CODIR Says: No to the War rhetoric
We support those campaigning for peace and democracy in Iran
CODIR Assistant General Secretary, Jamshid Ahmadi, addressed the Stop The War Coalition conference in London on 27 October. In a wide ranging speech, Mr Ahmadi highlighted the dangerous situation developing in the Persian Gulf and the need for urgent action to prevent the slide into another damaging war in the region. Key sections of the speech are reproduced below.
In the Middle East, at present, there is a very real possibility of war. There are powerful forces in the US who are pushing for war. In Europe too there are now a range of governments (France, Germany and UK) that are inching towards an attack on Iran. However, there is also a powerful lobby against the war in the US and in Europe. We support all those actions and initiatives that isolate the forces of war and strengthen the anti-war lobby. The policies advocated by the Iranian regime however, do not provide the pro-peace lobby with opportunities to isolate the US and the pro- war lobby.
It is also vital that we assist the movement for peace and against war in Iran and by the people of Iran. In Iran there has existed for many years a genuine anti-war movement. The Society of Campaigners for Peace was established in 1950's and continues its activities to the present day. Some of Iran's best known progressives have been members of this campaigning organisation. The movement for peace in Iran has always been synonymous with progress, democracy and social justice. For peace to be given a chance in Iran, the peace movement inside Iran should be strengthened and nurtured. This is not possible when every democrat, every trade unionist, every student activist, every feminist in the country is a target of the regime's instruments of suppression. We support the creation of a strong and vociferous peace movement in Iran that opposes the march of American Tanks to the central squares of Tehran, as happened in Baghdad.
Your conference today is taking place at a time when Iranian people are facing increasing domestic and international crises. The destructive policies of the Ahmadinejad government have driven the socio-economic situation of the country into crisis. By destabilising the economy, despite the enormous oil revenue, the majority of the people are put under tremendous economic pressure. What truly depicts our society-in-crisis under the rule of the theocratic regime, is the tens of millions of citizens living below the poverty line; the cancer of unemployment, especially among the youth; the rapid rate of bankruptcy of manufacturing plants; the increase in prices and the cost of living; mounting inflation; the unprecedented spread of social disorders, such as prostitution and substance abuse; and the harsh suppression of trade union and labour activists, students and women.
It is not a secret that over the past few months there has been a significant increase in repression. In its campaigns CODIR has highlighted a number of key issues. We strongly oppose any foreign intervention, including the intervention of US imperialism, in the internal affairs of Iran. We have always stated that imperialist intervention will be against our national interests and against the popular movement in Iran which is fighting for freedom, independence and social justice. The only outcome of such political manoeuvres will be to provide an excuse to all reactionary forces to intensify their censorship and oppression. The historic lessons of recent decades have shown the detrimental role of imperialism in Iran, from the 1953 coup, which was organised by the CIA, British intelligence services and internal reaction, to the various plots of US imperialism to destroy Iran's revolution. Today, the demagogic declarations of the Bush Administration about supporting the democracy movement in Iran are nothing but political gestures and manoeuvres. The people of Middle East know well their true intent and have no wish to repeat the experience of "American style Democracy" in Iran.
By taking advantage of the destructive policies of imperialism in the region, the regime has launched an extensive campaign aimed at crushing the trade union, intellectual, student and women's movements of the country, by accusing them of having links to the American project for a "velvet revolution". The vicious assault of the regime on the university campuses and student movement earlier this year, including the prosecution of leading members and activists of the student movement in July, should be seen in this context. The student movement, in recent years, together with the women's movement, has been among the most politically active in the struggle against dictatorship, and precisely for this reason, have suffered badly.
Despite every attempt of the regime, including the "cultural revolution" of the1980s and the "purging" of thousands of dissenting students and tutors from the universities, the country's higher education institutions have remained a stronghold and a dynamic presence in the struggle against the regime.
The regime's approach towards intellectuals has been similar to the way it has treated the student movement. The raiding of the independent papers critical of the regime, the shutting down and filtering of internet news sites, the prosecution of independent writers, journalists and reporters in recent months, have all severely limited the means of exposing the regime and have seriously attempted to curtail the potential for political struggle within the country.
The women's movement has faced a mounting attack. The arrest of scores of women leading the movement on the eve of 8th March this year, and this summer's shameful campaign of intimidation against young women by the regime's thugs on the streets of Tehran and major cities are just two examples to mention.
Continuation of the current situation, in particular the international tension and regional conflict, will have disastrous consequences for Iran and its neighbours. US imperialism has demonstrated that, in order to establish its absolute hegemony in the strategic region of the Persian Gulf, it is prepared to contemplate military invasion. United with all progressive forces fighting for peace and democracy we have said that whilst we support the right of Iran to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, in line with UN and international conventions, we believe that the issue of Iran's nuclear programme is merely a pretext to justify the policies of imperialism in the region. The dangerous conflicts in the region should only be resolved through diplomacy and international negotiation and not by military, economic and political threats. The presence of more than one hundred thousand US military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as naval vessels of the US and other NATO countries in the Persian Gulf, is one of the main reasons for the current situation. In conclusion I would stress that:-
* CODIR believes that with our campaign for peace, freedom and democracy in Iran, we contribute to the campaign against the war through building the capacity for the peace and human rights movement in Iran. CODIR strongly opposes any interference in the internal affairs of Iran. It is only the Iranian people that have the right to determine their destiny, and any foreign interference in the country, military or otherwise, is against the interests of the people.
