Iran


His honourable eminence Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri passed away in the city of Qom in Iran. H.E Montazeri was one of the “grand Maraja” of Shia Islam. He was one the leaders of Iranian Revolution and was appointed as the successor to supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini. He developed serious differences with Khomeini on the situation of human rights and liberties in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Angered by his dissent Khomeini dismissed him and a junior cleric Syed Ali Khamenei  who  was only a mid-ranking clerik or Hojjatoleislam was elevated to the rank of Iran’s supreme leader after Khomeini’s death.

Though Hossein-Ali Montazeri was one of the principle architect of theocracy in Iran and he was the only senior Shia cleric who supported Khomeini’s controversial doctrine of Viliyat-e-Fiqqihe or the “rule of cleric”, he soon realized the follies of this doctrine and the evil of Islamic republic. He openly protested against political executions, lack of civil liberties and restricting  rights of women in the Islamic Republic.

He was perhaps the only cleric in Iran to criticize Khomeinie’s infamous fatwa against the great British novelist Salman Rushdie.

He was the strongest and most vocal critic of the Islamic republic within the clerical establishment of Qom. He was also a persistent and brave critic of evil regime of Ahmedinijad and Khamenei. He protested the massive election rigging and use of violence to suppress the people of Iran by the evil regime. He gave a call for public mourning for 3 days on murder of student protester , the nightingale of peace, Neda Aga Soltan.

Aga Montazeri will also be remembered for his brave stance on human rights of the Bahai community in Iran.

He will be remembered as one of the principle architect of clerical rule in Iran but also as one of its finest critics and defender of human rights.

Neda

Thaper Jis Ne Marre, Wu hath ik Kirdar tha!

Aariz Sakina ke na the,Tareekh ka rukhsar tha

“Slaps on the cheeks of Sakeena[daughter of Hossein], were the slaps on the face of history and the one who slapped her, merely a character of an everlasting historical epic.

“At 19:05 June 20th Place: Kargar Ave., at the corner crossing Khosravi St. and Salehi st. A young woman who was standing aside with her father [sic, later identified as her music teacher] watching the protests was shot by a Basij member hiding on the rooftop of a civilian house. He had clear shot at the girl and could not miss her. However, he aimed straight her heart. I am a doctor, so I rushed to try to save her. But the impact of the gunshot was so fierce that the bullet had blasted inside the victim’s chest, and she died in less than 2 minutes. The protests were going on about 1 kilometers away in the main street and some of the protesting crowd were running from tear gass used among them, towards Salehi St. The film is shot by my friend who was standing beside me.” An eye witness [Wiki]

Her last words were, “I’m burning, I’m burning!”.

The words comming out of the camps at Kerbala were “Al atash” Al atash” “Thirst Thirst—”

Neda Soltani, a “non political” student of Islamic philosophy murdered by Islamic Republic

13 fell today at Kerbala-e-Tehran after Yazid threatened the freedom fighters in the sermon. Like the Mullahs who gave fatawa against Hossein on orders of Yazid, the Mullahs of Iran have started killing the freedom fighters. Today people burned down a mosque in Tehran, the capital of Islamic Republic of Iran, the message is clear to the Mullahs any thing which becomes home of reaction against revolution will be burned to ashes. The betrayal of the reformist leadership is becoming clear by the moment but victory is inevitable later if not sooner. The sacred moment when the symbol of ignorance and blind faith was burned it lighted a new epoch of  change in Iran as Iqbal said

Sultani e Jamhoor ka aata he zamana

Jo naqash-e-kuhan tum ku nazer aye mita do

[Epoch of people’s rule is inevitable demolish every symbol of  past]

Freedom will come to Iran , Khamenei weather you like it or not.

We strongly protest on crackdown on BBC in Iran by Mullahs. These evil tactics will not stop people. For solidarity we are publishing a report by the BBC on Iran

Long Live the People of Iran

Long Live Iranian Revolution

Shaheryar Ali

Freedom craving ‘fuelling Iran unrest’

By Hugh Sykes
BBC News

Supporters of the leading reformist candidate in Iran's presidential elections, Mir Hossein Mousavi, during a election campaign rally on 23 May

The Iranian leadership is falling into the same trap that their arch-enemy the Shah of Iran fell into in the 1970s.

They are not listening to the people.

After a meeting with Shah Reza Pahlavi, the US ambassador William Sullivan complained: “The king will not listen.”

Soon afterwards, the king had to leave the country, and Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile in triumph.

Khomeini’s successor as Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, claimed at Friday prayers at Tehran university that “foreign agents” were behind efforts to stage a velvet revolution.

Change

Having spent 10 days in Iran for the 12 June election, that accusation sounds to me like a classic case of blaming the messenger.

We want the freedom to talk, and the freedom to think. We want freedom for our spirit, ok? That’s not very much to ask
Supporter of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi

There is a velvet rebellion taking place. It is not a revolution yet – but it could evolve into one if the Supreme Leader and his associates do not listen to the people.

I heard with my own ears dozens of peaceful, young Iranians saying they wanted change.

Sixty percent of the population are under 30 years old. They have no memory of the Islamic revolution in 1979. Many of them use the internet and watch satellite TV. Their window on the wider world is irreversibly open.

Many of them simply want peaceful change – and in particular an end to the strict laws that govern personal behaviour in Iran.

Double lives

They want to be able to sing and dance. They wonder why the Iranian leadership continue to ban such expressions of human joy – a ban very similar to the rules imposed on Afghanistan during the Taliban regime.

Iranian woman on the internet

Many young Iranians have a wide window on the world

And of course Iranians do sing and dance. I have been to several parties where the dancing was intense. And so was the drinking, though alcohol is also illegal.

Prohibition does not work. Many Iranians simply lead double lives.

An article in a magazine – available at Tehran news stands when I was there last year – carried the headline: “We are all hypocrites now.”

Many women only cover their heads because they would be arrested if they did not.

Several women I met openly complained about the religious “guidance” police enforcing the female dress code of the chador, or the hijab and “manto” coat.

One young student told me: “I like the hijab. My friend doesn’t like it. I should be free to choose to wear it, and she should be free to choose not to.”

Another woman said: “The hijab is not really the problem. The real problem is that men and women are human beings – they are the same, and they should have equal freedoms.”

Embarrassed

Most of the Iranians I spoke to – even supporters of the president – lamented Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s economic performance over the past four years, especially his failure to control inflation.

Others – including two former Ahmadinejad supporters – told me they could not vote for a man who used a live TV debate to level “undignified” accusations of corruption against former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and his family.

Supporters of Iran's incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Ahmadinejad does not command such support among all Iranians

And others – a significant number – told me they were embarrassed by Mr Ahmadinejad’s goading of the West – especially his hysterical tirades against Israel.

One man referred to a phrase that is often associated with Mr Ahmadinejad, though its exact translation has been disputed.

“Talk about ‘wiping Israel off the map’ is simply not rational. It is not rational,” he repeated several times.

There is widespread opposition to Zionism in Iran – but at the same time most Iranians vehemently deny that they are anti-Semitic.

Two men separately volunteered that they “like and respect” Jewish people. One pointed out that more than 30,000 Jews happily live in Iran, many of them resisting pressure from the Jewish Agency to move to Israel.

The antique dealers who cluster along a small street off Ferdowsi Avenue in central Teheran are nearly all Iranian Jews.

And surrounded by a crowd in a bazaar, another Ahmadinejad opponent said for all to hear: “I believe our uranium enrichment is not only for peaceful purposes. It is bringing us nothing but trouble. And we should stop it.”

What so many Iranians want now is very simple. It’s freedom.

A man in a crowd supporting the main reformist candidate in the election, Mir Hossein Mousavi, said: “We want the freedom to talk, and the freedom to think. We want freedom for our spirit, ok? That’s not very much to ask.”

Violence

Since the election demonstrations began a week ago, the official line has been that “provocateurs” were stirring the violence.

The only people I saw “stirring” violence were the riot police and the volunteer basiji militia.

The day after the election, I watched a small crowd of unarmed, and very courteous Mousavi supporters being charged by baton-wielding riot police.

A few minutes later, I was in a larger crowd of Mousavi supporters who were demonstrating entirely peacefully when they were attacked by Basiji militia driving motorcycles and wildly swinging wooden batons at anyone in their path.

