Clear distance

In less than a week, over 50 people were executed by public hanging in Iran’s Islamic Republic


Clear distance
by yasmine

At the end of July and beginning of August 2007, in less than a week, over 50 people were executed by public hanging in Iran’s islamic republic. There are unconfirmed reports that student political activists were amongst those executed as ‘delinquents’.

This has taken place against the background of a campaign entitled ‘enforcement of national security’, under which over one million Iranians have faced questioning. Meanwhile, the state claims that it has arrested 4,000 ‘delinquents’ and detained 43,000 accused of drug offences. Just as alarmingly, anti-war, anti-imperialist activists such as Mansour Ossanlou and Mahmoud Salehi, as well as many workers and students, are held in prison on trumped-up charges.

According to government figures, 150,000 young women have been apprehended for wearing a ‘poor hijab’ (their fringe or a few strands of hair had been showing under their headscarf). There are also reports that a young woman was stoned to death, the second in two months, in mid-July. The Iranian media reported that Maryam Ayyubi, in her early 30s, was put to death at dawn on July 11.

Of course, as we had predicted, US pressure on Iran, the threat of war, sanctions and plans for regime change from above, Bush-style, will only lead to further repression, executions and detention of the very activists who lead genuine anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist struggles - while Iran’s islamic regime is busy negotiating with the US and UK governments over the terms of all three parties’ interference in the internal affairs of imperialist-occupied Iraq.

Public hangings and mass arrests are part of this government’s efforts to impose an atmosphere of fear and terror at a time when large sections of the working class are protesting against low wages and lack of job security. Many young people (over 70% of the population is under 25) are also rebelling against the religious state’s interference in every aspect of private and public life.

It is ironic that, for all the prohibitions imposed by the shia clerics in Iran for the last 28 years, the generations born since the islamic revolution show no acceptance of religious rules and regulations. In fact, having witnessed the hypocrisy of a ‘religious state’ that bans alcohol yet turns a blind eye, or even contributes, to drug addiction, prostitution, re-sale of confiscated alcohol, etc, the young in Iran rightly associate the ‘pious’ islamic state and its organs of power with double standards, corruption and bribery.

The open rebellion of youth against religious diktat and the brutal way the regime has resorted to public hangings and lashings also exposes the shallowness of the argument of apologists for the islamic regime who imply that workers’, democratic and women’s rights are ‘western values’ that should not be ‘imposed’ on muslims. On the contrary, these are basic, universal rights won through decades of struggle throughout the world.

Last week in an internet TV studio I watched a short film depicting the public hanging of two men and a women in Iran with Peter Tatchell and Mark Fischer. The fact that I was born in a ‘muslim country’ did not mean that I felt less horror and revulsion at the barbaric scene of painful and slow deaths than the two UK comrades. In such matters we share a common humanity and those living in islamic countries are equally entitled to democratic rights as those living in the west.

If we take the figures published by the Iranian regime for those arrested in the last few weeks for ‘un-islamic’ behaviour it is clear that a sizeable portion of Iranian youth openly flaunt religious regulations regarding every aspect of day-to-day life: clothes, music, hair cover, length of hair ... The physical punishments regularly meted out by ‘morality’ police have not only failed to change the attitudes of Iranian youth: it has made them more determined to rebel against the state’s interference in their private lives.

Of course, the main victims of islamic ‘morality’ law and recent punishments have been the poorer sections of the population. Throughout the rule of the shia government, the rich and the upper sections of the middle classes have paid their way out of islamic regulations and restrictions either through bribes or through selecting venues and districts where the ‘morality’ police are known to turn a blind eye.

The difficult conditions faced by ordinary Iranians are exacerbated by the direct and indirect interventions of the international and Iranian forces associated with regime change from above. In early summer a wide spectrum of the Iranian opposition met in Paris in a gathering funded and supported by the Bush administration. They included royalists, constitutional monarchists, republicans, nationalists, Kurdish separatists and some smaller ‘left’ parties. They had little in common with each other except their eagerness to benefit from the $80 million budget approved by the Bush administration for the ‘velvet revolution’ in Iran.

Of course, the kind of regime change they seek (a pro-US, neoliberal capitalist regime, as opposed to an islamic, neoliberal capitalist regime) will not improve the plight of Iranian workers. However, because the working class has been at the forefront of recent struggles against the regime, rightwing forces inside and outside Iran have suddenly become very keen on defending Iranian workers.

From CIA radio stations such as Radio Free Iran to rightwing trade unions with a long history of loyalty to imperialism, such as the International Transport Workers Federation (remember Chile and the strikes organised by the ITWF against the Allende regime, as well as other activities arming and supporting rightwing forces in Latin America), all the forces of regime change from above are claiming to be on the side of Iranian workers.

It is no surprise that in the absence of any mass support from genuine anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist forces defending Iranian workers, and unaware of the history of these organisations, many internal and exiled Iranian groups have embraced this ‘support’.

The saddest aspect of all this is that the calls issued by trade union leaders fearful of damaging their cosy relations with capitalist leaders avoid ‘controversial issues’, such as war and imperialism. In these international union organisations claiming to represent millions of workers, very few of their members are even aware of the calls for ‘solidarity’ made in their name. That is because such they are gestures totally unconnected with any genuine campaign to win support for Iranian workers amongst rank and file trade unionists.

Events inside Iran and on the international arena are forcing us to be ever more vigilant regarding our political stance, as well as the kind of solidarity and support we seek for the revolutionary, anti-capitalist forces inside Iran. Quite clearly we cannot achieve this by confusing pro-imperialist forces with genuine defenders of the Iranian working class.

