Sunday, May 17, 2009

In Iran the Reformists offer no alternative

by Darya Homan - Hands Off the People of Iran

Members and supporters of Hands Off the People of Iran will be leafleting a meeting organised by The Guardian Public Forum on the evening of Tuesday May 19 in the reading room of the British Museum. Amongst the speakers will be Ata’ollah Mohajerani, an adviser to ayatollah Mehdi Karroubi, who is one of the reformist candidates in the June 12 presidential elections in Iran; and Elaheh Rostami-Povey, a member of the Socialist Workers Party.

Ata’ollah Mohajerani was minister of culture and Islamic guidance in the first term of Mohammad Khatami’s presidency. During this so-called ‘reform era’, the Iranian government did not introduce freedom or democracy, as many of them claim. Iran remained an Islamic republic. Their reforms centred around subordinating the country to the stringent economic measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund. Privatisations and cutbacks in social services were the trademark of that government - an economic policy that is today being continued by president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and under which the Iranian working class is still suffering.

Mohajerani has written a famous critique of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic verses, which was seen at the time as the official Islamic Republic’s response to Rushdie. He defended Khomeini’s death sentence and declared the Rushdie affair to be part of a recurring western plot against Islam (though after Khomeini’s death he advocated negotiations with the EU regarding the fatwa).

During this period of ‘liberalisation’, political writers such as Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh and Mohammad Mokhatari were brutally murdered - their bodies were later found in Tehran’s suburbs. Following public and journalistic investigation inside and outside Iran, prosecutors announced in mid-1999 that a government official, Saeed Emami was responsible for the killings - a senior member of the security services who had supposedly led “rogue elements” in Iran’s intelligence ministry.

Mohajerani is married to Dr Jamileh Kadivar, who is also a reformist politician and was leader of the majles (Islamic parliament) during Khatami’s reign. Like Mohajerani, Kadivar supports Karroubi in the presidential elections. She was filmed with him last Saturday, as he officially registered his candidature (§ionid=351020101). Clearly, Kadivar and Mohajerani are hoping for posts if Karroubi gets elected.

Mohajerani himself had to withdraw from the presidential elections of 2005 because, in accordance with the Shia sigheh law, he kept a number of ‘temporary’ wives. Kadivar, who is celebrated by some (amongst them Elaheh Rostami-Povey) as a leading “Islamic feminist” of our time, continued to support him - and presumably sigheh, which enshrines women’s inequality.

In Hopi’s view, the reformist candidates offer no alternative to the hated regime of Ahmadinejad, be it Karroubi or Mir-Hossein Moussavi, the main challenger. They have continued the oppression of workers, women, students, LGBT and national minorities last time they were in office - and they will do so again. Socialists should certainly not sow any illusions that these candidates offer a qualitative break. Our brothers and sisters in Iran deserve more than shamefaced support for the ‘lesser evil’.

We stand firmly on the side of the secular movements who are struggling against a multitude of enemies and obstacles, chiefly amongst them imperialism and its war drive against the country. The economic nightmare introduced by the Iranian reformists is made worse by the US government sanctions, which have recently been renewed by Barack Obama.

We want regime change - both in Iran and in the imperialist countries. But we know that change must come from below, from the struggles of the working class and social movements, if it is to lead to genuine liberation. We call on all anti-capitalist forces, progressive political groups and social organisations to join activists of the Iranian left in both opposing imperialism’s plans and organising practical solidarity with the growing movement against war and repression in Iran.