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December 18, 2006

IRAN ELECTIONS A SETBACK FOR AHMADINEJAD

Please forgive certain typographical oddities in this post--my blogserver, Typepad, appears to be haviang a nervous breakdown this morning, and I could not fix them.

Iran_map_offcenter_1 In the latest report from Reuters filed 8 hours ago, it appears that Iran's municipal elections last Friday have been what the news agency calls "a setback" to the standing of authoritarian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's repressive regime. The Reuters report goes on to note that "ReformistsAhmadinejad_arm_raise_1 said they had won at least six Tehran seats, and demanded election officials announce the results. They said the delay raised questions about the counting process. 'We have serious doubts about whether these problems are due to a lack of organisation at the Interior Ministry or whether there are some efforts to tamper with votes,' Mohammad Ali Najafi, a reformist candidate in Tehran, told Reuters" -- you can read the entire report on the elections by clicking here.

The election returns available so far tend to confirm a fascinating analysis of the importance of these elections, "The Donkey and the Date," by Behrooz GhamariBehrooz_ghamari  (right), a professor of history and sociology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and author of the forthcoming book "Islam and Dissent in Postrevolutionary Iran" (St. Martin's Press).

Written just before the elections, Ghamari's piece noted: "In order to defeat reformist candidates who have somehow survived the disqualification procedures and still appear on the ballot, the Judiciary, the ministries of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Information, and Domestic Affairs, the state-controlled radio and television, and the conservative newspapers have all been mobilized to ensure low participation of the electorate. The judiciary spokesperson has threatened the newspapers that run front-page news of the election with closure and censure." Despite this, according to the latest Reuters dispatch, turnout was around 60%, and reformist and what the news agency calls "moderate conservative" candidates made significant gains agaiinst Ahmadinejad's supporters. Read all of Prof. Ghamari's interesting piece by clicking here.

These municipal elections results inQantara_logo Iran in part suggest an urban backlash against Ahmadinejad's repressive "cultural revolution" -- and there's an eye-opening report on this intensified repression on the very useful German-based, English-language website Qantara.de --Dialogue with the Islamic World, which is co-sponsored by Deutsche Welle, the German Institute of Foreign Relations, and the BBC. This December 14 report by Bahman Nirumand notes:

"The government seems determined to use all means at its disposal to isolate and criminalize any deviation of Islamic ideology. Ahmadinejad recently called upon students to expel professors advocating liberal positions from their posts. Administrative staff at all universities and colleges has been replaced. The whole educational system has fallen under the control of militia organizations, namely, the Basij and the Revolutionary Guard, who observe the behavior of students via newly installed video cameras."

Mahmud_doulatabadi The Qantara report also says: "Mahmud Doulatabadi (left), Iran's most popular writer, declared during a reading in Tehran that he refuses to publish any more books out of protest against the severity of censorship. The censorship office has been sitting on his manuscripts for months now. He also spoke to a number of publishers, two of whom reported that forty of their books have still not received permission to be printed. 'Every day, the piles of books and manuscripts lying behind closed doors are growing higher and higher,' says the author."

Qantara also reports on the new wave of student protest against Ahmadinejad's "cultural revolution," including one that got virtually no coverage in the U.S. press: "On December 6, Iran's annual StudentsIran_dec_6_student_demo  Day-- thousands attended a protest demonstration (right) on the campus of Tehran University organized by Tahkim Vahdat, the country's largest student organization. Security forces at first tried to block entrances, but students eventually succeeded in breaking through the main gates....Armin Salmasi, member of the Council of Islamic Students, said, 'They have sent our professors into early retirement, prevented many students from continuing their studies, forbidden not only protest, but even the act of breathing freely, and transformed our universities into military garrisons. Don't think that our patience is unlimited. Someday, the pot will boil over,' he warned." Ahmadinejad is also trying to re-segregate the universities, separating women and men into different courses.You should read Qantara's report in its entirety by clicking here.

