Friday, March 19, 2010

A Year On, Blogger's Death In Detention Remains Unexplained

Tomorrow marks one year since the death in Tehran's Evin prison of Iranian blogger Omidreza Mirsayafi.

Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says Mirsayafi's death could have been avoided if prison staff had not been negligent and had acted promptly.

"His death is all the more regrettable as his detention was totally unjustified," RSF says in a statement to mark the occasion.

Mirsayafi was serving a two-year prison term after his conviction on charges of insulting Iranian leaders in his blog when he collapsed on March 18, 2011. It reportedly took prison authorities three hours to get him to a hospital, where he later died. Officials told the family that Mirsayafi committed suicide by overdosing on sedatives. But the family cast doubt on the official version and called for a second autopsy -- a request that authorities rejected.

RSF says it supports the family's call for an investigation by an impartial commission and the release of all documents that could shed light on the circumstances of Mirsayafi's imprisonment and death.

The group calls Mirsayafi's death emblematic of the tragedy affecting dissidents and critics in Iran today:

"He is a symbol of all those who are hounded, persecuted, arrested, jailed and silenced. We pay tribute to his memory and we demand the immediate release of the 50 or so journalists and bloggers who are currently detained in Iran just for expressing their views freely."

The March 18 Movement, an online movement created in the wake of Mirsayafi's death, has declared March 18 as "a day of memorial to Omid and to all the innocents he represents."

Source: RFE/RL

Collection of Chaharshanbe souri's Citizen journalists Videos!

Monday, March 15, 2010

In solidarity with Sudbury workers

Since being privatized in 1997, the global mining giant Vale has unleashed a vicious attack on workers. The company undermined health and safety standards in Brazil and now it's set its sights on Canada. In 2009 negotiations with the United Steelworkers (USW), Vale claimed it needed deep concessions - despite making over $13 billion (USD) in 2008 net profits. The company’s strategy is to divide and conquer by undermining seniority and providing lesser benefits to new employees. 3,500 members of the USW rejected Vale’s demands and went on strike in mid-July. Vale has since announced it will hire replacement workers and force other union members to do the work of the striking miners. Meanwhile Vale workers throughout Brazil are struggling to hold on to jobs, earn a living wage, achieve minimum standards for safe working conditions, and guarantee basic labor rights. Vale employees and their unions in Brazil and Canada are fighting back together, reaching out to workers in a global campaign for fair treatment at Vale.

>>Join us @ Bridging The Gap Rally

USW Local 6500 is in the hometown fight of their lives. Our members have been fighting strong for 8 months.

On Monday, March 22nd we are having a massive rally to show the solidarity and support that our local has from our members, our community, our province, and from around the world. There are 30 delegates from around the world (Brazil, Germany, Australia, Geneva, Indonesia, Zambia, and more) who have already committed to attending. Can I count on you to attend as well? Can I count on you to share this message with everyone you know?

We are looking for community members, organizations, clubs, unions, political groups, and community businesses to attend. Show up in large numbers and bring your banners, your flags and your signs! We need your help!

We need your help to show VALE Inco that we have the solidarity and the strength of our brothers and sisters everywhere - from around the corner to around the world. Come to Sudbury and help us to stand strong and unblinking in the face of VALE.

That's Monday, March 22nd at 4:30 pm - Starting at 66 Brady (The new USW Union Hall) in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.

We Need Your Help!

~ Jamie West

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Two Sides of the Coin; A Brief Analysis of Moussavi's New Stance

ow that the reporters and analysts have declared their opinions on the protests and the government’s reaction to the 22 Bahman (11 February) demonstration, the time has come for the two central conflicting figures, Khamenei and Moussavi to have their say. Mir Hossein Moussavi in his latest expression of opinion in conversation with the website Kalameh has announced that 22 Bahman was an orchestrated show. Moussavi’s perspectives indicate that the differences within the regime have not come to an end but are in fact gaining intensity. Even though the Green Movement appears more aware and more experienced with each day, there is no doubt that reformists and dissidents have their eyes pinned on Moussavi and it is ultimately he who will who will be representing the government’s protestor faction.

In the interview Moussavi says that this is a democratic movement and that the leaders of this democratic movement are in organizational harmony with one another. Moussavi indicates that a part of this leadership exists outside the country, and that if the system seeks to restrict and detain local leaders, the helm of this leadership will be transferred outside the country and that this isn’t good for the regime. With this he advises Khamenei to value the country’s internal leaders and try to resolve issues from within the country.

