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Who do you trust?
Iranian opposition forces


May 15, 2006

Since 27 years, there is in Iran one of the most barbaric regimes of the recent history. But what is wrong? Many people around the world amazingly raise this question. Where is that force that once swept away the Shah’s regime, one of the strongest dictators of the region? This article tries to present the conditions of the Iranian opposition groups as they are represented through their political history and their positions vis-à-vis the democracy, secularism and radicalism, which are the main elements of union or division. These three characters are today the necessary conditions of an Iranian democratic opposition to confront the plague of the IRI.

The radicalism is a tactical character to avoid any possible approach to the IRI or to factions within the regime. The secularism and democracy are the constant characters of a viable democratic movement in Iran. These are two solid pillars not only to organise a popular movement against the Islamic Republic of Iran, but also to govern the country after the IRI’s fall.

Among the Iranian opposition groups, we have too many candidates for the force of opposition, but none of them is presently in the position to efficiently organise people against the IRI. People trust none of them as a favourite candidate to become the model for a dynamic, secular and democratic movement, leading a regime change in Iran. Let’s have a look at the main opposition groups to see their maladaptive characters.

Islamic opposition
All Islamic opposition groups are either the relics of the early IRI, who were hard dogs kept on the porch or less flexible partners, therefore not tolerated by their fundamentalist brothers. They all have ideological ties with political Islam-- from the Freedom Movement to People’s Mojahedin (PMO), despite their differences, they all patch up with fate of people their various forms of an Islamic state and consider their strategically objective to be the continuation of the “Islamic” revolution of 1979 that they believe were hijacked by the Islamic fundamentalists. All Islamic alternatives are in fact the different bottles for the same wine, namely for their Islamic state. Some of them were culprits or collaborators when thousands of Iranian political activists, labelled as “enemies of God”, were tortured and murdered by the IRI.

All followers of political Islam, ranging from the “modest” Freedom Movement to the fundamentalist and criminal Mullahs, do not consider the causes of social backwardness and despotism in Islam itself, but instead a lack of a better Islam. Their declared political aspirations are to identify and promote a socio-economic order that should conform to the Koran and Islamic traditions. Their goal is an Islamic state with Islamic laws which are of course variously interpreted. All currents of political Islam ultimately unite if they are to pose any serious challenge to the secular and democratic forces that seek to install a democratic and secular regime in Iran. 

Obviously some of them are more or less reactionary, fundamentalist, criminal or bloodthirsty; the difference among them only consists of their methods to prolong parasite’s life of the ongoing Islamic system. None of them is democratic or can adapt itself to the democratic and secular world. Furthermore Iranian people are fairly fed up with any state with a concept or word”Islam” attached to it.

People’s Mojahedin Organisation
PMO among both the Islamic and secular opposition groups remained still united. It is not because they democratically solve their inside problems, but because they are a cult of brainwashed followers who have never learnt to have free individualities. The leadership can even decide about all personal details of members’ problems, like marriage, divorce and fate of their children. The leadership stands above any election and critical thought. For anyone who cares or dares to be critical, a jargon of labelling or measures of punishment has been created. Despite their allegations to install a secular and democratic state in Iran, religion, in its sectarian form, continues to rule within the organisation. Most Iranians believe that their alleged “secular and democratic” state is nothing but a continuation of the current IRI under another fresh leadership. The group is radical, but not secular and democratic; therefore, apart from some secular members of its National Resistance, it cannot join a democratic movement.

Monarchists are mostly the relics of the Shah’s regime. They have such a bad reputation that even their traditional US barons, Republican Party who once bestowed them the throne in the 53-coup, do not publicly count on them. Monarchy has been always worldwide a synonym of corruption among the rulers in the royal palaces and their close protégées. That is why, even in most advanced monarchy like England, constitution (even if is not illegally squashed by the Queen) has intentionally kept corruption by attributing considerable privileges to the royal family and the noble class.

