The last significant wave of uprisings in Iran took place a bit more than a year and a half ago. Like all waves of protest in recent years, it was brutally crushed. But in the country of the mullahs, social protests are the order of the day – despite bans and repression.
by Hamid Mohseni
The year is drawing to a close according to the Iranian calendar. The traditional festivities surrounding Nourouz are currently dominating everyday life in Iran. But it is not only the Corona pandemic that is spoiling the festive mood: this year’s inflation rate of 30-40 percent and the miserable economic situation in the country are weighing on the minds of Iranians nationwide. Representatives of the Islamic Republic wash their hands of the situation – as always – and point the finger at others: in addition to the pandemic, the isolationist policy of the West is to be blamed for this crisis, which in reality only wants to starve the Iranian people with its sanctions. Therefore, they say, it is now all the more important to stand together as a nation.
Iranians know this trick well; since its 40-year existence, the Islamic Republic has been invoking enemies in the West to justify its own disastrous policies. It would be foolish to assume that sanctions have no impact at all on the Iranian economy and the difficult living conditions in the country. But compared to the regime’s homegrown structural problems – massive corruption, cronyism, investments for imperialist proxy wars, brutal neoliberal austerity measures – the actual contribution of sanctions to the disastrous situation is limited, especially when one realizes that the ruling ayatollahs and their military-political-industrial complex of the Revolutionary Guards protect their own privileges and wealth with all their power before giving them up for the good of the population.
The general pauperization of most Iranians increasingly leads to a lack of prospects, fear, existential crises, emigration (if possible) and a steady increase in the suicide rate. But for some years now, it has also found expression in anger and social protests throughout the country.
Protests by pensioners in Iran: “Poverty line: 9 million toman. Our pension: 3.2 million toman.” Source: Iranfocus.com
A nationwide protest movement of pensioners and retirees is particularly noteworthy. For the past six months, thousands of people have been responding to the call of independent pensioners’ unions, gathering on weekends in forty to fifty cities across the country, mostly in front of the Ministry of Labor and its regional offices. They are demanding that their salaries be paid or increased so that they can live above the poverty line in the face of current inflation. In this regard, the protesters have the law on their side: Article 30 of the so-called “Sixth Development Plan Law” provides for an equalization of monthly pensions as the cost of living increases. The government has suspended this increase, citing budget deficits and empty public pots. Apart from lip service, there is no concession, and in some places these demonstrations are even attacked by security forces.
In addition to this regular wave of protests, which is widely observed throughout the country, Iran experiences smaller strikes and workers’ protests on an almost daily basis. Central issues here are workers’ rights and safety. The neoliberal devastation in Iran has led to such precarious conditions that a proper, permanent employment contract with rights guaranteed to workers has become the absolute exception; short-term and daily contracts or verbal agreements are becoming more and more common. Minorities in the multi-ethnic state of Iran are often systematically discriminated against and harassed in the workplace. Independent trade unions and workers’ councils explicitly reject the neoliberal idea of privatizing companies – instead, they are aggressively considering self-organisation, such as at the well-known sugar cane factory “Haft Tappeh” in Ahvaz, which has been on strike more or less continuously for three years. It has thus become a lighthouse for radical, socialist and anti-authoritarian workers’ demands beyond the country’s borders. The biggest debate, however, is undoubtedly about wages. In some sectors, wages have not been paid for almost a year, and when they are paid, they are not in proportion to the rising cost of living. Independent trade unions, as well as left-wing and socialist economists, have long been calling for a minimum wage three times higher than that currently offered by the state.
The oppression of ethnic and religious minorities runs like a red thread through the history of the Islamic Republic. Border regions such as Kurdistan or Sistan-Beluchistan are often systematically neglected regions, where poverty and existential hardship have led to a parallel and vibrant black market economy. In the Kurdish regions of Iran, “Kolbars” transport all goods over the mountains to Iraq for a little money; in Sistan-Beluchistan, “gasoline carriers” sell fuel to neighboring Pakistan because the demand price there is higher. In late February, radical anti-system protests broke out in the region, with clashes with security forces and occupations of government offices. This was triggered by the shooting of at least ten “gasoline carriers” by Iranian security forces under the pretext of fighting smugglers. This systematic and deadly practice of harassment repeatedly leads to protests in the country’s border regions, to which the regime responds exclusively in a repressive manner. Unlike the more bourgeois “Green Movement” in 2009, these regions were central and among the decisive factors in the 2018/2019 social uprising.
