Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Iranian Intellectuals Censure Regime's Nuclear Policy

Translator's note: The following call was issued by a group of Iranian intellectuals and activists on March 18, 2011.

Call for Active Opposition to the Nuclear Policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Date: March 18, 2011

Fukushima completed the warning that was issued by Chernobyl. After Chernobyl, any trust in the ability of technology and the technicians to control the radioactive giant was lost. Fukushima further destroyed any trust in the ability to forecast earthquakes and other factors that turn nuclear power stations into ticking time bombs.

Everywhere, conscientious and responsible minds are demanding a serious review of nuclear projects. The Islamic Republic on the other hand, acts as if the news of the Fukushima catastrophe does not pertain to us. They act as if Bushehr and other nuclear power centers in Iran are completely safe. They claim that Bushehr does not face the threat of an earthquake.

At the same time, the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan proved that the optimistic calculations that laid the basis for selecting the locations of nuclear power stations were not trustworthy. In fact, the Bushehr Nuclear Power Station is located near several known faults which pose a very serious earthquake threat. If realistic calculations are made of the basis of safety arrangements at a power station like Bushehr, the cost of rebuilding it would be so great as to make it unjustifiable whatever the demagoguery.

The recent unfortunate events in Japan and the debates that are taking place on a global scale concerning the dangers of nuclear technology provide new motivation for criticizing the nuclear policy of the Islamic Republic in Iran and exposing its undemocratic and dangerous foundations.

From its early years, the Islamic Republic turned to nuclear projects. These projects lacked transparency, were economically unjustifiable, and created tensions in the region and in the world. Not only is this nuclear policy not a choice made by the people, it also conflicts with fundamental needs by incurring huge costs. Furthermore, by creating crises on the international scene, it conflicts with our national interest.

The nuclear policy of the Islamic Republic is economically unjustifiable since Iran has rich oil and gas reserves. Furthermore, we live in an epoch when clean forms of energy such as solar and wind [are accessible through] safe, cutting-edge technologies. Turning to clean technologies is the best and the safest way for economic development. It serves the environment and the needs of future generations.

Just in the past few days, the International Atomic Energy Agency once again announced that it cannot guarantee the civilian nature of the nuclear projects of the Islamic Republic. The lack of transparency of the projects, their economic indefensibility, and the documents made available to the agency have cast serious doubt on the regime's claim that it is pursuing only the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Instead of turning to a policy of transparency, the regime engages in further cover-ups and adventurism. In so doing, it imposes great economic and political losses on the nation. This policy strengthens the role of the military in Iran's economy and politics. It grants massive profits to those sectors of the market that have monopolized specific import channels. The nuclear policy of the Islamic Republic leads to intensified repression and further injustice. It has intensified the nuclear race in the region, a race that is against the interests of the people of the region and against peaceful coexistence.

The Islamic Republic's destructive nuclear policy has perverted the talents of specialists and researchers and has prevented the use of these forces for positive scientific and technological endeavors. The regime's justification of its nuclear policy has led to demagoguery, of which a main aspect is opposition to a growing environmental consciousness critical of nuclear technology in our epoch.

In his recent interview with a Spanish television station, Ahmadinejad, the president of the regime, claimed that the safety standards at Bushehr conform with international standards. Hence there is no reason for concern. He also claimed that there is no repression in Iran. These claims are two of a kind: They are both lies.

We, the undersigned, call on all the aware citizens of Iran to oppose the nuclear policy of the Islamic Republic in a more serious way and to criticize the shortcomings of the opposition forces in this realm. The Islamic Republic's cult of uranium is a pillar of the cult of the Guardianship of the Jurisprudent. A regime that [figuratively] bans the word "right" from its dictionary and metes out imprisonment and torture to those demanding their rights, uses the slogan "undeniable right" [to nuclear power] for the purpose of deception.

No right is greater than freedom. If the idea of using nuclear technology is deemed correct, the decision concerning its use should be made in a free environment. The media should be free to write about the defects and concerns. Independent specialists should have the ability to exert supervision over nuclear centers and report to the people concerning the dangers that they pose.

The specialists of the regime are not trustworthy. The level of awareness of the president of the Islamic Republic can be gauged by his famous comment about the production of nuclear energy in kitchens. The rest [of the regime's officials] are of the same kind. Their real area of specialization is conspiracy, interrogation, torture, and the plunder of the nation's wealth.