I saw who was stirring the violence on the streets of Tehran. It was not the unarmed demonstrators.

Another accusation from the Iranian leadership is that British “meddling” is behind some of the vote-rigging protests.

You can’t prove a negative, but my sense is that the British are doing all they can to avoid meddling.

When the UK (and America) interfered before, conspiring to overthrow the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq in 1953, the law of unintended consequences came fully into play.

The blowback from that case of meddling is still being felt more than half a century later.

The 1953 coup led to more than two decades of repression under the Shah, and sowed the seeds of the Islamic revolution that sent Mohammed Reza Pahlavi into ignominious exile 26 years later.

I doubt the British want to risk anything like that happening again.

There are no Homosexuals in Iran . Mehmoud Ahmadenijad

I found this very good article here.The author has reviewed the book on history of homosexuality in Iran by the famous Iranian academic Janet Afray , who is a Professor of History and Women Studies at Purdue University and also is the president of International Society of Iranian Scholars.  The book is called “Sexual Politics in Modern Iran”, the deals with the constructions of gender and sexuality over a wider historical period. Her extensive reading of the ancient texts have demonstrated the rather “normal” nature of homosexual relationships in Pre-modern Iran.  She demonstrates that the violent homophobia in Iran is the result of  Western modern influence. I differ with the assertion on Marxist oriented “homophobia” . The fact of the matter is that with The Glorious Russian Revolution of 1917 homosexuality became de-criminalized in one of the first acts by the revolutionary government. The claim of  “well documented condemnation of homosexuality by Marx” unfortunately is not very sound one. Passages from Engels have frequently been quoted by the anti-communists to spread of “myth homophobia inherent in communism”. These passages are usually taken out of context and looked outside the “scientific base” of that time to condemn Engels. The Homosexual Liberation Movement always had a strong Marxist element. The Marxist social democratic parties of Germany and Europe were the first to show sensitivity to homosexual cause and the later Gay Liberation Movement always had a strong Marxist element. The Stalinist regime reversed a lot of  Leninist reforms especially those regarding sexual freedoms and women rights and restored the “family”. These crimes should not be attributed to Marx and the Marxists. Anyway the article is very good and i hope you like it

Shaheryar Ali

IRAN’S HIDDEN HOMOSEXUAL HISTORY

Doug Ireland

When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made his infamous claim at a September 2007 Columbia University appearance that “”In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country,” the world laughed at the absurdity of this pretense.

Now, a forthcoming book by a leading Iranian scholar in exile, which details both the long history of homosexuality in that nation and the origins of the campaign to erase its traces, not only provides a superlative reply to Ahmadinejad, but demonstrates forcefully that political homophobia was a Western import to a culture in which same-sex relations were widely tolerated and frequently celebrated for well over a thousand years.

“Sexual Politics in Modern Iran,” to be published at the end of next month by Cambridge University Press, is a stunningly researched history and analysis of the evolution of gender and sexuality that will provide a transcendent tool both to the vibrant Iranian women’s movement today fighting the repression of the ayatollahs and to Iranian same-sexers hoping for liberation from a theocracy that condemns them to torture and death.

Its author, Janet Afary, president of the International Society of Iranian Scholars, is a professor of history and women’s studies at Purdue University who has already published several authoritative works on Iranian sexual politics, notably the revealing and award-winning “Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islam” (2005), in which she already demonstrated a remarkable sympathy for gay and lesbian people.

In her new book, Afary’s extensive section on pre-modern Iran, documented by a close reading of ancient texts, portrays the dominant form of same-sex relations as a highly-codified “status-defined homosexuality,” in which an older man – presumably the active partner in sex – acquired a younger partner, or amrad.

Shah Abbas and Wine Boy. Louvre

Shah Abbas and Wine Boy. Louvre

Afary demonstrates how, in this period, “male homoerotic relations in Iran were bound by rules of courtship such as the bestowal of presents, the teaching of literary texts, bodybuilding and military training, mentorship, and the development of social contacts that would help the junior partner’s career. Sometimes men exchanged vows, known as brotherhood sigehs [a form of contractual temporary marriage, lasting from a few hours to 99 years, common among heterosexuals] with homosocial or homosexual overtones.

“These relationships were not only about sex, but also about cultivating affection between the partners, placing certain responsibilities on the man with regard to the future of the boy. Sisterhood sigehs involving lesbian practices were also common in Iran. A long courtship was important in these relations. The couple traded gifts, traveled together to shrines, and occasionally spent the night together. Sigeh sisters might exchange vows on the last few days of the year, a time when the world ‘turned upside down,’ and women were granted certain powers over men.”

Examples of the codes governing same-sex relations were to be found in the “Mirror for Princes genre of literature (andarz nameh) [which] refers to both homosexual and heterosexual relations. Often written by fathers for sons, or viziers for sultans, these books contained separate chapter headings on the treatment of male companions and of wives.”

One such was the Qabus Nameh (1082-1083), in which a father advises a son: “As between women and youths, do not confine your inclinations to either sex; thus you may find enjoyment from both kinds without either of the two becoming inimical to you… During the summer let your desires incline toward youths, and during the winter towards women.”

Afary dissects how “classical Persian literature (twelfth to fifteenth centuries)…overflowed with same-sex themes (such as passionate homoerotic allusions, symbolism, and even explicit references to beautiful young boys.)” This was true not only of the Sufi masters of this classical period but of “the poems of the great twentieth-century poet Iraj Mirza (1874-1926)… Classical poets also celebrated homosexual relationships between kings and their pages.”

Afary also writes that “homosexuality and homoerotic expressions were embraced in numerous other public spaces beyond the royal court, from monasteries and seminaries to taverns, military camps, gymnasiums, bathhouses, and coffeehouses… Until the mid-seventeenth century, male houses of prostitution (amrad khaneh) were recognized, tax-paying establishments.”

While Afary explores the important role of class in same-sex relations, she also illuminates how “Persian Sufi poetry, which is consciously erotic as well as mystical, also celebrated courtship rituals between [men] of more or less equal status… The bond between lover and beloved was… based on a form of chivalry (javan mardi). Love led one to higher ethical ideals, but love also constituted a contract, wherein the lover and the beloved had specific obligations and responsibilities to one another, and the love that bound them both… Sufi men were encouraged to use homoerotic relations as a pathway to spiritual love.”

Unmistakably lesbian sigeh courtship rituals, which continued from the classical period into the twentieth century, were also codified: “Tradition dictated that one [woman] who sought another as ‘sister’ approached a love broker to negotiate the matter. The broker took a tray of sweets to the prospective beloved. In the middle of the tray was a carefully placed dildo or doll made of wax or leather. If the beloved agreed to the proposal, she threw a sequined white scarf (akin to a wedding veil) over the tray… If she was not interested, she threw a black scarf on the tray before sending it back.”

As late as the last half of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th, “Iranian society remained accepting of many male and female homoerotic practices… Consensual and semi-open pederastic relations between adult men and amrads were common within various sectors of society.” What Afary terms a “romantic bisexuality” born in the classical period remained prevalent at court and among elite men and women, and “a form of serial love (‘eshq-e mosalsal) was commonly practiced [in which] their love could shift back and forth from girl to boy and back to girl.”

In the court of Naser al-Din Shah, who ruled Persia from 1848 to 1896, keeping boy concubines was still an acceptable practice, and the shah himself (in addition to his wives and harem) had a young male lover, Malijak, whom he “loved more than anyone else.” In his memoirs, Malijak recalled proudly, “the king’s love for me reached the point where it is impossible for me to write about it… [He] held me in his arms and kissed me as if he were kissing one of his great beloveds.”

In a lengthy section of her book entitled “Toward a Westernized Modernity,” Afary demonstrates how the trend toward modernization which emerged during the Constitutional Revolution of 1906 and which gave the Persian monarchy its first parliament was heavily influenced by concepts harvested from the West.

One of her most stunning revelations is how an Azeri-language newspaper edited and published in the Russian Caucuses, Molla Nasreddin (or MN, which appeared from 1906 to 1931) influenced this Iranian Revolution with a “significant new discourse on gender and sexuality,” sharing Marx’s well-documented contempt for homosexuals. With an editorial board that embraced Russian social democratic concepts, including women’s rights, MN was also “the first paper in the Shi’i Muslim world to endorse normative heterosexuality,” echoing Marx’s well-documented contempt for homosexuality. Afary writes that “this illustrated satirical paper, which circulated among Iranian intellectuals and ordinary people alike, was enormously popular in the region because of its graphic cartoons.”