In Hands Off the People of Iran we have insisted on maintaining a clear distance from defenders of US-style regime change from above, and from social-imperialists who claim that the presence of US-UK armies in the Middle East will help workers obtain trade union rights.

The exceptional support we have gained amongst anti-war activists, as well as amongst academics, artists, writers, etc, gives us hope that it is possible to show principled solidarity with the struggles of the Iranian people while opposing imperialist war, sanctions and regime change from above.

Yassamine Mather Deputy Editor of Critique, Journal of Socialist Theory, published by Centre for the Study of Socialist Theory and Movements, Glasgow University.


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more from yasmine

In the belly of your mother's rapist

by dariushabadi on

You ask me why I insult my host? No, you got it wrong my friend. I am defending my mother's honor, in my neighbor's home.

I will not stay quiet in my host's home, and let my mother get slandered with lies after she was raped. I will stop my host from saying hurtful things about the place I was born, or any nation for that matter.

I might defend Iran here, but I defend a lot of countries here, or go against a lot of countries that my host supports.

Just because I live in America, doesn't mean I have to shut up and not say anything against my host or defend my motherland. What kind of logic is that? I can't speak out against the war in Iraq? I can't defend Iran's right to nuclear power? I can't go against the US relationship with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, two major dictatorships that are funding radical Islam?

I think that is my right as an American. I'm not committing treason by doing so. It is my right as an American, and someone as backward as you cannot stop me from using my rights.


do you read what you write?

by dariushabadi on

First of all, I did not say that the life of low-level activists is dispensible. I said the EXACT OPPOSITE. I said that their is no proof whatsoever that any of the people that were hung were political activists. Even teh author of the article said they claim this from "unconfirmed sources" which in journalism is no source at all.

I am against hurting any political activist. If someone stands up to corruption and injustice, even against an Islamic government, they have that right, as Imam Hussein had that right to stand up against the Yazid of his time.

You yourself just said "Everyone has the right to live their lives as they wish, so long as they do not interfere with the liberties of others". The second you steal, rape or kill someone, you have interfered in the liberties of others. Therefore you must not only be punished, but be made an example of, so that others do not think of taking away the liberties of others. The 50 people who were hung were hung for the crimes of theft, murder and theft. Not for political reasons. NOT FOR HIJAB REASONS EITHER.

No one has been given a heavy sentence or hung for not wearing hijab. Their isn't even a capital punishment set out in the Qur'an for hijab issues, it is only an order for women to cover their bossoms with their headscarves in that they be protected from the lust of men (yes, the Qur'an actually starts out telling me to lower their gazes and not treat women like sex objects, THEN it follows it with the order for women to cover up in case of those men who don't listen and look at women in lustful ways rather than respect them).

So again Kaveh, you responded without even reading my responses. I made it clear that their was no proof any of them were lower-level activists (all I said is why would the government HANG 10 lower-level activists, when no one even followed them, yet release the higher level ones from jail. It doesn't even make RATIONAL sense).

And even Human rights watch doesn't claim any of the executions were political. They were all for crimes.

Kaveh Nouraee

Why didn't you STAY in Iran?

by Kaveh Nouraee on


You must be working for the IRI in some kind of public relations capacity.

Not only are you an apologist, but your line of think is barabaric. Since when is it appropriate to hang someone for theft or for being an activist?

These "low-level" activists, as you call them are expendable. They have little, if any connection at all, to greater and more powerful activist entities, whether in Iran or in the diaspora. No one will miss them, because no one knows them...that's the twisted logic of your heroes.

Everyone has the right to live their lives as they wish, so long as they do not interfere with the liberties of others. For example, if a female chooses not to wear a hejab, that is her business. A woman can be dressed modestly and fashionably without one. People should be able to listen to any type of music or see any type of film or TV program or read a book or periodical without worrying about some parasitic worm of a person or government interfering. Or from some pervert who can't look at a woman without diverting his eyes to gauge the shape of her body and drooling uncontrollably.

But hanging people for theft? Do you propose amputating the legs of a jaywalker? Or death by firing squad for speeding?

Convict the criminals, and punish them accordingly. The punishment must fit the crime. Otherwise, the result will be anarchy. The death penalty should apply in cases of murder only, or in cases of pedophilia.

As flawed as this country is, at the U.S> is DEEPLY flawed, this is the only place on earth where you are free to be whomever or whatever you want to be. Why didn't you stay in Iran? You kiss the ass of the IRI like some blindly loyal supplicant, but you don't live there, and you live in the U.S. and motherf**k it. The same kind of person who is invited into someone's home, and starts insulting the host. They bite the hand that feeds them and they defcate where they eat. Then they have the audacity to complain that no one is cleaning up their mess.

In other words, classless.


Have you even talked to people on the ground in Iran?

by dariushabadi on

I was just in Iran, and these public hangings have actually created a lot of support in a lot of areas, for they are occuring in high-crime areas. Most of these hangings are ordered not by the government, but by city police, such as Qhalibaf (who is anti-Ahmadinejad). He is trying to bring crime down in Tehran, to win the next election.

And it is actually looking to his favor. People I've asked are very much in favor of the hangings, saying that it is about time they crack down on these theives and rapists that have been TERRORIZING their neighborhoods. So it is actually creating an atmosphere of relief in these towns.

And these people I've been talking to are neither religious, nor work for any government organ.

So I don't think you really understand why these executions are taking place. Why would they execute 50 people, but not a single one of the main political or worker leaders, and yet you claim "unconfirmed sources" saying that some political activists were hung? Why would they hang lower level, un-known activists, but let the well-known ones live?

Based on that same logic, i heard from unconfirmed sources that Bush raped a few Iranian girls. Now go stop him.

You all have poor journalism. You can't quote "unconfirmed sources" as fact.