Meanwhile, both sides in this conflict, namely Moussavi and Khamenei believe that the opposition should respect the majority and each maintains that the majority supports him. Khamenei believes that those who do not respect the opinion of the majority regarding the election of Ahmadinejad, have no place in the system and should think hard because this rescue ship (The Islamic Republic) is sailing towards human freedom and wellbeing and to oppose this is tantamount to enmity with a path that leads to the liberation and happiness of human beings. Moussavi, on the other hand believes that the regime is fearful of the tools of the Green’s being and that the reason for the regime’s groundwork and planning was to prevent people from gathering at the 22 Bahman demonstrations. Of course, based on his circumstances and the need for people's acceptance in confronting those in power, Moussavi uses an apparently stronger democratic tone believing that even if he is not the majority, that this is not the way to deal with the opposition and that minority rights must also be respected and paid attention to.

Referring to the government's deviation from the rule of law and respecting civil rights in monopolizing the print and television media and oppressing journalists, Moussavi maintained that it is not possible to stand against the people. He argues that the slogan "Every citizen is a media" is a direct product of this treatment and one of the causes for the advancement of the Green Movement and therefore the Greens must alongside their street protests continue to strengthen their social networks. That every member of the Green Movement must spread awareness through this individual media format. In answer to the "tens of millions" leader devotees who await Khamenei’s command, he says: "Tens of millions Iranians in this country protest against censorship, anti-freedom and repressive measures, mercurial and adventure-seeking foreign policy, destructive economic policies, widespread corruption and lies. They are demanding changes that allow them to rule over their fate not that which has been imposed on them by inefficient agents of this regime.”

Moussavi, in connection with the regional and global status of Iran says: "Our nation doesn't want to fall behind on regional or international competition. Instead of fighting and hostility, our nation wants to interact with the outside world and follow their development-oriented foreign policy." "Our nation doesn't want to be buried under a flood of destructive, unaccounted for imports like agricultural and industrial manufactured goods." "Our nation doesn't want the majority of economic projects and activities to be pushed into public firms and the army corps under privatization." "In the natonal media our nation wants the regime to allow everyone’s voices be heard and not only certain people whose only undertakings are iniquity and slander." "Our individual citizens are united together and do not like to be divided as Hezbollah and Satanic believers, idiots and imbeciles, sheep and goats."

Moussavi returns once again to the main issue of the “fight”, criticizing the transition towards the state economy; theorizing and expressing the demands of those outside power as those of the “nation”. What Moussavi has in mind as an economic alternative is a transition towards a neo-liberal economy with interaction with the West. In reality Moussavi is against a militarized, regime corps economy where more than 80 percent of the financial resources and economic infrastructure are eaten up under the name of "the nation". The experience of the Khatami government in neo-liberal economic orientation shows that the desire to moderate the reforms either is not there or that all the negative political aspects of structural adjustment policies in place basically cannot be moderated. Ultimately this provides the basis for elevating "Ahmadinejadi” (type) economic policies like "Article 44" and "the removal of subsidies".

It should be noted that the economic policies of Ahmadinejad’s government with the inclusion of “subsidies” showed that it is fundamentally not outside the capitalist liberal economics. Despite the current government’s taking advantage of anti-imperialist discourse, this government has proven to be one of the most right winged that Iran has seen throughout its history. Privatization under "Article 44 of the Constitution" and the "removal of subsidies" are issues that Khatami -due to not having the support of the system - could not achieve. Ahmadinejad's government on the other hand was able to obtain a great deal of support in his first term from supreme political, military, clergy and ideological powers and ultimately by playing the right cards with his military organ, namely the "Revolutionary Guard”.

In another part of this dialogue, Moussavi believes that his demands are not outside the foundations of the Islamic Republic’s system: "These demands are fully Islamic and consistent with our constitution and religious democracy. These demands have no an anti-religious aspect to warrant the command to shoot, murder and imprison, nor do they have an anti-national or anti-regime slant. These are the people's rights and therefore, they support them." The importance of Green clergy among the members of the movement is of significance to him and he wants us to protect this relationship so the regime does not create distance between us (the Green Movement) and the advocating Clergymen: "Their presence in the Green Movement is a vital aspect given the circumstances where methods are adopted and charges are brought against the Greens for being faithless and dependent on foreigners.”