MN conflated homosexuality and pedophilia, and attacked clerical teachers and leaders for “molesting young boys,” played upon feelings of “contempt” for passive homosexuals, suggested that elite men who kept amrad concubines “had a vested interested in maintaining the (male) homosocial public spaces where semi-covert pederasty was tolerated,” and “mocked the rites of exchanging brotherhood vows before a mollah and compared it to a wedding ceremony.” It was in this way that a discourse of political homophobia developed in Europe, which insisted that only heterosexuality could be the norm, was introduced into Iran.

MN‘s attacks on homosexuality “would shape Iranian debates on sexuality for the next century,” and it “became a model for several Iranian newspapers of the era,” which echoed its attacks on the conservative clergy and leadership for homosexual practices. In the years that followed, “Iranian revolutionaries commonly berated major political figures for their sexual transgressions,” and “revolutionary leaflets accused adult men of having homosexual sex with other adult men, ‘of thirty-year-olds propositioning fifty-year-olds and twenty-year-olds propositioning forty-year-olds, right in front of the Shah.’ Some leaflets repeated the old allegation that major political figures had been amrads in their youth.”

Subsequently, “leading constitutionalists enthusiastically joined the campaign against homosexuality,” writes Afary, noting that “the influential journal Kaveh (1916-1921), published in exile in Berlin and edited by the famous constitutionalist Hasan Taqizadeh, had led the movement of opinion against homosexuality… Their notion of modernization now included the normalization of heterosexual eros and the abandonment of all homosexual practices and even inclinations.”

When Reza Kahn overthrew the monarchy’s Qajar dynasty and made himself shah in 1925, he ushered in a new wave of reforms and modernization that included attempts to outlaw homosexuality entirely and a ferocious – ultimately successful – assault on classical Persian poetry. Iraj Mirza, previously known for his homoerotic poems, “joined other leading political figures of this period in encouraging compulsory heterosexuality.” These politicians and intellectuals insisted that “true patriotism required switching one’s sexual orientation from boys to women… Other intellectuals and educators pressed for the elimination of poems with homosexual themes from school textbooks.”

Leading this crusade was a famous historian and prolific journalist, Ahmad Kasravi, “who helped shape many cultural and educational policies during the 1930s and 1940s.” Kasravi founded a nationalist movement, Pak Dini (Purity of Religion), which developed a broad following. An admirer of MN, Kasravi preached that “homosexuality was a measure of cultural backwardness,” that Sufi poets of homoeroticism led “parasitic” lives, and that their queer poetry “was dangerous and had

Youth and Suitors

Youth and Suitors

to be eliminated.”

Kasravi’s Pak Dini movement “went so far as to institute a festival of book burning, held on winter solstice. Books deemed harmful and amoral were thrown into a bonfire in an event that seemed to echo the Nazi and Soviet-style notions of eliminating ‘degenerate’ art.” Eventually, Prime Minister Mahmoud Jam, who held office from 1935 to 1939, acceded to Kasravi’s demand that homoerotic poems be banned entirely from daily newspapers.

Kasravi “based his opposition to the homoeroticism of classical poetry on several assumptions. He expected the young generation to study Western sciences in order to rebuild the nation, and he regarded Sufi poetry as a dangerous diversion. As preposterous as it might sound, Kasravi also argued that the revival of Persian poetry was a grand conspiracy concocted by British and German Orientalists to divert the nation’s youth from the revolutionary legacy of the Constitutional Revolution and to encourage… immoral pursuits.”

Afary adds sorrowfully that “most supporters of women’s rights sympathized with Kasravi’s project because he encouraged the cultivation of monogamous, heterosexual love in marriage… In this period, neither Kasravi nor feminists distinguished between rape or molestation of boys and consensual same-sex relations between adults.”

The expansion of radio, television, and print media in the 1940s – including a widely read daily, Parcham, published from 1941 by Kasravi’s Pak Dini movement – resulted in a nationwide discussion about the evils of pederasty and, ultimately, in significant official censorship of literature. References to same-sex love and the love of boys were eliminated in textbooks and even in new editions of classical poetry. “Classical poems were now illustrated by miniature paintings celebrating heterosexual, rather than homosexual, love and students were led to believe that the love object was always a woman, even when the text directly contradicted that assumption,” Arafy writes.

In the context of a triumphant censorship that erased from the popular collective memory the enormous literary and cultural heritage of what Afary terms “the ethics of male love” in the classical Persian period, it is hardly surprising as Afary earlier noted in “Foucault and the Iranian Revolution” that the virulence of the current Iranian regime’s anti-homosexual repression stems in part from the role homosexuality played in the 1979 revolution that brought the Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers to power.

In that earlier work, she and her co-author, Kevin B. Anderson, wrote: “There is… a long tradition in nationalist movements of consolidating power through narratives that affirm patriarchy and compulsory heterosexuality, attributing sexual abnormality and immorality to a corrupt ruling elite that is about to be overthrown and/or is complicit with foreign imperialism. Not all the accusations leveled against the [the deposed shah of Iran, and his] Pahlevi family and their wealthy supporters stemmed from political and economic grievances. A significant portion of the public anger was aimed at their ‘immoral’ lifestyle. There were rumors that a gay lifestyle was rampant at the court. The shah’s prime minister, Amir Abbas Hoveyda, was said to have been a homosexual. The satirical press routinely lampooned him for his meticulous attire, the purple orchid in his lapel, and his supposed marriage of convenience. The shah himself was rumored to be bisexual. There were reports that a close male friend of the shah from Switzerland, a man who knew him from their student days in that country, routinely visited him.

“But the greatest public outrage was aimed at two young, elite men with ties to the court who held a mock wedding ceremony. Especially to the highly religious, this was public confirmation that the Pahlevi house was corrupted with the worst kinds of sexual transgressions, that the shah was no longer master of his own house. These rumors contributed to public anger, to a sense of shame and outrage, and ultimately were used by the Islamists in their calls for a revolution.”

Soon after coming to power in 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini established the death penalty for homosexuality.

In “Sexual Politics in Modern Iran,” Afary sums up the situation for homosexuals under the Ahmadinejad regime in this way: “While the shari’a [Islamic law] requires either the actual confession of the accused or four witnesses who observed them in flagrante delicto, today’s authorities look only for medical evidence of penetration in homosexual relationships. Upon finding such evidence, they pronounce the death sentence. Because execution of men on charges of homosexuality has prompted international outrage, the state has tended to compound these charges with others, such as rape and pedophilia. Continual use of these tactics has undermined the status of Iran’s gay community and attenuated public sympathy for them. Meanwhile, many Iranians believe that pedophilia is rampant in the religious cities of Qum and Mashad, including in the seminaries, where temporary marriage and prostitution are also pervasive practices.” (Full disclosure: in her section on gays in today’s Iran, Afary cites my reporting several times and thanks me in the book’s acknowledgements for sharing materials and insights with her.)

In this necessarily truncated summary of some of Afary’s most significant and nuanced findings and revelations with respect to homosexuality, it is impossible to do justice to the full sweep and scope of “Sexual Politics in Iran,” the larger part of which is devoted to the role of Iranian women, and to their struggles for freedom which began in the 19th century. But as Afary herself writes, “[F]or a very long time even talking about the pervasive homoeroticism of the region’s premodern culture had been labeled ‘Orientalism’… [but] increasingly I found that one could not simply talk about gender and women’s rights, particularly rights within marriage, without addressing the subject of same-sex relations.”

This she has done with uncommon sensitivity, intellectual rigor, engagement, subtlety, and skill.

And for that, both Iranian lesbians and gays and feminists in that nation owe Afary an enormous debt of gratitude, as do all of us concerned with sexual liberation for everyone worldwide

When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made his infamous claim at a September 2007 Columbia University appearance that “”In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country,” the world laughed at the absurdity of this pretense.

Now, a forthcoming book by a leading Iranian scholar in exile, which details both the long history of homosexuality in that nation and the origins of the campaign to erase its traces, not only provides a superlative reply to Ahmadinejad, but demonstrates forcefully that political homophobia was a Western import to a culture in which same-sex relations were widely tolerated and frequently celebrated for well over a thousand years.