This article was originally published in German on 26th March: https://www.rosalux.de/news/id/44023
The is a translation with some modifications of a text by Cerveaux Non Disponibles.
The ban on broadcasting police actions centralizes all fears, but legalizing drones and surveillance technology is just as damaging to freedoms and democracy.
It is a subject that is little discussed and yet concerns us all. The text provides in these gaps to legalize facial recognition in the public space and the real-time exploitation of information about people. The video stream would be processed live by the police command, as mentioned in Article 22. The text does not mention the term “facial recognition”, but it should be noted that all amendments aimed at clarifying the practice were rejected. An example is amendment n°CL340 which explicitly provided for the prohibition of facial recognition. Rejected! The spirit of this law is to put the entire public space (especially cities) under permanent control. Without blind spots, with all the technology of algorithms and their freedom killing uses in data collection on a daily basis.
The State has lost the battle on police violence since the yellow vests, especially through the profusion of images made available to all on social networks, which have become a true self-media for any individual or collective that finally finds a voice.
The purpose of this law, which provides for 1 year of imprisonment and a 45,000€ fine for broadcasting that “undermines the police” is to limit freedom of expression in order to regain control of a republican narrative that has been completely eroded. In order to regain a hegemonic discourse, the hundreds of arbitrary acts of violence, daily racism, almost permanent impunity, as well as the dirty work that the police carry out on behalf of the State have become realities that must be hidden at all costs.
@TaoualitAmar Twitter photograph Hannah Nelson, arrested by police on 17th nov
Today, the forces of law and order already regularly intimidate professional journalists or simple witnesses who film. The police are already exercising a judgmental practice in the field through the physical and psychological violence they exercise. Imagine their zeal if this law were to be passed… If the National Assembly gave even more power to those who already abuse it with impunity…
Without an image, how many crimes and violence would have been hushed up or would not even have reached the gates of a court? Judges themselves say it: images are useful and without them, the police version always wins.
Let’s remember the importance that images have had for several cases:
This law also poses a major technical problem. Implicitly, it would sign the end of live videos showing police officers. If in their great leniency of falsely naïve playmobils the LREM (Macron’s party) deputies have suggested blurring the faces of police officers, let us recall that it is currently impossible to blur faces in real time. And that, in general, blurring a face on video is a complicated technique that is not within everyone’s reach and that would in fact restrict many images. If, however, this abject law were to be respected…
Last but not least, it should be noted that the police are not worried by the diffusion of their faces, which they have already been in the habit of masking for a long time (as well as not wearing their numbers), and although we have seen barbaric acts committed by them, this has not been the subject of popular reprisals to date. The argument of police protection is not based on anything and is mainly a bluster that makes the oppressors look like the oppressed.
Other aspects of the law should be addressed, such as the extension of the carrying of weapons in public places, even when not in use, or the increased role of private companies in policing.
The journalist Nnoman (his video) is being beaten by police.
What is striking in this text, which was passed on November 17 in the National Assembly, 2 years to the day after the yellow vests began, is its martial aspect. Do we realize that in the same law there is a state response to social protest and one against terrorism? This law intends to globally manage these problems in the same way. The repressive outcome of the November 17 demonstration is particularly strong, especially for the press.
The terrible image of a system that only responds with violence and intimidation… including on totally harmless demonstrators.
But the thousands of people present around the National Assembly could feel the anger rising and that no water cannon will be able to extinguish.
“The last warning for journalists: leave the premises with your press card or you will be arrested.” Quietly, the police muzzle the press covering a press freedom rally… All this knowing that they are being filmed. The law has not even passed and France is already in a totalitarian country. And it’s hard to see how the trend could be reversed. Neither petitions, nor demonstrations, nor the UN will be able to stop the fascinating drift.
At least 7 journalists have been arrested, threatened and/or beaten. Journalists who were covering a rally for freedom of the press and demonstration. It is extremely serious what this government allows itself! In particular, photographer Hannah Nelson was arrested last night and spent the night in police custody.
