Revolution #193, February 21, 2010
From A World To Win News Service:
Iran February 11 Protests: A Report
We received the following from A World to Win News Service:
February 15, 2010. A World to Win News Service. With the approach of February 11, the anniversary of the Iranian people's uprising in 1979 (when the rule of the Shah and the monarchy as a political system was ended and the Islamists came to power), people were eager to wage another round of battle and show their hatred for the Islamic regime. Expectations were heightened by the experience of the protests on Ashura (December 26), when the people were able to take the initiative through radical and inspiring struggle. But any idea that the path of development would continue in the straight line and that the regime would be driven to the verge of collapse proved incorrect.
On February 11, people determined to protest came out in different cities and regions. Since there was no pre-agreed assembly point in Tehran, anti-regime protestors gathered at 10 main locations. Despite the draconian military force they found there waiting for them, thousands of youth were not deterred and continued their protests, chanting slogans against the regime. Most of the protestors were trying to get to Azadi (Freedom) Square, where the regime was holding its own reactionary celebration, but the security forces had blocked all the access streets except the one that the government-organized march was passing through. The security forces were concentrated on that street. Their advance preparations to keep it under control included installing loudspeakers along the route so as to be able to drown out unauthorized chanting. Thousands of security officers had been stationed in the square since the day before.
This made it very difficult for protestors to reach the square in any organized fashion. Those who did manage to get through the square were scattered and lost amid the crowd brought by the government. However, foreign journalists spotted some brave enough to shout "Down with the dictator" under these circumstances. (Los Angeles Times, February 12; The New York Times, February 14).
In many other parts of Tehran, youths came out in small groups, but these groups were not able to hook up with one another. They chanted anti-regime slogans and clashed with the Basiji (militia members). Their slogans differed from place to place. In some locations people's chants were in support of the Green leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi and followed the slogans they had suggested, such as the demand for a "referendum." In other places slogans warned the Green leaders against any compromise with the regime. For instance, although it loses its rhythm in translation, one slogan was "We did not give our martyrs in order to compromise, and praise a murderer leader."
This was a clear reference to Mousavi and Karoubi statements after the Ashura demonstration in which they recognized President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's legitimacy as the Leader. Although the Green leaders later tried to justify their statements and spin them as though they hadn't meant what they said, people had taken a note.
People also chanted, "Free all political prisoners." Slogans such as "Death to the dictator" and others against Khamenei were common everywhere. In some demonstrations, "Down with the Islamic Republic" and "Independence, Freedom, Iranian Republic" were also chanted, despite the fierce opposition to these slogans by the Green leaders.
Protestors tore down the big portraits of Khamenei and ripped them into pieces. Many people deliberately walked on them. According to other sources, protestors tore down portraits of Ahmadinejad and Khomeini (BBC-Farsi website, February 12). Despite all the reinforcements the regime could muster, protestors were able to seize at least one Basiji's motorcycle and set it on fire. It was reported that there were clashes in dozens of locations in Tehran, including Vali Asr Square and Sadeghi Square where Karoubi started his own march. Youth who could not get into Azadi Square turned the underground trains and the buses into moving demonstrations, continually chanting slogans like "Death to the dictator" with few objections from passengers, who often cooperated with the youth.
Many observers noted that the brutality of the uniformed and plainclothes security forces was worse than at any other time since the beginning of the current wave of protests in June. The brutal beating of one man whom the security forces had stripped naked was caught by a protestor's camera and posted on YouTube. The regime said it had arrested dozens of protestors. There are unconfirmed reports that a woman was killed.
Reports also indicate that despite the threats by Islamic Republic officials and security force commanders, people came out to protest and show their determination in other main cities such as Isfahan, Shiraz, Mashhad and Ahvaz. Footage of what seems to have been serious fighting in Isfahan was posted on the Web.
Despite the fact that the regime is at its weakest point in the last 31 years, in terms of internal unity, popular support, the economy, corruption and many other aspects, it has not lost all its powers. It has kept all of its firepower and intends to show that it is not in a mood to back down.
In fact, after the shock of the Ashura protests last December, the regime came to the conclusion that the existing level of threats and brutality—including murder, imprisonment, torture, and rape—was not enough to crush the people's determination. When people chanted, "Cannon, tanks and Basiji are no longer effective," they really meant it. So in desperation the regime decided to show off its remaining strengths leading up to and on February 11. It qualitatively increased the level of suppression and repression, and it showed that it still can mobilize people. In this way it sought to demoralize the people or at least the Green leaders, and this time not lose the initiative.
Thousands of people were arrested and charged with involvement in the Ashura protests. In addition, there have been arrests of hundreds if not thousands of student activists, women activists, worker activists, many journalists not in full agreement with the government and many lawyers and human rights people. The regime put a lot of pressure on the Kurdistan region and arrested many activists there who were taken to an unknown location.
Two young prisoners were executed in Tehran in early February. Arrested before the first June 2009 demonstrations, they were accused of membership in a monarchist organization that no one had heard of before, and whose existence was widely questioned. Many of the arrested have been sentenced to long prison terms for doing nothing, or just for taking part in a demonstration—in one man's case because he had honked his car horn in support of marchers. Top officials of the reformist faction also were sentenced to long imprisonment. Some of them are in their 70s and suffer from cancer or heart problems that have worsened in prison. Among them are Ibrahim Yazdi (the Islamic Republic's first foreign minister), Mohammad Maleki (the first head of Tehran University after the revolution) and Behzad Nabavi, who previously held several high-level jobs in the Islamic regime, including a ministerial position. The regime has refused to allow them visitors or even reveal where they are being held.
