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Friday, May 30, 2008

Alternative Islam Conference, Koln, Germany, 31 May-1 June, 2008

Maryam Namazie will be speaking at the alternative Islam conference in Koln, Germany on May 31 at 11am and again at 1230pm on a panel with other heads of Ex-Muslim Councils. Her 11am speech is entitled ‘Islam is significant because of political Islam’. For more information, click here.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A state that arrests, detains and flogs workers should not be in the ILO!

To all labour organisations around the world

The ninety-seventh annual conference of the ILO will be held between May 28 and June 13, 2008. Every year this conference hosts a delegation from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Beside the Islamic Republic, the ILO also recognises Workers’ House and Islamic Workers’ Councils – i.e. organisations made by the regime against workers - as “workers’ organisations from Iran”.

The International Labour Solidarity Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran strongly protests against the participation of the Islamic Republic in the annual conference of the ILO and calls for the expulsion of this regime from the ILO.

Unfortunately, it has been argued that the attendance of the Islamic Republic and its Workers’ House at the annual conferences of the ILO is conducive to dialogue and to pressuring the Islamic Republic to recognise and respect the minimum rights of workers. However, this approach has plainly proved itself wrong. The Islamic Republic continues to arrest and imprison worker activists. It has not recognised any of the basic worker rights such as freedom of association, collective bargaining and the right to strike. Moreover, it has shamelessly added flogging to its techniques of repressing workers. Workers in Iran are right in condemning the ILO for its continued recognition of the Islamic Republic and its delegations.

In the past year alone, hundreds of trade unions around the world called for the release of two Iranian labour leaders, Mansoor Ossanlou and Mahmoud Salehi, and for respect for worker rights in Iran. However, the Islamic Republic has simply ignored these calls. Indeed, as documented by numerous human rights organisations, the atrocities of the regime in Iran against workers and all sections of the people have only intensified. The Islamic regime’s continued membership in organisations such as the ILO has thus become totally indefensible.

Our committee values highly the tremendous solidarity shown by labour organisations throughout the world with workers in Iran. We also believe that a decisive step towards supporting the struggle of the workers in Iran is the isolation of the Islamic Republic on an international scale and its expulsion, together with its Workers’ House, from the ILO. A state that arrests, detains and flogs workers should not be in the ILO! We request all labour organisations around the world to exercise their influence to expel the Islamic Republic of Iran from the ILO.

International Labour Solidarity Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran

Shahla Daneshfar, Coordinator
Bahram Soroush, Public Relations

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Lack of information on Javanmir Moradi and Taha Azadi and violent attempt to arrest Fouzieh Khalesi

Since being told by the Intelligence Ministry in Bushehr on 12 May that Javanmir Moradi and Taha Azadi have been transferred to the Intelligence Ministry in the city of Kermanshah, their families’ attempts in Kermanshah to find out where they are being held have brought no results.

Meanwhile, on 18 May when Fouzieh Khalesi [Moradi’s wife] approached the Intelligence Ministry in Kermanshah, the Ministry’s officers violently tried to arrest her. However, this was resisted by those accompanying her, which resulted in Fouzieh being hurt in the leg and several of those with her being beaten with rifle butts. Since then the attempts of the families to find out from various authorities in Kermanshah about the whereabouts of their loved ones have led nowhere.

Javanmir Moradi and Taha Azadi are members of the executive board of the Free Union of Iranian Workers. They were working in Asaluye in slave-like conditions and have committed no crime but to try to celebrate May Day.

Depriving the families of Javanmir Moradi and Taha Azadi of information about the whereabouts of their loved ones and threatening to arrest them, given the deep anxiety and severe psychological pressure that this puts on the spouses and children of these workers, is clear evidence of the use of psychological torture against them.

Thus, in view of the refusal to reveal where Javanmir Moradi and Taha Azadi are being held and the threat to arrest members of their families, we believe that the lives of Javanmir Moradi and Taha Azadi are in danger.

We hold the highest levels of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran responsible for the consequences of any physical or psychological harm to these dear [colleagues]. We appeal to all labour and human rights organisations to take urgent and effective action to protest at the situation created for Javanmir Moradi, Taha Azadi and their families, and to call for the immediate and unconditional release of Javanmir Moradi and Taha Azadi and all jailed workers and social activists.

The Free Union of Iranian Workers
20 May 2008

Translated by the International Labour Solidarity Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran (ILSC-WPI)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

An Update


Here is an update for you on some important matters and upcoming events:

On Fitna Remade

Reza Moradi, a member of CEMB’s Executive Committee, has just produced Fitna Remade in response to Geert Wilders film, Fitna. You can see Reza’s remake here. To see commentaries and Fariborz Pooya's interview with Maryam Namazie and Bahram Soroush on the original movie on Iranian Secular Society TV, click here. You can read the transcript of the programme here.

Events - Hold these dates

One year anniversary celebration: We are asking members and supporters to join CEMB executive committee members for drinks to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the establishment of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and to meet other like-minded people in central London on 5th July 2008 from 2pm onwards. For more details, please RSVP.

International Conference entitled Challenging Islam and Political Islam, October 10, 2008 at Conway Hall, London: The CEMB is busy organising an international conference on 10 October - the International Day against the Death Penalty – entitled Challenging Islam and political Islam – to focus on several key questions, namely the problem with Sharia law, including for women's status; freedom of expression and the need for criticism of religion; universal rights; as well as the separation of religion and the state. Keep this date free in your diaries from now.

