Iran: Regime change by the people, for the people!


The death of reformist cleric Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri on Dec. 19 has sparked a run of protests in Iran which have both caught the authorities off guard and surprised the opposition by their scale. Official reports suggest that the turnout at Montazeri's funeral on Dec. 21 was up to 500,000 people. Opposition sources claim that the numbers were nearer to one million. Either way, this convergence upon Qom, a city with a population of only 700,000, is significant.

Montazeri had been one of the pillars of the 1979 revolution in Iran but fell out with Ayotollah Khomenei, whom he was designated to succeed, over the Islamic Republic's human rights record and specifically the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988. Montazeri questioned the legality and necessity of the execution of political prisoners. Montazeri was put under house arrest in1997 for criticising the current Supreme Leader, Ayotollah Ali Khamenei. Earlier this year he made clear his opposition to the manipulated outcome of the June 2009 election, which returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency by a "landslide" and sparked the current wave of nationwide protests in Iran.

In this context, the death of Montazeri has helped to re-ignite an already volatile situation. On key occasions since the June elections the Iranian people have taken to the streets to demonstrate their opposition to the regime. These have included the ceremony to swear in President Ahmadinejad on Aug. 5; Quds Day on Sept. 18; the Nov. 4 anniversary of the U.S. Embassy occupation; and, most recently, Students Day on Dec. 7.

The protests on Dec. 7 included students waving Iranian flags without the Islamic Republic's emblem and burning posters of Ayotollah Ali Khamenei. Security forces used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protests and attempted to suppress news of the events by sealing off universities, blocking Internet and mobile phone communications. In spite of these measures images of the protests reached Western media and showed widespread violence against protesters.

Even without the death of Montazeri further flashpoints were inevitable. The 27th of December is the festival of Ashura, the most important day in the Shia calendar, and the opposition once again took to the streets. The resulting clashes were the bloodiest yet with the security forces firing live ammunition at protesters. Latest estimates suggest that up to 15 people are reported dead, including Ali Mousavi, the nephew of reformist movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi. YouTube footage showed police motorcycles burning in the streets, crowds freeing protesters from the Basiji militia and police being stripped of their uniforms and weapons.

The events of Dec. 27 may yet be significant for three further reasons. Firstly, the unprecedented use of force by the security services undermines the claims of the state to be upholding Iran's religious traditions. The festival of Ashura commemorates Imam Hossein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammad and regarded as a martyr in the fight against oppression. Secondly, unlike in previous demonstrations where many protesters covered their faces, images from Dec. 27 show many people with their faces exposed, indicating a growing level of defiance on the part of the opposition. Thirdly, reports suggest that some members of the security forces refused to obey orders when asked to fire on protesters.

If true, this final point is perhaps the most significant, as the identification of the security and armed forces with the cause of the people would signify a major shift in the balance of power. While it may be too early to proclaim such a shift in the power balance in Iran, the fact that protests have not subsided following the June election and that they have increasingly focused upon the authority of Ayotollah Ali Khamenei will give the authorities cause for concern. Such a shift begins to raise questions about the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic itself, not just the government.

How this balance changes will be the critical factor in determining the fate of Iran into 2010 and in particular the fate of the Islamic Republic. The ongoing response of the Iranian people to continued repression should be matched by an equal level of solidarity in the labor, trade union and peace movements across the world to ensure that Iran moves in the direction of genuine democracy. With the hovering threats of both Israel and the United States casting their shadow, it is vital that regime change in Iran is by the people, for the people and not imposed by external forces to meet an external Western agenda. Moving into 2010, this will be the main task of those across the world looking to support the true voices and the actions of the Iranian people.

Jane Green is the national campaign officer of the UK-based CODIR, Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People's Rights.