Nayereh_tohidi More evidence of the ferment against Ahmadinejad's repressive "cultural revolution" can be found in "Iran's Women's Rights Movement and the One Million Signatures Campaign" by another Iranian scholar, Prof. Nayereh Tohidi (left), Chair of the Women’s Studies Department at California State University, Northridge and Research Associate at the Center for Near Eastern Studies at UCLA. Tohidi analyzes the Iranian women's movement, and describes in detail the unusual, door-to-door “One Million Signatures campaign, which is designed to help reform discriminatory laws, resulted from and is a continuation of the women’s peaceful gatherings on the 12th of June in 2005 and 2006 that ended by violent attacks of the police and security forces. From both tactical and strategic points of view, this latest campaign is in line with an envisioned future where powers, opportunities and social goods are not divided based on gender differences or sexual orientation. Primarily initiated by the younger generation of women’s rights activists, this campaign seems to be turning into a point of convergence among many groups and individual activists in different parts of Iran.

" This campaign seems to have surpassed ideological, sectarian and religious boundaries and limitations. Instead of seeking grand ideals and abstract solutions to women’s problems, it is struggling on to achieve defined and tangible goals through practical means and methods. This movement has distanced itself from the more prevalent masculine and elitist perceptions...and [its] aim and strategy rest on direct contact between the activists and ordinary women..." As a journalist who has reported extensively on Iran's lethal campaign of repression against gays and lesbians (see below), I'm particularly heartened by Tohidi's inclusion of "sexual orientation" in the list of Iranian feminists' concerns. (In this connection, for the most recent in my series of in-depth interviewes with gays who've been targeted by the Tehran regime, I did the only lengthy interview to appear in English with an Iranian lesbian torture victim, which I wrote for The Advocate -- Maryam's story, in her own words, is quite powerful, and if you missed it, you can read it by clicking here.) In any case, read Prof. Tohidi's entire piece by clicking here.

For a more in-depth look at the anti-Ahmadinejad ferment in Iran, I heartilyDanny_postel  recommend a just-published book by my friend Danny Postel (left), Reading "Legitimation Crisis" in Tehran. Postel is a Senior Editor at the always-interesting, London-based online magazine Open Democracy and a contributing editor of Dædalus (the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences), and he maintains a first-rate private list-serv on Iran, from which I first learned of some of the above articles. In his new book, Postel examines the mis-conceptions of the left about Iran since the 1979 Khomeini-led revolution, looks at theReadinglegitimationcrisis significance Western philosophers like Habermas have taken on for Iranian intellectuals (hence the title of Postel's book -- a nod to both Habermas' world-renowned "Legitimation Crisis" and to Azar Nafisi's excellent "Reading Lolita in Tehran"), and argues strongly why any military attack on Iran by the U.S. would help Ahmadinejad destroy the embattled but courageous and clamorous opposition (an argument Postel and Nader Hashemi recently encapsuled in a first-rate Truthdig piece, "Pretzel Logic in Iran" Let me reiterate once again my view that opposition to any U.S. military adventure in Iran imposes itself on anyone who has seriously studied the country-- a view often expressed on this blog. See, for example, the statement I helped to write by the Campaign for Peace and Democracy on "Iran--Neither U..S. Aggression Nor Theocratic Repression"). The left-wing philosopher Slavoj Žižek has effusively praised Postel's small but important book, and rightly so -- if you're truly interested in Iran, you should read it, and can order it by clicking here.

A P.S. -- The Winter 2006 issue of Middle East Report, just out, has a detailed article on "Worker Protest in the Age of Ahmadinejad," by Mohammad Maljoo, which gives a first-rate account of Ahmadinejad's repressions aimed at trade unions and their collective actions. Maljoo writes, "The new draft [labor legislation] proposed by the Ministry of Labor under Ahmadinejad seems to be a lose-lose game for workers: Employers get the right of expedited dismissal, without workers gaining any right to form independent trade unions." At the same time, Maljoo gives a harowing account of the mass arrests and government strikebreaking used by Ahmadinejad's regime to crush an attempt to organize by busdrivers, and the intimidation that has caused a major effort by teachers to organize for collective bargaining to peter out Unfortunately, this particular article is not yet available online, but Middle East Report isn't too difficult to find at the better periodical shops and bookstores