After a Kurdish feminist rally in Vienna-Favoriten was attacked by Turkish fascists on Wednesday, hundreds of anti-fascists took to the streets against this attack on the following day. After yesterday’s demonstration the fascists escalated the situation again and attacked the EKH, an occupied house in Vienna, with a mob of about 200 to 300 people. Stones, bottles and incendiary devices flew on the squatted house, which is shared by left-wing migrant organisations and anarchist aligned squatters.
We have translated an article by Zeynep Arslan (@zeynemarslan) from the Austrian Mosaik Blog to give you a first overview and analysis of the situation. The antifascist demonstrations are organized under the motto Faşizme karşı omuz omuza! – Side by side against fascism! Try to find an answer on the streets!
The noise of the police helicopters could be heard late into the night yesterday. For a long time no peace and quiet returned to the streets of Vienna-Favoriten. It all began with a rally by a Kurdish women’s organisation based in the Ernst Kirchweger Haus (EKH). The participants wanted to point out the increasing number of feminicides in Turkey and Austria. They wanted to show what the effects of anti-women policies are, which can be seen, in the privatisation and destruction of women’s shelters in Salzburg for example.
Then the women were attacked by a group of fascist men. Within a very short period of time, around a hundred right-wing extremists appeared, and a large-scale police operation was launched. The women fled to the EKH and had to stay there for hours for security reasons.
It wasn’t the first attack in the district. Similar incidents occurred on Mayday on the fringes of a rally on Keplerplatz. And a pattern is emerging: the extreme right-wing group of young men seems to have no fear of the security forces, who were even supported by two police helicopters last night.
Two to three young people can turn into fifty to a hundred within minutes. They act as owners and guards of Favoriten and want to supervise their district. They forbid residents and visitors to events to consume alcohol during the Muslim month of fasting Ramadan. They try to keep Kurdish music and language out of the public. They also like to sic the police on Turkish-Kurdish participants of events – with the insinuation that they are followers of the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party). Self-confidently they accuse the police and the Austrian state of allowing a terrorist organisation to take over public space. They mobilise each other via their mobile phones and are organized in hierarchical roles.
The group’s world view is shaped by the political ideas of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. They position themselves as his defenders and do not shy away from making the wolf salute (comparable to the Hitler salute as a distinctive sign of Turkish fascists), which is forbidden in Austria, in the presence of the police.
How is it possible that young people who were born in Vienna and Austria internalized such an unreflected racist Turkish way of thinking and generalized hatred? Unfortunately the omnipresent discrimination in Austria favours the propaganda of the Turkish right-wing extremists. Young people who regularly experience exclusions according to the motto “You are and can be with us, but you will never be one of us” can never feel equal rights and equal treatment. This structural and institutional racism prevents a common, pluralistic understanding of democracy across cultural and national affiliations.
The male “us” narrative à la Erdoğan offers these young people an identity, even if it is constructed and artificial. The corresponding messages and war propaganda from Turkey reach them daily – and are received by them uncritically and without reflection. When they are confronted by others because of their attacks, they declare that despite their citizenship and perfect German they will remain foreigners forever and ever. Their disorientation provides fertile ground for right-wing extremist propaganda.
The young people born in Austria take on the megalomania of “Turkishness” across borders. Basic democratic rights obviously have no place in this. That’s why they attack marginalized groups from their supposed “own” cultural circle: Kurds, Alevis and women. For them, their rights are part of the “corrupt Christian strangeness” in which, in their opinion, they live. They seem to have found a feeling of belonging only in the group. In the group they feel strong – but even a rally against violence against women becomes unbearable for them and threatens their male power.
So we are dealing with an aggressive inferiority complex. It is rooted in a constructed legitimation of identity, that refers to Turkish history. It begins in the steppes of Central Asia, continues through the invasion of Anatolia, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and migration into the European diaspora. Various massacres, genocides and defamations in the course of the formation of the Turkish nation state a good hundred years ago are also part of this legitimation.
The Turkish state doctrine grants them the international privileged status of “Turk-Turkish-Sunni-Muslim Man”. To defend the leader and the fatherland, even far from Turkey, any use of force is justified. This can also be seen in violent anger against women.
