A statement on recent protests in Iran, signed by 125 leftists, socialists and communists from the Iranian diaspora.
The original statement in Farsi can be found at http://praxies.org/?p=5804
Statement in support of the calls for social justice by the oppressed on the streets of Iran, and against the repression of protesters and the kidnappings of justice-oriented students and activists
It has been a week since protesters have occupied the streets of many cities and towns across Iran and dominated the political atmosphere with their stand against oppression and injustice. Those protesters will no longer tolerate poverty, unemployment, delayed and stolen wages, corruption, discrimination, and oppression, and are now calling for justice and freedom with slogans such as “bread, jobs, freedom.”
Fear is no longer a barrier hindering uprising, since the depth and breadth of the people’s affliction has become far too great. Despite the existence of a police state, the protesters are not afraid to express their frustration in the most radical way possible. They are aware of the imprisonment of a large number of political, labor- and union-activists as well as critical journalists and dissident students. They are well aware that workers’ protests are dealt with through arrests, surveillance, and even murder by long-term imprisonment with no medical services. The ongoing protests illustrate that the State, using all the mechanisms of repression at its disposal, is incapable of halting this uprising against oppression and exploitation. The longstanding history of justice and freedom struggles in Iran is a testament to the courage of the Iranian people in the face of political oppression. The best example of this was the 1979’s revolutionary uprising against the despotic and class-based regime of the Shah.
Still, the Islamic Republic’s government regards those national protests as an “enemy project” and calls the protesters either agents of the governments of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the US, or pawns of the oppositional political forces which are subsidized by those states. Nevertheless, the slogans called by the protesters on the streets incontrovertibly state that the origins of those protests are the deteriorating living conditions and the economic situation of the masses. However, the state claims that problems and hardships experienced by the people are nothing out of the ordinary and are part and parcel of the economic cycles. They refuse to recognize the severity of people’s dissatisfaction with the oppression and the injustice of the ruling class.
These days, once again, we witness that all political factions of the state are working hand in hand to maintain the authority of the regime, to represent this social inequality as normative and to silence dissident voices. With their ideological apparatuses they deny the power of the radical political movement in the streets, attempting to paint the protesters as either vandals or as deceived. At the same time, through their massively corrupt security and judicial apparatuses, they are pushing for violent crackdowns on the streets and for mass arrests of protesters and critics. This approach is familiar. By ignoring the demands and dissatisfactions of the masses on the one hand and the violent oppression of mass protests on the other hand, it has historically always been the rulers who have been responsible for leading the protests toward violence, bloodshed and the destruction of common wealth and public property.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and his government officials have stated that “the people of Iran are free to express their legitimate criticism and objections” and “those who are spreading violence in our streets are only vandals and trouble makers with no concern for economic problems and unemployment.” But Rouhani and his allies are shamelessly and openly lying about the freedom to protest in Iran and about the necessity of listening to people’s dissatisfactions. They, better than anyone else, are aware of the fact that there will be no issuing of permits for an independent and non-affiliated rally, sit-in, action or strike. In Iran, any efforts to form independent unions, syndicates, and political organizations face the most severe repression. There is no legal right to engage in any kind of justice-oriented and non-partisan critical media. Even the protest of retired elders against corrupt financial institutions taking away their life’s savings faces brutal repression from the government.
It is clear that under such circumstances, the only way to hold any protest which is independent of the state is to do so without legal permission. Such a protest is considered “illegal” and its suppression therefore legitimate. Thus, by unveiling the deception of Rouhani’s government and the reformist moderates, one realizes that they are no different to conservative or “Principlist” factions in their support of suppression of protesters and silencing of critics.
In the past few days we have witnessed a wave of kidnappings, mass arrests and illegal detention of activists, leftists and dissident students in Tehran and other cities in Iran. The Iranian government is not releasing information about the situation of those “disappeared” students, and is keeping their families in the dark while the number of arrested students increases day by day. The political orientation and activities of those students shed light on the truth behind the state’s propaganda regarding the recent protests. Those students have explicitly fought against any intervention by imperialist powers and their reactionary allies in the region. They were the most active opponents of the sanctions, emphasizing that the main impact of international financial and economic sanctions against Iran would be on the poorest and the lower classes. They have always been constant supporters of the Palestinian struggle against the Zionist occupation. Accordingly, they cannot be accused of being puppets of imperialist states, Saudi Arabia and Israel, nor of being part of pro-West and right-wing forces within the opposition to the regime. One might then ask, why is the state seeking to stifle the voices of leftists and justice-oriented activists and students? Precisely because they are the bearers of social justice discourse and the most important and determined critics of the neoliberal economic policies in Iran.