Urgent need for help

Support and safe houses: We are looking for emergency and temporary safe homes for people who want to leave Islam but fear that they will be killed by their families. This will enable them to be safe until we can help them access available resources and a shelter. If you are able to help, please contact us.

Legal advice: The Charities Commission has said the CEMB cannot apply for charity status because we defend secularism! Perhaps that explains why so many Islamic organisations and religious institutions have charity status. We are nonetheless going to file for charity status and are looking for someone with legal expertise to assist. If you can help us, please contact us as soon as possible.

Ex-Muslim case histories: As you know, there isn’t a lot of information out there about the case histories of those who have renounced religion and in particular Islam. We are looking to record these in various ways. If you might be interested in giving us your story, email, write or call us so we can set up a time to talk or meet.

Important recent media coverage and speeches

To see a Times article on Maryam Namazie entitled: It’s time to take a stand against Islam and Sharia, Maryam Namazie, head of the Council of Ex-Muslims in Britain, says that rights are for individuals, not religions or beliefs, click here.

To see Maryam’s speech commemorating 17 year old Du’a who was stoned to death last year in Iraqi Kurdistan, click here. To read the speech, click here. To see Maryam’s response at the conference commemorating Du'a on whether men are to blame for women's rights violations, exaggerating the extent of Islam's role, is criticism of Islam being anti-Muslim, and on various interpretations of Islam, click here.

To hear a part English, part Swedish 25 minute interview with Maryam on Radio P4 Boras on Islam and political Islam, Click here.

Upcoming speaking engagements

Maryam Namazie will be speaking at the alternative Islam conference in Koln, Germany on May 31 at 11am and again at 1230pm on a panel with other heads of Ex-Muslim Councils. Her 11am speech is entitled ‘Islam is significant because of political Islam'. [External Link]

Maryam Namazie will be speaking at a plenary session on Political Islam and Freedom of Conscience and Expression at the World Humanist Congress, June 6, 2008, Washington, DC, USA. [External Link]

Other information

A CEMB supporter, Richard Collins, has set up a facebook page called 1,000,000 activists for Maryam Namazie. To see or join it, click here.

Maryam Namazie’s blog has been rated one of the top hundred hottest atheist blogs here.

How you can help us do more:

You can help us do more to break the taboo that comes with renouncing Islam and to push back religion’s adverse role in society at large by:

* Donating to our organisation. We need funds to cover everything from a campaign against the Sharia courts in Britain, a comprehensive resource centre about Islam, political Islam and ex-Muslims, a support system for ex-Muslims and Ex-Muslim TV programmes that can be broadcast across Europe and the Middle East. A huge thanks to everyone who has generously donated to our organisation. We need a lot more funds though if we are going to move from a volunteer run organisation to a more established one. No amount is too small or for that matter too big!

* Adding your name and statement to our list of members or supporters.

* Volunteering your time and expertise. We particularly need help in charity law, conference organising, researching, writing and broadcasting.

* Telling others about us by forwarding recent media coverage or our press releases to everyone you know...

We look forward to hearing from you.

Warmest regards,

CEMB Executive Committee
Asad Abbas (Secretary), Reyhan Hussein, Jalil Jalili, Rony Miah, Reza Moradi, Maryam Namazie (Chair), Bahram Soroush and Zia Zaffar (Treasurer).

Over 6,000 workers march again on 15th day of strike

Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Workers’ Strike – Day 15
Shush, Iran – Monday, May 19, 2008

Thousands of Haft Tapeh sugar cane workers marched again on Sunday and Monday through the town of Shush ahead of the sham trial of five of their colleagues tomorrow, which the workers are fighting to revoke. As in the last few days, the people of the town also joined the march today. At one point the workers blocked the main highway in the area.

In today’s march, the workers shouted slogans for the payment of unpaid wages and the scrapping of the legal actions against their colleagues. Another slogan reverberating through the streets today was for the release of jailed workers: “Jailed workers must be freed!”

The sugar cane workers are demanding the payment of overdue wages and the dropping of the cases against five of their colleagues, who are being witch-hunted for their leading part in the strike. Jalil Ahmadi, Fereydoon Nikofard, Ahmad Nejati, Ghorban Alipoor and Mohammad Heydari Mehr have been summoned to appear before court tomorrow, Tuesday. However, a large mobilisation is also expected tomorrow on this crucial day of the fight.

Meanwhile workers from around the country have expressed their support for the strike. The Free Union of Iranian Workers, workers of Ahvaz Pipe Manufacturing Company and a group of workers from Iran Khodro Car Manufacturing Company issued statements today to express their solidarity with the workers and to condemn the impending action against the five activists. Last week several workers’ organisations issued a Joint Statement to condemn the persecution of the sugar cane workers, as well as calling for the immediate and unconditional release of currently jailed workers Javanmir Moradi, Taha Azadi, Sheis Amani and Mansoor Ossanlou (More info on site of International Labour Solidarity Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran).

A video clip of the march today is available on YouTube.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Khamenei and Ahmadinejad's pictures set alight in Iran

Here is a youtube clip of pictures of Khamenei and Khatami being set alight during Charshanbeh Suri in Iran.