Last night the self-proclaimed “guardians of Favouriten” were able to carry out their second action this year in front of the Austrian public. Prior to this, their attack was directed against the May Day rally on Keplerplatz. These developments can no longer be ignored. Behind them lies a political power structure that operates transnationally. The young men are only a pretense. The structures and ideologies behind them reach as far as Turkey. A trivialisation of the current incidents would be irresponsible towards the future.
What is needed is courageous action against all forms of racism, which goes hand in hand with sexism – no matter what corner it may come from. Each and every one of us must democratically engage and take responsibility for our common future. The world views that further stabilize a male-dominated ideology must be broken up. The patterns and motivation for racist and sexist violence and incitement to hatred are always the same: the perpetrators want to compensate for their own feelings of inferiority and the existential fear associated with it. After all, the young right-wing extremists are not as strong and courageous as they themselves believe.
“When you talk about a revolution, most people think violence, without realizing that the real content of any kind of revolutionary thrust lies in the principles, in the goal that you’re striving for, not in the way you reach them.”
3 weeks ago, the African-American George Floyd was brutally murdered by police officers. Since then, an anti-racist wave of protest against police violence and White Supremacy has been spreading, which is being taken up internationally. In France, England, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Canada, but also in Germany, masses of racialized people and those standing in solidarity are taking to the streets in the middle of the pandemic. In the various countries where protests are taking place, different social situations exist from which the uprisings arise. White Left activism must show solidarity with the struggling organisations and movements of black people and people of color and recognise their spearhead role in the anti-racist struggle. We are communists from Germany who participated in the protests in Cologne and would like to present some analyses and theses on the current #BlackLivesMatter movement.
In the USA, black people make up 13% of the total population, but at the same time 33% of corona patients who need hospital treatment. They suffer from poverty-related pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, much more frequently and receive much worse health care, as they are much more likely to be affected by poverty. Black people are more than twice as often victims of murder by police officers than white people. The murder of George Floyd was certainly not an isolated case, but the straw that broke the camel’s back. The massive rage that is currently erupting everywhere merely makes these brutal facts visible. The images of the riots and the looting in the USA are by no means frightening, as postulated by bourgeois media, but are an expression of the need to upset the murderous status quo. One could plunder for a lifetime; this would not replace what capitalism stole.
The movement has already had some success. 54% support in the US-population for the burning Minneapolis police department speaks for itself. Now the police department there is to be disbanded. Worldwide, the #BlackLivesMatter protests have caused colonial monuments glorifying slavery to be hit, as in Bristol and Brussels. These successes would not have been possible without the far-reaching mass militancy. No petition had achieved this before. In Germany no monument has been tackled so far. Some influential political figures externalize the problem: it is an American phenomenon. Former faction leader of the Christian Democrats, Friedrich Merz, claims that there is no latent racism in the police. The facts tell us something else: since 1990, at least 159 People of Colour and black people have died in police custody in Germany. The racist terror does not only come from the state, but also from racists and fascists who have killed at least 209 people since 1990. In Germany racism is present everywhere. The rulers do everything to make it ignoreable for the majority of society – to the murderous disadvantage of those targeted by racism.
The internationalization of the protests makes three things clear: racism and capitalism are inseparable. Racist plundering only works with social pacification and class contract. The bourgeois state plays a central role here: it secures the capitalist normalcy, and thus inevitably also the racism that supports it and shapes it. That is why it and its personnel are now faltering in the face of the internationalization of the uprisings that are continuing in many places. The uprisings, when they attack systemic racism, necessarily attack the whole system. Civil liberties will only be accepted by those in power if the social movements can be integrated into the status quo. And: Where understanding is expressed in another country about the protest, it is usually unpopular as soon as it is directed at one’s own ruling class and it does not remain peaceful. But the renewed protests in Atlanta also make it clear that the state can try to pacify its inmates with reforms and at the same time fight the uprising with the help of the military, but also gets massive headwind from the internationalization of the protests. Whether Trump, Bolsonaro, Macron or Johnson: They are currently getting a lot of fire under their asses.
