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Iranian Students Spark Revolt

On the night of wednesday June 11th a new resurgence of student revolt erupted onto the streets of Tehran...
Iranian Students Spark Revolt: A Cursory Analysis of the June Uprising Against Repression and Privatization In Tehran

by wispy cockles aka sean west damon

On the night of wednesday June 11th a new resurgence of student revolt erupted onto the streets of Tehran. Initially several hundred students took the streets to express their anger with the government's plan to privatize the university system and with the government's decision to close university campuses in order to prevent demonstrations in the week leading up to the fourth anniversary of the July 9th 1999 student protests.

The July 9th protests four years ago, led by Tehran University students, were sparked by the banning by judiciary decree of the Salaam (Hello), an independent daily newspaper that argued for government reforms. The 1999 protests grew to more than 1,400 people in less than three days.

This time around a similar situation developed. The initial actions of students created a space for popular dissent against the regime in which thousands of people joined in violent demonstrations against the clerics which ran for several nights.

The friday night protests were by many accounts the largest and most disruptive, erupting on the campus of Shaheed Beheshti University in northern Tehran and moving onward to overtake the two major highways leading to the dormitories of Tehran University.

Earlier in the day riot police police and pro-government vigilantes had attacked five dormitories busting out windows and doors and severely beating and arresting several students.

By the evening traffic was snarled as many people had taken to the streets in automobiles and on foot to see what the demonstrations were all about. People sympathetic to the demonstrations attempted to direct traffic around bonfires that had been lit in the roads. At one point several people yelled angrily at a man who had left his vehicle to help direct traffic. "Just be patient, we are trying to have a revolution," the man yelled back.

"Tanks, machine guns are no longer effective," cried out protesters in defiance of Iran's iron fist policy towards domestic dissent. Demands for the release of all political prisoners and an end to the rule of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who is seen as the main opponent of reforms that would open up more space for political dissent and democratic participation.

"This is civil disobedience," shouted a 45-year-old man beside his car on Chamron Highway, where demonstrators had lit stacks of tires and even trees on fire along the road. "We are standing up against them. We are resisting and protesting against the regime."

Running battles between protesters and riot police and vigilantes bloodied the streets throughout the evening. The vigilantes, a para-military group commonly reported to be under the control of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, known as The Baseej and also known as Ansar Hezbollah, rampaged throughout the city on motorbikes and pickups in groups of up to 200. They beat demonstrators with rubber truncheons and wooden sticks, going as far as to drag people out of their cars to assault them. They positioned their ranks with Kalishnikov rifles at intersections over which they had gained control. Some witness claimed to have seen people with slash wounds from razors and gunshot wounds.

By early morning hours the demonstrations had been repressed and The Basseej made victory laps around the campus beating their truncheons against the sides of their trucks to inspire fear in demonstrators who had retreated back to the university.

While the brave actions of student and popular protest against privatization and theocracy in face of brutal repression are something to be applauded a specter lingers in the background of this popular uprising. With US victory over Iraq, the US is eager to tighten it's grip over the whole region. Recently US saber rattling toward Iran has increased with US government claims that Iran supports global terrorism and is developing a nuclear weapons program. Not even Iran's support for US operations in Afghanistan was enough to keep it off of the "Axis of Evil" list!

The US government is eager to forward any attempts to destabilize the Iranian regime so they can move in and gain as much control as possible over this gateway nation between the Middle East and Central Asia. With US troops stationed in Central Asia (Afghanistan) for the first time in modern history and the toppling of the Baathist regime in Iraq conquering Iran is the next big step to concretize US control over both of these regions.

In the weeks preceeding the uprising nearly a dozen US-based Persian-language satellite television stations had been broadcasting calls for demonstrations and rebellion in the lead up to the July 1999 anniversary. The US regime will certainly encourage instability within Iran to the extent that it creates opportunity for US interests to expand. However, it's foolish to assume that Satellite television or US operatives within Iran could have caused the demonstrations. There has been the steady emergence of homegrown resistance and reform movements in Iran for well over a decade, including not only students who protested the banning of The Salaam in 99 and the death sentence of a reform activist this past November, but also a movement by workers against lay offs and for the restoration of the right to strike.

On February 11th 2003 CIA director George Tennent reported to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee that "For now, our bottom line analysis is that the Iranian regime is secure, but increasingly fragile." It is clear that US intelligence is closely watching Iran for any opportunity that it might have to gain influence over an emerging, broadbased movement capable of regime change.