For background on the new wave of anti-gay repression in Iran, see my previous articles: July 21, 2005 -- Iran Executes Two Gay Teenagers (Updated); August 11 -- Iran Sources Question Rape Charges in Teen Executions; August 12 -- Two New Gay Executions Scheduled in Iran, Says Iranian Exile Group; August 17 -- Iran's Deadly Anti-Gay Crackdown: With Two More Executions Scheduled, the Pace of Repression Steps Up.August 25 -- Iran's Anti-Gay Purge Grows: Reports of New Executions. September 8 -- Iran and the Death of Gay Activism. September 20 -- "They'll Kill Me" -- A Gay Iranian Torture Victim Speaks of His Ordeal ; September 29 -- Iranian Gays Urgently Appeal for Help ; October 5 --"Shocking New Photo of Hanging of Gay Iranian Teens"; October 6 -- Canada Introduces UN Resolution Condemning Iran's Human Rights Record; November 24, "Save Us"-- A Gay Iranian Who Married His Partner Begs for Help from the West ; January 12, 2006 -- "Kidnapped: Another Gay Iranian Torture Victim Speaks"; January 4, 2006 -- "Iran's Anti-Gay Pogrom"; January 27, 2006 -- "A Call to Solidarity: U.S. Gay Groups Must End Their Isolationism; February 8, 2006 -- "An Iranian Trans Torture Victim Speaks from Inside Iran."  February 9, 2006--Stop the Deportation of Saba Rawi; March 3, 2006-- "Dutch to End Freeze on Deportation of Gay Iranians"; March 4, 2006-- "Commotion in Dutch Parliament Over Deportation of Gay Iranians."; March 16, 2006-- "England: Another Gay Iranian Faces Deportation"; April 20, 2006-- "Dutch Deportations of Gay Iranians on Hold"; April 26, 2006-- "iran Hacks Websites to Bury Anti-Gay Pogrom"; May 31, 2006-- "Iran Exports Anti-Gay Pogrom to Iraq"; June 14, 2006-- "An Iranian Gay Activist's Moving Plea."  June 25, 2006 -- "Iran's Gay Refugees Find a Safe Haven in Canada." ; July 4, 2006 --"Global Protests July 19 To Commemorate Hanging of Two Iranian Gay Teens." July 5, 2006 -- "From Inside Iran, An Underground Gay Activist Speaks: 'If I'm Found Out, No Physical Sign of Me Will Remain'" August 3, 2006 -- "Iran: Setting the Record Straight" ; August 6, 2006 -- "From Inside Iran, a Message from the Gay 'Zine MAHA";  August 19, 2006 -- "Iran: A Lesbian Torture Victim Speaks"; October 15, 2006 -- "An Iranian Gay Activist Who Has Fled the Police Needs Your Help";


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Comments

President Ahmadinejad's real views are summarized on this website: ahmadinejadquotes.blogspot.com

Posted by: Al | Feb 13, 2007 9:41:57 AM

President Ahmadinejad's real views are summarized on this website: ahmadinejadquotes.blogspot.com

Posted by: Al | Feb 10, 2007 8:19:25 AM

The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. The Iranian regime is a bunch of theocratic thugs who are running the country into the ground and systematically repressing the human rights of Iranian citizens, especially women and Queers. At the same time, the example of Iraq shows that a U.S. invasion of Iran will only make matters worse for the American people. I supported Doug during the mobilization to commemorate the first anniversary of Iran's hanging of two teenage Gay men for having consensual sex and was appalled at the willingness of otherwise progressive people in the U.S. to believe the Iranian government's disinformation propaganda about the incident. I regard human rights as absolute and believe it is the duty of progressive activists to rally behind victims of human rights abuses whether the country in which they occur is the U.S. itself, a U.S. ally or a U.S. "enemy." The mullahs' dictatorship in Iran needs to fall, but it needs to be the Iranian people themselves who bring it down. The "cabal" in Iran is the theocrats who are running the place. It is Steve Miles who is being naïve.

Posted by: Mark Gabrish Conlan | Dec 27, 2006 7:41:39 PM

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