The regime loudly announces: "Nuclear energy is our undeniable right!" The real content of this slogan is not a defense of independence. Rather it implies the regime's sole right to take risks with the nation's future, economy, environment, and human resources.

We counter this slogan with the right to freedom. When this right exists, real independence can be experienced, peaceful coexistence with all nations can be pursued, and the interests and safety of the people as well as the exigencies of environmental protection can be considered when using any technology in a transparent and controllable manner.

We ask all to support this call for active opposition to the nuclear policy of the Islamic Republic.

Yusef Ardalan, Dariyush Ashouri, Jalal Ijadi, Farimah Ijadi, Marzieh Bakhsizadeh, Mehran Barati, Sohrab Behdad, Kamran Behnia, Turaj Parsi, Shahrnoush Parsipour, Nasser Pakdaman, Babak Takhti, Nayereh Tohidi, Mehdi Jami, Jahanshah Javid, Ghodsi Hejazi, Nassim Khaksar, Mehdi Khalaji, Hamid Dabashi, Mehrdad Darvishpour, Saeed Rahnema, Siamand Zandi, Arash Sobhani, Chahla Chafiq, Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, Shahram Ghanbari, Abdi Kalantari, Akbar Ganji, Sohrab Mobasheri, Majid Mohammadi, Mehran Mostafavi, Hassan Makaremi, Shokuh Mirzadegi, Anvar Mirsatari, Reza Nassehi, Farhad Nomani, Esmail Nooriala, Mohammad Reza Nikfar.

This translation was originally published by Tehran Bureau on March 29, 2011.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Iranians Draw Lessons from Middle Eastern Uprisings

Just when the Green Movement seemed to have been defeated by the brutal repression of the Iranian regime, the mass uprisings in the Arab World gave it new life. This resurgence of the Green Movement is evident not only in recent street protests in Tehran and other major Iranian cities on February 14, February 20, March 1 and March 8, but also in a variety of articles by activists and thinkers who are reflecting on the lessons of the Middle Eastern uprisings (References are provided at the end of this article).

In my reading of many of these articles, I have come across three main issues: 1. The need to raise economic demands alongside political demands; 2. The need to go beyond calling for reform and put revolution on the agenda; 3. Warnings about the internal dangers after a movement successfully overthrows a dictator.

I. Defining Social Justice as Economic and Political Justice

Mehrdad Darvishpour, Kaveh Ehsani, Arash Zarforush, Farhad Khosrow Khavar, Saeed Peyvandi, Mohsen Motaghi and M. Cheshmeh have all emphasized the ways in which the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt involved an alliance of unemployed educated youth with dissatisfied workers and the urban poor. Darvishpour writes:

"In the Green Movement, the question of economic difficulties and the situation of the poor received less attention. . . which meant that the poor and the working class did not have a proper presence in this movement. This in turn weakened the movement. Many of the educated youth who started the Green Movement represented a sector of the population which lacked job opportunities or a clear future. Economic difficulties had an important role in their revolt. In Egypt and Tunisia however, the issue of poverty and economic demands were so obvious as to lead many to call their movement a ‘Bread and Butter Revolution.’"

Arash Zehforush writes: “The discussion of democracy and freedom can only have an impact on social classes and strata when it is directly related to their situation and the production and distribution of wealth in society. Otherwise the discussion of democracy and freedom will turn into an abstract and ineffective discourse and will lead to disillusionment among the masses.”

Although the above commentators demand that social justice be made the motto of the Green Movement, they view themselves as different from each other in terms of economic alternatives. Some argue for one or another form of free-market capitalism and attribute poverty and unemployment solely to the existence of politically corrupt and closed systems. Some who do challenge free-market capitalism, offer state-controlled capitalism as an alternative. Some oppose both free-market and state-controlled capitalism.

II. Putting Revolution on the Agenda of the Green Movement

M. Cheshmeh, Arash Zehforush, Amin Sorkhabi and Parisa Sa’ed have singled out the ways in which the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt put the question of revolution on the agenda. Amin Sorkhabi writes: “In light of the developments and events that have begun with Tunisia as the starting point, it seems that the era of the revolutions of color has come to an end. Theoreticians need to think about theorizing a new model for revolutions or socio-political changes.”

