Fariba Amini – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Sun, 19 Mar 2023 13:45:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7.8 Iranians are done with Kings and Ayatollahs, and look back to Mosaddegh for a Way forward https://www.juancole.com/2023/03/iranians-ayatollahs-mosaddegh.html Fri, 17 Mar 2023 04:15:49 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=210675 Newark, Delaware (Feature — Special to Informed Comment) –

The debate over the coup 1953 still lingers on especially now that there are discussions whether the Shah’s son, Reza Pahlavi, after forming a coalition with a few opposition figures, might even seek the return of monarchy, the monarchy which ended in 1979.   On Facebook, clubhouse and on tweets and on some outlets, we are witnessing a new debate.  This debate has brought out new participants.

Next August will mark the 70th anniversary of the 1953 Coup which toppled Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh’s government.   But among Iranians, mainly the diaspora, and some experts, both the legitimacy of his government and the Coup have been questioned.  I asked several scholars of the period, whether in their opinion, his government was democratic and if there was indeed a Coup.  

A recent article in the Tablet questions the validity of some of these facts.  

As my friend Ervand Abrahamian recently pointed out to me, ““I think those who harp on the word ‘democracy’ to claim that in Iran, prime ministers were not elected by the public but chosen by the monarch. This is only their interpretation of the constitution. By the same yardstick you should claim that none of the premiers in Western Europe were democratically elected because the monarch would as a formality invite a politician to form the government. In the Iranian constitution, as in places like the UK, the monarch was supposed to merely invite the person elected by the parliament to form the government. We describe such procedures as ‘democratic.’ So why not apply the same term to Mossadeq’s government.””

And as my friend and fellow journalist Stephen Kinzer said, “I think the idea behind this is to tell Americans that we have nothing to be sorry for.  We love hearing this.” 

The original Constitution of Iran, ratified in 1906, states clearly that the Shah or King should reign and not rule.  This was the point of contention between the Shah and Mosaddegh.  Mosaddegh was a constitutionalist and had a doctorate in law (unlike the Shah who never finished even a two-year college). He did not want to weaken the monarchy as the author claims.  He wanted the rule of law to preside.

The Shah and his family were corrupt to the bone.  The Shah may not have been corrupted early on, as he was still young and learning, but even Alam, the Shah’s closest confident and his court minister writes in his seven-volume memoirs that the royal family had their hands in the till.  Taking bribes for favors was an acceptable practice and even encouraged by the Shah.   

Article continues after bonus IC video
CNN: “CIA involvement in 1953 Iranian coup”

Mosaddegh’s cabinet was comprised of some of the best of the crop, educated and decent men of the era who adhered to the same principles as Dr. Mosaddegh.   All of them, including my own father, were jailed after the Coup and none ever agreed to work with the coup government afterwards.  Mosaddegh’s foreign minister, Dr. Fatemi, was executed, whilst in a feverish state. His head of gendarmerie, Afshartoos, was kidnapped, tortured, and later murdered.   What all these men had in common and ever desired is that which we aspire to in the West.

Peter Theroux, the author of said revisionist article, refers to an obscure rapper who seems to have tweeted some obscene language against Mosaddegh.   Since the author seems to be poorly informed about current affairs, let me remind him that during the demonstrations of the Green Movement of 2009, photos of Mosaddegh were on display.  Two of the most famous women political prisoners of Iran- both lawyers, Narges Mohammadi and Nasrin Sotoudeh– are disciples of Dr. Mosaddegh, one having been married on the anniversary of the oil nationalization.  

Famous Iranian poets (male and female) have written dozens of poems in his honor.  No Iranian has been honored as much in prose and in poetry.   

Comparing the two governments of Dr. Mosaddegh with the present regime in Tehran is like comparing apples to oranges which Theroux tries to do.  

Mosaddegh did not believe in using force against his people.  He passed some of the most progressive laws in the Majlis (the parliament).   He was against censorship and allowed a free press even if it was oppositional.    He let demonstrations take place even if there was dissent.  He was a master politician, who worked within the laws of the country, but his hands were tied from within and without. He even wanted to create a non-oil economy.   In a gesture of amazing political shrewdness, he left the Majlis and came into the streets, announcing famously, this is the real parliament, among the people. Mosaddegh respected the rights of all religious minorities including the Bahais.  He is in a photo with Jewish Iranians who had come to visit him.  He was respectful to the Shah and some even criticized him for kissing the hands of the monarch’s second wife, Soraya.   He showed civility on all occasions.

The Supreme Court Justice, William O Douglas, after visiting Iran, in his book, Strange Lands and Friendly People, became an admirer.  He praised Mosaddegh as a champion of democracy and a strong leader.  In an article in the New Republic dated April 28, 1952, he wrote, “I have great admiration for him.  When he left this country in November, empty-handed, I was sad for him because of the tragedy of the situation. The British said, ‘He won’t last three months as prime minister.  We have a prime minister we’ll put in when Mosaddegh falls.”  And referring to Iranian polls he said, “I say a man who can control a country at the polls like that is a strong man.” 