None of the Iranian Monarchist groups can justify the corruption and despotism of the late Shah. All the Monarchist separate groups ultimately blow the same wind, namely they invest their choice for the Shah’ son, Reza Pahlavi, as their new shah. Monarchists’ banal allegation to whitewash the late Shah is that “the Marhoom” was however less despotic and less corrupt than the Mullahs! This argument expects the „naive” Iranians to choose the “bad” Monarchy instead of “worse” Mullahs, as if there were no other choice at all!

The whole Monarchism in concept and background is not a political alternative for people and historically cannot be in convergence of people’s interests.

As mentioned, some of Monarchists are those who have political ties or financial interests with the Pahlavi family, like old Savakis, a handful ex-officers and ex-ministers loyal to the Shah, docile servants of the royal palaces, paid journalists and all friends who are around when the purses are full or see their future intertwined with the future of Reza Pahlavi. Those who have sympathy for Reza Pahlavi are among the less politically involved people of the middle class, who dream of a Persian Kingdom in which they grab the noblest privilege. Monarchists are not so combative to conquer their prince’s throne. And as things heat up around Iran-Us, they lurk in the wings for miracles like a US endeavour to install a new Monarchist client state in Iran. The Monarchists groups are secular, but not democratic and radical. Their corrupt leaders do not belong to any democratic movement. However, the Monarchist dreamers can sensibly be encouraged by a democratic movement.

National Front
National Front has never been a united and organised political force. It is an amalgamation of different parties, organisations and groups set up in a large spectrum. They are each a separate and are coloured from religious to democratic and secular tendencies. Their spectrum is big in numbers, but not in power. Their glorious carrier is reduced to their links “common path” with the national figure of Dr. Mossadegh and especially proud of his national policy for oil half a century ago. However, neither Mossadegh nor any of the National front’s cancellation was against Monarchy in Iran. Their skirmishes with the despotic Shah were that “the Shah was placing himself outside the constitution”. They presumed that a solution was fair within the constitutional Monarchy. Today they have courage to distance themselves from Monarchy. The Front National, in its traditional tempo, has its eye on a gradual transformation of the ruling system. The, shaky, National Front can however join an Iranian democratic movement when this one grows.

Even among those forces of the opposition, calling themselves democratic or secular, there are some who have consciously been denying the free choice to themselves to distance themselves from the IRI. An example is the infamous role of the Tudeh Party under the IRI. Any party or organisation called Marxist, Communist or Socialist would begin with the demand for the freedom of opinions, freedom of speech, freedom of elections, freedom of press and all the democratic rights which have been won by the movements of the working class over generations of struggle.

Tudeh Party
TheTudeh Party since its existence develops contradictions between the theory and practice. It pretends to be in the side of people and the socialism, yet at the same time has been long time a powerless servant of the theocratic messianic Mullahs of the IRI without criticism or a different policy or perspective.

In 1941 the Tudeh Party was founded, which rapidly expanded and became a major political force in the following years. Because of its passive reaction to the CIA coup of 1953 against PM. Mossadegh and its dependence to the political whims of the Soviets’ interests in Iran its popularity was drastically melded away. The party escaped the repression of the Shah after the coup and returned to public life after   the revolution of 1979. The party served at the IRI’s pleasure for many years. By collaborating with the incumbent dictatorship of the IRI, the party helped the regime to identify and to arrest IRI’s opponents. Later, despite their fervour for their “Imam” Khomeini, their “haram” label of Marxism and “negis”secularism sent them to the “halal” slaughterhouse of Khomeini, where many of the party’s members were among the victims of the IRI and especially the death-fatwa issued by “Imam” Khomeini in summer 1988.

The party, as the pioneer of complaisant attitude in the political history, practically introduced the attitude of complaisance and opportunism in the culture of Iranian political terminology. This culture could convert even a part of the radical Iranian People’s Fedaii (Majority) into an IRI’s collaborating group until the regime sent them to the altar of its slaughterhouses as well.

Because of the treachery of the Tude Party, whose members were informers of the IRI, to the democratic movement in Iran, and also failures of left and democratic movement to attempt to organise opposition within the idea of regime change, the IRI could restore its medieval dictatorship in its early life. Thanks to the Tude Party and the failures of others, the idea of a regime change could not be involved in most sections of the nation.