* Both the Iranian government and the US administration, contribute to the destabilisation of the already fragile area of the Middle East, and to escalating the risk of another disastrous war.
* Putting an end to all threats of war against Iran will actually deprive Ahmadinejad's regime the excuse to suppress the opposition student, women, labour and peace movements. War will actually pacify the opposition struggling for the human rights of the people. Every time the US takes a hostile approach to Iran, the regime responds by increased violations of human rights and by accusing Iranian human rights and democracy activists of collaboration with the enemy.
* The attack on the peace, democracy and opposition movement by the Iranian regime is in fact helping US plans by preparing the context for an intervention. Giving any kind of excuse to imperialism and its allies to provoke tension and to prepare public opinion for a military invasion of Iran is against the national interests of the Iranian people.
* Bush's recent statement toying with the idea of World War III is a clear warning that an attack on Iran will not only affect that area but also the entire strategic area of Persian Gulf, the Middle East, and the world.
* War in the area will also have a massive impact upon oil supplies. US led pressure against Iran on the question of Iran's expressed wish to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, is only a cover for the US attempts to secure US control over an area of the Middle East in order to control the production and export of energy resources from this part of the world.
* Only sanity, calm and a peaceful approach will bring democracy in Iran. All disputes between countries should be resolved diplomatically and on the basis of the UN Charter and not by military, economic and political threats.
* CODIR urges the peace movement to understand, appreciate and acknowledge the link between peace and democracy and to raise their voice against human rights violations and repression in Iran, and against any dangerous adventures of the US or its allies in and around Iran. It is very crucial to act NOW and to stop the escalation reaching a point of no return. Peace is a global interest!
We are committed to campaign with you against the threat of a war against Iran.
Thank you for your attention.
"Lions led by a donkey"
By: Jamshid Ahmadi, Assistant General Secretary, CODIR
JAMSHID AHMADI highlights the dangerous games of Iran's president.
THE phrase "lions led by donkeys" is popularly used in Britain to describe the situation of the brave British infantry in World War I sent to their deaths by incompetent generals.
In Iran, the phrase "economics is for donkeys" is attributed to the late Ayotollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The quote has resurfaced due to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is on record as stating: "I pray to God I never know about economics."
It's little wonder that the president's current policies are being described as "donkey economics," but like the ordinary British soldiers of WWI, the Iranian people are in danger of being led into the abyss of economic collapse.
Indeed, in spite of the fact that reformist daily newspaper Shargh was closed down last September for portraying Ahmadinejad as a donkey in the context of nuclear negotiations with the West, the president appears to have learnt no lessons from the persistent image that is associated with him.
The characterisation however, appears to be apt.
With inflation in Iran running at between 20 per cent and 30 per cent, Ahmadinejad has ordered banks to cut interest rates to 12 per cent, a step which has even drawn the fire of the president's own supporters in the Islamic Revolution Devotees Society.
In a recent report, the society warned the president that the escalating cost of living is hitting the poor hardest and reducing the scope for supporting social programmes.
A recent economic report published by the society suggested that "unrestrained inflation increases the pressure on the weak and leads to the poor becoming poorer as owners of non-monetary assets get richer."
Ahmadinejad's response has been to joke about the situation.
The president has shrugged off rising prices as a media invention and has suggested that his local greengrocer and butcher, "who knows all the economic problems of the people," should be paid visits to find out the real situation in the country.
Such homespun populism may pay off when the economy is booming, but, in the current crisis, it merely serves to underline the president's detachment from the concerns of the ordinary people of Iran. Lions led by donkeys, indeed.
Tragically, the president's detachment from reality does not stop at domestic politics.
On the international stage, Ahmadinejad appears to be alone in shrugging off the possibility of a US strike on Iran, either directly or by proxy through Israel.
Ahmadinejad's response to the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on the subject of a possible war was a terse "we do not take these threats seriously."
Faced with a possible third round of UN sanctions, US attempts to orchestrate an international trade boycott and a recent military incursion by Israel into Syria, the president's comments sound increasingly absurd.
With divisions in both the EU and the US over the best approach towards Iran, tensions have been high in advance of this week's UN general assembly meeting in New York.
There can be no doubt, however, that one section of Western opinion is still inclined towards the military strike option in relation to Iran.
While the reservations of Russia and China within the UN security council may put a brake on such intentions in the short term, international pressure is still vital to ensure that the hawks do not win out.