Iran: Workers and families march on 13th day of strike

Haft-Tapeh Sugar Cane Workers’ Strike
Shush, Iran – May 17, 2008

Thousands of Haft Tapeh sugar cane workers marched today through the town of Shush on the 13th day of their massive strike. The marchers, numbering around 3,000, were joined along the way by the people of the town, swelling their ranks to 5,000, according to a report received by WPI.

After first gathering outside the Governor’s Office at 8.00 a.m., they then marched, together with their families, towards the city centre. The slogans included: “Livelihood and dignity is our certain right”, “Legal cases must be closed”, “Head of security must be fired”, and “Haft-Tapeh workers are hungry”. Around 11.30 a.m. the security forces attacked the marchers with tear gas. Two workers are reported to have been taken to hospital injured, one of whom has been kept in the hospital.

The sugar cane workers, who have been on strike since 11th May, are demanding the payment of two months’ overdue wages, dropping of the threatened legal actions against worker activists, which are based on fabricated charges, resignation of the director and management of the company, and the firing of the head of the factory security who has played a particularly vicious role in persecuting workers. Five workers have been summoned to appear before court next Tuesday, 20th May, which the workers have said they will fight to revoke. This is the third strike by sugar cane workers in the past year.

A march by around 2,000 workers on Thursday was also attacked by the security forces, resulting in five injuries. Some family members of the workers described the brutality of the police in interviews to international radio stations.

At the end of today’s march, the workers said they would march again Sunday.

International Labour Solidarity Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran

Head office:
Co-ordinator: Shahla Daneshfar
Public Relations: Bahram Soroush

Friday, May 16, 2008

We demand the release of jailed workers and dropping of the cases against five Haft-Tapeh sugar cane workers

Free Union of Iranian Workers, Trade Association of Kermanshah Electrical and Metalworkers, Shahoo workers…

We demand the release of jailed workers and dropping of the cases against five Haft-Tapeh sugar cane workers

14 days have passed since the detention of Javanmir Moradi and Taha Azadi (workers of Assaluye and members of the governing board of the Free Union of Iranian Workers) for their attempt to celebrate May Day. Until two days ago, the Intelligence Ministry in the city of Bushehr was refusing to reveal where the two were being held, thereby continuing to harass their families.

In order to follow up on the situation of their loved ones, the families of these workers put up a tent in Emam Square in central Bushehr, and were living in the tent all this time. However, last night the security forces in Bushehr came to the tent and said that they had no right to stay inside the city and must leave. They said if they intended to stay, they would have to stay somewhere outside the city. The security forces then dismantled the tent and moved the family to the outskirts. However, this morning Bushehr City Council also began dismantling the families’ tent in the outskirts of the city. Meanwhile, in the past two weeks Javanmir Moradi has been denied his nerve and brain medicines and prevented from using his glasses. Except for three brief calls, no other contacts have been allowed with the families. All the calls have been monitored by the Intelligence Ministry of Bushehr and have in effect been a means of blocking the families of Javanmir and Taha from following up on their loved ones. In the last contact that Javanmir Moradi had with his family last night, May 13th, he told them that they were being moved to the city of Kermanshah. However, this morning the Intelligence Ministry of Bushehr told the families of Javanmir and Taha that the two were still needed there for another week. They were told to leave and come back in a week’s time. In our view, the contradictions in all the three instances of contact between these two and their families indicate that they are under severe physical and psychological duress in the Intelligence Ministry of Bushehr, such that they are made to call their families and lie to them.

During the 14 days of their detention, Javanmir Moradi and Taha Azadi have endured a great deal of physical and psychological pressures. This treatment is only a small part of the inhuman treatment of workers who have done nothing but try to celebrate May Day; an event, which, following the intervention of the security forces, even failed to materialise.

This inhuman treatment is going on at a time when Sheis Amani has been thrown into jail in the city of Sanandaj prior to this year’s May Day for the same offence of celebrating May Day; when Mansoor Ossanlou has been kept in prison for his labour activities, despite the demand of the workers in Iran and the world; and when five workers of Haft-Tapeh have been summoned for demanding their rights and those of their colleagues.

Therefore, we, the organisations and workers signatory to this Statement, declare that:

1- we strongly condemn the ongoing pressures on Javanmir Moradi and Taha Azadi and their families;

2- the inhuman treatment of these workers is nothing but an attempt to cook up bogus cases and fabricate spurious charges against them; an action which is condemned;

3- we demand the immediate and unconditional release of Javanmir Moradi, Taha Azadi, Sheis Amani and Mansoor Ossanlou and dropping of the cases against Jalil Ahmadi, Fereydoon Nikofard, Ahmad Nejati, Ghorban Alipoor and Mohammad Heydari Mehr, Haft-Tapeh sugar cane workers, who have been summoned to appear before court on 20th May for protesting against the non-payment of wages of Haft-Tapeh workers and for demanding their rights and those of their colleagues.

4- in our view, celebrating May Day, strike and assembly are workers’ evident rights in order to defend their human rights; we will defend this human right of ours.