“Sexual Politics in Modern Iran,” to be published at the end of next month by Cambridge University Press, is a stunningly researched history and analysis of the evolution of gender and sexuality that will provide a transcendent tool both to the vibrant Iranian women’s movement today fighting the repression of the ayatollahs and to Iranian same-sexers hoping for liberation from a theocracy that condemns them to torture and death.

Its author, Janet Afary, president of the International Society of Iranian Scholars, is a professor of history and women’s studies at Purdue University who has already published several authoritative works on Iranian sexual politics, notably the revealing and award-winning “Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islam” (2005), in which she already demonstrated a remarkable sympathy for gay and lesbian people.

In her new book, Afary’s extensive section on pre-modern Iran, documented by a close reading of ancient texts, portrays the dominant form of same-sex relations as a highly-codified “status-defined homosexuality,” in which an older man – presumably the active partner in sex – acquired a younger partner, or amrad.

Afary demonstrates how, in this period, “male homoerotic relations in Iran were bound by rules of courtship such as the bestowal of presents, the teaching of literary texts, bodybuilding and military training, mentorship, and the development of social contacts that would help the junior partner’s career. Sometimes men exchanged vows, known as brotherhood sigehs [a form of contractual temporary marriage, lasting from a few hours to 99 years, common among heterosexuals] with homosocial or homosexual overtones.

“These relationships were not only about sex, but also about cultivating affection between the partners, placing certain responsibilities on the man with regard to the future of the boy. Sisterhood sigehs involving lesbian practices were also common in Iran. A long courtship was important in these relations. The couple traded gifts, traveled together to shrines, and occasionally spent the night together. Sigeh sisters might exchange vows on the last few days of the year, a time when the world ‘turned upside down,’ and women were granted certain powers over men.”

Examples of the codes governing same-sex relations were to be found in the “Mirror for Princes genre of literature (andarz nameh) [which] refers to both homosexual and heterosexual relations. Often written by fathers for sons, or viziers for sultans, these books contained separate chapter headings on the treatment of male companions and of wives.”

One such was the Qabus Nameh (1082-1083), in which a father advises a son: “As between women and youths, do not confine your inclinations to either sex; thus you may find enjoyment from both kinds without either of the two becoming inimical to you… During the summer let your desires incline toward youths, and during the winter towards women.”

Afary dissects how “classical Persian literature (twelfth to fifteenth centuries)…overflowed with same-sex themes (such as passionate homoerotic allusions, symbolism, and even explicit references to beautiful young boys.)” This was true not only of the Sufi masters of this classical period but of “the poems of the great twentieth-century poet Iraj Mirza (1874-1926)… Classical poets also celebrated homosexual relationships between kings and their pages.”

Afary also writes that “homosexuality and homoerotic expressions were embraced in numerous other public spaces beyond the royal court, from monasteries and seminaries to taverns, military camps, gymnasiums, bathhouses, and coffeehouses… Until the mid-seventeenth century, male houses of prostitution (amrad khaneh) were recognized, tax-paying establishments.”

While Afary explores the important role of class in same-sex relations, she also illuminates how “Persian Sufi poetry, which is consciously erotic as well as mystical, also celebrated courtship rituals between [men] of more or less equal status… The bond between lover and beloved was… based on a form of chivalry (javan mardi). Love led one to higher ethical ideals, but love also constituted a contract, wherein the lover and the beloved had specific obligations and responsibilities to one another, and the love that bound them both… Sufi men were encouraged to use homoerotic relations as a pathway to spiritual love.”

Unmistakably lesbian sigeh courtship rituals, which continued from the classical period into the twentieth century, were also codified: “Tradition dictated that one [woman] who sought another as ‘sister’ approached a love broker to negotiate the matter. The broker took a tray of sweets to the prospective beloved. In the middle of the tray was a carefully placed dildo or doll made of wax or leather. If the beloved agreed to the proposal, she threw a sequined white scarf (akin to a wedding veil) over the tray… If she was not interested, she threw a black scarf on the tray before sending it back.”

As late as the last half of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th, “Iranian society remained accepting of many male and female homoerotic practices… Consensual and semi-open pederastic relations between adult men and amrads were common within various sectors of society.” What Afary terms a “romantic bisexuality” born in the classical period remained prevalent at court and among elite men and women, and “a form of serial love (‘eshq-e mosalsal) was commonly practiced [in which] their love could shift back and forth from girl to boy and back to girl.”

In the court of Naser al-Din Shah, who ruled Persia from 1848 to 1896, keeping boy concubines was still an acceptable practice, and the shah himself (in addition to his wives and harem) had a young male lover, Malijak, whom he “loved more than anyone else.” In his memoirs, Malijak recalled proudly, “the king’s love for me reached the point where it is impossible for me to write about it… [He] held me in his arms and kissed me as if he were kissing one of his great beloveds.”

In a lengthy section of her book entitled “Toward a Westernized Modernity,” Afary demonstrates how the trend toward modernization which emerged during the Constitutional Revolution of 1906 and which gave the Persian monarchy its first parliament was heavily influenced by concepts harvested from the West.

One of her most stunning revelations is how an Azeri-language newspaper edited and published in the Russian Caucuses, Molla Nasreddin (or MN, which appeared from 1906 to 1931) influenced this Iranian Revolution with a “significant new discourse on gender and sexuality,” sharing Marx’s well-documented contempt for homosexuals. With an editorial board that embraced Russian social democratic concepts, including women’s rights, MN was also “the first paper in the Shi’i Muslim world to endorse normative heterosexuality,” echoing Marx’s well-documented contempt for homosexuality. Afary writes that “this illustrated satirical paper, which circulated among Iranian intellectuals and ordinary people alike, was enormously popular in the region because of its graphic cartoons.”

MN conflated homosexuality and pedophilia, and attacked clerical teachers and leaders for “molesting young boys,” played upon feelings of “contempt” for passive homosexuals, suggested that elite men who kept amrad concubines “had a vested interested in maintaining the (male) homosocial public spaces where semi-covert pederasty was tolerated,” and “mocked the rites of exchanging brotherhood vows before a mollah and compared it to a wedding ceremony.” It was in this way that a discourse of political homophobia developed in Europe, which insisted that only heterosexuality could be the norm, was introduced into Iran.

MN‘s attacks on homosexuality “would shape Iranian debates on sexuality for the next century,” and it “became a model for several Iranian newspapers of the era,” which echoed its attacks on the conservative clergy and leadership for homosexual practices. In the years that followed, “Iranian revolutionaries commonly berated major political figures for their sexual transgressions,” and “revolutionary leaflets accused adult men of having homosexual sex with other adult men, ‘of thirty-year-olds propositioning fifty-year-olds and twenty-year-olds propositioning forty-year-olds, right in front of the Shah.’ Some leaflets repeated the old allegation that major political figures had been amrads in their youth.”

Subsequently, “leading constitutionalists enthusiastically joined the campaign against homosexuality,” writes Afary, noting that “the influential journal Kaveh (1916-1921), published in exile in Berlin and edited by the famous constitutionalist Hasan Taqizadeh, had led the movement of opinion against homosexuality… Their notion of modernization now included the normalization of heterosexual eros and the abandonment of all homosexual practices and even inclinations.”

When Reza Kahn overthrew the monarchy’s Qajar dynasty and made himself shah in 1925, he ushered in a new wave of reforms and modernization that included attempts to outlaw homosexuality entirely and a ferocious – ultimately successful – assault on classical Persian poetry. Iraj Mirza, previously known for his homoerotic poems, “joined other leading political figures of this period in encouraging compulsory heterosexuality.” These politicians and intellectuals insisted that “true patriotism required switching one’s sexual orientation from boys to women… Other intellectuals and educators pressed for the elimination of poems with homosexual themes from school textbooks.”

Leading this crusade was a famous historian and prolific journalist, Ahmad Kasravi, “who helped shape many cultural and educational policies during the 1930s and 1940s.” Kasravi founded a nationalist movement, Pak Dini (Purity of Religion), which developed a broad following. An admirer of MN, Kasravi preached that “homosexuality was a measure of cultural backwardness,” that Sufi poets of homoeroticism led “parasitic” lives, and that their queer poetry “was dangerous and had to be eliminated.”