Any military attack or foreign intervention by the US or Israel on Iran will have catastrophic consequences not only for the Iranian people and prospect for progressive developments in Iran but also for the Middle East as a whole.
The Iranian people and progressive forces inside Iran struggling to establish democratic rights for the Iranian people have always needed our support.
If the people of Iran are to avoid the fate of the British soldiers of 90 years ago, that support is more vital now than ever.
This article was published on 25 September in the Morning Star
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Support the Campaign to "Save Adnan Hassanpour and Hiwa Boutimar from Death"
By: Jamshid Ahmadi, Assistant General Secretary, CODIR
The hunger strike by Adnan Hassanpour, a Kurdish journalist, and Abdulvahid (Hiwa) Boutimar, a Kurdish activist of social movement, has entered its 7th week. The two political prisoners have staged this protest against their treatment by the regime's judiciary and the death sentence that has been imposed on them.
On July 16, 2007, the Revolutionary Tribunal in Marivan (Iranian Kurdistan) found Adnan Hassanpour and Hiwa Boutimar guilty of "collaboration with Kurdish political opposition parties" and treason and sentenced them to death. Mr. Hassanpour is a member of the Iranian Kurdistan Journalist Association and defender of Kurdish cultural rights. Mr. Boutimar is an active member of the environmental NGO, Sabzchia. The accused were denied access to legal counsel throughout the entire process. After their arrests in December 2006 and January 2007 respectively, they were held incommunicado in Mariwan prison until July 2007, when they were transferred to the jail of the Sanandaj Intelligence Service.
Reports have confirmed that Hassanpour and Boutima have been subjected to torture and other inhuman treatment while in custody and have staged a hunger strike from the time of their transfer to Sanandaj. According to reports published by the Observatory for the Protection of Defenders of Human Rights, a jointly-run initiative of the "World Organisation Against Torture" (OMCT) and the "International Federation for Human Rights" (FIDH), both detainees are suffering from poor physical and mental health conditions.
There is substantial evidence that the arrests and subsequent sentencing of the two men by the regime's court was influenced by the fact that they belonged to the Kurdish minority and were actively involved in publicising the harsh conditions in which Kurdish people are forced to live and the treatment they receive at the hand of the authorities in Iran.
Recent reports from Iran point to a marked deterioration of human and democratic conditions in the country. The Islamic Republican regime in Iran has unleashed a new wave of arrests, torture and execution in the country. CODIR is gravely concerned about the consequences of the regime's oppressive measures against journalists, student and other activists and activists including trade unionists and defenders of women's rights in Iran. We are concerned that the regime's treatment of the progressive and democratic movement will seriously undermine and weaken the popular movement for peace and social progress in the country. In the current political climate and at a time when the US administration is threatening Iran with a military strike, a clear consequence of the regime's current actions will be to weaken popular resistance against external threats and undermine the peace movement in Iran with its traditional base in the trade union and student movements.
CODIR is concerned that the lives of the hunger-strikers are in real danger. CODIR wishes to add its voice to those of all international organisations concerned with human rights and the defence of liberty in condemning in the strongest possible terms the death sentences imposed on Adnan Hassanpour and Abdulvahid (Hiwa) Boutimar.
CODIR expresses its full support for the campaign to revoke the death sentences passed on these two victims of the theocratic regime in Iran and condemns all suppressive actions of the regime's security forces against national and religious minorities residing in Iran.
CODIR calls on all forces defending democracy, human rights and peace in Iran and across the world to give immediate and unwaivering support to the legitimate demands of Hassanpour and Boutimar for revocation of their death sentences and for their inhumane treatment to stop. CODIR is also once again calling for the immediate freedom of all political prisoners in Iran.
CODIR calls on all supporters of peace and democracy to protest against the atrocities committed by the Islamic Republic of Iran by writing to the Embassies and diplomatic missions of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
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CODIR's appeal for Asylum Rights
An open letter to all Honourable Heads of States, Dignitaries and Officials directly or indirectly involved with the fates of refugees, and all signatories of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Conventions on Refugees
Dear Sir / Madam:
As you are surely aware, in recent months, the theocratic regime in Iran has significantly increased its pressure on its domestic critics, those who are critical of the regime's policies, especially with regard to the undermining of human rights and political and other rights and freedoms.
Recent months have seen the arrest and prosecution of scores of students, women, trade unionists, journalists, intellectuals and other activists. In many cases, after their arrest, the detainees have been put under the most severe physical and psychological pressure and made to confess to uncommitted crimes under duress. Some of these "confessions", which were recently broadcast on Iranian national TV, are examples of the way the regime operates.
It is clear that arrest by the security and intelligence authorities is often the culmination of systematic intimidation. Prior to arrest people receive threatening letters. Some are abducted. Some are beaten up. Members of their families are threatened and kidnapped. Unsurprisingly an increasing number of people are deciding to leave the country and seek asylum in other countries, especially those which are the signatories of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on Refugees. The countries have certain obligations to fulfill in respect of the legitimate asylum seekers.
