Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Iran: responses and reflections

The situation in Iran is moving very quickly and it's difficult at this point to know how things are going to turn out. We have a movement demanding that the will of the people is heard in support of an extremely conservative Presidential candidate who's main pluses appear to be that he's not as belligerent as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and whose wife says interesting things.

Looking at some of the specialists we'll have to pass over Campaign Iran who's last item is a bizarre article on the "Visionary Shah who inspired the Islamic Republic" from May. Likewise the Stop the War Coalition uncharacteristically has nothing to say.

Rather better we have Hands Off the People of Iran who have provided a useful framing article on the issues at stake and some of the background to what's happening. They've also organised an emergency meeting to discuss events and giving people an opportunity to pick the brains of Iranian activists, details;

Saturday 20 June, 2pm: Caxton House,129 St. John's Way London, N19 3RQ
The likelihood is that the election was rigged although I'm still keeping at arms length those who seem to feel it's preposterous that Ahmedinejad has popular support. As Lenin says;
"The fact that Ahmadinejad used state oil revenues to fund programmes for the poor can be approved or derided, but it arguably gave large numbers of people an interest in voting for Ahmadinejad against his more explicitly neoliberal rival. It gave him a base among some of the working class and bazaaris. Still, it is hardly implausible either that some vote-rigging went on, if only to make the win decisive enough to avoid a run-off."
Of the left we have a number of articles the two key ones are from Socialist Worker who says "People Power Rocks Iran" and the Socialist Party who say a "new phase of struggle opens up". Both slightly headless in their enthusiasm to my mind, but worth reading none the less.

Speaking of which Ben makes a good point when he says that people are a mapping their own hopes onto the protests so whether it's women's rights, nuclear, support for Ahmedinejad, we all need to be careful not read what we want to see onto these events and a bit of self awareness from Western observers is particularly useful when commenting on these events.

However, I'm not encouraging people to be neutral, just careful when swallowing the press line too thoroughly.

Thanks to Barrack Obama you can follow the protests uninterrupted on Twitter, but do read this article first so you don't fuck things up.
What are they fighting for?
Zahra Rahnavard, the wife of Presidential hopeful Mousavi has been urging the protesters on and has an interesting set of policies of her own including;
addressing crowds with promises to eliminate discrimination against women, abolish the "morality police" and "help the youth to think freely"...

"I am not Iran's Michelle Obama. I am Zahra, the follower of Fatimah Zahra [the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad]. I respect all women who are active."

Rahnavard's outspoken criticism of Ahmadinejad's regime is lent credibility by her impeccable revolutionary credentials. She met her husband at university, when both were involved in the secret campaign to overthrow the shah, and was exiled to the US until his removal in 1979. She is also a vocal supporter of the veil, arguing that it liberates women, though she has said it should be a woman's choice to wear it.

Her mantra on the campaign trail – that "getting rid of discrimination and demanding equal rights with men is the number one priority for women in Tehran" – is credited with galvanising young women to vote – long lines of them were described waiting outside polling stations last week.
I think this helps outline the fact that there are no simple pro- and anti- democracy factions here. The logic of the situation might push Iran towards a more just society, which I'm sure we all hope it does, but we can see from the murderous state repression this is by no means guaranteed.

Very much like the Tienanmen Square protests Western eyes are often inclined to interpret the demands of the activists in their favour when in fact they are very home grown and we should try to engage with them on their own terms, not ours.
Pick and mix
Angry Arab asks "why do Western media express outrage over a stolen election in Iran but they don't even feign outrage over lack of elections in Saudi Arabia?" Which I confess is a reasonable way of missing the point.

There are a number of 'support home grown regime change' style comments. For example Fisk, Charlie, Maryam, Jeff, and many others.

Juan Cole is well worth following through out, as is Al Jazeera which,as you might expect, is an excellent news source at the moment.

Hope this is helpful. This is by no means comprehensive and I'm happy for people to leave links in the comments box of those items you've seen that you think are useful (or you've written yourself). I may well add in a few more links over the next couple of days if I feel so inclined.


ModernityBlog said...

I scanned Sunrise's piece, it struck me as cynical as those he would argue against, along the lines of "If the West likes it then it must be bad"

This is plain silly, "And so it is in Iran, where the ebullient Mr Ahmadinejad looks to have convincingly won a second term. That doesn’t surprise me."

How exactly did Ahmadinejad win in the Kurdish area, which hates him? Not credible.

Jim Jay said...

His piece is far from the stupidest of the genre, although you're right it is not all gold dust. I still think it's worth linking to mind...

Had this 'tweet' today from the stwc, oh - my - lord

STWuk Did Israel use Twitter to destabilise Iran?

Oh - on the kurdish stuff - I'm not massively up on the demographics of Iran but I believe most Kurds are in the following areas;

East Azerbaijan (A 56%, M 42%)
West Azerbaijan (A 47%, M 49%)
Kurdistan (A 52%, M 43%)
Kermanshah (A 59%, M 38%)

Where Ahmadinejad won three of four areas. I don't know the exact composition but am aware that Kurds are not necessarily the majority in any of these areas.

However, I'm reasonably convinced now that there has been a stitch up - but just want to argue devil's advocate for a mo.

Douglas Coker said...

Jim, rest assured, all your commentary is very useful. Thanks.