Kasravi’s Pak Dini movement “went so far as to institute a festival of book burning, held on winter solstice. Books deemed harmful and amoral were thrown into a bonfire in an event that seemed to echo the Nazi and Soviet-style notions of eliminating ‘degenerate’ art.” Eventually, Prime Minister Mahmoud Jam, who held office from 1935 to 1939, acceded to Kasravi’s demand that homoerotic poems be banned entirely from daily newspapers.

Kasravi “based his opposition to the homoeroticism of classical poetry on several assumptions. He expected the young generation to study Western sciences in order to rebuild the nation, and he regarded Sufi poetry as a dangerous diversion. As preposterous as it might sound, Kasravi also argued that the revival of Persian poetry was a grand conspiracy concocted by British and German Orientalists to divert the nation’s youth from the revolutionary legacy of the Constitutional Revolution and to encourage… immoral pursuits.”

Afary adds sorrowfully that “most supporters of women’s rights sympathized with Kasravi’s project because he encouraged the cultivation of monogamous, heterosexual love in marriage… In this period, neither Kasravi nor feminists distinguished between rape or molestation of boys and consensual same-sex relations between adults.”

The expansion of radio, television, and print media in the 1940s – including a widely read daily, Parcham, published from 1941 by Kasravi’s Pak Dini movement – resulted in a nationwide discussion about the evils of pederasty and, ultimately, in significant official censorship of literature. References to same-sex love and the love of boys were eliminated in textbooks and even in new editions of classical poetry. “Classical poems were now illustrated by miniature paintings celebrating heterosexual, rather than homosexual, love and students were led to believe that the love object was always a woman, even when the text directly contradicted that assumption,” Arafy writes.

In the context of a triumphant censorship that erased from the popular collective memory the enormous literary and cultural heritage of what Afary terms “the ethics of male love” in the classical Persian period, it is hardly surprising as Afary earlier noted in “Foucault and the Iranian Revolution” that the virulence of the current Iranian regime’s anti-homosexual repression stems in part from the role homosexuality played in the 1979 revolution that brought the Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers to power.

In that earlier work, she and her co-author, Kevin B. Anderson, wrote: “There is… a long tradition in nationalist movements of consolidating power through narratives that affirm patriarchy and compulsory heterosexuality, attributing sexual abnormality and immorality to a corrupt ruling elite that is about to be overthrown and/or is complicit with foreign imperialism. Not all the accusations leveled against the [the deposed shah of Iran, and his] Pahlevi family and their wealthy supporters stemmed from political and economic grievances. A significant portion of the public anger was aimed at their ‘immoral’ lifestyle. There were rumors that a gay lifestyle was rampant at the court. The shah’s prime minister, Amir Abbas Hoveyda, was said to have been a homosexual. The satirical press routinely lampooned him for his meticulous attire, the purple orchid in his lapel, and his supposed marriage of convenience. The shah himself was rumored to be bisexual. There were reports that a close male friend of the shah from Switzerland, a man who knew him from their student days in that country, routinely visited him.

“But the greatest public outrage was aimed at two young, elite men with ties to the court who held a mock wedding ceremony. Especially to the highly religious, this was public confirmation that the Pahlevi house was corrupted with the worst kinds of sexual transgressions, that the shah was no longer master of his own house. These rumors contributed to public anger, to a sense of shame and outrage, and ultimately were used by the Islamists in their calls for a revolution.”

Soon after coming to power in 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini established the death penalty for homosexuality.

In “Sexual Politics in Modern Iran,” Afary sums up the situation for homosexuals under the Ahmadinejad regime in this way: “While the shari’a [Islamic law] requires either the actual confession of the accused or four witnesses who observed them in flagrante delicto, today’s authorities look only for medical evidence of penetration in homosexual relationships. Upon finding such evidence, they pronounce the death sentence. Because execution of men on charges of homosexuality has prompted international outrage, the state has tended to compound these charges with others, such as rape and pedophilia. Continual use of these tactics has undermined the status of Iran’s gay community and attenuated public sympathy for them. Meanwhile, many Iranians believe that pedophilia is rampant in the religious cities of Qum and Mashad, including in the seminaries, where temporary marriage and prostitution are also pervasive practices.” (Full disclosure: in her section on gays in today’s Iran, Afary cites my reporting several times and thanks me in the book’s acknowledgements for sharing materials and insights with her.)

In this necessarily truncated summary of some of Afary’s most significant and nuanced findings and revelations with respect to homosexuality, it is impossible to do justice to the full sweep and scope of “Sexual Politics in Iran,” the larger part of which is devoted to the role of Iranian women, and to their struggles for freedom which began in the 19th century. But as Afary herself writes, “[F]or a very long time even talking about the pervasive homoeroticism of the region’s premodern culture had been labeled ‘Orientalism’… [but] increasingly I found that one could not simply talk about gender and women’s rights, particularly rights within marriage, without addressing the subject of same-sex relations.”

This she has done with uncommon sensitivity, intellectual rigor, engagement, subtlety, and skill.

And for that, both Iranian lesbians and gays and feminists in that nation owe Afary an enormous debt of gratitude, as do all of us concerned with sexual liberation for everyone worldwide

Alan Woods [With thanks IMT Website]

All the objective conditions for revolution as outlined by Lenin have matured in Iran. The events of the past few days mark the beginning of the Iranian revolution, which will unfold over a whole period. This is due to the lack of a mass revolutionary party capable of leading the masses today. But the conditions to build such a force have also matured. Workers and youth in Iran will be looking for the genuine ideas of revolutionary socialism, of Marxism.

Yesterday I wrote that the Iranian Revolution has begun. In what sense is this true? Lenin explained the conditions for a revolutionary situation: first the ruling class must be split and unable to rule with the same methods as before. This condition is clearly present in Iran. Second, the middle class should be vacillating between revolution and counterrevolution. That is now the case in Iran, where decisive sections of the middle class have come over to the side of the Revolution and are demonstrating in the streets. Thirdly, the workers must be prepared to fight. There has been a growing wave of strikes in Iran even before the elections.

Demonstrators on the Azadi Square, June 15. Photo by Hamed Saber.Only the last condition is absent: the presence of a revolutionary party and a revolutionary leadership, like the Bolshevik Party in 1917. The presence of such a party would give the mass movement the leadership and organization it requires to be successful. It would signify a swift and relatively painless victory. In the absence of such a party, the revolution will unfold over a more prolonged period of months, probably years, with ebbs and flows.

A revolution is not a single act drama. In 1917 the revolution developed over a period of nine months. In this period there were moments of tremendous upsurge, as in February, but there were also periods of tiredness, defeats and even reaction, as in the period that followed the July days. From July to the end of August there was a period of reaction in which the Bolsheviks were driven underground, their printing press destroyed, Trotsky was in jail and Lenin was forced to flee to Finland.

The Spanish Revolution, which is probably a better guide to what will happen in Iran, began with the overthrow of the Monarchy (which was brought about by local elections) in April 1931. This opened up a period of revolution, which lasted seven years, with ups and downs, until the defeat of the workers of Barcelona in the May Days of 1937. In this seven year period we had the so-called Two Black Years (“El Bienio Negro”), which followed the defeat of the Asturian Commune of 1934 and lasted until the Popular Front elections of 1936.

In the absence of a mass revolutionary party, the Iranian Revolution, like the Spanish Revolution, can be extended over a number of years and will be characterised by a turbulent and convulsive character, the rise and fall of different governments, leaders and parties, before finally the question of power is posed. But the events that are unfolding before our eyes clearly mark a fundamental change in the whole situation. The genie has been let out of a bottle where it has been confined for three decades. And it will be impossible to force it back into its prison.

Many observers have expressed surprise at a movement that appeared to fall from a clear blue sky. But in reality, this explosion has been in preparation for a long time. The anger of the population reflects all the accumulated frustrations and anger of the last three decades. It also reflects the deteriorating economic situation and falling living standards. The economy was the central issue of the election campaign and remains at the heart of most Iranians’ concerns, after four years in which there has been sharp rises in inflation and unemployment.