Free Union of Iranian Workers
Trade Association of Kermanshah Electrical and Metalworkers
Workers of Shahoo Factory

And groups of workers from:

Kurdistan Textile Factory
Assaluye Gas Refinery, Phases 9 & 10
Niroo-Rakhsh Factory
Par-Ris Factory
Kermanshah Heavy Polyethylene Petrochemical Plant
Sanandaj Brick Kiln
Tehran and Suburbs United Bus Company
Ghom Industrial City

14 May 2008

Copies to:
Ayatollah Shahroudi, Head of the Judiciary
Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Source: Free Union of Iranian Workers (Ettehadiye Azad e Kargaran e Iran)

Translated by the International Labour Solidarity Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran (ILSC-WPI)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Disturbing tactics to break jailed workers in Iran

Javanmir Moradi and Taha Azadi continue to be detained by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry following their arrest on 1st May for taking part in this year’s May Day rally in the port town of Asaluye, in the south of Iran. Moradi and Azadi are veteran labour activists and founding members of the Free Union of Iranian Workers (Ettehadiye Azad e Kargaran e Iran).

As the following report shows, denial of medicines and staged telephone calls are among the tactics being used by the Intelligence Ministry to extract information and break the morale and resistance of the jailed workers and their families. The family of Javanmir Moradi are now living in a tent in central Bushehr as they cannot afford the hotel costs. For days they were kept in the dark as to where Moradi was being held, but finally they were told that both Moradi and Azadi were in the custody of the Intelligence Ministry. On Saturday, Fouzieh Khalesi, the wife of Javanmir Moradi, succeeded in obtaining a visiting order from the Judiciary. Nevertheless, the Intelligence Ministry has refused any visits and only allowed 2-minute telephone calls between Moradi and members of his family. On Monday, Fouzieh received a telephone call from Javanmir. As the following report by the Free Union of Iranian Workers shows, the call was set up and directed by the Intelligence Ministry as a tactic of intimidation against Moradi’s family and colleagues and in order to obtain information. The fact that Javanmir Moradi has been forced into making this call, against his will, is an indication of the severity of the pressures and the degrading and inhuman treatment that he is being subjected to.

ILSC-WPI, 14 May 2008
* * *

Javanmir Moradi’s telephone call to Fouzieh Khalesi

Today, 12 May, Javanmir Moradi contacted his wife Fouzieh Khalesi from his mobile. In this telephone conversation, Moradi asked her to talk in Farsi. He later asked her not to stay in the area and to leave.

In response to Fouzieh’s question as to whether he had been given his glasses, Moradi said it did not matter. He gave the same reply to the question about his medicines. Javanmir also asked about the identity of those who were with her.

Fouzieh asked the Intelligence Ministry officers to receive Moradi’s medicines and to give them to him. However, they said they had a doctor themselves.

It should be noted that Javanmir Moradi suffers from a nervous disorder, which makes him severely dependent on his glasses. Without his glasses and medicines, his health will be seriously damaged. They were prescribed by a specialist doctor for Moradi a long time ago.

Our union believes that Javanmir Moradi’s telephone conversation today with his wife was directed by the Intelligence Ministry officials of Bushehr, and holds the highest authorities of the country’s Judiciary and Bushehr’s Intelligence Ministry officials responsible for any physical or psychological damage to Javanmir Moradi. Our union once again calls on all labour and human rights organisations to protest urgently against the inhuman conditions created for Javanmir Moradi and Taha Azadi and their families and to demand their immediate and unconditional release.

Source: Free Union of Iranian Workers (Ettehadiye Azad e Kargaran e Iran)

Translated by the International Labour Solidarity Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran (ILSC-WPI)

Honour killings & honour oppression

Today I will be attending a conference organised by the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation on ‘honour’ related crime, violence and oppression at the Amnesty International Human Rights Centre,17-25 New Inn Yard London EC2A 3EA.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Finally – the blasphemy law is dead and buried

The House of Commons voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to support the abolition of the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel. This was the final stage in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, and the amendment was carried by 378 votes to 57. The Bill received Royal Assent yesterday, so the blasphemy law is now officially dead and buried.

In a tetchy and bad-tempered parliamentary debate, Conservatives put in their final bid to block the abolition, arguing that it represented a significant step in the secularising of Britain. Some raised the spectre of it being the beginning of a process that would eventually lead to disestablishment. Government Minister Maria Eagle MP assured MPs that there was no such “hidden agenda”.

Other MPs were, though, less shy about hoping that one day the Church of England would be disestablished. David Howarth, Liberal Democrat shadow Solicitor General said: “It is the policy of my party to work towards the disestablishment of the Church, and the separation of Church and state. I am fairly comfortable with that position.”

Mr Howarth continued: “The principle of the separation of Church and state is not about the separation of religion and politics, which I think is impossible. We cannot separate people’s moral, religious views from their political views. We are talking about the state, not about society, and about the religious commitments of the state, not about whether people in society are religious or not. In the course of debate we have heard three separate arguments against the idea of state neutrality in religion. One of them; it might be called the “this is a Christian country” argument.

“We do indeed have an established Church, we have Acts of Parliament such as the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, which mandates an act of broadly Christian collective worship in schools, and we have Prayers in this place. The trouble with that point is that what is, is not necessarily what ought to be. It ignores the new circumstances in which we find ourselves, which make it important now more than ever to reject the idea of the mixture of Church and state, any notion of theocracy or any hint that the state should be built on a particular religious view.”

