Thursday, December 24, 2009

Statement by Homosexual Students at Iran’s Universities

Translator’s note: The formation of the new organization, “Homosexual Students at Iran’s Universities” is a courageous act. Below are large excerpts from a statement which this organization issued on the occasion of Students’ Day. For more information about queer organizing in Iran, please see “Twelve Men Face Execution for Sodomy in Iran” by Doug Ireland, published in Gay City News ( Please also contact Hossein Alizadeh, Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator at International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (

Statement by Homosexual Students at Iran’s Universities
Translated by Frieda Afary

December 6, 2009

This year’s commemoration of December 7, significantly differs in nature from previous years. This December 7 is being shaped anew, not as necessitated by the calendar, but as necessitated by conditions that have set the stage for protest movements.

We cannot stop still or go backward. We cannot commemorate this event in a routine way. Just as we gave new political meaning to Qods Day, and appropriated November 3, so our preservation of December 7 as a commemoration which belongs to the student movement, denudes this day of its official title in order to make it an event once again. [Qods day refers to September 18, a day designated by Ayatollah Khomeini as Jerusalem Day. November 3, refers to the anniversary of the take over of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. This year, the Green Movement transformed both events into protests against the government and in defense of democracy and human rights –tr].

After five decades, the rise of a revolution, and the emergence of a people’s movement, December 7, the symbol of protest against a regime backed by the July 1953 coup, now confronts the June 12, 2009 coup [The July 1953 CIA-sponsored coup deposed the democratically elected government of prime minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, and returned Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to power—tr] This year, the distinguishing factor is that the forces of the people are intertwined in the context of these [December 7] protests. Students are no longer starry-eyed in their socio-political struggle. Prior to the people’s protest against dictatorship and lawlessness under the Islamic Republic, students might have felt isolated in their opposition to dictatorship. Now, however, the student movement takes place in the context of a society which demands an end to dictatorship, and is untainted by superficiality and narrow-mindedness.

Due to the depth of social perception in the student body, and an extensive grasp of human rights and civil rights, student demands are now linked to women’s demands on the one hand and workers’ demands on the other. This dual link has been achieved not only on the basis of theoretical knowledge but also on the basis of practical experience.

On the other hand, the student movement includes the demands of homosexuals. These demands represent a transgression of deeply rooted cultural boundaries which impede social tolerance.

The presence of minorities within the student body, limits the possibility of monopolization. . . . Students who may have different names, are part of the people. Their multiple presence on a variety of fronts continues to shake the weak foundation of the regime and challenges its security. The student movement is not green throughout. It also includes other colors. However, the breadth of the instinctual drive for equality among the people of the Green Movement, has compelled other colors to accommodate to it. We hope that the social right to self-determination of a people who wish to live within the framework of human rights and not any type of ideological dictatorship, will be placed in the hands of the people themselves. The students will not monopolize December 7.

Similar to years prior to the June 12 election, students constitute the largest number of those murdered, arrested and tortured . . . December 7, 2009 is equated with December 7, 1953 in order to transcend it and move from protesting the coup to determining the fate of democracy in Iran. In order to create a society in which everyone is free to move safely in her/his direction, we need to be together. On December 7, let us comprehend that freedom for the majority can only exist when minorities are safe. Let us be together.

Homosexual Students at Iran’s Universities, publish their third statement on the occasion of a December 7 commemoration which might signify the last gasps of a coup-backed government.

Considering that a significant number of university students are also queers, and considering that the active part of the queer community in Iran consists of university students and university graduates, it is not too late to correct the intolerant and inappropriate drafts of the constitution, in order to guarantee that the perspectives of the representatives of the Green Movement do not fall short of the perspectives of the rank and file of the people’s movement.[The authors of this statement do not cite the specific drafts to which they refer. A draft presented by the “Lawyers of the Iranian People’s Green Movement” does recognize the rights of people regardless of gender, religion, nationality and race, but makes no mention of sexual orientation—tr. The Persian text can be viewed online at A brief summary in English is available at]

Another milestone achieved by this year’s December 7 commemoration was the student body’s deep comprehension of the concept of human rights. It is crucial to remind the readers that the student movement and the women’s movement have captivated a larger portion of Iranian society because these movements are more tolerant and think more deeply.