Although under Ahmadinejad the poorer sections of society have benefited from cash handouts paid for by Iran’s oil revenues, many others have complained that the increased liquidity has doubled or tripled prices. The parliament has so far blocked the slashing of subsidies on the grounds that it could further fuel inflation, which already stands at around 24 per cent. But the economic crisis means cuts and austerity and Shamsoddin Hosseini, the economy minister, yesterday said privatising state-owned companies would be the “framework” of Iran’s next economic policy.

This partly explains the militant character of an angry and determined opposition movement, which has found an unlikely symbol in the 68-year-old Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who was previously part of the Iranian Establishment – and still is. When the people begin to lose their fear and are prepared to defy the guns of the police in a country like Iran, it is the beginning of the end. This marvellous mass movement is all the more incredible for being unorganized and leaderless.

Heroism of the masses

The decisive factor has been the sudden eruption of the masses onto the stage of history. The tremendous heroism of the masses is seen in the gargantuan demonstration of yesterday, held in defiance of warnings from the regime that they would be met with bullets. At least one million protesters ignored threats, guns and bloodshed to demand freedom in Iran. Eight people died yesterday and an unknown number wounded. And still the movement continues unabated.

Demonstrators in Tehran, June 15. Photo by Hamed Saber.Robert Fisk, one of the finest of British journalists, witnessed what he calls Iran’s day of destiny, and sent a vivid report of what happened:

“A million of its people marched from Engelob Square to Azadi Square – from the Square of Revolution to the Square of Freedom – beneath the eyes of Tehran’s brutal riot police. The crowds were singing and shouting and laughing and abusing their ‘President’ as ‘dust’.” One student joked: “Ahmadinejad called us Dust, and we showed him a sandstorm!”

Fisk continues:

“Not since the 1979 Iranian Revolution have massed protesters gathered in such numbers, or with such overwhelming popularity, through the boulevards of this torrid, despairing city. They jostled and pushed and crowded through narrow lanes to reach the main highway and then found riot police in steel helmets and batons lined on each side. The people ignored them all. And the cops, horribly outnumbered by these tens of thousands, smiled sheepishly and – to our astonishment – nodded their heads towards the men and women demanding freedom. Who would have believed the government had banned this march?”

Here we see the real face of Revolution. The masses are confronted with the feared riot police and merely ignored them. The police, confronted with a massive movement, vacillates, and gives way, “smiling sheepishly” and nodding their heads in approval. This incident is an almost exact repetition of what Trotsky describes in his History of the Russian Revolution:

“The workers at the Erikson, one of the foremost mills in the Vyborg district, after a morning meeting came out on the Sampsonievsky Prospect, a whole mass, 2,500 of them, and in a narrow place ran into the Cossacks. Cutting their way with the breasts of their horses, the officers first charged through the crowd. Behind them, filling the whole width of the Prospect galloped the Cossacks. Decisive moment! But the horsemen, cautiously, in a long ribbon, rode through the corridor just made by the officers. ‘Some of them smiled,” Kayurov recalls, “and one of them gave the workers a good wink’ This wink was not without meaning. The workers were emboldened with a friendly, not hostile, kind of assurance, and slightly infected the Cossacks with it. The one who winked found imitators. In spite of renewed efforts from the officers, the Cossacks, without openly breaking discipline, failed to force the crowd to disperse, but flowed through it in streams. This was repeated three or four times and brought the two sides even closer together. Individual Cossacks began to reply to the workers’ questions and even to enter into momentary conversations with them. Of discipline there remained but a thin transparent shell that threatened to break through any second. The officers hastened to separate their patrol from the workers, and, abandoning the idea of dispersing them, lined the Cossacks out across the street as a barrier to prevent the demonstrators from getting to the centre. But even this did not help: standing stock-still in perfect discipline, the Cossacks did not hinder the workers from ‘diving’ under their horses. The revolution does not choose its paths: it made its first steps toward victory under the belly of a Cossack’s horse. A remarkable incident!”

The Iranian protesters’ bravery was all the more impressive because many had already learned of the savage killing of five Iranians on the campus of Tehran University, shot down by pistol-firing Basiji militiamen. Fisk describes the scene:

“When I reached the gates of the college yesterday morning, many students were weeping behind the iron fence of the campus, shouting ‘massacre’ and throwing a black cloth across the mesh. That was when the riot police returned and charged into the university grounds once more.”

Here is Fisk again:

“At times, Mousavi’s victory march threatened to crush us amid walls of chanting men and women. They fell into the storm drains and stumbled over broken trees and tried to keep pace with his vehicle, vast streamers of green linen strung out in front of their political leader’s car. They sang in unison, over and over, the same words: ‘Tanks, guns, Basiji, you have no effect now.’ As the government’s helicopters roared overhead, these thousands looked upwards and bayed above the clatter of rotor blades: ‘Where is my vote?’ Clichés come easily during such titanic days, but this was truly a historic moment.”

Demonstrators in Tehran, June 15. Photo by .faramarz.Those citizens who did not participate on the demonstration expressed their solidarity from the windows and rooftops, as Fisk describes:

“[…] one man collapsed on the road, his face covered in blood. But on the great mass of people moved, waving their green flags and shouting in joy at the thousands of Iranians who stood along the rooftops.

“On the right, they all saw an old people’s home and out on to the balcony came the aged and the crippled who must have remembered the reign of the loathed Shah, perhaps even his creepy father, Reza Khan. A woman who must have been 90 waved a green handkerchief and an even older man emerged on the narrow balcony and waved his crutch in the air. The thousands below them shrieked back their joy at this ancient man.

“Walking beside this vast flood of humanity, a strange fearlessness possessed us all. Who would dare attack them now? What government could deny a people of this size and determination? Dangerous questions.”

Fisk points out that the protestors were not only middle class people and students:

“this was not just the trendy, young, sunglassed ladies of north Tehran. The poor were here, too, the street workers and middle-aged ladies in full chador. A very few held babies on their shoulders or children by the arm, talking to them from time to time, trying to explain the significance of this day to a mind that would not remember it in the years to come that they were here on this day of days.”

The mass demonstrations are an exact replay of those of the 1979 revolution, which was subsequently hijacked by the ayatollah Khomenei and his reactionary gang. The Shah possessed a colossal apparatus of repression, but once the masses confronted it, it crumbled like a child’s sand castle. Earlier the hated Basiji attacked the students. But by the evening, the Basiji themselves were being chased by hundreds of protesters in the west of the city. After dark shooting was crackling around the suburbs. Those who were fatally too late in leaving Azadi, were fired on by the Basiji. The final death toll was eight, with an unknown number of wounded.

Regime vacillates

This splendid movement of the masses has changed everything in 24 hours. The arrogance of power displayed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad just one day earlier has evaporated. Instead there are signs of panic in the regime. On Saturday and Sunday there was repression, violence and bloodshed, but by Monday everything had changed. The authorities must have felt they had gone to bed and woken up in 1979. This is how the Shah was overthrown 30 years ago, with mass demonstrations and the possibility of a general strike.

Photo by .faramarz.They now fear there could be violent clashes and even civil war, which they are not sure they would win. When the ruling class fears it may lose everything, it is always prepared to make concessions and offer something. Now the authorities are offering a recount but not new elections. The decision to retreat comes from the Supreme Leader, the real power in the state, who initially confirmed the election result.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has agreed to enquire into the election results, perhaps to look over a polling statistic or two. But these concessions are too little and too late. They will not pacify the protesters but will achieve the opposite. Every step back of the regime will be seen as a sign of weakness and spur them on to further action. Mousavi has asked for the annulment of the elections, while the regime is offering only a partial recount.

The seriousness of the crisis is affecting the economy. The Iranian bourgeois are voting with their feet. There was panic in the business community at the result of the election. The Financial Times reported today:

“Iran’s business community was yesterday unequivocal in its reaction to Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad’s re-election as president. The Tehran Stock Exchange fell sharply, while influential bazaaris threatened to shut up shop today in protest.”

The fact that the bazaaris, who were formerly solid supporters of the regime, are threatening to strike is a further indication that the scope of the revolution is constantly expanding. However, the absence of a serious leadership means that the final denouement may be postponed. The Financial Times, that most astute organ of international Capital, writes:

“The wave of anger could soon subside, particularly if the crackdown turns more brutal. But analysts are watching to see if it provokes instead campaigns of civil disobedience from segments of society that had backed Mr Moussavi – including businessmen in Iran’s bazaars who have threatened to strike today, trade unions and students – or protests from clerics who had also supported his candidacy.

