. policy towards Iran, interference by Washington can only play into the hands of the forces opposed to democracy. U.S. support for the Shah before 1979 resulted in the evisceration of Iran's secular left. The Bush administration’s threats succeeded only in terrorizing the Iranian people and providing political ammunition to the mullahs. The Obama administration can help by removing sanctions on Iran and publicly and unambiguously renouncing any possibility of military attack, thus eliminating a major excuse for Ahmadinejad’s repressive policies.

The Campaign for Peace and Democracy extends its solidarity to the protesters in Iran, and salutes their bravery. We express our deep concern for their well-being in the face of brutal repression and our fervent wishes for the strengthening and deepening of the movement for justice and democracy in Iran.
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