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Post-Imperialism in Iran

by AKBAR GANJI

16 Feb 2010 03:0230 Comments
Ganji04.jpg[ comment ] The 1979 Iranian Revolution took place during the Cold War, when Third World societies were deeply affected by anti-imperial ideologies. The Revolution's politicized Islamic movement was influenced by the leading "progressive" ideology of those days -- Bolshevik Marxism. In broad terms, Iranian revolutionaries wanted independence from foreign control and were critical of Western intervention in support of despotism. The Shah of Iran was considered to be the regional gendarme of American imperialism in the Middle East. The popular slogan "After the Shah, it is America's turn" captures the spirit of those who opposed him. Anti-Western sentiment at the time involved two distinct impulses: anti-imperialism in Leninist terms, and a critique of modernity in the Heidegerrian sense of philosophical critique. While there were also popular demands for social justice, what was missing from political discourse during the era was a serious consideration of the ethical requirements of democracy and human rights.

Other events quickly followed: the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran, Saddam Hussein's military invasion of Iran, a cultural revolution, and the crushing of Marxist and other opposition groups. The revolution that Ayatollah Khomeini led was a populist one with little concern for fostering political pluralism and and little respect for diversity. Populist economic policies and the nationalization of economic assets and resources made the state the key actor on the scene, while the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s further enhanced the new regime's efforts at social mobilization. Oil revenues led not only to state autonomy from civil society, it allowed the regime to expand its repressive apparatus and tighten its control over many aspects of society.

Thirty years of Islamic fundamentalist rule, however, have generated significant political opposition throughout Iran. This has gradually coalesced into the Green Movement that has been on display since the June 2009 presidential election. In contrast to the Revolution of 1979, what the world has been watching for the past eight months is a movement that seeks a democratic transition to a government that respects pluralism and human rights. While this has been taking place, the focus of the U.S. government and most of the media remains on Iran's nuclear program and the possible dangers it poses for the world.

Perhaps the Iranian regime's repression over the past eight months, replete with the deaths of about 100 people in the streets, further deaths due to torture and executions, mass arrests of thousands of opposition supporters, harsh prison sentences, and the banning of all opposition media, pales in comparison to the loss of life in neighboring Iraq. But this is the story of a people who have endured three decades of repression, fear, the squandering of their national interests, and the humiliation of their country by the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It might be hard to appreciate how widespread and deep-rooted is the discontent among freedom-seeking, peaceful Iranians with the current regime, but denial of this fact leads to distorted, ideologically skewed interpretations of Iranian politics and society. While Iranians certainly want to see diplomatic relations re-established between their country and the United States, they do not wish to see this happen at the price of ignoring systematic human rights violations, including the executions of political prisoners. The actions of this regime against its own people are tantamount to crimes against humanity, and those responsible for these crimes must one day be brought to justice.

Translated by Nader Hashemi.

Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau

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30 Comments


SHAH-REGIME:
estimates compiled by the researcher Emad al-Din Baghi at the Martyrs Foundation (Bonyad Shahid) come up with a figure of 341 non-demonstrators killed between 1963 and 1979
http://www.emadbaghi.com/en/archives/000592.php

REVOLUTIONARY IRAN:
In the course of the years 1979 to 1996 according to the list of names published on the website
http://www.sarbazan.com/unsungList%28English%29.asp
more than 1980 executions took place.

Publicola / February 16, 2010 4:02 AM

@Publicola:

Baghi's figures are 3,164 killed. Official Imperial government figures are 3x that. Revolutionary figures are 10x.

Pirouz / February 16, 2010 5:14 AM

With all due respect for Ganji - who has done some good work, but acts as if he is an expert in everything, from Islam, to Quran, philosophy, "erfaan," etc. - there is no "post-imperialism" in Iran or anywhere. U.S. imperialism is alive and well, despite all of its economic difficulties. [Note to George: Headline is not Ganji's. ed.]

George Stewart / February 16, 2010 5:16 AM

That list doesn't include the 1988 prison massacre and 8000 MEK/leftists/others from 81-85. We'll never know until this government is gone and fact finding mission is set up.

The revolutionary figures are not 10x except in rhetoric, since the Martyrs foundation was created by the revolution.