The US is certainly no friend to left wing demonstrators fighting privatization as was illustrated by the experience of anti-biotechnology activists who while protesting the World Agricultural forum in St Louis, Missouri last month had their homes and community spaces raided by federal and local authorities and were arrested without provocation while bicycling or walking around town. Nor is the US government an ally to people fighting tyrannical regimes, as the people of Palestine, Columbia and Chile can attest to in their struggles against US backed regimes.

The US government is only a friend to it's own interests: continued growth of it's geopolitical influence in the Middle East and beyond, the perpetuation of a system of free market fundamentalism called global capitalism and the obliteration of whomever stands in it's path.

Therefore any success by the Iranian people in toppling the clerics and the oppressive regime that has held them in bondage since 1979 in Iran will reveal a larger struggle. The struggle against a powerful US empire which will quickly move to co-opt their movement and install a puppet regime in Iran suitable to it's interests. The Iranian people must not choose to go backwards into the past and find themselves once again under control of foreign regimes and used to keep oil prices cheap as they were before the Islamic Revolution under the Shah. Nor must they settle to live under the independent, but oppressive rule of the clerics. They must move forward and shape history in a new direction to create a society where they have not only self-determination but political freedom and social equality as well. They must revive a revolutionary spirit that puts the people's needs above that of the Iranian ruling class and the US ruling class respectively. They might cast a glance back to the All-Iran Worker's Alliance, who before being brutally repressed by Ayatollah Khomeni and the clerics during the Islamic Revolution, struggled for a society "free of class oppression" and called for worker's shoras (councils) to be "formed by the worker's of each factory for their own political and economic needs."

Having lived under oppressive regimes, both Islamic and imperialist, for sometime one can assume that they have no desire to be anyone's dog any longer and if they have a chance for true freedom they will seize it. I can only hope that history, luck, insight and skill will ultimately rest on their side.

Ultimately the future of Iran and the region rests in the possibility that social movements can rid the country of it's current theocracy, and build a strong popular base resistant to control by the US government. Either the continued existence of the unpopular theocracy, which will sooner or later be moved on by the US military or it's proxies or a domestic movement to overthrow the rule of the clerics that relies on US backing will lead to the same ends; subjugation to US interests and global capitalism.

Therefore it is the responsibility of freedom fighters in the US and those who wish to halt the growth of the US empire to not only protest against US aggression towards Iran but also to support grassroots Iranian struggle against theocracy, imperialism and class oppression whenever possible. Contrary to the assertions of many on the authoritarian left who argue that to fight US imperialism we must support totalitarian domestic regimes that can resist it, I offer a different perspective. Totalitarian regimes while powerful in military might are no match for the unsurpassed military might of the US government and more importantly lack the domestic popular support needed to keep them strong during sustained diplomatic and military aggression by a most powerul enemy, the US government. People won't fight with all of their might to keep their oppressors in power, but they will fight with all their might to stay alive and more importantly they will fight vigourously for a life where their needs are met and where popular power shared by all replaces the boot grinding down upon their collective face.

It is clear that if people within the US wish to pose a sincere challenge to US imperialism we must support movements within nations under attack by the US to shape their societies along directly democratic and egalitarian lines. Neither clerics nor businessmen will pose a true threat to the United States Government's ability to expand. Only popular resistance will be able to halt the US empire in it's increasingly gruesome footsteps. Anything less is simply a loosing strategy.

Sources: Inter Press News Service, Reuters, Counterpunch and Zabalaza: A Journal of Revolutionary Anarchism

sean west damon aka wispy cockles lives in Philadelphia where is a free lance labor solidarity organizer, helps publish The Defenestrator (www.defenestrator.org) and works with the Anarcho-Communist Union of Philadelphia. He can be contacted at  wispy@defenestrator.org

homepage: homepage: http://www.defenestrator.org



"Therefore it is the responsibility of freedom fighters in the US and those who wish to halt the growth of the US empire to not only protest against US aggression towards Iran but also to support grassroots Iranian struggle against theocracy, imperialism and class oppression whenever possible. Contrary to the assertions of many on the authoritarian left who argue that to fight US imperialism we must support totalitarian domestic regimes that can resist it, I offer a different perspective. Totalitarian regimes while powerful in military might are no match for the unsurpassed military might of the US government and more importantly lack the domestic popular support needed to keep them strong during sustained diplomatic and military aggression by a most powerul enemy, the US government. People won't fight with all of their might to keep their oppressors in power, but they will fight with all their might to stay alive and more importantly they will fight vigourously for a life where their needs are met and where popular power shared by all replaces the boot grinding down upon their collective face"

Yeah, while this is true, the self-styled Left in America should understand that the USA will always manipulate any movement--including Left Wing movements--in order to destabilize a targetted country around the world. Then when this movement is no longer useful, America will turn around and dispose of this very same movement like a Used Condom.