“I think we should be supporting Mosaddegh, because those opportunities don’t come very often in the Middle East.”

Mosaddegh was never pro-Tudeh Party ( the Communist party of Iran)  as the author claims and in fact was fiercely against Soviet influence in Iran.  He did not get a message from Kianouri but a few representatives of the Tudeh came to him before the Coup, to ask for arms to defeat the coup organizers.   Mosaddegh who never trusted the Tudeh, told them, let the hands of a PM be cut off if he uses arms against his own people.  

Mosaddegh refused to use force to stay in power. 

The three clergymen Mr. Theroux refers to were pro-Shah no doubt.   But Kashani had allied with Mosaddegh at first.  Mosaddegh knew that Iran is a religious country and thus the clergy have influence within the population and needed their support.  The rift between him and Kashani began when the latter wanted favors, asking Mosaddegh to appoint his young, corrupt, and inexperienced son.  Mosaddegh had told my own father (read the Harvard oral history interview with Nosratollah Amini) who was a liaison between him and Kashani, that such action is not in the realm of the Prime Minister’s office. He emphasized that only the people can elect their representative.  Kashani was angry at this answer, telling my father to tell the PM that he would bring him down if he refused (using foul language- which he was infamous for) thus changing his allegiance.   It is no wonder that Kashani became the mentor of Ardeshir Zahedi and his father, who were both key figures in the Coup.  

In a later interview with the Egyptian newspaper “Al Misri,”, he said,  “Here, the people love the Shah and a republican government is not the right thing for Iran.”  

Mr. Theroux assures us that on August 19,1953, the Shah flew to Rome, knowing he would return.  The Shah, on the other hand, whilst residing in Hotel Excelsior in Rome, told reporters, “I may buy a farm in America.” Then, after the fall of Dr. Mosaddegh, he was reluctant to return, telling his wife Soraya, “They may try to assassinate me.”   The CIA paid for his return from Rome to Baghdad, where he collected his parked Beechcraft and flew to Tehran.  There exists a newsreel showing that, when he arrived, the only person allowed to approach his car was Sha’ban the brainless.  Two days later, there was a rent-a-crowd celebration of his return.

It is worth mentioning that Sha’ban the brainless, head of Tehran thugs who orchestrated the anti-Mosaddegh demonstrations (from prison) once released, received a Cadillac from Zahedi for his services.  A few years later, he was the guest of honor in Israel.   Incidentally, Shaban Jafari, alias bee-mokh died in Los Angeles on August 19, 2006.  Good riddance I say.

The 1953 Coup was a joint CIA-MI6 coup d’etat against the government of Dr. Mosaddegh.  First and foremost, because of oil nationalization and second because he was the ONLY politician of Iran who could not be bought.  The British did not want to set a precedence in the Middle East or elsewhere. The Suez Canal was an example.  In subsequent years, it became the motto for toppling the governments of Chile and Guatemala, both of which had attempted to nationalize their natural resources.

Mosaddegh, after defending his nation at the Hague and at the United Nations, while flying back to Tehran, stopped in Cairo and received a hero’s welcome. There is a street in his name in Cairo.

All the while, British scholars and (spies) such as Ann Lambton and Robin Zaehner were busy at the British Embassy in Tehran fomenting anti-Mosaddegh propaganda.  According to released documents which Mr. Theroux conveniently ignores, the CIA operatives were writing articles in Washington and sending them off to Tehran to be published in Iranian papers.  Richard Cottam reveals on film that “I was writing anti-Mosaddegh articles which would appear the next day in the Persian papers.”

After the Coup, which the CIA has admitted while MI6 is too clever and cunning to do so or even open their archives, the British PM Anthony Eden, on a yacht on the Mediterranean, said famously, tonight I can sleep in peace.

Mosaddegh was perhaps the only PM who, to his own detriment, always took the side of his people, and never was after power or monetary compensation.  He lived a frugal life and even when he was exiled to his humble residence, after being put on trial for “treason” and held in solitary in a military prison for three years, he was surrounded by Savak agents and close to 50 soldiers.  To the surprise of many, two of the agents living there, became among his admirers, shedding tears after he had died.   

I visited Ahmad Abad in 2005 and in fact made a film (to be finished).  It was indeed a most undistinguished estate, in a state of decay as the Shah purposely forbid any renovation.   Later, the IRI, always having disdain towards him, as he believed in the separation of state and religion, let the estate deteriorate further.

When nearly a million people gathered at this very place after the Revolution, some on foot, Khomeini, referring to this huge gathering, said I do not understand why people have gathered for some bones and dead flesh!  