While stepping up the repression, the government forces also did all they could to mobilize people from all over the country, no easy job for a hated and isolated regime. They used their country's money and resources to incite and even bribe people to attend Ahmadinejad's speech in Azadi Square. The regime spent 300 billion Touman (equivalent to 300 million dollars) on this event, according to Mohsen Sazegara, a defected regime official speaking on Voice of America's Persian TV on February 14.
First of all there were the thousands of trusted men on the regime's payroll whose job includes being present to cheer for top officials. They usually travel with Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to other cities when they go to speak, and they participate in Friday Prayers. In addition, the regime organized people in remote towns and villages and used hundreds or maybe thousands of buses to transfer them to Tehran in that day. They were promised good food, and cameras showed cake and food parcels being distributed among the participants. Apart from those who were doing their job and hardcore Islamic Republic supporters, many of the participants were in a far less combative mood than the protestors a few blocks away who were engaged in fierce fighting with security forces. For them this was a picnic, a day off from work, a free ride to Tehran and free food and snacks. They could spend the day with family, away from home and above all avoid the risk of losing their job.
An eight-minute amateur video on YouTube reflects the mood of the regime's event. Despite all its preparations, still the regime was apprehensive. Scaffolding was used to divide the crowd into many different sections. Yet with all this, during Ahmadinejad's speech chants of "Down with the dictator!" could be heard from among the crowd. It was even said that the regime's TV stopped broadcasting his speech earlier than expected, maybe because of this.
The regime invested a great deal financially and militarily to achieve the political results that it sought: the appearance of legitimacy. They have already started a campaign to exaggerate the results, boasting that five million people took part in Tehran. In contrast, some foreign media (for instance, The New York Times, February 14) noted that the square was significantly less full than previous years, despite the combination of threats and bribes, and several informed Iranian sources gave estimates of hundreds of thousands. These seem to be confirmed by broadcast photos. The reality is that the regime's count of supporters at Azadi Square was as fake as number of votes Ahmadinejad claimed were cast for him in the June presidential election.
But even so, the people and the revolutionary forces should look at reality and correctly assess the weaknesses and strength of the enemy as well as their own.
What the regime did was not from a position of strength but of weakness and fear of the people's movement. But given the offensive character of the people's protests on Ashura, it was certainly not correct to think that the Islamic regime would remain passive and idly wait for another attack. The Islamic regime not only carried out extensive militarily preparations, it also tried to outmaneuver the people and regain the initiative. For example, when the people went to the usual gathering points they found out that those locations had already been occupied by thousands of Basiji and security forces. It was also not correct to assume that the regime had reached its limits and was on the verge of collapse. It is true that the Islamic regime has become more unpopular and isolated than ever. But it still holds political power, and it has a huge army and the money of a nation to spend for its own interests. The Islamic regime will resist until the last moment and it is not in a mood to back down.
Looking at the people's side, it is true that a popular mass movement exists and the vast majority of the people hate the Islamic regime, its leaders and its principles. That is an important strength of the people's movement. The protest of tens of thousands of Iranian people on February 11 is a great achievement in the face of such repression and considering that they had either no leadership or the leadership of the Green leaders who continuously worked to limit the people's initiative. The fact that the protests happened anyway shows the determination of a section of the people.
However, it was not possible under such circumstances for the people to gain the initiative. It is true that the people's movement has been growing in number and in quality in the last few months and has taken on dangerous dimensions for the ruling power. But that doesn't necessarily mean the movement will continue to grow and develop spontaneously, and that the reactionary ruling power will not be able to seize back the initiative. The fighting people have to see the weaknesses of the movement and try their best to remedy them and develop the movement into a stronger movement.
One of the movement's most important weaknesses is that so many people still go along with the Green leaders and their line. Even among the people who have no faith in the Green leaders, many have various reasons to justify supporting them anyway. Some say yes to the Greens just in order to say no to Ahmadinejad and Khamenei. Some believe they should stay united under the leadership of the Greens because they are the only ones who can unite the people in this situation, or because they do not want to divide the movement. Some people believe they should fight the ruling power step by step, isolating and getting rid of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad first. While there are some points to be seriously considered in some of these reasons, none are enough to justify support for the Green leaders. The Green leaders are part of the Islamic Republic; they say they are "proud" of that. They have repeatedly emphasized their commitment to the Islamic Republic and its principles. Their past confirms that as well. In one way or other they took part in stealing the people's revolution and suppressing the people and their achievements, and the massacre of the political prisoners throughout the 1980s, including the 1987 mass executions. This has to be kept in mind when they say they want to go back to the Islamic regime's founding principles under Khomeini.
The Iranian people are engaging in a serious battle with a brutal regime armed to teeth. The "silent" and "non-violent" movement propagated by reformist and pro-imperialist circles cannot topple it. On the contrary it will buy time until it gets the opportunity to crush the movement.
Revolutionary tactics and strategy are needed to overthrow the Islamic Republic and replace it with a system that really relies on the people and works for the people. A system that does not dictate religion and its grip on the people but keeps religion out of the state, a system where women are not discriminated against and humiliated, a system where national minorities are not oppressed and students are not suppressed, a system that opposes imperialism in reality and does not just pretend to be anti-imperialist while being highly dependent on the imperialist world market. To overthrow the Islamic Republic and achieve freedom and independence, the people must be organized and seriously engage in an uncompromising revolutionary war with a brutal and armed enemy. That is only possible under the leadership of conscious proletarian party armed with the scientific ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (aworldtowin.org), a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world’s Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
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