NSS honorary associate Dr Evan Harris, Lib Dem MP for Abingdon and Oxford (the original architect of this amendment), challenged Tory MPs who were arguing for the preservation of blasphemy laws. In an earlier debate that evening on the same Bill they had argued that new proposals to outlaw hatred against homosexuals would unnecessarily restrict the right of religious people to make clear their disapproval of homosexuality. Now they were arguing that the blasphemy law was necessary to protect religious people against offence. It seemed that their defence of free speech was not entirely consistent.

Dr Harris said: “When it came to the issue of incitement to homophobic hatred, we heard a number of speeches and interventions from Conservative Members claiming that freedom of speech was critical and that freedom of expression was under threat. Yet when it comes to an issue—blasphemy, as opposed to incitement to hatred—that causes individuals themselves no damage, making the case for proscribing it much weaker, those very same people argue that freedom of expression has to go in order to maintain their version of no change. They want to maintain some symbolic law or the safety of the UK constitution, which they fear may be shaken to its foundations by the abolition of these unnecessary and discriminatory laws.”

Read the whole debate.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Iran: fears grow over continued detention of May Day activists

9 May 2008

There are growing concerns over the continued detention of three activists arrested in connection with this year’s May Day events in Iran. Eleven other detained workers have now been released, some on heavy bail.

Sheis Amani, Javanmir Moradi and Taha Azadi are all founders and leading members of the newly formed Free Union of Workers in Iran. Sheis Amani, a veteran shop-steward and organiser from Sanandaj, was arrested ahead of May Day. Javanmir Moradi and Taha Azadi, member and substitute member, respectively, of the union’s governing board, were arrested on 1st May as they came to take part in the May Day rally called by the union in the port town of Asaluye, the site of a petroleum processing complex in the south of Iran.

Amani - who last year spent 42 days in prison for taking part in May Day celebrations - was arrested on 23 April as he arrived at the provincial court to replace a document as a condition of his bail. His appeal hearing (along with that of his colleague Sedigh Karimi) over a two and half year prison sentence is pending.

Javanmir Moradi and Taha Azadi are reported to have been transferred to the Ministry of Intelligence offices in the city of Bushehr. Sheis Amani is in detention in Sanandaj. The three are being held without access to their lawyers and families, and no charges are believed to have been formally filed against them.

There are fears that by keeping these activists in detention, the authorities are not only sending a warning to workers who defied the May Day ban, but also targeting the newly formed union, which actively mobilised for May Day. All labour activity and union organising in Iran is banned. The Free Union was formed on 19 April this year, when a general assembly of the former National Union of Dismissed and Unemployed Workers voted unanimously to reconstitute itself as the Free Union of Workers in Iran.


Please send letters of protest to the Islamic Republic government, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all three activists. Please forward a copy to WPI’s International Labour Solidarity Committee for info:

Supreme Leader:
Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei
Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street
Shahid Keshvar Doust Street
Tehran, Iran

The President:
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The Presidency
Palestine Avenue,
Azerbaijan Intersection
Tehran, Iran

The Head of the Judiciary:
Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Office of the Head of the Judiciary
Pasteur St.,Vali Asr Ave.,
South of Serah-e Jomhouri,
Tehran, Iran

International Labour Solidarity Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran (ILSC-WPI)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

On Fitna, the Movie

Fariborz Pooya interview with Maryam Namazie and Bahram Soroush on Secular TV

Fariborz Pooya: Fitna, a 17-minute movie by Dutch politician Geert Wilders, shows passages from the Koran with graphic footage of terrorist attacks on the West, executions of people in Iran and Afghanistan and ends with statistics showing the increasing number of so-called Muslim immigrants to Holland. Fitna, which was first released on LiveLeak internet site as there were no TV stations willing to broadcast it, was viewed 5 million times soon after it went live. It was pulled off LiveLeak due to threats but is now available on a number of internet sites. Wilders is under police protection because his life has been threatened. Islamic states and the UN General Secretary have all condemned the movie as anti-Islamic. Heads of European states have also condemned the movie. There is an ongoing debate on the impact of this movie. We will explore the issues with Maryam Namazie and Bahram Soroush. Maryam Namazie, what is your initial reaction to Fitna?

Maryam Namazie: Well, there is a lot that can be said about it but my initial reaction when I first watched is was that I found it really annoying! I thought how dare he. The political Islamic movement has wreaked havoc for decades, long before September 11, long before the Madrid or London bombings. In Iran, we have lost an entire generation to this movement and we have struggled and fought against this movement. How dare he equate all of us as one and the same with the political Islamic movement? It made me quite angry actually.

Fariborz Pooya: What do you mean, when you say equating us with the political Islamic movement? Wilders shows images of terrorist atrocities such as 9/11 and the Madrid bombings as well as the execution of youth in Iran and he refers to the rising number of immigrants to Holland. Which part of this are you referring and objecting to?

Maryam Namazie: Firstly, the attacks on the west pale in comparison to the attacks on the people of the Middle East and North Africa yet he only cares to focus on these. He also blames the rising political Islamic movement in Europe to so-called Muslim immigration and shows a rise in numbers coming to the Netherlands. What he fails to see is that a lot of these people who are fleeing to Europe are actually fleeing from political Islam and want nothing to do with this movement. Yet he like many on the Right view masses of people as one and the same with their oppressors. To say that this ‘teeming hordes’ of so-called Muslim immigrants - many of them atheists, socialists, freedom fighters, secularists, and of course also those who consider themselves Muslims - are one and the same with the very movement that has been slaughtering them and that they have been at the forefront of opposing is nothing short of outrageous.