However, recent reports indicate that these Iranian refugees from unjust prosecution and hardship are failing to receive the humane treatment which is their right under the terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the countries in which they seek asylum.
There is evidence that in certain countries asylum seekers are required to provide official documentation to prove their persecution and ill treatment by government agencies. This demonstrates a fundamental failure in understanding how the regime in Iran and its security agencies operate. Conscious of the fact that it has been under international observation for a number of years, the regime is careful to provide its victims with no evidence of any kind that could satisfy a court of law. However, the stories these victims of terror tell closely resemble the reports and findings of Amnesty International, the UN Commission on Human Rights and the Human Rights Watch.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which your country is a signatory states in Article 14:
Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
We appeal to you to do:
- Everything possible to enable Iranian refugees from the current political terror to reach the safety of your country
- Make the process of seeking asylum open and transparent and in line with the true essence of the 1952 UN Convention on Refugees.
The regime in Tehran has proved time and again that it neither respects nor guarantees the most basic human rights of the Iranian people. Those fleeing the terror and political persecution of the theocratic regime in Iran deserve our understanding, support and solidarity. Let us respond positively to their cry for human rights, democracy and social justice. Let us fulfill our international humanitarian obligation under the terms of the UN Charter.
>br>Committee for the Defense of Iranian People's Rights
Regime Intensifies Clampdown on Democracy
(12 August 2007)
The Iran clampdown
The clampdown upon any hint of pressure for reform, or indeed social expression, in Iran continues to mount. Jane Green reports for CODIR on recent developments.
Arrest, suppression and press closures remain the order of the day in Tehran with the continued imprisonment of trades union and student leaders drawing international condemnation form Amnesty International and the International Trades Union Confederation (ITUC) recently.
Particular attention has been drawn by Amnesty International to the cases of human rights activist Keyvan Rafi'i and former student activists Kheyrollah Derakhshandi, Abulfazl Jahandar and Dr. Keyvan Ansai. Both Ansai and Jahandar are reported to have gone on hunger strike from 14th July in protest at their continuing detention.
A letter by Rafi'i, written on 7th June and widely distributed, claims that he has been accused of "acting against state security" and of generating "propaganda against the regime". Derakhshandi is reported to be in persistent pain from beatings but is being denied medical attention. His 75 year old father was summoned to appear in court for speaking to a news agency about his son's condition and was later released on bail.
In addition, the ITUC along with Amnesty, has supported the 9th August International Day of Action for Mansour Ossanlu and Mahmoud Salehi. Ossanlu is the head of the Tehran Bus Workers Union while Salehi is spokesperson for the Organising Committee to Establish Trades Unions. Both trades union leaders have been detained on what Amnesty describe as "vaguely worded charges", levelled against them in relation to legitimate trades union activities.
The only 'crimes' committed by Ossanlu and Salehi have been to attempt to establish independent trades unions and to defend the rights of workers. This has led to opposition from the state, which only recognises the tame Islamic Councils, more concerned with the furtherance of religious ideas than workers rights.
Such actions continue the wave of repression which has been sweeping Iran in recent weeks with the regime's accusations of a "creeping coup " by the media being used as a cover for wholesale closure of newspapers and news agencies. The latest in a long line of such actions was the closure last week of the country's leading reformist daily, Shargh, which has been critical of president Ahmadinejad.
The pretext for the closure was the publication of an interview with exiled Iranian poet, Saghi Qahraman, accused by the country's leaders of promoting
homosexuality. Attempts by Shargh to placate the censors by issuing a front page apology and withdrawing the interview from its website were to no avail. This is the second time in the past year that Shargh has been closed down and the action further underlines the inability of the regime to permit any discourse in civil society in Iran, let alone direct opposition.
The paranoia of the regime is further underlined by recent attempts to discredit former reformist president Mohammed Khatami who has been vilified by the permitted state media for allegedly shaking hands with a woman in a recent visit to Italy. Although Islam generally forbids handshakes between men and women who are not closely related it is often permitted to avoid embarrassment. In Iran itself handshakes between men and women have been more common in recent years in spite of the strict letter of the law.
It is clear however that the handshake is the least of the issues here. Fearful of Khatami's potential to mobilise reformist opposition in advance of the 2009 presidential elections, the accusations are clearly designed to damage Khatami's reputation and by association the case for reform. In response Khatami has claimed that the photograph in question is a fake and said that in any event he will not be standing in the 2009 presidential race.
Whatever the efforts of the regime to stamp out and suppress alternatives views they continue to emerge from the most unlikely sources. A recent concert, described as "satanic" by the authorities was raided in Karaj recently , 12 miles west of Tehran, and 230 people arrested. The event, an illegally organised rock concert, was arranged over the internet. The clampdown follows a period of intense "social security" campaigning by the regime to stamp out "western" hairstyles amongst young men and to compel young women to cover their heads; the number of officers deployed on morals patrols has doubled last month.