The arrests of leftist activists and students illustrate that the regime is terrified of this vision, in which the current movement would develop its political discourse and fully comprehend its class-based and justice-oriented origin. We mentioned earlier that the reason for the recent protests is the ever-deteriorating living conditions and economic situation. Here we must add that the most important factor in the economic misery of the people is the iron will of the government to advance and force structural adjustment programs and austerity measures (Rouhani’s so-called “economic surgery”) upon the society – this, of course, must be seen in connection with the exclusive and monopolistic position of the minority who enjoys the commonwealth. These economic policies have been taken up more vehemently and vastly by Rouhani than his former counterparts (Rafsanjani, Khatami and Ahmadinejad).
Iranian leftist students, scholars and activists, using their minimal means of existence, have always critically spoke out against the economic reforms that benefit the capitalists at the expense of the majority of people. They have warned of the terrible consequences of those policies on living conditions and social life of the people. We are now witnessing the eruption of discontent of those policies, whose origin, more than anything, could be found in class relations. However, because of the severity of the political oppression and the simultaneous accumulation of political power and capital in the hands of an ideological minority, the expression of economic dissatisfaction cannot be defined in isolation from a political struggle against the ruling system. Therefore, it is not a coincidence that during spontaneous protests against the economic difficulties, the security forces launched this extensive wave of arrests of leftist students, labor- and, union-activists and other justice-oriented activists. Since, if those students and activists supporting the labor organizations intervene in the current movement, they might have the potential capability to assist the processes of forming class consciousness and to help build of political organizations.
It is also important to mention that many of these kidnapped students were student union activists who pursued the demands of immediate interests of students, and, in this regard, organized protests against the state’s neoliberal policies such as the commodification of the educational system and the privatization of universities, as well as the government’s new apprenticeship program; By organizing a campaign called “Bigarvarzi” [a wordplay combining forced labor (bigari) and apprenticeship (kaarvarzi)], they were successful in organizing effective opposition, criticism and protests against the government’s new apprenticeship program. They argued that the state-run program actually turned graduate students into extremely cheap labor force, who, under the pretext of preparation for employment, would be excessively exploited by the employers.
In this way, by linking this neoliberal program to the increasing commodification and cheapening of labor force, the students emphasized the linking of labor and students struggles. Given the insistence of Rouhani’s government on the advancement of the apprenticeship program, it is not surprising that by arresting opponents and critical students, the state’s intelligence and security apparatus is, in addition, seeking to strike down resistance against the government’s economic policies.
We, a group of leftists, socialists and communists outside Iran, condemn the wave of detentions and kidnappings of leftists, independent students and activists. It is clear that the responsibility for the health and lives of all those detainees in the recent protests falls entirely on the shoulders of the Islamic Republic, and especially of the current government. Undoubtedly, the unconditional freedom of all political prisoners should be one of the most basic and urgent demands of the movement.
In contrast to the state media’s uproar claiming an end to the protests, we believe that the struggles of the Iranian people against injustice and oppression by the dominant and exploitative ruling minority are infinite. We support the legitimate struggle of the oppressed in Iran, and voice solidarity with their call for social justice. We salute their initiative and courage during this collective resistance, and finally, as a new wave of protests has dominated and radicalized the social sphere, we hope for the new possibilities of a powerful progressive movement to form and grow.
Amir Houshang Eftekhari Rad
Amir Javaheri Langroudi
Amir Mohsen Mohammadi
Amir Reza Rezaie
Amjad Hossein Panahi
Arash Doost Hossein
Mehran Jangali Moghadam
Mohammad Tajallijoo Langroudi
Rafat Ranjbaran Langroudi
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