Bahram Soroush: I would agree. I wish it was an anti-Islamic film; a criticism of Islam and of the political Islamic movement. It is not. It is an anti-immigrant film. Obviously, Geert Wilders as a right-wing politician has got his own agenda, which is to blame most of the problems in Dutch society on immigrants and to label them with the mark of Islam. Whereas in fact most of those people are themselves victims who have escaped from the hell that Islamists have created in countries like Iran and Afghanistan and sought refuge in Holland and other European countries. He presents them as accomplices of this political Islamic movement which is a fascistic movement.

Fariborz Pooya: So what you are saying is that he is not criticizing Islam and the political Islamic movement but is using images of atrocities committed by the political Islamic movement, which are factual.

Maryam Namazie: Of course there is some truth in his movie in the same way that there is some truth in Bush’s assertions about Saddam Hussein’s violations of rights, though the US government fully supported Saddam prior to that for many years. It’s not enough to tell some parts of the truth about certain things. Also, why you tell the truth, what’s behind that truth and that you tell all of it to begin with is what matters. There is quite a lot of deception in his film.

Fariborz Pooya: He doesn’t criticise any Islamic states; he might show Ahmadinejad, but he doesn’t attack Islamic states. Instead he is looking at so called Muslims in the Netherlands. Is that what you are saying?

Maryam Namazie: Yes, he does come from a perspective that has no problem with religion and even religion in power. He just doesn’t want - from his perspective - Islam to take over a ‘Christian Europe’ and he is equating that with so-called Muslim immigration.

Let me be clear that I do think that we need to focus on Islam and the political Islamic movement because it is a religion in power today. It does have state power, is vying for power, and is massacring people left, right and centre. So we do need to focus on Islam and criticise it but from a perspective that addresses the real issues at hand as that’s when you can get to some sort of solution to addressing and challenging the political Islamic movement and Islam in power. This is not Wilder’s intention or concern.

Fariborz Pooya: Islamic states, European governments, and the UN Secretary General, have condemned this movie as anti-Islamic. The Dutch government has been apologetic. There seems to be a move to prevent criticism of Islam.

Bahram Soroush: There are a few points here. First of all, the film is not anti-Islamic in that sense. It is anti-Muslim, against ordinary people. It is an attempt to label and put everyone together with the oppressive governments that they have escaped from.

Secondly, what if it was anti-Islamic? Since when is it wrong to be anti-Islamic and anti-religious? People have been criticising and opposing religious oppression and ignorance for years. They have been fighting the Established Church and religious forces, whether in power or as movements. Especially in our day and age, as Maryam pointed out, the political Islamic movement is a menace which is wreaking havoc throughout the world, and is specifically targeting people in countries under Islamic rule. So it is obvious that there should be a reaction against that. That’s why a lot of people are taking a stance against religion and Islam. That should not be forbidden; that should not be banned; that’s the right of everyone. What is the point of freedom of expression if you can’t exercise it exactly when it is needed? And it is needed more than ever now that obscurantism and ignorance are on the rise. Then you have to have a relentless, a sharp criticism of a religion which is spearheading this attack on the rights of people.

And about the European governments that you mentioned, they have their own agenda as well. Their defence of freedom of expression is in inverse proportion to the volume of business and trade that they have with those governments. So we have to forget about these pretensions about human rights and freedom of expression. If they were at all concerned, they would be objecting to what is going on in Iran, in Saudi Arabia, in Afghanistan. People knew what the Taliban was doing for years but it wasn’t shown on TV at all. For example, the scene in Wilders’ film of the execution of a woman in the stadium in Afghanistan is an old tape, but that was only shown in preparation for the attack on Afghanistan after September 11. For many years people had been fighting against these religious reactionaries, these executioners, but none of that was talked about because it was not politically expedient. You know that in Saudi Arabia every Friday they behead people. Is it shown? No. The Saudi government is invited to Britain and given the red carpet treatment. But tomorrow, if they have a political difference with them, they will talk about some of those atrocities. So their politics are reactionary and inhuman anyway; it has to do with business and profits.

Fariborz Pooya: What are the aims of the political Islamic movement and Islamic states in their attack on this film and are they using this film to advance their policies?

Maryam Namazie: They have become quite savvy compared to two three decades ago and have learnt to advance in ways that are more palatable to a western audience. For example, use of the term Islamophobia and deeming any criticism of Islam as racism and by using victim status. And we’ve seen how well that has been working for them in the sense that you even have the UN Human Rights Council agreeing that freedom of expression needs to be limited if someone ‘abuses’ religion. I mean the whole point of human rights is rights for people not for beliefs or religions. But they have managed to change definitions and values, which fits in quite well with the US’ New World Order. This strives to make it more difficult for people to be able to speak out against Islam and the political Islamic movement because it is deemed racist or an attack on the rights of ‘minorities’, whereas in fact there is no connection between the two. As Bahram said it is crucial that we criticise Islam; they take advantage of films like this and the Danish caricatures to exert pressure for limits on free expression and speech.