Such actions are clearly not those of regime confident of the support of its people or at ease with its position in Iranian society. The ongoing abuse of human rights in Iran is an issue which the international community must address while providing support to the legitimate democratic opposition inside the country. If international conflict is to be headed off, the regime in Iran must be changed from within and the pretexts for invasion, provided by the belligerent foreign policy of the Ahmadinejad government, eliminated.
The Iran clampdown
(Tuesday 17 July 2007)
The Iran clampdown
JANE GREEN reports on the Iranian regime's attempts to tighten its grip on the domestic information flow.
THE ongoing crackdown on press freedom in Iran was intensified recently with the formation of a "special team" within the president's office to tackle so-called critical publications.
Mohammad Jaffar Behdad, head of the president's public relations office, suggested recently that the new team would use its legal and professional experience to take on those propagating anti-government views.
Behdad boasted of the team's initial impact, stating that it had been able to reduce the activities of opposition journalists "because the cost of insulting and criticising the government, as well as corrupting public opinion, has increased immensely."
Sadly, Behdad's comments are not without foundation. Recent government actions include confrontations with the Ham Miham newspaper, banning the Nedaye Mardome Kurdistan weekly, revoking Mosherekat's licence and the closure of the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).
These actions amount to a sweeping attempt to silence legitimate public debate at a time when the position of Iran in the world, as well as domestic policy, is of increasing public concern.
Action to suppress dissent is not confined to the press. Extensive steps have been taken in recent weeks to crack down on student activism.
The July 9 anniversary of the 1999 student uprising was a particular focus. Representatives of the student organisation Advar-e Tahkim were arrested by plain-clothes agents under the pretext that they were busting a drugs gang. Computers and documents were confiscated before agents sealed up the organisation's offices.
In a further alarming development, Mansur Osanlu, the leader of the bus workers union in Tehran, was kidnapped by plain-clothes agents in broad daylight. The bus carrying Osanlu was forced to stop by a Peugeot car into which Osanlu was forcibly transferred. The government now admits that Osanlou is in the notorious Evin prison.
Such flagrant breaches of the rule of law are outrage enough in themselves. However, insult is added to injury that such events go unreported in an Iranian press gagged and living in fear of recrimination from the state.
Many journalists are now questioning what it is that they can report, with bans presently covering nuclear issues, possible attack by the United States, politics in the Middle East, petrol rationing, presidential trips and inflation.
In a recent statement, the Association for the Defence of the Freedom of Press in Iran expressed growing concern about the increasing limitations placed upon the media in Iran, pointing out that such restrictions are contrary to both the constitution and international conventions to which Iran is a signatory.
The statement calls on senior officials and, in particular, the head of the judiciary, to lift the ban on the ILNA and to open up the media atmosphere in the country by lifting the wide range of restrictions on reporting.
In addition to the voices raised inside the country, action from international organisations can help put pressure upon the Iranian government to lift press restrictions, stop the clampdown on student activists and free Mansur Osanlu as a matter of urgency.
Protests should be directed to the Iranian embassy and appeals made to the UN Commission on Human Rights immediately.
Jane Green is the national campaign officer of the Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People's Rights. The Iranian embassy can be contacted at 16 Prince's Gate London SW7 1PT.
Iran embassy in Canada: 245 Metcalfe Street in the Centretown neighbourhood of Ottawa
Iran embassy in Belguim: 415, Ave de Tervuren 1150, Bruxelles, Belgique
Iran embassy in France: 4, AVENUE D'IENA,75116, PARIS
Iran embassy in Cyprus: 8, Elias Papakyriako St. Acopolis, Nicosia
For further information on CODIR, e-mail email@example.com
This article was published in the Morning Star on Wednesday 18 July.
CODIR Challenges Misrepresentation by the Media
A number of recent reports in the Guardian have caused deep anxieties on the part of supporters of peace and democracy in Iran about the true intentions of editorial board of this well respected paper. Jamshid Ahmadi, CODIR's Assistant General Secretary, was invited by the Guardian to offer a counter view. The following is the unedited version of an article published on Thursday 13th July.
Simon Tisdall is right to point to the "complex forces that were instrumental" which brought Ahmadinejad to power last year (Guardian, 27 June) but fails to explain the factors keeping the president in office. This is not uncommon in the western media and overlooks the contradictions in Iranian society and the widespread unpopularity of this regime.
Simon's article portrays Ahmadinejad an "anti-status quo candidate" that has built "a third constituency among the working classes, younger voters and the less well-off". A closer analytical approach shows a directly opposite position.
The press within Iran and outside, reported the courageous demonstration of Iranian women on 12 June 2006 in one of the main squares of central Tehran in calling for the implementation of measures which would significantly reduce institutional discrimination against women. The demonstration was brutally attacked with over 70 activists arrested. During the same period scores of student associations in universities across the country have been dissolved and its leaders arrested.