Lefists in American who uncritically support US stooged movements around the world--no matter their rhetoric about Democracy or Freedom--are fools, useful idiots, or something worse.

Here is an article examining how the USA is currently support a supposed "Communist" movement in order to destabilize Iran. Do you "Anarcho-Communists" support this?

Thanks for this link- Asia Times is a good source 22.Jun.2003 06:40


I think that the article referenced above is worth reposting here....
And there is another one on that website that is just as interesting.."U.S. Wages War from Within Iran": at:  http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EF20Ak02.html

But here is an analysis by a former counterintelligence official in India about the situation going on in Iran and France right now...

US finds a communist ally against Iran
By B Raman

The United States, which used Islamic fundamentalists against communism in Afghanistan in the 1980s, has embarked on an operation to use communists to bring about the end of the Islamic regime in Iran.

The dozens of anti-cleric and secular Iranian exile groups operating from the West against the Islamic regime in Tehran broadly fall into the following categories:

The left-oriented Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK - People's Mujahideen) and elements allied with it in the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). They mainly operate from West Europe, with headquarters in France.

The monarchists, mainly operating from the US, with the help of neo-conservative and Jewish lobby groups.

The remnants and new adherents of the old pro-Moscow Communist Party of Iran, called the Tudeh Party, and other communist factions, mainly operating from the United Kingdom.

The MEK, which has in the past indulged in acts of terrorism inside Iran from sanctuaries provided by the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, has been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under a 1996 US law. Until recently, this precluded any Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) assistance to or even contacts with it. However, it would seem that after the occupation of Iraq by the US forces, the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) have been allowed to establish contact with MEK elements in Iraq and West Europe for using them against the Teheran regime. This decision was reportedly taken to preempt any Iranian meddling in Iraq.

The MEK has had the ability in the past to organize acts of terrorism in Iranian territory, mainly because of the operational assistance provided by the Iraqi intelligence. As of now, the CIA does not have a similar operational capability inside Iran. Moreover, the Bush administration would not like to be seen by the international community as sponsoring terrorism in Iran. Its present cultivation of the MEK is meant more to exercise psychological pressure on the Teheran regime and to keep before it the specter of a US-backed operation one day for a regime change, with the MEK spearheading the operation with US assistance. The French action earlier this week to round up the leaders and activists of the MEK and the NCRI in France was meant to preempt the CIA's covertly using its territory and the large number of Iranian exiles there for a destabilization operation in Iran.

The US-based monarchists, who have been financially the most well-endowed and the most articulate against the Tehran regime, have the least following inside Iran. Till recently, they were reportedly the recipients of maximum funds and patronage from the US intelligence community.

The post-1999 student unrest in Iran made the CIA realize that while the MEK and the monarchists were making loud, but often unprovable claims about their following and successes inside Iran, it was the remnants and the new adherents of the Communist Party/factions who had been operating silently and effectively inside Iran and built up a number of anti-cleric, secular and progressive secret cells. It is these cells which have been largely responsible for the growing student unrest in Iran since 1999 and for the current wave of student demonstrations, which have rocked not only Tehran, but also other cities for nearly 10 days now.

The demonstrations initially started as a protest against a move to privatize certain universities. Students belonging to middle and lower middle class families feared that this could make university education costly and deny them its benefit. They have since assumed a much larger agenda, calling for the end of the clerical rule and for the introduction of secularism and genuine democracy in Iran.

The number of students involved in these demonstrations is not very large - an average of about 3,000 per affected town, but what is remarkable is the clandestine networking, tenacity of purpose and the ability to evade detection of their cells by the Iranian intelligence agencies displayed by the organizers. Neither the MEK nor the monarchists have exhibited such capabilities in the past. Though the monarchists have been trying to claim credit for what has been happening, the evidence available suggests that the credit for the anti-cleric movement should largely go to the communists and other leftists.