I have heard that there are Dutch people who have gone on the internet to apologise for Wilder’s film. Why should they? I won’t apologise for the Islamic Republic of Iran; I don’t feel any affinity with it; why would anyone feel an affinity for fascistic anti-immigrant policies? Firstly, why apologise?
But secondly, wake up and see the bigger picture. The fact is that freedom of expression is under attack. As Bahram said, freedom of expression only matters when you say things that are not permissible, that go against the grain; that’s how things have changed throughout history - by criticism and particularly criticism of religion. Religion has always been a bulwark and barrier against progress and advancement and if we are not allowed to criticise it, where does that leave us? Being the banner of the political Islamic movement, being at the forefront of the attack against all that civilised humanity and the working class has fought for over centuries - from secularism to universal rights to freedom of expression - makes it important to criticise - irrespective of whether we dislike Wilder’s film or not. We have to say that people have a right to criticise religion and Islam and more importantly a duty to do so.

So don’t apologise, but instead organise and stand up to anti-immigrant legislation and parties, defend universal and citizenship rights for everybody but also stand up and challenge political Islam. Don’t let the Islamists walk over universal values and rights in Europe or the Middle East and elsewhere. And stand in solidarity with the people of the Middle East and North Africa who have been doing so for a long time vis-à-vis this movement. That’s what we need to do rather than apologising for Wilder’s film.

Fariborz Pooya: Can you not see that the Islamic movement is using this film as an excuse to advance its policies.

Maryam Namazie: They are using it and we will use it. Civilised humanity will use it to advance its progressive stance, its defence of universal rights, its defence of secularism, its defence of asylum seekers and immigrants and its uncompromising opposition to political Islam and US militarism - both of which are part and parcel of the same new world order - feeding off of each other. Okay this film is out there. Let’s use it as one more excuse to stand up to those who are trying to take advantage of the situation. We can also take advantage of the situation and bring a human stance to it - one that the world desperately needs.

Fariborz Pooya: The UN Human Council led by the government of Pakistan has adopted a non binding resolution against the defamation of religion and in particular Islam. How do you link this with things happening around this issue? There is a concerted effort to undermine secularism and universal rights. How do you see this resolution?

Bahram Soroush: First of all, it’s interesting that they call it ‘defamation of religion’. It is unheard of. Usually you hear of defamation of people, of character assassination, etc. But defamation of religion? What does that mean? Does it mean criticising religion, saying that it is superstition, ignorance? What’s wrong with that? People have been doing that for years. This resolution was pushed by a number of Islamic states as an attempt, once again, to limit freedom of expression, which would have been unthinkable to someone even from the 19th century; unthinkable that in the 21st century you would be reading such nonsense as ‘we want to limit freedom of expression because you are insulting our religion; you are hurting our religious feelings’! Religion is like any other belief system; you either believe in it or you don’t. And those who believe in it have the right to defend it, and those who don’t, have the right to criticise it. This resolution is in fact a case in point how incompatible religion is with human rights, civil liberties and human progress.

Fariborz Pooya: What does this signify in terms of protecting state’s power vis-à-vis citizens?

Maryam Namazie: It strengthens the political Islamic movement but also states in Europe and west that are attempting to limit free expression, such as the UK government’s attempts to bring the incitement to religious hatred laws. All of this feeds into it. Any restriction on freedom of expression is the beginning of a lot more restrictions in society. We need to defend it dearly. In this day and age I think criticising Islam, criticising political Islam is one of the most important things you can do to uphold freedom of expression and universal values.

Fariborz Pooya: Fitna, as mentioned here, doesn’t fundamentally criticise Islam; it doesn’t criticise the political Islamic movement and Islamic states that is destroying the lives of millions every day. And effectively its anti-immigrant tone distorts the whole picture. The reality is that millions of people are fighting against the political Islamic movement and that’s the movement that needs to be supported. Freedom of expression and the right to criticise Islam and religion and is a fundamental right that needs to be upheld.

To see the April 4, 2008 interview as well as commentaries by ex-Muslims and others on Iranian Secular Society TV, click here.

This interview was first published in WPI Briefing 204, May 8, 2008.

For Du’a

I have struggled hard to find the words to commemorate sweet 17 year old Du’a.

And still I cannot find any words to do her justice.

Maybe there are no words to commemorate a teenager stoned to death in the Iraqi Kurdish hillside village of Basshiqa for being in love with the ‘wrong’ 19-year-old boy.

A mobile phone clip shows her being dragged from the sheikh’s house to the marketplace in a headlock, wailing and screaming as police watch on. There, her beautiful body is faced with a hail of stones and she is repeatedly kicked. Finally her uncle approaches her as she tries to struggle to her feet and smashes a huge piece of concrete over her head.

The mob then dumps her bloodied and battered body in a rubbish pit.

No one tells her parents - who do not want her killed - that she is dead until the next day. Her two brothers then dig her body out so she can be buried in a cemetery.

Later, her mother, Badiaa Aswad, is seen at her grave howling and caressing the plain concrete headstone saying: “The last thing you told me was that you were hungry. Come home. Let me cook, and feed you.”

But Du’a will not be coming home.

Nor will many other often nameless faceless women and girls killed in the name of some vile honour.

At least 5,000 every year according to the United Nations.

In Britain alone up to 17,000 women are subjected to honour-related kidnapping, sexual assault, beatings and murder every year - most of them in their very homes and by those closest to them - their fathers, brothers, husbands and extended family members.

Since Du’a’s murder, more have been killed and even stoned, including Sara Jaffar Nimat last August – she was just 11 years old.