At a time when two human rights organizations in Iran --which consist of students-- have been courageous and forthright in taking up the rights of minorities and especially sexual minorities who have been excluded from civil rights protection, the representatives of the Green Movement who are devising the outlines of the new constitution, avoid mentioning the rights of minorities. If we do not pay attention, the first opportunity for correcting the defects of the constitution will lead not to reform but to a future imprisoned by prejudice and exclusion.

On the eve of December 7, and at a time when the Green Movement of the people has come to signify fresh air for a repressed society, students who give their all to this movement, do so to make sure that the passion for life is not crushed under the boots of dictatorship.

Homosexual Students at Iran’s Universities who have not been promised any share of political power or fame, would like to send a message to the Green Movement in the spirit of solidarity and kinship. The demands of the people, rooted only in the necessity to abide by human rights and civil rights, are greater than all the demands which the leaders of the Green Movement utter in honor of the [1979 –tr] revolution.

Mr. Karroubi and Mr. Mousavi, Mrs. Rahnavard, students and families, on this December 7, keep the Green Movement dynamic by making a statement about the human rights demands of all the people of Iran. The movement needs more than the blood of the youth to survive. The movement needs a timely declaration of its exact, explicit, and human rights-based demands, in order to defend your lives and your social rights. Let us all be together.

Homosexual Students at Iran’s Universities

For Freedom and Equality

December 2009

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Majid Tavakoli Becomes a Symbol of a Growing Student Movement

Majid Tavakoli, an Iranian student leader who had been imprisoned twice for his defense of human rights, was violently arrested on December 7 after he gave a speech at a gathering of students at Amir Kabir University (Tehran) to commemorate Students’ Day. Three years earlier in December 2006, he had been among students who protested Ahmadinejad’s speech at Amir Kabir University and called him “ a source of prejudice and corruption.” This year, Tavakoli was speaking to Amir Kabir students in the midst of student demonstrations throughout the country. Below are excerpts from two articles which defend Tavakoli and address the meaning of the Iranian government’s claim that he was arrested while dressed in a woman’s hijab. The first article is by Mujtaba Saminejad, a journalist, human rights activist and blogger. The second is by Shakiba Shaker Hosseini, a young feminist activist.

Majid Tavakoli Is Not Afraid. The Fearful Are Those Hiding Under One Cover
By Mujtaba Saminejad
Translated by Frieda Afary

December 10, 2009

. . . The coup leaders are very worried today. The more time elapses, the stronger and more widespread the Iranian people’s protest movement becomes. The coup leaders’ illusion about the degeneration of this movement is weakening.

The media that have backed the coup, also support the murderers of the Nedas and the Sohrabs in Iran. They defend the Yemeni and Lebanese and Afghani Taliban terrorists. . . These media are crying out about the connection between a student activist and terrorist groups. . .

Majid Tavakoli has been arrested several times. He spent months at the Evin prison under the most severe psychological and physical torture. First he was arrested when the Basijis [militia –tr] who are supported by Keyhan and the Pars New Agency [a newspaper and a press agency that support Ayatollah Khamenei—tr.] published and distributed a publication which insulted religious beliefs which the Basijis promote and represent in the name of God. They accused Majid Tavakoli and other students at Amir Kabir Polytechnic, of having issued this publication. After 15 months of imprisonement, Majid and the other students were exonerated by the court. Those who had issued the publication were discredited.

Majid’s second arrest took place at the cancelled memorial meeting for Mr. Bazargan [reference to Mehdi Bazargan who was the first prime minister after the 1979 Revolution—tr.] . He was subjected to psychological and physical torture for 115 days at the Evin prison once again. . .

Keyhan and the Pars New Agency are experts at fraud and falsification. That is whey they support the coup-promoting government. They report that Majid was afraid as he was attempting to flee [Amir Kabir University—tr.]. They liken him toBani Sadr who put on women’s clothing in order to escape.[Reference to Abolhassan Bani Sadr, the first president after the 1979 Revolution. Bani Sadr fled the country in 1981 –tr.]

