Friday, July 15, 2005

18 Tir and after

Given the level of participation among Iranian exiles in previous demonstrations commemorating 18 Tir, a dual anniversary marking a failed coup in 1980 to strike at the heart of the Islamic Republic and a bloody popular uprising in 1999 against what Fred Halliday calls a “democracy”, Saturday’s relative calm and the absence of significant protests must have been very disappointing indeed, perhaps even considered with some apprehension, especially as such demonstrations would have followed the London bombings and taken place under rather advantageous circumstances. What happened?

Exactly what we expected to happen!

The signs were all there. Consider another protest that preceded the 18 Tir commemorations: The hunger strike last month by Shahzadeh Reza Pahlavi. A weekend protest in Los Angeles “in support of political prisoners” that even according to its promoters was received coldly, surely it anticipated the calmness of 18 Tir. After all, if Shahzadeh Reza Pahlavi, in a hunger strike at that, can’t get thousands to a demonstration, who could?

No one can, if the people feel betrayed, have come to view the situation as hopeless, or regard the “opposition” as no longer trustworthy or competent.

In the LA gathering, for example, it wasn’t the popular Shahzadeh Reza Pahlavi who called for the protest was it? It was “citizen Reza”, who having alienated his most committed supporters by signing the CPD-backed “Sazegara petition” against a counterrevolution, had shut off the very people who may otherwise have heeded his call. As important, and running parallel to this development, was the limiting of the goals of the opposition to “freedom for political prisoners,” when the clearly stated goal of the enemies of the Islamic Republic is its overthrow.

In fact, thanks to the gradual fading of the lines delineating “the opposition,” what was once a potential force against the Islamist Republic has been reduced, little by little, to pleading for the freedom of political prisoners (as important as that is), and in some circles solely the freedom of particular prisoners. Are these signs of “the opposition’s” competence or the reverse? Would these developments induce anything but resignation? Well then, can we blame those Iranians who regard the situation as hopeless?

What of the “opposition” media? The “opposition” media has played an even more important role here. If there were any doubts before as to the self-centered, opportunistic nature of the numerous radio and satellite stations broadcasting from the US and Europe, they were effectively removed by their refusal to report, let alone praise, such remarkably important protests as Azarakhsh and Tondar. That they are against Anjomane Padeshahi will not do: As self-described disseminators of news and information (which, in their case, is basically limited to re-reading headlines from the BBC or the Islamic Republic’s own disinformation services), they were obligated to report these activities. Readers should not conclude that I base my evaluation here solely on the censorship and blackout which surrounded Azarakhsh, Tondar, or the arrest and beating of Ostad Forud Fouladvand by Blair’s goon squad. I said the same last year when these broadcasters refused the slightest sympathy towards thousands of Iranians who had poured into the streets of Tehran when they were asked to do so by Ahura Yazdi.

Not reporting what matters is one thing, but actually confusing one’s listeners or viewers is another, and a day does not go by without callers complaining about the confusion created by these stations. This is not limited to complaints about “disunity”, but also concerns an absence of consistency, even between the announcements of a single individual commentator. To mention a recent example, one of the personalities who called upon Iranians to join Shahzadeh Reza Pahlavi in that weekend protest was WKRSI’s Said Ghaem’maghami, a promoter of the Sazegara petition. Yet, only a few months earlier, this two-faced character explicitly stated, while putting Shahzadeh Reza Pahlavi in the same category as a vulgar reactionary in Canada, that he is against what the young prince stands for! (“Ma ke na Ghandchi va na Reza Pahlavi ra ghabool darim…”)

I attribute the calmness of 18 Tir abroad to a lost sense of confidence in “the opposition”; to a feeling that “the opposition” is in shambles. In my view, in so far as “opposition” means emphatically Iranian, and unequivocally committed to the overthrow of the Islamic Republic, it cannot be denied that what was once known as “opposition” has been to a great extent discredited and even discarded.

Yet I insist that this is not a state of apathy but a sign of political maturity. Better to begin from the beginning, and build on strong foundations, than to continue with this farce.

And they're doing just that at Anjomane Padeshahi.

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