“‘There will be many sporadic riots over various things from now on as people think there is no peaceful way any more to make change,’ says one analyst.”

Weakness of leadership

This perspective is similar to the one I put forward in my first article yesterday. Even the stormiest strikes and street demonstrations cannot resolve the central question: the question of state power. It is not enough that some policemen smile at demonstrators. Unless the police and army move over to the side of the people, the weapons of the Islamic Republic remain in the hands of Ahmadinejad’s administration and his clerical protectors. The question of leadership is still paramount.

Back in 1999, the regime suppressed a wave of student unrest within days: this time, the protesters appear more strong-minded. The attempts at repression have had the opposite result to that intended. There is an angry ferment in Teheran University after the brutal assault of the armed thugs of Ahmadinejad. About 400 pro-reform students, many wearing green face masks to conceal their identity, gathered earlier at a mosque in Tehran University and demanded Ahmadinejad’s resignation. Some said members of a religious militia had attacked their dormitory. “They hit our friends and took away at least 100 students. We have no news about their whereabouts,” said one. 120 university lecturers have resigned in protest.

But the bravery of the protesters is not a characteristic of the leaders. Men like Mirhossein Mousavi are not leaders but come under the heading of historical accidents. Kerensky and father Gapon belong to the same philosophical category. Such individuals rise rapidly to the surface, impelled by the tide of great historic events, achieve a borrowed fame for a short time, and then disappear without trace, swallowed up like the foam on an ocean wave, engulfed by other, more powerful currents. A prime minister in the 1980s, he had disappeared from public view and dedicated his time to his favourite pursuit – abstract painting. Now history has seized him by the collar and thrust him to the front of the stage, where he presents an uncomfortable spectacle.

Yet, despite his attacks on the regime’s domestic and foreign policies, Mr Mousavi has never been an opponent of the Islamic Republic. Indeed, he had styled himself, just like the president, as a “principalist” who sought a return to the real values and principles of the 1979 Islamic revolution. But he had laced his message with demands for more democratic freedom and a pragmatic management of the economy.

His candidacy, moreover, was almost accidental. He was reluctant to run for president but had been urged, time and again, to stand by Mohammad Khatami, the former reformist president. Once in, he quickly received the backing of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a leading political figure from the conservative camp who now heads both the Expediency Council, a senior body that drafts macro policies, and the Experts Assembly, which appoints the next supreme leader.

While both might have expected him to be a centrist, gradually Mr Mousavi’s campaign adopted the same slogans as the reformists, with even greater vigour. He refocused his message during rallies to appeal to the educated urban middle class, lambasting the president’s extremism and ridiculing his populist economic policies.

Many who took to the streets of Tehran yesterday are looking to Mousavi to bring about a fundamental change. Photo by Hamed Saber.But while young reformists – many of whom took to the streets of Tehran again yesterday for peaceful protests which ended in violence – are looking to him to bring about a fundamental change, Mr Mousavi has other ideas. Fisk writes about the demonstration:

“Mirhossein Mousavi was among them, riding atop a car amid the exhaust smoke and heat, unsmiling, stunned, unaware that so epic a demonstration could blossom amid the hopelessness of Iran’s post-election bloodshed. He may have officially lost last Friday’s election, but yesterday was his electoral victory parade through the streets of his capital. It ended, inevitably, in gunfire and blood.”

Here Fisk’s keen eye gives an accurate and penetrating psychological portrait of the reformist leader, “unsmiling, stunned and unaware” of the vast powers that he had conjured up and which, like the Sorcerer’s apprentice, he is unable to control. Mousavi’s vacillations have been noted by the bourgeois press. The Financial Times says

“he has appeared torn between calling on protests to continue, and halting them to prevent the violence and loss of life witnessed last night. […] Mr Moussavi initially called off yesterday’s protest fearing fresh violence – but then joined the demonstrators on the streets. The dilemma he faces is that the demonstrations mark the biggest public outcry since the 1979 Islamic revolution.”

Mousavi has called on those who support him not to attend a planned rally in the capital today, his spokesman said. “Mousavi… urged his supporters not to attend today’s rally to protect their lives. The moderates’ rally has been cancelled,” the spokesman said. But as I write these lines the radio is reporting that large crowds are again gathering on the streets of Teheran, and the reports claim that the demonstrations will be even bigger than they were yesterday.

The possibility of a bloody clash is always present. Here are the comments of a journalist:

“The anger and hatred in the eyes of both sides – whatever the result, it will anger some people, […] The police have been trying to remain as civilised as possible, but not everyone is listening to police commanders. […] It’s not easy to calm them down. What happens when the chain of command is broken, when both sides are going rogue and not listening to their commanders? This is going be a very dangerous situation.”

However, given the level of popular anger, the effect of such a situation will not be what was intended. One bloody clash, and the whole situation will explode. The idea of a general strike has already been put forward. A large-scale act of state terrorism will be met by a wave of strikes and protests that could easily become transformed into an insurrection on the lines of 1979. Mousavi is desperate to avoid this. He is quoted as saying: “As someone who likes the police, I recommend them avoid harsh reactions towards people’s self-motivated actions and not let the people’s trust to this worthy organ be damaged.”

We predicted this

The present protests were predicted in advance by the Marxists. Almost ten years ago we said that the big student demonstrations were “the first shots of the Iranian Revolution.” Few people paid any attention to that prediction. But Iran has continued to be in the forefront of the perspectives of the IMT. In a speech to the world congress of the IMT in August 2008 I said the following:

“Iran is ripe for revolution. There we have all the conditions listed by Lenin for a revolution: splits at the top, ferment among the middle class, a powerful working class with revolutionary traditions, waves of important strikes, etc. The only factor missing so far is the subjective factor – the revolutionary party. The work of our Iranian comrades is of great importance to the IMT. We must give them assistance.

“The situation in Iran is very similar to pre-1905 Russia. Once the Iranian masses start to move, look out. The coming revolution can take different paths but there is one thing we can be sure of: it’s not going to be a fundamentalist uprising! 28 years of the mullahs in power have totally discredited them among the masses and youth. The majority of the population is young and fresh; they will be open to revolutionary ideas and Marxism. The Iranian revolution will change the entire situation in the Middle East, showing that genuine anti-imperialism needn’t be fundamentalist. It will have an impact on the whole region.”

These words have been vindicated by the recent events. The Iranian Revolution has taken a long time to mature, but it has emerged all the stronger for that. Previous uprisings of the heroic Iranian students have been smothered by bloody repression and the arrest of the leaders. But, as we predicted at the time, these setbacks would only be temporary:

“Given the lack of leadership, repression may have the effect of postponing the movement temporarily, but only at the cost of causing an even more violent and uncontrollable explosion later on.” (The First Shots of the Iranian Revolution, 17 July 1999.) This prediction has now been fully confirmed by events. The struggle will continue, with inevitable ebbs and flows, until a decisive settlement is reached.

On the urgent tasks of the revolutionary movement I wrote at that time:

“The workers and youth of Iran have repeatedly shown a great revolutionary potential. What is required is to give the movement an organised form and a clear programme and perspective. Along the road of compromise and class collaboration no way out is possible. The prior condition for success is the independent movement of the working class, together with its natural allies, and a decisive break with the bourgeois Liberals. It is necessary to set up action committees in order to organise and co-ordinate the movement on a local, regional and national scale. It is necessary to prepare for self-defence against the vigilante thugs, while appealing to the rank and file of the army to come over to the side of the people.

“Above all, it is necessary to work out a concrete programme to link the struggle for democratic rights with programmatic demands to solve the most pressing problems of the working class, the peasantry, the unemployed and the women and youth. Such a programme will necessarily imply a radical break with capitalism and will place on the order of the day the struggle for workers’ power and a movement in the direction of socialism in Iran. The prior condition for the success of the struggle is the active participation of the working class, particularly the decisive section of the oil workers. Once the working people of Iran have the power in their hands, they can begin a movement that will spread like wildfire through the region. It would have an even bigger effect than the Russian revolution of 1917, especially if it were led by a conscious revolutionary Marxist party. The creation of such a party is therefore the most urgent task before the vanguard of the Iranian workers and students. Armed with the correct ideas, programme and strategy, the Iranian working class will be invincible.”