GooGoo / February 16, 2010 6:43 AM

The figures of the 341 individuals executed under the Shah regime and of the ca. 1980 executed under the Revolutionary Regime refer - it seems - exclusively to (state-ordered, judge-approved) executions,
not to the 3,164 mentioned "casualties" that were killed but not executed,

as unpleasant as any figure mentioned naturally was, is and will forever remain.

Publicola / February 16, 2010 7:00 AM

Pirouz, the official imperial government figures are 3x that? Where are those figures and who are those people? You are just as bad as this character Ganji. Yesterday's Islamist and today's wanna be angel.Why don't the likes of Ganji, Sazegara and other Barbaric Republic rejects disappear quietly and forever? Am I supposed to feel sorry for you Mr. Gangi? Is this why you post your own picture here? The Iranian people want no part of you and the likes. GOODBYE. [Note to Niloofar: Mr. Ganji had nothing to do with the choice of photo. Ed.]

Niloofar / February 16, 2010 7:12 AM

Pirouz, Mark Pyruz?? Sargord Pirouz:

Provide link and substantiate your allegations.

Also, Are you a member of IRGC?? Why

are so interested in military??

voice / February 16, 2010 10:14 AM

Dear George,


Please watch Youtube clips of Ganji's lecture and Q&A at SOAS, London, last June, for a more balanced view of him.


He does not suffer childish illusions about the benevolence of US aims in the Middle East.


Yes, his intellectual ambition often exceeds his discursive skill, but his approach seems rigorously honest, ethical, democratic and pluralistic, all extremely rare attributes in our society.


Ganji warns that if civil society in Iran is not strengthened and organized, and if ordinary Iranians do not become democratic and tolerant in their personal interactions, any government that comes to power will become despotic and tyrannical, regardless of its ideological bent.


He is one of just a handful of dissidents abroad that has steered clear of the American-Israeli-Saudi combine against Iran, refusing to meet Bush in the White House, instead seeking dialogue with progressive and moral elements of American civil society, like Amy Goodman and Noam Chomsky.


Ganji did not seek pay and shelter with the Israel Lobby commissars of WINEP, as Sazegara and Khalaji have done.


Nor does he sip latte and trade cliff notes with killer-cum-intellectuals like Condoleeza 'birth-pangs' Rice and Donald Rumsfeld in the corridors of the neocon Hoover Institute, unlike VOA's sage for all seasons, Abbas Milani.


In the moral morass of Iranian dissidentry abroad, he has held to the high path of principle.


I pray he remains an exemplar for Iran's homegrown civil rights movement by continuing to resist any mercenary temptations that may come his way.

Ali from Tehran / February 16, 2010 1:18 PM

I'm not clear why the Marxism that influenced the movement in 79 is described as "Bolshevik". If it had really been Bolshevik, rather than tied to the contemporary Communist Party, the issue of democracy would have been at it's heart.

SG / February 16, 2010 5:18 PM

I'm from Austria and Catholics, but we have the same God and I never belive that our God will agree with the horrible actions of your Regime.
Human rights are treaded by feet and the responsible people deserve to be punished !

Brigitte Kreisl-Walch / February 16, 2010 5:38 PM

dear Ali:

I agree with you regarding Ganji staying away from neocons, and I admire him for that.

But, his intellectual ambitions exceeding his discourse skills has created problems for a lot of people and even for the Greens. First of all, his position regarding Quran, the Imams, and Mahdaviyat - highly specialized areas for which he has no formal education or deep research - has created a lot of food for the hardliners in Iran. Why does he have to discuss these at this critical juncture, where their problem is not such issues, and he presents himself a major Green outside Iran?

Plus, if Ganji truly believes that religion is a private issue, as he has repeatedly said, he should leave these things alone. These are a matter of faith. There are also scholars much more learned than him that are doing a much better job of discussing such sensitive issues.

Ganji also attacks a lot of people, again at points when the issues before the people are not such issues. He has attacked Kadivar fiercely. He attacked Shariati totally unfairly, and many other people. His attacks on Rafsanjani in 1999-2000 were a strategic mistake (now he says he was not attacking him). And, when his friends calmly tell him that he has made a mistake, he just attacks them again!

