Monday, October 22, 2007

In Solidarity With Our Iranian Sisters and Brothers

What are we asking for, but freedom?

"I've been called an orientalist and a neo-con," the Iranian-Canadian writer, feminist and human rights activist Samira Mohyeddin told me the other day. "Isn't that funny? Can you believe it?"

Sadly, yes, I can.


That's how my latest Tyee column begins [UPDATE: For Persian readers here].

It's about the shameful absence in Canada of any effective solidarity with Iran's pro-democracy forces. And sure enough, one of the first responses contains the accusation that the column is "neocon propaganda," which perfectly confirms Samira Mohyeddin's observations, and my own, and Danny Postel's, too.

Postel's insightful Reading "Legitimation Crisis "in Tehran is partly the subject of the column, and in it, Postel counters the intellectual paralysis that afflicts my pseudonym-shielded accuser this way: "We should not allow Washington's rhetoric to have a silencing effect on us. To do so is to let Bush and the neo-cons do our thinking for us. We should express solidarity with our Iranian comrades regardless of the Empire's pronouncements."

But as Mohyeddin rightly points out, that's not even half of it. The "silencing effect" is very real, but the rot runs very deep, she says: It's a lingering, 1960s-era protest culture of "placards and megaphones" that expects nothing more than opposition to America; A prevailing mindset that continues to "exoticize" Iranian culture and holds that the Islamic Republic is "culturally authentic"; And a shallow anti-imperialism that wrongly equates human rights and freedom with "western" values - which ends up strengthening the hand of Islamist reactionaries arrayed against Iranian democrats.

Mohyeddin is a must-read on these subjects. But she should write more. I nagged her about that. Read this New York Times essay by Michael Ignatieff, for instance - and then read Mohyeddin's sharp critique of it. Here's her withering of Hossein Darakhshan.

And always read the tireless Arash Kamangir, for news you won't find anywhere else in English. His latest: Medical Student Commits Suicide after being Arrested by Sharia Police.

The other day, my 13-year-old son asked me whether there was anyone around these days like Martin Luther King. Yes, I said. They are countless, men and women, young and old.

Here's one. His name is Mansour Osanloo:





Here's another. His name is Mahmoud Salehi:


[UPDATE #2: Arash writes on "An Iranian Cure for an Iranian Problem" in The Manitoban: "Accepting Iranian students into Canadian, American, and other universities in the developed world is the best way to help the Iranians communicate with the reality, not through the deceitful channels of the regime. These hardworking individuals not only bring creativity to their hosting countries but also act as sources to send out the message to the Iranian public that there is more to life than living under an Islamic dictatorship."]

UPDATE #3: MANSOUR OSANLOO SENTENCED TO FIVE YEARS.

16 Comments:

Blogger ahmed said...

I think you raise some substncial issues here, I'm wondering if you've read much of Hamid Dabashi, a brilliant Iranian Scolar currently teaching at Columbia University. Here's his latest column which has generated quite alot of debate

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2007/866/focus.htm

12:40 AM  
Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

Many Canadians tend to define themselves as what they are not. The most popular thing not to be these days is American. With the
obscene result that active support for promotion of democracy in Muslim countries, especially women's rights, is seen as helping and abetting the Bush administration's "neo-con" campaign. It is a horrible travesty of the saying: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. It is like saying my friend who my enemy supports becomes my enemy, too. At least de facto, if not in pure intent.

5:45 AM  
Blogger Ian King said...

For evidence of that the centrist says, check out the Tyee's comment swamp. After prodding the localsa, I got a bunch of responses that basically said that if the left has been quiet, it's because they're afraid of supporting the Bush administration, the "neocons" and the Israelis (and the Jooz, we presume). That is the thinking that animates these tools. Some other tosspots said that Ahmadinejad wasn't really saying that Israel should be wiped off the map, and that his little conference wasn't really about Holocaust denial. Shows you what I get for turning to the Beeb rather than some random axe-grinder.

The obvious conclusion to this is to invest in Alcan; the tinfoil market's future is bright.

2:51 PM  
Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

"Some other tosspots said that Ahmadinejad wasn't really saying that Israel should be wiped off the map, and that his little conference wasn't really about Holocaust denial."

This is from Ahmadinjad's latest:

"After World War II, they invented the so-called "genocide of the Jews." Throughout Europe and in countries under the control of the Western superpowers, they established an anti-Jewish movement. By means of propaganda and a certain psychological atmosphere, and by using the issue of the so-called "crematoria," they created the sense that the European Jews were oppressed. They used the pretext that some Jews were oppressed and were harmed during World War II and by the wave of anti-Judaism in order to lay the foundations for the establishment of the Zionist regime. Later, of course, they called it "the massacre of the Jews," and only after World War II did they call it "the Holocaust." They made this issue more sacred than all the sacred things in the world. [...]

Politicians who dream at night of reconciliation with the Zionist regime should know that the Palestinian people is steadfast, the Iranian people and the free peoples of the world are steadfast, and they will not rest for a day until the entire land of Palestine is liberated."

http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1585.htm

There is a certain irony in Ahmadinejad making it perfectly clear that he means what he says and he says what he means, while his apologists contend that he does not say what he says. Stranger than fiction, I swear.

7:20 PM  
Blogger rabbit said...

The same is going on with Venezuela. Chavez is vocal in his opposition of Bush so of course the far left supports him, ignoring the systematic dismantling of human rights in that country.

7:50 AM  
Blogger Stephen said...

I so oppose the regime in Iran. It's repression of humna rights within Iran appall me. I look forward to the day when the regime crumbles from wtihin. And yes, we should support pro-democracy groups in Iran.