Photo: The funeral of Ayatollah Montazeri in Tehran, Dec. 21. / CC BY 2.0



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  • first the vote on afghanistan and now this. Bunch of class-traitors

    Posted by Hafiz ib Ya'qub, 01/08/2010 11:31pm (6 years ago)

  • "I could go on at lenght on this but I actually want people to read these comments just to see what a handful of ultra leftists who live on an alternate reality will end up defending."

    Of course we are ultra-leftists compared to the extremely rightist psuedo-communist CPUSA, its a sad day when you see supposed communists time and time again take the side of imperialism and american patriotism over socialism. why not merge into the Democratic Party already? hell ive even seen Dennis Kucinich take further left positions than the CPUSA leadership and writers at PW these days.

    Posted by Comrade Acero, 01/08/2010 11:29pm (6 years ago)

  • "I will not waste my time with ANYONE PERIOD who has the fairly disgusting sense to say something like this "I could care less whether Ahmadinejad was an anti-semite" that is absolutely unacceptable and borderline criminal in my eyes."

    What a cop-out, and way to twist what I was saying. Yeah I dont care if he is an anti-semite because it factors ZERO into his politics, the Iranian state is the only state sponsor of Palestinian and Iraqi resistance against Imperialism PERIOD. Whereas good ole Israel-friendly clowns like the CPUSA have the nerve to criticize the Palestinian people for "terrorism" against Israel but say not a damn thing about israel. Calling Ahmadinijad or ANY middle east politician out on anti-semitism is really disgusting, its like calling Elijah Muhammad a racist without knowing the context of his beliefs, having views like that is understandable, and you will find a lot of liberation groups in that area have them, and its not like the Zionist state does not either. I am opposed to both beliefs but then again I don't blame the victims of racism and imperialism for their beliefs, they formed them from being at the recieving end, and its necessary to criticize them by first understanding their feelings are from brutal oppression. But ill leave the imperialist ass-kissing to you my "friend". Also Communists have no morality when it comes to politics, the Soviets had an extremely unambigous stance on anti-imperialism even if the anti-imperialists were reactionaries. Progressive is always subjective, the bourgeoisie in the context of fuedalism were revolutionary, and figures like Khomeini dealt with fuedalism and figures like the Shah.

    "Also your lightweight accusation against Tudeh is typical of an internet warrior and someone who so very little understands that originally the idea was to get rid of a US puppet like the Shah. That required in the view of my comrades cooperation with everyone who was against that other lunatic. THAT you can make a case for a critique, but that in no way could justify the brutal reaction by the regime. The only thing your 5 friends may be onto is that progressives and communists should have never trusted the fundamentalists, which incidentally is EXACTLY what I am doing."

    Sorry, the criticism of Tudeh was legit, it was always a supporter of the Iranian regime, it tailed the Soviet line, instead of forming an independent one based on their own national conditions.

    Posted by Comrade Acero, 01/08/2010 11:24pm (6 years ago)

  • Lol, Anti Semite? He has made some rather disturbing comments aye, but first and foremost he is anti Zionist... he just gets carried away from time to time.

    Look, I agree the regime in the IRI needs to go, but it needs to be replaced with an anti imperialist one, and the reformists will not do so. So no, I do not support these protests, as if successful they will not strengthen the Iranian peoples defenses against US - Israeli imperialism.

    Show me a mass movement that will do something good for Iran... that isn't headed by rich students and petty bourgeois, and that's not going to throw in the towel against the imperialists, and I will be first in line to support it.

    Posted by Comrade Rob, 01/04/2010 8:01pm (6 years ago)

  • Also, Mikhail:

    First Off, 'religion is the opiate of the masses' is a MATERIALIST explanation for religion. It was pointing out that people turn to religion due to the oppressive conditions around them.

    This is true in Iran, as it is all over the world. Marx's quote that people are so fond of, was in no way a call to go around showing your 'Atheist pride', bashing every religious movement in sight and substituting that for a genuine materialist analysis of said movements. It was an effort to try to help us UNDERSTAND religion, not merely make it 'fair game for criticism'.