Behzad Nabavi was once asked, "why do you not respond to all of things that Ganji says?" His response: "As long as he was in Iran, we did not say anything, because we did not want him to get in trouble more than what he already was. Now that he is outside Iran, we do not respond, because he must first decide whether he wants to be a journalist, a philosopher, an Islamic scholar, a human rights advocate, ... One cannot be all of them.

That is exactly my feeling.

Niloofar:

Once again you are ranting. Control yourself. There are many websites dedicated to such rants. Why do you not get the steam out of your chest in those sites?

George Stewart / February 16, 2010 6:50 PM

Dear George,


Unfortunately, on your examples of Ganji's harmful lack of discretion and political acumen, I am compelled to agree with you.

Ali from Tehran / February 16, 2010 8:25 PM

With all due respect to the Iranian people with whom I deeply sympathize, I'm sick of hearing about how they've been oppressed for centuries, and particularly, in the last 31 years. If they don't like the government they've got, they need to get rid of it - one way or another. It's up to them and if they can't take set-backs like Feb. 11, then they need to shut up and accept life under a military/theocratic dictatorship. They should have given some thought to who they were supporting 31 years ago instead of buying the BIG LIE.

sickofit / February 16, 2010 10:22 PM

Karroubi's Son Threatened with Rape Inside Amir-ol-Momenin Mosque
Karroubi's third son, Ali who was arrested by Law Enforcement Forces on 11th February, was taken to Amir-ol-momenin Mosque, which was used as a temporary detention centre for protesters. There, as the detainees were identified, the lackeys of the Supreme Leader realised they had Karroubi's son in their possession. After contacting their superiors they felt comfortable to deal with Ali as they pleased. As they beat Ali repeatedly in front of other detainees, they used the foulest language to insult his mother and father. Not only that but in what is supposed to be a house of God, inside the very mosque of Amir-ol-momenin, Ali Karroubi was threatened with rape. A hideous act so deplorable that it is punishable by death in Islam let alone if it is carried out inside a mosque. Yet they felt so proud of what they were doing that they were also filming the beating.

When the order to transfer Ali Karroubi to the Motahari barracks came, one of his torturers sighed and said, 'If only they gave me another 24 hours, I would have sent your corpse to your family'.

sabz / February 16, 2010 10:22 PM

Ed.,
Thank you for your clarification.

George,
I am not here to make you happy. Gangi, Sazegara and the likes were part of a system that created the Islamic monster which has caused the death and murder of thousands of my fellow countrymen. These characters may have realized their past mistakes, but cannot expect us to take them in as one of our own. The best they can do is to step aside, retire and hope the Iranian people will forgive their shameful past. You have your opinions and I have mine. This is a free society and I can express mine. If I contradict yours, just too bad.

Niloofar / February 16, 2010 11:07 PM

Niloofar:

Of course, you should express your opinion.

But you do not express any opinion. You just rant and attack. Criticizing (in your case baslessly attacking) is fine, but only if it is accompanied by constructive suggestions. Generically saying "I do not want these of you, so step aside" is not enough.

In another thread you were asked, but you did not respond: So, it is asked again:

Tell us whom you accept as your leader, and why.

If you do not think there is a need, explain why a nationwide movement does not need it.

George Stewart / February 17, 2010 2:02 AM

Feb 16Iran Nobel winner seeks Nokia Siemens sanctions

http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-46184820100215

Anonymous / February 17, 2010 3:50 AM

After Karubi's word with Fars news agency...people felt there was a bad smell of compromise. They were disappointed believe it or not. They lost trust and after many said chant this but not that slogan people thing that these guys may have compromised from behind for fears of the fall of IR as a whole and for their interests, whether you want to believe it or not. I myself felt it that Feb 11 th would be like this the closer we were getting to the date. Also the repression that was following.
People r not ready to risk their lives for leaders that are not determined and strong. People are afraid of being betrayed again.

Sarah / February 17, 2010 6:08 AM

Pre-revolutionary deaths according to Abrahamian book:
578 using Laleh-ha-ye Enqelab: Yadnameh-e Shaheda (Tulips of Revolution: Memorial for the Martyrs)(a 830 page memorial published during the Bazargan interregnum)---this total excludes executions and the incineration of some 400 in the Rex Cinema Fire (carried out by religious fanatiics).