M. Cheshmeh adds:

"The defeat of the Second of Khordad Movement [Reference to the reformist movement which began with Mohammad Khatami’s election in 1997] and the experience of the June 2009 presidential election which led to the rise of the Green Movement in Iran, have weakened the tendencies which advocate reform within the context of the existing regime and the constitution. The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt can put the last nail in the coffin of this paralyzing tendency within Iran’s political movement. . . The occurrence of a revolution however, does not guarantee its ultimate success. As we saw, the domination of religious reaction and the immaturity of the politicos and intellectuals during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, threw Iran out of the frying pan and into the fire. However, in comparison with other processes, revolution is the only strategy that can shake the foundations of society to the point of either overthrowing dictatorial and ideological regimes or weakening them to clear the path for a transition to democracy. At the same time, revolution should not be considered a one-time blow and an easily reachable and ephemeral goal. Instead, it has to be viewed as a process with a variety of stages. The victory or defeat of any revolutionary process depends not only on the objective situation but also on whether the revolution has a progressive, democratic and humanist outlook and leadership. . . "

This sober view concerning the serious mistakes made in 1979 and the need to view revolution as a thoughtful and constructive process, reveals the maturity of the new generation of Iranian youth. It is this soberness that has also compelled more experienced Iranian thinkers and activists to warn about the dangers of using the term revolution lightly.

III. Need to Distinguish between Uprising and Revolution

Mashallah Razmi writes: “Hosni Mubarak resigned. However much remains unclear about the future. The army is popular among the masses. However, will the army remain a guarantor of the reforms or will it take over power, or will it take on a role such as that of the army in Turkey?” Manuchehr Salehi also warns that “In Egypt, the half-way revolution has once again put the army fully in charge of the country.”

Saeed Rahnema disagrees with those who have rushed to call the uprising in Egypt a revolution. In an article originally written in English and also distributed widely in Persian translation, he states:

"While with their admirable courage and perseverance the Egyptian people have achieved a sort of mass-induced coup d’etat, toppling a corrupt dictator, the US-backed army and the dominant classes have so far succeeded in aborting the revolution. The mere fact that the army, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the dominant classes will remain as major players in the post-Mubarak regime, suggests that the chances for establishing a democratic system - the main aspiration of those who poured into the streets - are not very promising. The appointment by the military junta of an Islamist to oversee the rushed constitutional amendment may well be an indication of what is ahead."

The above stated concerns as well as the forcefulness with which the Middle Eastern uprisings are continuing to place the problems of mass poverty, unemployment, sexism and prejudice on the scene, have reinvigorated the Green Movement. It remains to be seen how this movement will develop in Iran and how it will continue to express its solidarity with the uprisings in the Middle East. For now however, we need to heed Rahnema’s analysis of the difficulties which prevent an immediate Egyptian style uprising in Iran:

"Many have compared the revolts in Egypt to the Iranian revolt of 2009 against Ahmadinejad’s electoral coup, and hope for similar results. However, the situation in Iran at present is very different. The Egyptian regime was headed by a single dictator and that dictator was in turn dependent on a foreign power. The clerical/military oligarchy in Iran, with its intricate network of religious, repressive and economic institutions and multiple military and intelligence systems, is highly complex and also independent from any foreign power. It is a fascist-type system that still has millions on the payroll of the state and parastatal organizations, including religious foundations. It has also shown on numerous occasions that it does not hesitate to use extreme brutality against its opposition. In the long run, its fate will not be different from those of other dictatorships and authoritarian regimes in the Middle East or elsewhere, but the Iranian people unfortunately have a much more difficult fight ahead of them."

Frieda Afary
March 24, 2011


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Rahnema, Saeed 2011. ‘Egypt: Lessons from Iran’, Open Democracy, 17 Februrary.
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Sa’ed, Parisa 2011. ‘Hazine-ye Bozorg-e Jonbesh-e Sabz’, Akhbar-e Rooz, 13 February. Available at

Salehi, Manuchehr 2011. ‘Tofirha va Hamguniha-ye Enqelab-e Iran va Nimeh Enqelab-e Sarzaminha-ye Arabi’, Akhbar-e Rooz, 8 March. Available at

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