Meanwhile secularism has been introduced and welcomed in all fields by most political and social forces in recent months, and in a most comprehensive historical shape. Moussavi emphasis on the Islamic nature of the people's demand is precisely in contradiction to universal social demands; for example in the women’s movement, the discussion on abolishing the compulsory veil and crushing patriarchal rules and to use a more correct phrase "Anti-women" campaign, represents the point of gravity for the protests of half the Iranian population, in other words women. And this despite the interpretation of many of this movement’s leaders that a system of government without religion is not possible.

I believe that the women's issue cannot be planned for if the issue of secularism, as the absolute symbolic dominant issue is not addressed. The sustained support for women's rights is not necessarily anti-religious (within the realm of personal privacy), but it is absolutely secular. If we are to name the most important and fundamental symbol of systematic violence by religious domination in society, we will arrive at the symbol of all symbols, the mandatory Hejab (veil). In my opinion Hejab is the most striking symbol of state religion that visibly violates half the dynamic and dominant population of society. Furthermore, with a government such as the Islamic Republic that is based primarily on the concept of "Islamic guardianship", we are confronted with a caretaker that is essentially "male dominated" and patriarchal. Based on the simple understanding of the mechanical relationship between religion and other aspects of life, the first area that can be directly affected by secularism in a fundamental, however insufficient change is the abolition of the Hijab and freedom for women. On this basis any discussion on secularization without resolving women’s issues is absurd and futile.

In my opinion, despite all the publicity and fantasy among many streams, Moussavi has been one of the most faithful and courageous leaders of the Islamic Republic's 30 year lifespan. Showing strength and forcefulness towards the Islamic Republic's ideals with blatant radicalism is a very difficult and courageous task and is most certainly condemned to failure. Whereas in this battle the "Green Movement" has an anti-authoritarian nature and is ultimately condemned to freedom.

But the more interesting aspect of Moussavi's statements is when it comes to the subject of leadership and the goal of the movement where he rings the bells as such: "The goal is not necessarily to achieve these strategic changes through the Greens." Moussavi and certainly the wing outside power is well aware of the depth of this movement and knows very well that "liberation" is the definitive intent of the masses. This can occur through the "Greens", a "military power" or a third option, the "roaring masses". Moussavi ends his argument with these words: "We must remember a moral principle and that is to recognize truth, goodness and beauty, even if this beauty and virtue is not created by us."

Overall this was his reaction to Khamenei's recent speeches on eliminating the leaders of the "Fitna (division among people)" from the regime. With these words, Moussavi invokes Khamenei and the rival faction to death so they may settle for the heat and ultimately offers the following solution: "I know this will not be accepted or at least not in the present circumstances. But what I am saying is that the existence of the radio and television channels for the green movement will strengthen the regime and help national unity." Moussavi has discovered the role of the media well and is planning to organize and lead the protests with the help of such tools in the Islamic and Khomeinist channels. This is interesting because he also knows that the heads in power have so resolved their determination for a economic and political stabilization in and out of the country that it is implausible that they will listen to advice.

On the other hand, Moussavi and his political affiliates inside and outside the country know too well that in the event that the current regime will be victorious, the situation will become so polarized that the editor of "The New York Times" and "CNN" will give up their support for the reformists and his half baked medal as the leader of the Green Movement will be removed from around his neck. Therefore, he shows his fear of the media: "My fear is that restrictions on thought will result in us to fall behind less fortunate countries in the region and I am not sure how our nation can protect itself against external forces who are definitely thinking of their own national interests." Likewise on the latest government scandal of disrupting websites and television channels, Moussavi says: "It is ridiculous if we think by creating noise, hacks and filters, that we can control such waves."

Even if we overlook Moussavi’s history in stabilizing and strengthening this regime and put aside his efforts in the last 30 years to silence any voice other than that of the "Islamic Republic", his recent statements increasingly confirm his fear that the "immortal revolutionary heritage" meaning "the regime” will fall. According to his election debates, it is because of this that he even reentered the scene after 30 years. He addresses Khamenei with: "Our weapon against any such diversion (from revolution) is to gravitate towards our national and religious roots and rely on a vision that can lead us towards a developed and peaceful Iran on a global and national level. The nation comprises people of all classes, all ethnic groups, all cultures and all political parties; a guaranteed, free election that is transparent and healthy is the key to many solutions. If this cannot be achieved, the loss of the regime's legitimacy will accelerate."

++Thanks to Negar & Macy for translation

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