Since the 1980's the Committee for the Defence of Iranian People's Rights (CODIR) has promoted human rights for the Iranian people. Ahmadinejad's one year in office has compelled those concerned with justice in Iran to redouble their efforts. Simon Tisdall unfortunately overlooks the fact that the presidents real base is not amongst the masses but with the Guards Corps (Revolutionary Guard) and the Intelligence Services. His primary aim is a return to the so called revolutionary zeal of the 1980's, which witnessed widespread unrestrained persecution by the security services of trade unionists, students and intellectuals.
Simon points to Ahmadinejad's "previously unsuspected political skills" but fails to mention the president's rise to power has been assisted by "skills" he acquired during the regime's campaign of terror in Kurdistan and other minority populated provinces in the 80's and 90's
During these years the use of terror, through the Islamic militia and Guards Corps in particular, ensured compliance with the war effort and the dragooning of children into military service. The Iran-Iraq war lasted from 1980 – 1988 resulted in 1 million dead, the biggest land war of the twentieth century. Few were left unaffected.
The impact of eight years of war left Iran devastated. The centralisation of power, justified by the clergy for the war effort, continued into peacetime as did the persecution of those opposed to the Islamic Republic's policies.
The significance of the presidential victory of Mohammed Khatami in 1997 was the promise of reform through the creation of a civil society in Iran reflecting the country's social base and aspirations. Khatami offered hope to young people, students, women and intellectuals.
As a predominantly Islamic country the Iranian people are not expressing a fundamental opposition to Islam. However, an increasingly young and outward looking population is feeling constrained by the dead hand of the theocratic dictatorship.
The election of Ahmadinejad, in a flawed electoral process manipulated by the clergy and the Guards Corps, is the latest attempt by the clergy to suppress the democratic spirit of the Iranian people. Far from enjoying 'soaring' popularity as suggested by the Guardian ("A year on, Ahmadinejad's popularity is soaring"-21st June), the present regime is struggling to enforce its position through the tried and trusted methods of terror and manipulation.
As the international chatter of war against Iran increases, regime change becomes evermore pressing. It cannot however be achieved through external interventions and with US cruise missiles or military forces. Most Iranians, especially its young people want change but it will only be achieved by Iranian themselves together with international solidarity and understanding.
Guardian publishes CODIR's objections to its reports on Iran
On July 4th, The Guardian published a letter from CODIR refuting a number of inaccurate assertions as to the realities of life in Iran which appeared in the paper in late June. In his letter CODIR's Assistant General Secretary, Jamshid Ahmadi, draws attention to the wide spread opposition to Ahmadinejad's government and the continued human rights violations in Iran.
The recent articles by your correspondents in Tehran, Simon Tisdall and Ewan MacAskill, somewhat overestimate both the legitimacy and the popularity of the Ahmadinejad government in Iran. Far from being the victor in "a closely contested presidential election" (Guardian 21st June), Ahmadinejad was elected in a "contest" carefully managed by the security forces and Revolutionary Guards determined to stifle the growth of protest and reform which was emerging under President Khatami.
Your report of 22nd June suggests that there is little sign of "internal popular insurrection", but the fact remains that opposition to the Ahmadinejad regime continues to manifest itself as recent demonstrations of women and students have shown. The populist commitment to translate oil revenues into support for the poorest sections of society has not materialised. Far from the popularity of the government "soaring", discontent is rumbling.
It is true that Ahmadinejad is attempting to play the populist anti-American card in the current face-off around Iran's nuclear energy ambitions. World public opinion is united in opposing a US led military intervention in Iran. However, the fact that Iran is effectively being victimised by the West over the nuclear issue should not cloud the realities of the regime's internal practices. These continue to include an appalling human rights record, suppression of trade union activity and a clamp down on intellectual opposition within the universities.
Your assertion of 27th June that Ahmadinejad has built "a third constituency among the working classes, younger voters and the less well off" is a dangerous oversimplification of the current situation in Iran. Indeed, these are the very groups who are suffering most under the theocratic dictatorship and for whom the threat of war holds the most peril. Your reporting would benefit from reflecting these realities more accurately.
Assistant General Secretary
Against war, for democracy
On Saturday 10th June 2006, The Stop the War Coalition, held its annual conference at the Friends Meeting House, London. CODIR's Assistant General Secretary, Jamshid Ahmadi, was invited to and spoke at this successful conference. In his speech Mr. Ahmadi warned against any attempt to mis-represent the reactionary and dangerous policies of the present regime in Iran. While he called for total opposition to any threat of any foreign interference in the internal affairs of the country, Mr. Ahmadi called for solidarity with the people of Iran in their struggle against the theocratic regime rulling Iran.
The following is the full text of an interview given by CODIR's representative to Weekly Worker at the conference.
Comrade Jamshid from the Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People's Rights (CODIR) spoke to Anne Mc Shane about his organisation and the role of the anti-war movement
When you spoke at the conference you argued that we need to fight both against an attack on Iran and also for solidarity with the Iranian people in their fight for democracy against the regime. Tell me more about your organisation and how it fights for these aims.
