July 8, 2009

Iran: It's Not Over

The situation in Iran has largely fallen out of popular consciousness as the mediagenic street demonstrations have been repressed and arrests of activists have increased. But the political situation there continues to be extremely volatile and, while things do not look good for the forces fighting the regime right now, neither the popular upsurge been decisively crushed.

The best overall summation I know of, at least for progressives in the US, is the "Statement on Iran" released last week by FRSO/OSCL. You can read it here and I highly recommend that you do. I was gratified when a Iranian friend I forwarded it to, a woman who had been active in Marxist-Leninist groups there during the ‘70s and who remains an inveterate revolutionary, sent me the following note:

Your article has covered the main issues and is quite informative. For us, as I am sure you know, the details are important. I guess we are resigned to the fact that the general picture is pretty depressing and try to find a slight ray of hope to cling to. For example, after 30 years, Rafsanjani's daughter and Mosavi's wife are advocating voluntary hejab (Islamic Dress Code) and not forced hejab. It took them three decades to realize that they cannot force women to accept Islamic hejab.

Perhaps, they might decide to ease some restriction for the young as well, however, I do not have that much hope for the change in the system. Unfortunately, the workers strike did not materialized and there is no leadership for this spontaneous movement. At this point the fight is between the clergy and the secular masses who protested by the millions are not organized. There is an obvious lack of political party to lead the movement.

Now everybody is waiting to see if there would be a mass demonstration next week. (18th of Tir).
When the Freedom Road statement addressed tasks for folks in the US, the first thing it called for was our attention.
We have to keep informed. This may require a bit more work than it has in the past. There has never been a political upsurge of this scope in which the new media has been so central, whether organizing on the ground in Iran or spreading the word in the rest of the world.
In that spirit I offer three recent developments for FotM readers to consider. But first let me recommend that folks who want to follow this should, at minimum, visit the Iran liveblogging section maintained by Nico Pitney inside the Huffington Post empire. It contains first hand reports from Iran and aggregates the best and most timely reportage on developments there. It is updated every day, in real time.

So what is up in Iran today?

First, the Revolutionary Guard has moved even closer to the center of power in Iran. With the Army standing to the side and local police shunted to the side, Revolutionary Guard leaders announced to the press on Sunday that it has been “assigned the task of controlling the situation, [it] took the initiative to quell a spiraling unrest.” Guard General Yadollah Javani declared at the press conference:
Today, no one is impartial. There are two currents -- those who defend and support the revolution and the establishment, and those who are trying to topple it.
Second, the internal differences within the clerical establishment have not abated. The repression or street demonstrations and arrests of activists, and the lack of clear leadership to the mass struggle have made this the main battlefield of the moment. Threats, declarations that dissent is treason and the like have not significantly cowed the reform mullahs who wish to diminish the role of the clergy in the state. Mir-Hossein Mousavi, and Mehdi Karroubi, announced they will continue to protest the election they regard as stolen. The day after the National Guard announced “We in charge here,” the party headed by senior cleric, political powerhouse and plutocrat Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani spoke out for the first time since the voting. Its statement declared
We declare that the result is unacceptable due to the unhealthy voting process, massive electoral fraud and the siding of the majority of the Guardian Council with a specific candidate.
Third, the millions who demonstrated, calling for democracy and chanting “Death to the Dictator” have not been crushed—the nightly rooftop chanting of “Allah-u-Akbar” is still going on. 18 Tir, referred to in the letter above, is Thursday, July 9 by our calendar is the 10th anniversary of the last major eruption of protest in Iran, when students protesting the suppression of a popular newspaper were attacked in their dormitory rooms by the police and thrown from the windows in Tehron and Tabriz. Using the excuse of a massive sandstorm, the government has closed all schools and government buildings until after Thursday. SMS transmissions throughout the country are down, without explanation. They clearly fear a revived protest movement.

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