The last social movements had a subjective factor and lived on spontaneity, which caused their rapid growth: whether it was the students of Fridays for Future, who will still feel the effects of the climate catastrophe during their lifetime, or the women’s movement, which attacks the systematic double exploitation of gendering under capitalism worldwide, or the BLM movement, which makes the daily murderous threat to black people visible. Social movements take up and attack the contradictions concretely: Whether racist police violence, patriarchal and sexual exploitation or the climate catastrophe. The fight for the whole can only be won by expanding the struggles. Where systematic oppression by domination is made a problem of individuals or certain groups, the so-called “progressive neoliberalism” beckons with quotas and ridiculous reforms like body cams to satisfy the state inmates. Revolutionary answers to the crisis do not speak of individual perpetrators and redistribution. With #DefundThePolice the police as an institution is questioned. Meanwhile, in Hamburg and Berlin it quickly became clear how the smallest spark of resistance against police officers is dealt with. We have to attack racist structures and institutions, as well as colonial continuities, where we live and struggle. In other words: disempowering capital and the perpetrators of violence and expropriating the rich.
#BlackLivesMatter feeds off the anti-colonial struggles of the Black Power movement. Black culture plays a central role here, which in turn comes from a resistant tradition and poses questions of social representation and participation radically from below, but at the same time has gained quite a high popularity. Without this popularity, the wave of protest would not have been able to internationalize so quickly. In the German public and the German left, black culture is marginalized, as is knowledge of the struggles of movements and organizations. Often black voices are overheard, or their critical sting is removed. Afro-German communists, like the resistance fighter Hilarius Gilges, who was brutally murdered by the Nazis in 1933 in Düsseldorf, or the partisan fighter Carlos Grevkey, who was also murdered by Nazis, are not well known in the anti-fascist German left. This statement is directed as a criticism of ourselves, as part of this movement.
Racism is treated as a problem and, across different political camps, as structural violence. Even Horst Seehofer (German minister of the interior) and others say: We have a racism problem. This could be seen as a discursive victory for interventions critical of racism. The problem is: the legitimate questions about representation of black people and PoC, as soon as they are taken up by the Congress, the EU Parliament and the Bundestag, lack the class standpoint. Intersectional research and theoretical approaches are very vulnerable to being turned against themselves, as they have already been appropriated by the bourgeois academic sphere. The realization that many social conflicts and injustices of our time can be interpreted on the basis of the categories race, class, gender, does not necessarily put them in conflict with the capital relation. In contrast to this is the notion of striving to overcome capitalist rule, which is expressed through class relations, racism and gender relations. The difference lies in the fact that in comparison to diversity-oriented and racism-critical approaches, capitalism as a whole is denounced. Racism and gender relations are by no means a side contradiction to class relations. They are historically closely connected and can only appear to be interwoven with each other. Thus this theory differs from bourgeois theories by two central features: It has a Marxist basis on which to argue. That is, it goes beyond the categorization of inequalities. Secondly, in contrast to academic intersectionality theory approaches, the theory of triple oppression in particular aims at the revolutionary overcoming of capitalism. Or, to use Bobby Seales (Black Panther Party) words:
“We are an organisation that represents black people and many white radicals relate to this and unterstand that the Black Panther Party is a righteous revolutionary front against this racist decadent, capitalistic system. Our organisation doesn’t have any white people as members. If a white man in a radical group wants to give me some guns, I’ll take them. I’m not going to refuse them because he’s white.”
If we as leftists want to make our contribution to the BLM movement, we must intervene practically and locally. For Cologne, a minimal catalogue of measures would be the abolition of the construct of “dangerous places” (a rationalization for stop and frisk), such as the Domplatte and Ebertplatz, an end to racist police controls, #JusticeforKrys (a young man shot and by a conservative politician), Herkesin Meydani – a memorial in Keupstraße (where nazi terrorists detonated a mailbomb), the private accommodation of fugitives and to dump the Kaiser Wilhelm statues in the Rhine. Nationwide: the disarmament of the police, the return of colonial looted goods, immediate debt relief and reparations payments for former German colonies, a reappraisal of the involvement of German shipbuilders and financial houses in the slave trade and the evacuation of all camps. Those who do not want to talk about colonialism should also keep quiet about capitalism.