After the Islamic revolutionaries seized power in Iran in 1979, Iranian intelligence promoted the formation of a number of Student Islamic Associations and Offices for Consolidation of Islamic Unity in the universities and other educational institutions to keep a watch on student activities and to prevent any movement against the clerics. Iranian students, many of them members of the Tudeh Party, had played an active role against the dictatorial regime of the Shah of Iran and in making the success of the Ayatollah Khomeni-led Islamic revolution possible. They were also in the forefront of the anti-US campaign, with many of them playing an active role in the raid on the US embassy in Teheran and the taking of US diplomats as hostages soon after the clerics came to power. The clerics, therefore, knew and feared the potential power of the students in Iran, particularly the fierce motivation of the communists and other leftist supporters among them. After seizing power with the help of the communist students, the clerics ruthlessly suppressed the communists, arresting and executing many of them. Those who escaped arrest and death at the hands of the clerics managed to flee to West Europe and started organizing their activities from there. The lead in this was taken by the London-based Worker-Communist Party of Iran (WCPI).

Until 1998, the Student Islamic Associations and Offices for Consolidation of Islamic Unity held sway in the universities and the communist cells were unable to make any headway. The situation started changing in favor of the communists from 1999 due to growing dissatisfaction among the students over the repressive rule of the regime. The communist cells organized their activities around demands for freedom of expression, respect for the human rights of political prisoners, end of the execution of political prisoners, restoration of genuine democracy, secularism, right to employment etc.

The communists issued calls for the unity of all progressive students under the banner of socialism and worker-communism and clandestinely circulated the writings of Mansoor Hekmat, an ideologue of the communist students, who had written, "'In a religious capitalist tyranny, a misogynist, anti-life, anti-intellect and uncivilized regime, the university is a natural ground for the growth of communism." One of the articles circulated by them in the university campuses said, "The more lucid, clear and radical the slogans and demands of the progressive movement for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic, the more the masses of the workers, teachers, women and progressive people will support these demands. The communist students must recognize these circumstances and be aware of its profound potential."

Among the various pro-communist organizations that started operating in the universities, one could mention the Union of Islamic University Associations, headed by Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, which started a journal called "Payam-e Daneshju", since banned by the conservative judicial authorities. It reflects the views of Iranian dissident scholar Abdul Karim Sorush, who argued that Islam and democracy are compatible and called for an end to the clergy's near monopoly on political power. Another nationwide university organization is the Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat (Office for Strengthening of Unity) which, while calling for greater political freedom, distanced itself from the call for removing the clergy from the corridors of political power. The pro-communist organizations supported President Mohammad Khatami during his election campaigns, but have since become disillusioned over his reluctance to assert himself against the clerics and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

There was a fresh outbreak of student unrest in Tehran and other places in November, 2002, which was indicative of the organizing capability of the secret cells and of the anti-cleric and even anti-Khatami turn it was taking. On November 18, about 5,000 students of the Sharif University held a protest rally, which was joined by some workers from the Iran National Car Factory and Iran Sypa Motor Manufacturing . About 1,500 students of the Esfahan University also held a demonstration and shouted, "Down with dictatorship"; "Iran is not Chile" and "Both in Kabul and Tehran, down with the Taliban!"

There is as yet no evidence to corroborate the allegations of the Iranian authorities that the US intelligence has been behind the current wave of student unrest. However, it appears to be true that, after repeatedly seeing the potential and clandestine operational capability of the pro-communist students of the universities, the CIA has started shifting its bets to them rather than placing them on the monarchists and the MEK for destabilizing the Tehran regime.

Certain Western-based students' organizations, such as the Students' Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran, which do not appear to be directly associated with the communists, have already been in receipt of financial assistance and guidance in agitprop methods from the CIA in the past. Now, an increasing part of this assistance is being diverted to those directly associated with the communists.

The CIA's assistance to the anti-cleric elements in Iran started even under the Clinton administration. This largely consisted of the supply of funds for propaganda through radio stations and the Internet. Even now, the CIA's assistance is confined to these fields. There is as yet no evidence of para-military training being imparted to these elements anywhere.

On May 19, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback announced at a press conference that he would introduce a bill to be called the Iran Democracy Act, asking for US$50 million to promote democracy in Iran and to fund Iranian opposition groups. There is a debate among Iranian dissident groups, particularly the leftist-oriented, about the advisability of accepting financial or other assistance from the US. Many argue that acceptance of US assistance would give them the kiss of death and damage their credibility in the eyes of the Iranian people. They say that open statements of support to the protesting students by President George W Bush and other US leaders and officials has already done harm to their movement.