That said, the anti-war left are right to point out that Iran is not a threat to Israel, for a number of reasons. This is because 1) Ahmedinijad has never actually said that Israel should be wiped off the map (see http://www.antiwar.com/orig/norouzi.php?articleid=11025) 2) If Iran attacked Israel, they know that they too would be wiped out in retaliation 3) Ahmedinijad actually has little constitutional power in Iran. Nuclear policy is controlled by the Supreme Leader, and 4) The Supreme Leader has issued a fatwah against the use of nuclear weapons.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

I'd like to think you were right, Stephen.

You certainly didn't need to refer me to a link from the extreme right-wing sect known as "antiwar.com" (the link ended up on a blank page, by the way) to support your case about the rightness of the commonplace "anti-war left" position on Tehran's threat to Israel.

But I fear you're dead wrong, anyway, to think Israel faces no threat from the Shiite mullahocracy. Let's not so quickly forget the Hezbollah war against Israel last year, when that threat was carried out.

The column wasn't about Israel, but it would be specious and dishonest to pretend Ahmedinejad isn't a disgusting Holocaust-denying tyrant who constantly threatens Israel with his demagogic windbaggery.

He is and he does.

You don't think the threat should be taken seriously? I hope you're right. But I wouldn't bet on it, and I certainly wouldn't expect the Israeli people to bet on it either.

5:53 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

I'm not defending Ahmedinijad. I think he's an idiot. His attitude toward human rights appalls me, as do his racist attitudes.

That said, as I've noted, he has no constitutional power in Iran where nuclear control is concerned. And, as has also been noted, Iran knows as well as anyone, if it attacks Israel, it will be wiped out in retaliation by Israel's large nuclear arsenal.

11:33 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

I should also say that my initial comment was in response not to your column but rather to one of the comments.

8:42 PM  
Blogger ahmed said...

"Let's not so quickly forget the Hezbollah war against Israel last year, when that threat was carried out."

Is that the same war in which Human Rights Watch accused Israel of commiting war crimes, of directly targetting civilian populations, of destroying the physical and human infrustructure of southern lebenon. How many Lebonese were left stranded and homeless as a result of Israel's war on not the ideology of Hezbollah but in its people. This reckless pronouncement by Glavin, which was of course echoed by Vush and Harper at the time is really quite sad and pathetic

12:51 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Ahmed: "Is that the same war in which Human Rights Watch accused Israel of commiting war crimes, of directly targetting civilian populations, of destroying the physical and human infrustructure of southern lebenon?"

It's the same war in which Human Rights Watch also found that Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets indiscriminately and at times deliberately at civilians in northern Israel.

It's a cheap and lazy rhetorical tactic you're resorting to here, Ahmed. You're using it to change the subject and evade the point that Tehran and its Hezbollah allies present a very real theat to the people of Israel.

2:29 PM  
Blogger ahmed said...

Israel has been invading and occupying Lebanon for my entire adult life. You were the one who spoke about "Hezbollahs war on Israel" not me. I think it's a very revealing comment. Where on Earth were you when the human and physical infrustruture of a nation was being detroyed, when tens of thousands were made homeless. This is not to excuse the attacks on israel, but please have some decency and some fucking sense of proportion. I don't submit to the ideology of Hezbollah, although it was the people and nation being bombed not an ideology, but the fact is that Hezbollah and Hamas for that matter were bothg nutured by a brutal occypyoing force. How on Earth can you, with a sraight face, gith for Iranian dissisnets while excusing, as you routinely do, the crimes committed by Israel. This is rather sad.

10:33 AM  
Blogger ahmed said...

As for the isssue of civilains could you please give me the numbers (availiable on Human Rights Watch website) of Israeli versus Lebonese during the fightibg last year, which borrowing from Bush, Harper and Olmert you called "Hezbollahs war on Israel"? I don't view it as a diversion but as a pretty important point. If we can't even operate fr0om the view point that all individual lives matter, perhaps for you Palestinian and Lebonese don't count, then we're in some trouble. anyways, about those numbers

10:36 AM  
Blogger ahmed said...

As for the isssue of civilains could you please give me the numbers (availiable on Human Rights Watch website) of Israeli versus Lebonese during the fightibg last year, which borrowing from Bush, Harper and Olmert you called "Hezbollahs war on Israel"? I don't view it as a diversion but as a pretty important point. If we can't even operate fr0om the view point that all individual lives matter, perhaps for you Palestinian and Lebonese don't count, then we're in some trouble. anyways, about those numbers

10:36 AM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Ahmed: Why don't you just take your self-righteousness and your insults and go somewhere else?

This post began with a column about the need to find ways to demonstrate effective solidarity with the people of Iran, and all you're interested in doing is using it to express your obsessive hostility to Israel.

You insist on attributing views and positions to me that I don't hold and haven't taken, and accuse me of "borrowing" from Bush, Harper and Olmert, and all you end up doing is making an absolute fool of yourself.

Maybe you really don't know just how ridiculous you're making yourself sound, I don't know. Maybe it doesn't matter to you because you can hide behind your anonymity.

Whatever the case, there's no point in pretending that you're interested in making a contribution to any kind of a conversation here. You're the comments-box equivalent of a graffiti artist.

Leave.

1:19 PM  
Blogger ahmed said...

As the human and physical infrustructure was being ruined and laid to waste by the UDF, Harper, Olmert and Bush refused to call for a ceasefire and spoke about "Hezbollahs war on Israel" the language you used in responsding to Stephen's sensible objection. Anyways, you've made it clear that this place is intended as a kind of echoe chamber from which dissent is not welcome

2:56 PM  

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