By backing of some IRI’s factions, the party has always and typically gone with whichever the wind blows. The Tudeh Party along with all its relics carry a black record on the shoulder. They can always be suspect charged with treachery; therefore should be removed from any democratic movement.

Student movement
Student movement abroad was ideologically shaped in great part with the Marxism, Mao Zedong’s thinking, anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism. Being perfectly organised throughout the two decades until the revolution, the Confederation of Iranian Students/National Union (CISNU) played a decisive role in portraying the Shah’s regime as a repressive dictatorship. The movement was the most influential left opposition against the Shah’s regime in Europe and the US, where they were successfully drawing the attention of the international media, human right organisations, political groups, and even foreign governments to repression under the Shah’s regime. The movement melted away after the Iranian revolution.

The student movement under the Shah was mainly influenced by the Organisation of People’s Fedaii, an Iranian Marxist organisation of armed struggle. Though the movement was not as organised as their student comrades abroad, but was equally anti-Shah.

In 1980, the IRI launched a cultural revolution in Iran. Following a Banisadr’s speech, the universities were assaulted, closed and finally purged from the progressive students and professors. The reopened universities and colleges were fully Islamic with medieval theological seminaries, mosques and imposed Islamic hijab. All repressive measures were imposed that any possible idea of freedom and secular thought not be flourished or encouraged on the campuses.

With the help of the IRI’s officials, the Islamic student organisations were in a swift growth reorganised in the country’s universities. These groups originally supported the 1979 “Islamic” revolution and are still fanatically attached to its Islamic values and its founder, Khomeini.  However, they have demanded in the recent years more political reforms for the Iranian society.

The main problem of the Islamic student movement in Iran is their lack of legacy from the Confederation of Iranian Students and the student movement of the pre-IRI. The Iranian student movement, as it is represented, is radical, but not secular and democratic. Despite absence of a strong independent student movement, the present student movement has young capacity of swiftly promoting into a secular and democratic movement when the occasion arrives.

Leftistswere mostly revolutionary alternatives to the reformist Tudeh Party. Since their existence, they have been all driven underground and are the main victims of the two successive regimes in Iran. They were more active during and shortly after the revolution. While started splitting, they became more and more vulnerable. The most important force of the leftists is the Organisation of Iranian People’ Fedaii Guerrillas. The OIPFG by attacking in February of 1970 the Siahkal Gendarmerie base in Northern Province of Iran opened up a new chapter in struggle against the Shah’s dictatorship. The long-term strategy was to topple the Shah’s regime through an arm struggle, as it happened in Cuba. Determination of the organisation was however not enough to change the political attitude of society.

As shown in the following years, the organisation fought alone at the forefront of the battle without being massively followed by people. The organisation had to split in 1980 and a part of it “the Fedaii Organisation “(the Majority), under the influence of the Tudeh Party, joined IRI’s camp. Today, the remainder of the leftists, including many groups of Fedaii, cannot be any dynamic locomotive of a popular movement. It is true that their credibility has also to do with the great schism of Communism worldwide, but prior to this schism, their constant splits damaged their status in Iran.

All leftist groups are secular and radical and despite  their concept of the Dictatorship of the proletariat, which is an outdated dogma of Marxism- Leninism and creates  contradiction with the concept of modern democracy, can join and efficiently radicalise an Iranian democratic movement.

Under these conditions and backgrounds of the opposition groups, it is not an easy job for Iranian people to trust them. True that Iran has seen less demonstrations and protests against the IRI than against the Shah’s dictator. It is true that the demonstrations can be more easily fired on, but it is not because of this brutality that the popular movement cannot be encouraged. The fact is that a democratic movement in Iran is not yet as effectively organised as the Islamic movement was during the Iranian revolution. People cannot see yet any effective help in their protests against the IRI. How and when such a democratic movement should be formed is another huge topic for all freedom-loving Iranian people.


For letters section
To: Jahanshah Rashidian

Jahanshah Rashidian


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