There is not much more we can add to that. We are no longer discussing abstract perspectives but facts. The marvellous movement of the workers and students of Iran are the final answer to all the sceptics and cowards who doubt the ability of the working class to change society. The Revolution in Iran has begun and is destined to go through a whole series of stages before it has finally run its course. But in the end we are sure that it will triumph. When that moment comes, it will have explosive repercussions throughout the Middle East, Asia and the whole world.

We appeal to the workers of the world to come to the aid of our Iranian brothers and sisters.

Down with tyranny and repression!

Long live the Iranian Revolution!

Workers of the world, unite!

London, 16th June

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Shah Hast Hossein, Padshah Hasat Hossein

Dee’n Hasat Hossein,Dee’n Panah Hast Hossein

Daad na daad dast dur dast-e-Yazeed

Haqqa Keh bina-e-La-Ie-Lah Hast Hossein

If one looks at the cultural history of Muslims in India, its hard to ignore the festival of Nowruz: The spring festival of Persia and central Asia which marks the start of spring of the start of Persian New Year. For more than a thousand years Nowroz was an official festival of the imperial courts in Dehli and Agra. Later it enjoyed the support of the princely states like Awadh and Hyderabad. Most Indians may remember K.Asif’s epic Moghul e Azam , which shows Jashen e Nowruz of Moghul court.

Nowruz was not just a fashion of muslim elites of India, rather it had a multi-dimensional character. After the Arab-muslim conquest of Persia, the festival of Nowruz became the symbol of a cultural resistance against Arabization and Arab imperialism. With the alliance of the sunni clerical establishment with the Caliphate in Baghdad after the initial resistance of the great Sunni Imams like Abu-Hanifa , Imam Malik and others , the Persian metaphysics and culture came under increasing attack from the state in name of Islam.

imamalishahadat07kr8 The resistance movements in the conquered and converted lands of Arab empire took shape of an “alternative” understanding of Islam, one which was radically different from vision of Abbasids and their supporters the Sunni clerics. The converted people looked towards their traditional philosophies, mythologies and cultural symbologies to understand Islam. Result was development of mysticism and different shades of Shia Islam. It must be understood that the political movement of proto- Shia was predominantly an Arab phenomenon with no theological differences with the proto-sunnis. The theological shia emerged quite later just as the their sunni counter part as the result of looking at Islam through the rich metaphysical tradition of Persians, Coptics, Nestorians, Arians and Pagans. The constant friction between the Ismaili Fatmid and Abbasid Empire played a great role. Its easily forgotten today that what is today dismissed as “heresy” was once the official Islam of half of the Moslem world and its continuous dawa in Abbasid lands made it “people’s religion” in other. Many “sanits” or Sufis could very much be Ismaili dais. Sufism shows a great resemblance to Ismaili theology esp in its understanding of concept of “beyond”. An account of this process with the resultant dissent in Islam is explained here and here.

Haft Sen

Haft Sen

In this environment Nowruz, the ancient festival of Persia was re-invented by the Shia and Sufi theologians as a potent symbol of resistance against Arab cultural invasion as well as against the rigid and loyalist Islam. Since most of the resistance against Arab imperialism was surrounding one or another Alavite cause, Nowruz was linked with the Holy House of Muhammed, whose status was under attack by the Arab rulers, Against the de-mystifying attempts of Abbasid and their loyalist clerics against Muhammed and Alavites, the Sufis and Shia trends merged both of them with the ancient Gnostic metaphysics with which the conquered people were very familiar. Nowruz became the day when Ali was awarded the “wilayah” in time before Time began. It was the day of Muhammed’s declaration of prophet hood in the zone beyond time, it was the day universe was created, and the day when Mehdi will deliver humanity from tyranny

Through Sufi teaching and its accompanying Ismaili dawa the festival reached the Sunni lands of Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakhtoonkhawa, India, Turkey, Albania and Bosnia. Kurds also adopted the day due to the esoteric mystic tradition which mostly had Ismaili relations. With formation of Pakistan and its increasing Arabaization and State sponsored Anti Shia militancy, festival of Nowruz has virtually gone into obscurity. Its not that Nowruz is not celebrated in Pakistan, it is widely celebrated but is ignored. Even Pakistan’s self pro-claimed progressives and secularists who have a mantra of tolerance and pluralism on their lips 24/7 are insensitive to an “alternative cultural expression”.

Shias make a sizeable population in Pakistan and they celebrate Nowruz as an “Eid”, special ceremonies and prayers are offered in the Imam Bargahs , sweets, fruits, perfumes, flowers usually mark the offerings of Nowruz. The Aga Khani Ismaili community also celebrates Nowruz in Pakistan. In certain Northern areas of Pakistan which have Shia and Ismaili majority Nowruz has a very potent cultural expression. All of this fails to find any representation in mainstream Pakistan, result is an average educated Urban Pakistani simply doesn’t know about Nowruz. The Pakistani intellectuals are usually busy lecturing India on tolerance and pluralism on issues like Varun Gandhi etc etc and usually don’t care about such small things. The Shia holocaust in Pakistan also goes un noticed by most of our secular-progressive-sufi- Elitist intellectuals. Thanks to them no one in Pakistan knows whats going on against Shias in Parachinar and other areas. A fellow blogger Abdul recently spoke about this criminal silence by those who have a claim to Alternative media in Pakistan. Here is the article by Abdul and other links about Anti Shia holocaust going on in Pakistan. Here , here and Here. Most of our protests on these issues are also met with the same response. Indifference

Pakistani Shias celebrated this Nowruz with an increasing awareness of Talibanization. Yet another Pakistani community celebrates Nowruz. It’s the Bahai community. Scattered through out Pakistan, the Bahai community leads life of invisibility due to “cultural holocaust and apartheid” which is order of the day in Pakistan. Bahai’s through out Pakistan celebrated Nowruz.

Bahai star

Bahai star

The Persian speaking people of Pakistan [this is yet another information for an average educated Pakistani, that there exist people in Pakistan whose mother tongue is Persian] also celebrates Nowruz. Darri speaking [Afghani Persian] Hazaras of Baluchistan also celebrate Nowruz. [Yet another victim of state sponsored holocaust]

Yet another Pakistani community which celebrates Nowruz is the Zoroastrian community commonly known as the “Parsi community”. The community is trying to preserve the ancient pre-Islamic heritage of Iran. Geographically Nowruz is celebrated with greater enthusiasm in Karachi, Quetta, Peshawer, Northern Areas of Pakistan especially Hunza valley, Gilget and Baldistan , Multan and Kashmir. In Pakistan the customs of Nowruz are different than those of Iran.

In Pakistan Nowruz is mostly celebrated as “Alam Afrouz” or the new day. People dress up and visit each other. There are special ceremonies and “aamal” and prayers in Imam Bargahs and Jamat Khanas. Hina, bangles and eidi are also part of Nowruz celebration. In villages the practice of burning wood logs and jumping over it was an established practice on Nowruz but now has almost died. Special sweets like “laddo”, ”rus malai”, ”gulab jaman” “cream rolls” and Suhan Halva are made on this day. These sweets plus roses and perfumes replace the tradition “Haft sen” of Nowruz,

Since in mystic and Shia theology Nowruz is the day to celebrate the wilayah of Ali and house of Muhammed , I have selected a “Ginan”, which are the mystic lyrics wrote of Saints of Indo-Pk , many of them were Ismaili dais [as the Ismaili history is slowly being de-mystified] in praise of the Imams who were in occultation in those days. Shamas the mysterious mystic was also an Ismaili dai who introduced Rumi to “Batin”, what lies beyond the words of Quran.

This particular Ginan is being offered by none other than Queen of mystic music Abida Parveen and it speaks about the “Raj”, the Millennium when charismatic Imams, the continuation of Koranic symbology of Noor-un-ala-noor will rule the humanity. The start of this was affirmation of Ali in realm of spirits an act which is symbolized in day of Nowruz. In modern times this Ginan is specially recited on coronation of the Aga Khan the “Hazir Imams”, the continuation of Ismaili Imamat and the most philosophical rich movement in Islam whose metaphysics contributed a lot in development of mysticism. The devotion of Abida Parveen is worth seeing, a truly spiritual experience. HE Prince Karim Aga Khan, the Hazir Imam can be seen enjoying the Ginan.


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