Anonymous / February 17, 2010 6:15 AM

Ganjis journalism was of incalculable value at the time of the chain murders and lifted the lid ever so slightly on the cauldron of violence and conspiracy that otherwise might have been obscured in the minds of people.Referring back to these events clarifies our understanding of subsequent atrocities such as the assassination of the physics professor and the death of the young doctor, as well as the entire subject of the two fake elections of 2005 and 2009.Crimes against humanity is the correct term for these activities and related ones directed at women,workers, minorites and citizens of other countries.

pirooz / February 17, 2010 11:24 AM

Kudos to Google and GEOEYE!


Keeping an eye on repression
The Famous IKONOS Satellite Image of Azadi Square

It was during this time that Mark Brender, the Vice President of Communications at GeoEye (www.geoeye.com), an operator of high-resolution Earth imaging satellites, received a call from an unusual customer. A professor at one of Iran’s universities was wondering if a GeoEye satellite would be in position on 11 February, 2010 to take a picture of Azadi Square at the time when Ahamadinejad was giving his 22 Bahman speech.

I spoke with Mr. Brender who received that historic call, and he was eager to read some of the emails he received from grateful Iranians

http://iranian.com/main/2010/feb/keeping-eye-repression

The lengths this regime went to put on a show pointed exactly at how weak and insecure it has become. Far gone are the days of spontaneous, basij-free, demonstrations to commemorate the revolution. Now they need barricades around Azadi Sq., hundreds of loudspeakers to drown the opposition, every bus available to bring in hardcore supporters from out of town. Not to mention cutting phone texting and the internet as well as arresting scores of activists.

http://iranian.com/main/2010/feb/keeping-eye-repression

Breaking News / February 18, 2010 5:36 PM

Sarah,

"People r not ready to risk their lives for leaders that are not determined and strong."

You are right Sarah and when people quite rightly don't show,it is only convenient to blame it on North Tehran and label them soosool. Ask your self a simple question dear. Who are today's North Tehranies? Simple, the families of Mullahs and Sepah. Those who rip off the country and have the financial ability to do so. Why would they rock the boat?
It is always the middle class and the working class that fight for their rights.What else is new?
There is only one solution for Iran. Total removal of the Islamic Republic. Anything else is just a hoax.

Niloofar / February 18, 2010 10:10 PM

Niloofar,

Thank you very much for clarifying who the people of North Tehran are these days. Another article on TB made it seem as though N Tehranies were lazy middle class & Bazaaries, but one only has to look at the price of real estate in N Tehran & ask oneself, who has the real money in these times - the truly corrupt on earth, sucking the wealth of the country's resources into their pockets like parasites. Total removal of the Islamic Republic, including its hangers on is the only way forward.

What do you recommend be done with these regime toadies? Forced exile, though allowing them to keep their ill gotten gains, forced exile after seizing their fraudulently obtained assets, a truth commission like S Africa offering amnesty and retention of these monies, something else?

I look for your posts because you speak both from the heart and mind, uncensored and candidly, a refreshing combination, despite what others may say.

Seyyed / February 19, 2010 3:58 AM

First he saw the light. And now he is the light.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPyFbIPajBc

Where do we draw the line Iranians?

When are we going to declare enough is enough?

-----------------
food for your thoughts:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qcr16MpZRQ4&feature=related

-----------------------------------------------
God Bless America, my home. God Bless Persia the country these Barbarians took away from me.

Sohrab / February 19, 2010 7:48 AM

Seyyed,

"the truly corrupt on earth". We are all corrupt dear. It's just that our prices are different. Don't get caught up in that dear. Why send them into exile? Most of these people have not put in an honest day of work. What do mullahs do in terms of productivity and contribution or the leadership of the Sepah for that matter? They need to stay behind and payback their debts to society.

Seyyed,
first, we must focus on regime change or all these or subsequent thoughts are meaningless. We should have a referendum and allow our people to pick a system of government of their choosing. It should be followed by the implementation of a constitution, civilized, forward looking and free of any prejudice. I have no doubt that with freedom of thought, political freedom and economic prosperity will follow.

