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Sad spectacle
Self-immolation not for freedom, bur for a leader

By Babak Mazarei
June 30, 2003
The Iranian

I am a fourth year political science student at Carleton University. My motivation for writing this article was the relationship I had with the brother of one of those who burnt themselves at a recent Mojahedin protest. In other words, I am not affiliated with any political organization and I therefore lack what Iranians all to often refer to as an "agenda".

I wrote a brief piece on the unconditional right of the Mojahedin to express themselves. I, however, do not believe that self-immolation is a legitimate means of protest. Therefore, it is only logical to write a piece that explains my reasons for holding this view, in light of the Mojahedin's extensive use of self-immolation and the resulting death of a young girl who had so much more to live for.

The quasi-terrorism engaged in by Mojahedin of late is a testament to their ideological bankruptcy and the hypocrisy of their pro-human rights stance. I was very much angered and disheartened when I learned of the news of Neda Hassani's death, if not for the hypocrisy this act of human degradation sheds, then certainly for the loss of life.

A fact of common knowledge and indeed a basic axiom of the sciences is the necessity to adapt in order to survive. Particularly in Iran, the entire 20th century was a time of extreme political turbulence, and social progress.

Considering the circumstances in modern day Iran, one may quickly draw the fallacious conclusion that progress is all too wrong a word to describe the result of a century of struggle and sacrifice. However, a matter of such importance begs a more detailed analysis.

Recent protests in Iran have proven the viciousness of a decadent regime. Students, yes students, those guardians of human progress and knowledge, the flagbearers of truth and reason have been the victims of a series of unrelenting attacks by nefarious religious zealots.

Under the pretext of an Islamic "mandate from Heaven" ansar-e-Hezbollah, pasdaran, and vigilantes have committed the worst acts of human treachury without the slightest fear of being held accountable. In this context, under today's brutal circumstances, one witnesses the genuine progress that a century of political consciousness has endowed on the very fabric of Iranian society; its youth.

Since 1979, the political machinery in Iran has been monopolized by greedy individuals who are byproducts of an obsolete ideology that aimed at achieving political power from its inception. Iran's experience with political Islam has produced a general view that is shared by the great majority of Iranians today.

This view demands a separation of state and religion followed by an immediate practice of secular democracy. The perspective in itself is progressive. However, what further indicates progress is the actions and more importantly, the inactions Iranian students are adopting in their determined pursuit for secular democracy.

After living in a state of bondage for two decades, it would not have been surprising if Iranian civilians resorted to terrorism as a means of facilitating political change. So progressive and prudent are Iran's students and civilians, however, that they have chosen a wiser path; the path of peaceful change. Granted there have been moments of confrontation between authorities and protestors. The goal here is not to undermine the brutality of the authorities, but rather to commend the composure of the protestors.

Whereas planned terrorism as a means of retribution could have been employed by students, they instead chose to arm themselves with slogans then and now. Slogans calling for secularism, democracy, and the overthrow of the ruling establishment. In other parts of the developing world, terrorism against a repressive regime by a hopeles populace is applied all too often; but the desired outcomes when employing these tactics result in illusions, not real progress.

Having established the truth that Iranians living in Iran are averting from terrorism and violence altogether, we must address the actions of the exiled opposition. By and large, the Iranian left have not resorted to violence historically, and certainly not presently. The liberal democratic opposition averts from violence in theory and in practice.

What remains are the People's Mojahedin. The record of this organization is marred by acts of violence both historically, and most recently, the materialization of protest-suicide in the form of self-immolation. In the 1970's the Mojahedin assassinated US military personnel, supported the nonsensical siege of the American embassy, and in 1990 under the operation name

"Operation Great Bahman" in February 2000 attacked Iranian military sites and government buildings. These acts of violence have only detracted from the credibility of the exiled opposition movement. The very simple, but nonetheless true rule of conduct "two wrongs do not make a right" comes to mind.

Finally, recently the Mojahedin have resorted to self-immolation. What is disturbing about these latest acts of non-sensical violence is the purpose for which they are being committed. It is not in pursuit of freedom for Iranians that Mojaheds are now immolating themselves, but rather in protest at the incarceration of select members of their leadership.

This reaction only proves that People's Mojahedin are not a flexible, open organization, but rather a dogmatic entity with little hope for survival, let alone a legitimate political claim in Iran. How sad it is that Iranians in Iran have been supressed by a rotten clergy for twenty four years and have not resorted to suicide-protest, but an exiled political group resorts to self-immolation after a brief encounter with unjustified repression.

It is not the desire of the writer to discredit the historical role of the Mojahedin. History has witnessed much bloodshed of Mojahedin forces in the struggle for freedom. However, the latest actions of the independent Mojahedin members and the organization's historical inclination towards violence do not deserve merit, but constructive criticism.

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