But who is afraid? Majid Tavakoli and the student activists or those who beat women, girls and elderly women in the head to prevent them from chanting slogans or forming gatherings? Who is afraid? Those students who courageously stand in front of the truncheons, tear gas and the violent Basijis and security forces, or those who create a security barrier around the university to prevent people from witnessing their crimes? . . . The fearful are those increasingly in denial about the growing flames of the protest movement.

Tavakoli Carries the Weight of the Humiliation Suffered by Iranian Women
By Shakiba Shaker Hosseini
Translated by Frieda Afary

December 11, 2009

. . . The story of Majid Tavakoli is the story of centuries of women’s oppression in Iran. He and his fellow activists in this movement are jointly experiencing the bitter taste of this oppressive attitude. This is an attitude that reveals the humiliation of the perpetrators and not the victims.

This event clearly reflects the thought of those who view women and all things associated with women in a humiliating manner. In Iran, the Hijab has been considered a “mandatory honor” and a great deal more than a question of volition or choice. Now it is being used as a sign of humiliation. They [the authorities –tr] dress Tavakoli in women’s clothing and take his picture, and think that they have humiliated him. . .

The bearers of pathological thoughts and images about women, get excited about dressing a student member of the Office for the Consolidation of Unity, in women’s clothing! However, Majid Tavakoli and other men who have experienced this injustice, have now gained an intimate and true understanding of what women are forced to bear. This intersubjective comprehension will make Iran’s progressive movement more united.

The violence, suppression and the arrest of dissidents, regardless of their attire, is to be condemned. The creation of terror and fear among citizens reveals the face of a system that is using fear to stay in power. Under these circumstances, the spectacle of citizens who are willing to do anything in order to not be caught, exposes the violent behavior of the oppressors.
. . . Once again look at those unbelievable pictures. Could any other image express the bitterness and humiliation of the compulsory hijab with such clarity?

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Socialists Inside Iran Differ on the Green Movement

Recently, Alborz, an Iran-based site devoted to a critique of political economy, has published articles which represent differing views among socialists inside Iran concerning the future of the Green Movement. Below are excerpts from two articles which represent some of these differing views.

The “Green Insurrection:” From Dream to Reality
Author: Mohammad Gharagozloo
Translated by Frieda Afary

November 19, 2009

. . . In the first few weeks after the [June 12, 2009] election, many appropriated the color green and chanted slogans which insisted on the cancellation of the election results and called for a new election. Now however, the protest movement has taken a different direction. Starting from the July 16 Friday Prayer to [the September 18 ] Jerusalem Day and November 3, the appearances and the slogans of the protesters --even the ones dressed in green –have not matched the primary and secondary goals of the green insurrection and its election-time leaders. . .

Let us grant that there is a green insurrection whose class hegemony (political, economic, social and cultural) is in fact under the control of the two protesting reformist candidates. In an article entitled, “Are the Economically Impoverished Among the Forces of the Green Movement?”( Mohammad Maljoo correctly points out that during the 16 years of their participation in the leadership of the fifth through the eighth government, these candidates have been economically “market-oriented”

Everyone knows that the neo-liberal plan called “economic transformation” or “targeted monetary subsidies”[reference to the current government’s plan to phase out existing subsidies on basic goods and gas --tr.] which is now being placed as the first item on the agenda of the tenth government and the eight parliament, is a proposal made by the World Bank. The main preparatory steps were implemented through the “economic modification” plan of the fifth and sixth governments under the name of economic development. These steps were continued by the reformist governments. . .

Mohammad Maljoo’s emphasis in the aforementioned article is quite true and objective: “The economically impoverished have not benefited from the economic actions of either side of the June 12 dispute.” In their debates, speeches and half-baked electoral promises, the two reformist candidates have not proposed any article or amendment through which any “favor” is done for the working and the economically impoverished classes. . .

My question for Mr. Maljoo is the following: Based on what material evidence is he so optimistic about the future of the liberals as to write: “At a time when the economic policies of the hurried tenth government do not promise economic growth or social justice, perhaps the political elite of the green movement would have the unique opportunity to not repeat their past calamitous actions concerning the economically impoverished, but instead take up a justice-seeking discourse to officially call on the working classes and the urban poor to join the growing ranks of the Greens. The most important barrier to such a call is the domination of the market-oriented economic discourse among extensive numbers of the political elite of the Green Movement.”