As I said it is hard to find the words to do Du’a justice.

But justice is all that we have left to offer if we are to truly commemorate her life.
And part of that means holding that which is responsible to account.

Most honour killings take place in countries ruled by Islam or in Islam-ridden communities including in the west. We need to say this.

Of course sex division, discrimination in the production process, a disadvantaged section within the working class are good for profits, which is why we can’t seem to get rid of violence against women though many old traditions, customs and practices have disappeared when no longer relevant.

Of course there is patriarchy, misogyny and violence against women in all societies, not just those ruled by Islam. In the United States 10 women are killed every day. In Sweden, according to 1989 data, one woman is killed every 10 days by someone she knows.

But focusing on one form of violence does not mean the denial of other forms of violence against women and only seems to become an issue when the matter being raised is linked to Islam. When it comes to those whose rights are deemed culturally relative a million and one prefects step up to list every single issue in the world that is either just as important or more important.

I mean we are not even allowed to call it honour killings; domestic violence is the preferred terminology so as to avoid causing offence to Islam.
And yes I know all religions are misogynist and discriminatory and obsessed with controlling women, sex and sexuality not just Islam. After all, Du’a’s family were Yazidi.

Nonetheless, there is a distinction that must be made with Islam in this day and age because it is the banner of a political movement; because it has state power; because is vying for political power; because Islam is part and parcel of the state machinery and the law in many countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

When Du’a is killed in broad daylight, the police stand by and watch. Those responsible are not arrested. Even if anyone ever is - which is rare - Article 111 of the Iraqi penal code will allow for reduced sentences in cases where "dishonour" is established as a motive.

Not only that but the state and the law, the police, the judiciary, the imams and the sheikhs are all in agreement that such killings are necessary, and even honourable, in order to maintain the social order and control the women who bring chaos in society by transgressing Islamic norms and rules.

Stoning is actually legal in countries like Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Sudan. This year, over half a dozen women in Iran were sentenced to stoning, with three known official stonings since 2006; two women await stoning in Sudan, and a couple have just this past week been stoned in Pakistan.

You cannot do justice to the victims of honour killings if you do not point the finger at Islamic states and the political Islamic movement, which is the biggest mass murderer of women in this day and age.

As Sayyid Hazim al-Araqi, Moqtada al-Sadr's representative in Baghdad says: if you crack down on honour killings, you will only encourage adultery.

And as a top cleric in the Islamic regime of Iran said recently, women who do not respect Islamic rules are the ‘source of all that is bad in society.’
This doesn’t take blame away from US-led militarism, which is directly responsible for the encouragement and growth of the political Islamic movement, including in today’s Iraq. It doesn’t ignore other forms of violence against women.

But in the 21st century, honour killings are as much the symbol of the Islamic movement as veiling and sexual apartheid are. Despite the attention and outrage, they are on the rise because this movement is on the rise. And we can only really begin to stop honour killings if we stop this movement in its tracks.

In her last moments, Du’a struggled to stand even when surrounded by a mob who were out to kill her. She refused to do what was expected of her in life and in death.

She is both the personification of the vile and subhuman status of women under Islamic rule but also the refusal and resistance of millions of men and women against 21 century barbarity. To commemorate Du’a we must stand up to the political Islamic movement with the resisting people of the Middle East and elsewhere to say enough is enough!

The above was Maryam Namazie’s speech commemorating Du’a at an April 12, 2008 conference in London organised by the Organisation for Women’s Freedom in Iraq. To see a video of the speech, click here.

To see Maryam Namazie’s response to questions on whether men are to blame for women's rights violations, the extent of Islam's role, whether criticism of Islam is anti-Muslim, and her opinion on various interpretations of Islam, click here.

This was first published in WPI Briefing 204, May 8, 2008.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Q&A at conference commemorating Du'a

To see my response at the conference commemorating Du'a on whether men are to blame for women's rights violations, exaggerating the extent of Islam's role, is criticism of Islam being anti-Muslim, and on various interpretations of Islam, click here.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Iran: workers defy ban to celebrate May Day; 10 arrested

Workers in a number of cities in Iran held, or attempted to hold, May Day rallies despite a heavy clampdown by the government. Rallies were held in the western cities of Sanandaj, Kermanshah and Saqez. However, the planned rally in the industrial zone of Asalooye was broken up when the security forces moved in to arrest the organisers and remove placards. Those arrested include Javanmir Moradi and Taha Azadi, from the leadership of the newly formed Free Union of Iranian Workers.

Ahead of May Day, the authorities turned down numerous applications for permits to hold rallies, and on 23 April arrested Sheis Amani, the head of the National Union of Dismissed and Unemployed Workers. Amani is still in detention.

Over 100 workers attended a rally in Sanandaj called by the Free Union of Iranian Workers. The event had to be held in the outskirts of the city as the authorities had refused to grant permits for rallies in downtown Sanandaj. A resolution, outlining workers’ major demands, including release of jailed workers, was passed amid continuous claps by the crowd. However, after the ceremony, the security forces arrested seven workers, who have been named as:

Salah Zamani
Shiva Kheir Abadi
Abdollah Najjar
Ghaaleb Hosseini
Ali Hosseini
Bahaoddin Sadooghi
Susan Raazani

Details of the events and the situation of those arrested will follow in our next update.

International Labour Solidarity Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran(ILSC-WPI)