The US views the students' protests as an "Allahsend". It has presently no plans for any military action in Iran. Hopefully, it has learnt the right lessons from Afghanistan and Iraq about the counter-productive and backlash effect of overt military interventions, particularly in Islamic countries, to achieve national security objectives. Moreover, the need to avoid more body bags in the months preceding next year's presidential elections should rule out an American military foray into Iran.

Not only the US leadership, Democrat or Republican, but also large sections of the American public opinion have serious concerns, which they consider legitimate, over the perceived role of the clerical regime in Iran as the spoiler of peace and stability in the region and over its nuclear program. US public opinion would strongly back any action taken by the administration to neutralize the perceived threats from Iran without getting militarily involved on the ground. In the US view, a well-orchestrated and effective covert action, even if it involves the resurgence of communism in Iran, would be a better option for digging the grave of the clerical regime.

Effective covert action demands bases from which one could relay broadcasts and telecasts, disseminate printed propaganda, interact with dissident elements inside Iran without their having to travel to the West for this purpose, and train the surrogates in clandestine operations. The CIA was hoping to use Iraqi and Pakistani territory for this purpose. The deterioration in the internal security situation in Iraq has ruled out the use of its territory for the present.

As a result, the importance of Pakistan has increased manyfold in the CIA's perception. That is why the CIA strongly advised its government to tickle the ego of President General Pervez Musharraf by receiving him in Camp David instead of in Washington in his upcoming visit and to shower him with the kind of honors no other Pakistani leader has received before - not even Zia ul-Haq during the Afghan war of the 1980s.

Since his last bilateral visit to the US in February last year, Musharraf has already ordered his Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to covertly collaborate with the US intelligence agencies for the collection of intelligence about Iran. It was unhappiness over this, which led to the resignation of Abdul Sattar, his Foreign Minister, ostensibly on health grounds.

During the recent visit of Lieutenant-General Ehsanul Haq, director-general of the ISI, to Washington, the subject of expanding this cooperation was reportedly further discussed. According to unconfirmed reports, James Woolsey, former director of the CIA under Clinton, who has been acting as adviser to the Iranian monarchist groups, called on Haq. This subject is expected to be on the top of the agenda for Musharraf's talks with Bush. It is said that the CIA is interested in re-activating the Sunni Balochis in Iran against the Tehran regime and in shifting the MEK dregs presently in Iraq to Pakistani Balochistan so that they can operate from there without causing embarrassment to the US occupation authority in Baghdad.

Pakistani sources claim that while Musharraf may be inclined to allow the relaying of clandestine broadcasts and telecasts from Pakistani territory, he is against re-activating the Iranian Balochis, which could boomerang on Pakistan's Balochistan.The Bush administration is expected to dangle before him the lollipop of another debt write-off and F-16 aircraft if he goes the whole hog in becoming the US's covert frontline ally against Iran.

The unhappiness over Musharraf's perceived willingness to collaborate with the US against Iran is not confined to Pakistan's Foreign Office. Some army officers, such as General Mohammad Aziz, a fundamentalist Kashmiri officer belonging to the Sudan tribe of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), also reportedly expressed their misgivings during discussions at general headquarters. Aziz is presently chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee. They have also referred to the dangers of the move causing alienation amongst the Shi'ites in the armed forces. The Pakistan air force, in particular, has a large number of Shi'ites at the lower and middle levels in the cadres of technicians.

It is reported that Musharraf has reassured them by projecting that his present intelligence collaboration with the US is against the terrorists operating from Iranian territory and not against the Iranian regime. He has described it as part of the war against international terrorism by the international coalition under the UN Security Council Resolution No.1373. He has reportedly reiterated that he would not agree to any other cooperation which may be directed against the clerical regime. But their concerns have not subsided. They have noted that since the recent visit of Ehsanul Haq to the US, Musharraf's enthusiasm for a gas pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan has decreased.

Musharraf wants to go down in Pakistan's history as the leader who achieved Pakistan's objective in Jammu and Kashmir. If he calculates that by collaborating with the US to bring down the Tehran regime, he might achieve this objective, he may not hesitate to do so. New Delhi and Tehran should be prepared for surprises.

B Raman is Additional Secretary (ret), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, and presently director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai; former member of the National Security Advisory Board of the Government of India. E-Mail:  corde@vsnl.com. He was also head of the counter-terrorism division of the Research & Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence agency, from 1988 to August, 1994.