Mr. Maljoo must certainly know that in order to change the direction of the economy from the free market or the closed market (capitalism in any form) , to a “justice-seeking economic discourse to defend the working and urban impoverished classes,” or what I would call a socialist mode of production and the abolition of the sale of labor power, the decision-making body cannot be the “political elite of the Green Movement.” . . .

A Critique of the Perspectives of Mohammad Gharagozloo:
From Repeating Cliches to Understanding Cliches
Author: Yassir Azizi
Translated by Frieda Afary

November 22, 2009

. . . I wish this proclaimed leftist, who happens to be a true representative (based on being on the left side of the spectrum and not based on his correct thinking) had as much sense as one of the liberal candidates, to comprehend that “the color green has turned into a fluid signifier.”(Statement from Mir-Hossien Mousavi in a post-election speech to a group of university professors) Therefore, this signifier does not represent any particular signified or concept. Having said this, let’s move on to the heart of the issue.

1. The Unity of Theory and Practice

“It is not enough that thought strive to actualize itself; actuality must itself strive toward thought.”
Karl Marx. A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

Any reflection on Marx’s thought and his methodology clearly shows that theory to him is not an abstraction from reality. If it were, he would have never ended his Theses on Feuerbach with the historic statement which challenges the official role of philosophers: “Philosophers have interpreted the world in different ways. The point is to change it.”

For Marx, the unity of theory and practice was the most important and the best way to achieve the change that he called for. But a change in what? Changing the world to Marx meant changing the reality around you. To be changed, that reality has to be comprehended first. Then that cognition, as theory, becomes concomitant with and coordinated with objective and conscious practice. It is the lack of such [a concept] that Marx criticized among his predecessors whom he called “utopian socialists.”

He called the likes of Fourier, Owen and others, “utopian” not simply because they sufficed themselves with giving sermons and did not engage in objective action. He called them utopian because of their defective comprehension of reality. . .

Simply drawing up a plan and posing a singular paradigm for action which is not in harmony with the present pulse of history, only strengthens the mental capacities of those who are tourists in the world of theories and not the efforts of those who want to step forward in the rough trails of social reality.

2. The Origin of Today’s Movement

“To be radical is to grasp matters at the root. But for the human being the root is the human being herself/himself.”
Karl Marx. A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right.

Regardless of the interpretations which call it a middle-class movement, the present people’s movement in Iran is a manifestation of the unity of theory and practice. Leftists such as the one discussed, offer an insufficient analysis. This movement’s material and social form is not that of a working-class movement with a limited conceptual definition, but a middle-class movement which is supported by large sectors of the lower classes. At this sensitive historical moment, based on its experiences and its real sense perception, this movement has found itself preoccupied with political practice. This position is not defective from the standpoint of Marxist theory. In fact, it is based on comprehending reality and transforming it into a theory of action. . .

Of course I believe that a socialist has to clarify her/his horizon, general position and distinctions. Nevertheless, there can be a balance between grand goals, the realization of which seems further on the horizon, and actions with results which may make life a little easier. . .

No one can claim to be a leftist and not have the benefits of the impoverished classes and specifically the working class in mind. . . .We have to ask where the majority of workers in our society—those who have “nothing to lose but their chains” according to Marx—stand as far as the levels of general consciousness and self-consciousness are concerned. The lack of support for the present movement and its slogans, on the part of a spectrum of the impoverished, does not seem to arise from a class standpoint. Rather, realistically, it arises from their lack of consciousness and their having been co-opted by parts of the ruling ideology on the one hand and their being deceived by the donations of the ninth government, on the other . . .

Carefully examining the existing realities of society and the direction which the “Revolutionary Guard” has taken in expropriating the economy and transforming the form of Iran’s economy into a type of “military rule of capital,” should illuminate the challenge which the majority of the unemployed face in their struggle. Given the current situation in which hiring is shifting toward using the members of the Basij (militia --tr) and consequently those who pass the ideological test, we need to pay additional attention to comprehending what position workers would take.

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