CODIR was established in the early 1980s after the 1979 revolution. It was set up specifically to provide truthful information about the realities of life in Iran and because there were concerns about the direction and policies of the religious forces that had taken over the control of the state after the revolution.
These forces were not interested in the development of the revolution beyond the very first stage of getting rid of the shah's regime. In addition, they were displaying serious and disturbing anti-democratic tendencies. The main slogans of the 1979 revolution were for democracy, human rights and social justice. But those controlling the regime were not demonstrating any interest in human and democratic rights. The forces favouring an outdated type of capitalism were gaining control of the regime.
We fight for increased democratisation in Iran and for progressive policies there. We have worked hard to expose the reactionary nature of the regime ruling Iran and have argued against the idea that the current regime has any kind of progressive potential. In fact the regime in Iran favours conflicts, tension and crises. It provokes crises and uses them to its own advantage - to extend its oppressive practices and to control society.
Any war would be in their interest, as it would calm the contradictions and threats from below. The regime exploits the situation and argues that because of the external threats no dissent can be allowed. We are against the threats of war and economic sanctions against Iran, but we are also against the provocative and reactionary positions taken by the theocratic regime.
In the past, CODIR campaigned against the Iran-Iraq war, as this was not in the interests of the people of either country. We struggled against this war and continued our campaign until its end, in July 1988.
We have secured the support of significant sections of the trade union and labour movement in Britain and many back our positions. A number of national trade unions, including Unison and Usdaw, the Scottish TUC and scores of trades councils have affiliated, and nearly 50 MPs and a number of MEPs are supporters.
You said in the conference that you are a socialist. Is your organisation linked to a political party in Iran?
As a solidarity organisation it is not our task to endorse any political party inside or outside Iran. A lot of CODIR members are British. The kind of campaign we have developed has been based on the Labour Party, progressives, democrats, left organisations and trade unions. There are some Labour Party members who support CODIR's activities, as there are some greens and Plaid Cymru members in Wales. Some are socialists and many are trade unionists.
The Communist Party of Britain supports CODIR. But we are not a party political organisation. We are only united for the campaign for democracy and human rights in Iran. Members and supporters of the Tudeh Party of Iran have supported our campaigns, as have supporters of a number of other Iranian parties. And there are those in CODIR that are not members of any political party either in the UK or in Iran.
What are your views on Action Iran?
I only heard of this organisation in the last three or four months since January- February. I am not very impressed by them. I heard Elaheh Rostami-Povey speaking in Trafalgar Square on March 18 and here at the conference. She has failed to present the true situation in Iran and I believe that this can damage the peace movement.
It is a fundamental misrepresentation of the situation in Iran when she states that the distribution of wealth has improved. Millions of Iranian people are in a desperate economic situation, while a minority of super-rich are expanding their control over the economy.
The peace movement needs to know about the reactionary nature of the regime ruling, so it is not helpful when people such as Dilip Hiro present the Iranian regime as becoming more democratic. Especially now, when we have a dangerous character such as Ahmadinejad as the president and head of government.
It is very dangerous to argue that the Iranian regime has anything to do with democracy. This is a regime that has caused the deaths of many who struggled for peace and democracy, and has imprisoned many others.
In the last few months they have continued to attack the trade union, student and women's movements and those campaigning for democracy. Recently many intellectuals, writers and student activists have been arrested and locked up in prison by the regime just because they are struggling for democratic rights.
And so for Dilip Hiro to come here and say that just because there were seven candidates allowed to stand in the presidential elections last year the regime ruling Iran is democratic! This just serves to confuse and deceive people about its nature. This regime precipitated the current crisis and is exploiting the situation to prolong its rule. I do not know why or for what reasons Action Iran presents it as progressive but, whatever the reason, it is very dangerous that it does so.
How has your organisation campaigned around these issues?
We have been involved in organising public meetings and briefing sessions, launching petitions and informing the labour movement about the true nature of the regime and its policies. CODIR publishes Iran Today, which explains the reality of life in the country. In recent years we have moved to campaigns that exploit the potential of the internet and emails. We have tried to get matters raised in parliament. CODIR had the support of a number of Labour MPs but since 1997 things have changed a lot. The election of the Labour government, rather than helping our campaign, has deprived us of the direct support of Labour MPs who during the 1980s and 1990s had openly campaigned with us for democracy in Iran. Some Labour MPs were quite active in supporting our campaigns and raising the issue of the oppressive nature of the regime in Iran before getting into government. But now they are careful not to be seen supporting a solidarity campaign.
It surely is possible to build a successful solidarity movement but I think Action Iran will destroy that possibility if left unchallenged.
I agree that there is a very real possibility of developing a mass movement against the threat of war with Iran and for solidarity with the Iranian people and for peace. But the main thing is to get the labour and trade union movement involved in supporting such a campaign, which needs to be broad-based.
