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November 19, 2005

Peter Tatchell on far left collusion with Islamo-fascism

In this excellent article in the current edition of Tribune Peter Tatchell casts a critical eye on CND for inviting the Iranian Ambassador to its recent conference - Why would a progressive movement like CND give a platform to the representative of a clerical fascist regime that executes apostates, unchaste women, gay people and even children?

His article also examines the stance of the far left on Iran and concludes with the withering remark that the SWP’s atheist leadership used to dismiss religion as the opiate of the people. Now, for the sake a few votes, their hide their irreligiousness and collude with the right-wing Islamists of the MAB; selling out liberal and progressive Muslims, and turning their backs on the Iranian people’s freedom struggle. SWP. Socialists Without Principles?


Peter Tatchell urges solidarity with the Iranian people’s struggle against clerical tyranny

Guess who was the key-note speaker at the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’s annual conference last month? No, it wasn’t the veteran peace campaigner Pat Arrowsmith.

Surprise, surprise. It was the Iranian ambassador, Dr Seyed Adeli. An odd choice. Why would a progressive movement like CND give a platform to the representative of a clerical fascist regime that executes apostates, unchaste women, gay people and even children?

“Given the possibility of an attack on Iran…we wanted to hear the view of the Iranian government,” explained CND Chair, Kate Hudson. “There was no implied support…but a desire for peaceful – but firm – lobbying and dialogue.”

So when is CND hosting anti-nuclear activists from Iran? Not any time soon, it seems. Moreover, when a handful of delegates heckled Dr Deli, they were ejected by CND stewards. All of which leaves Iranian left-wingers rather puzzled about the politics of the British peace movement. Peace at any price? With any blood-stained dictatorship?

The ayatollahs view Dr Adeli’s speech to CND as a big propaganda coup; giving them kudos and respectability. Anti-fascist Iranians feel totally betrayed. With good reason.

As Dr Adeli addressed CND, a Tehran court found a young woman guilty of adultery. Identified only as Soghra, she was sentenced to be stoned to death.

The good folks at CND were presumably unaware of this latest judicial barbarity, but I doubt they would have been much fussed had they known. Their agenda is anti-nuclear, not pro-human rights. They applauded the ambassador’s speech.

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, stoning people to death is not against the law, it is the law. The only crime is to use the wrong-sized stones. Too big, and the victim will die quickly without suffering enough pain. Too small, and they might not die at all.

Welcome to the new medievalism that is modern Iran, where the barbarism of Sharia law holds sway, and where superstitious, bigoted clerics have the power to decide whether people live or die for the most trivial offences. Women are threatened with lashing for “misplaced smiles” that arouse “satanic desires” in men. Last year, 14 year old Kaveh Habibi-Nejad was flogged to death in the town of Sanandaj for “eating in public” during Ramadan.

Franco’s Spain and Pinochet’s Chile were tea parties by comparison to Iran’s Islamist bloodfest. Since the ayatollah’s seized power in 1979, nearly 100,000 Iranians have been murdered – including socialists, trade unionists, communists, feminists, journalists, students, lawyers, writers, doctors, human rights activists and religious and ethnic leaders.

In the four months following the June election of hardline President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, over 80 people are known to have been executed or sentenced to death. Under Iranian law, girls as young as nine and boys as young as 15 can be hanged. So far this year, seven children have been executed.

Torture is endemic. The barbaric tortures inflicted in the name of Islam include the cutting out of prisoner’s eyes, crushing their heads in metal vices, and forcing boiling water into their ears. The Dark Ages are alive and kicking in modern-day Iran.

CND is not the only supposedly progressive movement that is lost for words when confronted by the crimes of the ayatollahs. The Labour government also ignores the cries of the Iranian people.

The Home Office says Iranian asylum seekers with torture scars all over their bodies are “not genuine.” It wants to deport them back to Iran, where they will face further torture and possible execution. The Foreign Office has prioritised action against Iran’s nuclear programme. Human rights concerns have been quietly dropped; much to the delight of the ayatollahs. When two gay teenagers were publicly executed in the summer, the Foreign Secretary declined to protest to Tehran. The government’s commitment to uphold universal human rights apparently does not apply to Iranians, or at least not to gay ones.

Despite its socialist rhetoric, the far left is no better. In Iran in mid-2003, a wave of strikes and demonstrations by workers and students was violently suppressed, with over 4,000 arrests. Where were the protests from the workers’ defenders, the Socialist Workers Party?

Only last week, two labour activists were jailed for taking part in a peaceful May Day rally in the city of Saqez in 2004. Mahmoud Salehi got five years and Jalal Hosseini three years. It is thanks to international trade union protests that these men did not suffer a more grisly fate. Even now, who can say what will happen to them in prison. If they are not tortured it will be the exception, not the rule.

Since the beginning of 2005, Iran has erupted with episodic protests by workers, students and the Arab minority in the south. These heroic struggles have been blanked from the pages of Socialist Worker. Why?

June’s general election in Iran was marred by widespread fraud. It bought to power the anti-democracy, fundamentalist candidate, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Yet the Stop The War Coalition (STWC), which is dominated by the SWP, boasts that ordinary Iranians are “making advances towards democracy.” Some advance.

The STWC and SWP are campaigning against a US invasion of Iran. Good. But they have shamefully vetoed any protests against the Tehran regime. This refusal to support Iranian democrats and socialists replicates their failure to back the anti-Saddam opposition in Iraq.

The indifference of the SWP to the tyranny of the ayatollahs is nakedly opportunistic. They know that criticism of the Iranian Islamists would fracture their political alliance with the Muslim Association of Britain, which is pro-Islamist and supports Sharia law. They fear it could also alienate pro-Islamist Muslim voters, who are being targeted as a support base for the SWP’s electoral front, Respect.

The SWP’s atheist leadership used to dismiss religion as the opiate of the people. Now, for the sake a few votes, their hide their irreligiousness and collude with the right-wing Islamists of the MAB; selling out liberal and progressive Muslims, and turning their backs on the Iranian people’s freedom struggle. SWP. Socialists Without Principles?

PETER TATCHELL HUMAN RIGHTS FUND

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