We have a rich and resourceful country. There is nothing out there that can stop us except the limitations that we impose upon ourselves. We must go back to our own roots and traditions and start anew. We must stand united and create a leadership committee on the outside. One free of mental restrictions to support and guide our true heroes on the inside. Management is critical in any kind of activity.

Our struggle must be uninterrupted with a plan and direction. We must shake all the capitals of the leading countries of the world to gain total international attention. At the present time, our national struggle is used as a bargaining chip by the big five against the nuclear issue. That is a put down and a disgrace. That tells me if it was not for the nuclear issue the Iranian people would not matter. Don't we have any self respect as a nation?

Seyyed,
I wish you had a Persian name, but that is your business dear. Love your country, love your flag (not the Islamic Republic's though) and love your people. No more executions, exile, torture and rape. We need a country of laws. We will solve all our own problems within the frame work of law in a country of laws for all Iranians. Be patient. It may seem like a dream right now, but we can do it. Walk tall and be proud. Be happy and prosper. My regards to your family dear.

Niloofar / February 20, 2010 2:57 AM

Dear Valagohar Shahdokht NILOOFAR @ 2:57 AM,


Your rhetorical flourishes should be published in the Imperial Sourcebook of Trite Cliches:


-- "Love your country, love your flag, love your people."

-- "Walk tall and be proud."

-- "Be happy and prosper."

-- "We must shake all the capitals of the leading countries of the world ..."


**** **** **** **** **** **** ****


Cautionary note: too much shaking can cause spinal trauma and prevent you from walking tall.


You still haven't responded to George Stewart's post of 17/02/2010 @ 2:02 AM. Perhaps sober discussion is not your forte, "dear".

Ali from Tehran / February 20, 2010 9:01 PM

Ali from some where other than Iran,

Why Hello old boy, "dear".
You are entitled to your opinion in our free capitalist societies.

However, I am sorry to inform you there is nothing more "Trite Cliche" than left over pinkos like you Comrade "dear".

"Love your country, love your flag, love your people."

I understand. You pinkos don't know anything about love of one's country and love of one's flag.I understand "dear".
Don't feel bad.

-- "Walk tall and be proud."

After the fall of your Mecca USSR you pinkos can not walk tall and proud.I understand "dear".
Don't feel bad.

-- "Be happy and prosper."

What is the matter comrade? Can't you see anyone happy and prosperous? How pinko of you "dear".

-- "We must shake all the capitals of the leading countries of the world ..."

We simple capitalists are entitled to our dreams "dear". Every great achievement starts from a simple dream. But you pinkos were not allowed to dream. You had nothing to dream about, did you "dear"? Don't feel bad.

Isn't it interesting old boy that any slightest mention of anything nationalistic provokes a reaction from you and your Islamist friends? It bothers you lot, doesn't it? GOOD.

I Love you Iran dearest.

Niloofar / February 21, 2010 3:19 AM

False patriotism is indeed the last refuge of our royalists-in-exile.


What is false patriotism? The kind that holds these mutually contradictory and treasonous beliefs in its bossom:


1. That a jealous West plotted the overthrow of the cute Shah because he was turning Iran into a prosperous powerhouse.


2. That we should turn to the cute West for assistance in bringing democracy and prosperity to Iran.


As our Pahlavite princess Niloofar seems deadset on "shaking the capitals of the leading countries of the world", I suggest she consult with Hamid Karzai and Ahmad Chalabi on the most orthopaedic shaking methods, so that she doesn't hurt her royal back.

Ali from Tehran / February 22, 2010 11:18 PM

Ali from somewhere other than Iran,

treasonous old boy?
Thirty one years have gone by. Show us the socialistic paradise of your creation. You and I before the world. Show us your accomplishments.
As for assistance, I will turn to my people and together we shall be free again. FREE.

History is on our side and you know it.Islamic Republic has one destiny, the garbage of history. Goodbye old boy.

Niloofar / February 23, 2010 8:34 AM

Dear Valagohar Shahdokht Niloofar,


History is on your side, definitely.


The present and the future, however, don't seem to be very enamoured of you.


After you finish, please update us on the results of your shaking fits in Paris, Berlin, London, Washington and Tel Aviv.

Ali from Tehran / February 23, 2010 7:08 PM