The struggle in Iran by the university students, those aiming to establish independent trade unions and those fighting for women's rights is a powerful one. The labour and trade union movement in the UK should be assisted to understand, link with and support this powerful and developing movement in Iran. I think there are a lot of possibilities in this direction.
I am a communist and I believe that the working class should take up the struggle for democracy. While it is correct to put pressure on MPs, we need to have our own independent political programme. What is your view?
The difference is that, while what you say could be relevant and true for a communist, or a socialist involved in party politics, our campaign involves people who think in a variety of different ways. Some people do not support class politics and do not belong to any political party. And in a solidarity campaign we do need everyone who is prepared to do his/her bit to promote our aims. We simply fight for peace, democracy, human rights and social justice.
We have even approached the Liberal Democrats, as they say they support democracy. We don't have any illusions about the extent of their commitment to democracy, but it is not for us to bar them from showing solidarity with the people of Iran and supporting our campaign.
We make a broad appeal to all who support democracy and human rights in Iran. They should all be part of our campaign.
BM CODIR, London WC1N 3XX; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.codir.net.
We are peace-lovers because we are democrats
18 March 2006
It is an honour for me, as the representative of the Committee for the Defence of Iranian Peoples' Rights (CODIR), to convey to you, campaigners against war and militarism, the greetings and solidarity of Iranian peace activists; those struggling for democracy, social justice and human rights; trade unionists; writers; artists and Iranian women.
The ruling neo-conservatives of the United States, who seek to control the rich oil and gas resources of the Middle East and to impose their strategic domination on the region, are once again beating their war drums on bogus pretexts. This is at a time when images of the war of aggression and illegal occupation of Iraq are daily confronting us through the world media. While not a day passes without waves of terror and criminal atrocities claiming the lives of hundreds of innocent Iraqis, the White House threatens the Iranian people with the same fate.
Together with other political forces committed to the defence of democracy and the rights of the people in the Middle East, we assert that the militaristic and adventurist policies of the US and its allies in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine are directly opposed to our aspirations for the broadening of genuine democracy. The claims of the American and British governments that they support democracy and human rights are unadulterated lies. These same governments have been responsible for the bloody coup d'etats that toppled the democratically elected government of Dr. Moosadegh in Iran, the nationalist government of Socarno in Indonesia and the popular progressive government of Salvador Allende in Chile.
The interventionist policies of the US and its European allies have only perpetuated the present rule of oppression and suppression in Iran. It is not accidental that in recent months, while hiding behind the slogan of defending "the national interests of Iran" in relation to nuclear energy and despite all demagogic anti-American slogans and policies, an unprecedented wave of attacks against the independent labour movement in Iran has been unleashed. This has included attacks on the activists of the Tehran Bus Company Trade Union, the student movement, and all reform-seeking forces. In the clamour of hollow anti-American slogans, the Ahmadi-Nejad administration has recently presented and is implementing one of the most reactionary budgets of recent years. This benefits only major capitalist interests and all their affiliated institutions.
Last week, the peaceful demonstration of Iranian women in Tehran on the occasion of 8th March, International Women's Day, was raided by the security services, and Iran's famous poet, Simin Behbahani, at 80 years of age, was ruthlessly assaulted.
Clearly all the progressive and freedom-seeking forces of Iran are absolutely opposed to any intervention by imperialist forces in Iran's internal affairs and will resist such interference unequivocally. However, this cannot be for the sake of defending a regime that is itself the greatest obstacle to the progress of our country towards freedom, democracy, peace, true independence and social justice.
For the progressive forces of Iran, the struggle against imperialism means to stand against the threat of war, to oppose the interference of monopoly capitalism, and to counter the imposition of the hegemony of imperialism. For those who have closely followed events in our country in recent decades, it is clear that the policies of the ruling regime directly serve the interests of monopoly capitalism.
The regime's top officials and leaders have repeatedly shown in past decades that their "anti-American" and "anti-West" positions are in the main a political tool to distract public opinion inside the country and to confront forces opposed to dictatorship. Iranians have not forgotten that while the regime's leaders, such as Rafsanjani and Khamenei, were publicly chanting anti-American slogans two decades ago, they were simultaneously involved in secret talks with Colonel Oliver North, special envoy of the US administration, and were purchasing their military hardware from the government of the US, Israel and the then-apartheid regime of South Africa.
We believe that the threat of war, foreign intervention and of the imposition of economic sanctions, are directly against the interests of the democratic and reform-seeking forces of Iran, and serve only to strengthen the position of totalitarian forces in the ruling regime. While condemning the dictatorial regime in Iran, we hold that the adventurous policies of the United States in the Middle East are fundamentally opposed to the interests of the people of the region and we demand that they be challenged.
We are peace-lovers because we are democrats. Together with you we call for peace in the Middle East.CODIR was established in the early 1980s after the 1979 revolution. It was set up specifically to provide truthful information about the realities of life in Iran and because there were concerns about the direction and policies of the religious forces that had taken over the control of the state after the revolution