    Lenin pointed out that since Religion is tied inseparably to material conditions, ones religion needs to be put on the back burner, until we can understand the conditions that gave rise to their convictions, and what they really represent, rhetoric aside. Lenin, while he welcomed pushing forward 'Materialist Propaganda', encouraged us to remember that there are more important things to consider then religion.

    Point being, if your analysis of the Islamists is always going to be negative simply because of their religious views, it is you who is in an 'ideological mess'.

    That all said and done, workers will have the same sort of 'say' they have in Egypt, or Turkey or any other bourgeois state. The communist slayer, and former prime minister Mousavi, and his 'green movement' that seeks to 'restore relations' with The US, Israel and the 'western world', is not going to do much for workers in the long term.

    I'll tell you what... if these demonstrations are successful, and the IRI is toppled and Mousavi is in power, I'm going to post here in a few months or whatever, and you can reply and praise the green movement and all the accomplishments they have done. Does that sound good?

    Of course not.. as soon as it becomes clear what Mousavi represents you guys are going to be back here calling for more change in Iran.. railing against the unjust and imperialist puppet regime in Iran.

    Posted by Comrade Rob, 01/03/2010 6:55pm (6 years ago)

  • Too bad the Tudeh Party was suppressed, executed, and tortured under the Mousavi administration.

    Posted by Comrade Rob, 01/03/2010 6:28pm (6 years ago)

  • Oh and lets not forget.. it was Mousavi who was Prime Minister and sat idly by as those 'Thousands of Comrades' were executed.

    Posted by Comrade Rob, 01/03/2010 1:18am (6 years ago)

  • Also, I point out the positions expressed by the CPUSA are identical to the Trotskyites, in theory. In action they ultimately wind up strengthening the same groups supported by the far right, the tea baggers and such.

    The 'progressive' forces in these protests are merely taking an opportunist stance. If these protests are successful they will get a small cut in the short term, women will get some more rights, there will be more unions etc.

    But in the long run no good can come of it. Western Imperialism will strengthen its grip on the country, and 1 despotic regime will have been changed out for another.

    Posted by Comrade Rob, 12/31/2009 9:44pm (6 years ago)

  • Lol yes down with the oppressive regime in Iran, Long live capitalism! Long live reform!

    Death to Islam! Death to the Iranian revolution!

    Why don't we just support the restoration of the Shah too while we're at it?

    Why don't we support the defeat of the Islamists in Iraq and Afghanistan.. I mean the Taliban oppressed women and unions too didn't they? Is that what is up with mltoday reporting that the CPUSA voted down a resolution against the Afghan war?

    Clearly Afghanistan is better off under US occupation too? Just like Iran will be if Ahmadinejad goes down! Is that the new platform of your party, that some nations, are just 'better off' under occupation without any self determination?

    The fact is this is not Hitler, or Tojo.. this guy is not invading other nations to exploit their people. He is not conducting genocide on the scale of Israel, the United States, or any of the authoritarians that have been mentioned. He was fairly elected, opposes US and Israeli imperialism, and his victory, as well as the victory of others like him, while not perfect, strengthens the resolve of genuine workers movements around the world.

    It reminds us that it is possible for even the smallest most backwards of nations to prevail over slavery and occupation.

    Posted by Comrade Rob, 12/31/2009 9:35pm (6 years ago)

  • "Comrade Rob", just because Hitler, Tojo and Mussolini were contemptuous of bourgeois democracy and opposed US, British and French imperialism does not mean that they were "anti-imperialists" and the left should have supported them. The nature of the current Iranian government is not progressive, but regressive on a whole range of issues, including workers' and women's rights and privatization of the economy. The forces calling for change in Iran include, no doubt, reactionaries and Western interests, but also labor unions, women's rights organizations and the Tudeh (Iranian Communist Party). These latter forces merit our support. At the same time we have to strongly OPPOSE any moves against Iran by the U.S. and Israeli governments.

    Posted by Emile Schepers, 12/30/2009 2:44am (6 years ago)

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