Dr. Mosaddegh came from nobility, yet he went against that nobility.  (Mosaddegh was a Qajar).  He was highly influenced by a philanthropic mother who taught him to be honest and live by the rules.  Najmeh Saltaneh as she was called, may have been born into an aristocratic family but instead of amassing wealth, she established the first charitable hospital almost 100 years ago.  

The CIA’s role is unquestionable, and without it the clergy nor the paid members of the Parliament and thugs could not have acted alone.  The number varies on how much the CIA spent.  Both Richard Helms and Richard Cottam discuss the deep involvement of the Agency in their books.   Kim Roosevelt, Donald Wilbur, and their co-conspirators take credit for the downfall.  

So how is it that still after nearly 70 years, this shameless coup is denied by some so- called experts?  

Mosaddegh, unlike the Shah, who visited the White House and loved the pomp and glory, when coming to the U.S., visited the Supreme Court and put a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier. He went to the Liberty bell in Philadelphia.   He thought that the Americans would support him in his quest for democracy.  He believed in the Jeffersonian model.  Perhaps he miscalculated. Once a Republican administration took over (Eisenhower), pressured by the British, and on the bogey of Communism, the wheels turned against him.  The CIA later admitted that Mosaddegh had not been pro-Tudeh.

Mosaddegh asked to buy much needed agricultural equipment not military hardware.  The Shah’s appetite for more arms made him the gendarme of the region.  It was also a lucrative business for the arms merchants.

The Shah was a tragic figure who was also weak and never trusted anyone, dismissing many PM’s.  

He let go of Zahedi, who had been chosen by the Americans over the objection of the British whose candidate was Seyed Zia.  (The British had interned general Zahedi as he had pro-German tendencies).  Later, afraid of a coup by Zahedi, he shipped him off to Switzerland, with a 5 million dollar “thank you” from the U.S.

He even arrested PM Hoveyda, who served him loyally for seventeen years and who was later executed while in custody at the hands of the IRI in prison.

The Shah wanted yes men.  He did not want to hear of any mismanagement or dissent.  Until the very last days, he wanted to hear of a rosy situation, which was not the case. It was too late when he declared that I have heard your voice of Revolution.

Alam clearly points to this fact in his memoirs.  “Your majesty, this is not 1953, it is a far worse situation.”

In politics, no one is beyond making mistakes.  Dr. Mosaddegh was a politician of many attributes.   Did he make mistakes? Surely.  But was he under tremendous sanctions and pressures from all sides?  Yes.  Was he a democrat?  Absolutely to the core.

His French teacher, a Mademoiselle Renee Viellard, attested to his immense loyalty towards his homeland.  “I have carefully kept some of the precious memories I have from my only pupil.  I believed that this extraordinary person could have a huge role on the life of his country. He was only 27 when I met him but the two envelopes, I have from 1914 and then 1953 and their content shows a flawless and deeply committed person.   If you compare the student of 44 years ago vis-à-vis the current leader in Tehran, you can clearly deduce that he [Mosaddegh] was neither after material goods, was not prejudiced nor narrow- minded.  He loved his country unreservedly.”

Gaston Fournier, in an article in Le Monde, compares Mosaddegh to Cyrus the Great.

The London Telegraph wrote in its obituary that Mosaddegh showed to the world that a weak nation can stand up to Great Britain and that he paved the way for other nations to secure what had been plundered economically.

PM Nehru of India said, “In our struggle for freedom and independence, we have learned a great many lessons from Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh.”

In a show of some appeasement to the reader, Mr. Theroux gives a little credit to Dr. Mosaddegh- admitting that he was a decent man. A fact he is unable to ignore in this very distorted article. Yet even that credit is stingy.

“He undoubtedly won hearts and minds with small acts of integrity.”

While driving to Ahmad Abad, some 30 kilometers from Tehran, we stopped at a garage to ask for directions.  The man asked us where we were heading.  When we told him, he said, oh to that great man’s house?  He was a mechanic.

To this day, he is regarded as the man who defended his nation, who stood up to the declining and rising powers and who exposed corrupt  individuals who were bought, whether among the clergy or monarchists, even taking the bold action of sending the Shah’s twin sister, Ashraf abroad.  She too was an agitator. 

Mosaddegh’s government lasted no more than two years.  He could have accomplished more if he had been given the chance.  Alas, his tenure was cut short by foreign and domestic actors and with that the aspirations of a nation for democratic rule vanished.  

He has been judged with awe and respect as a visionary politician. And his prestige shall remain intact.   

Iran: Till Death Do us Part https://www.juancole.com/2022/12/iran-till-death.html Mon, 19 Dec 2022 05:08:05 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=208870 Revised 12/21/22.

Within a. period of 4 months this year, I lost both my mother and oldest brother. The sense of loss has been enormous. Yet beyond my own grieving, I think every day about the hundreds of young people who have lost their lives in Iran.

There is naturally no comparison.

I remember that, before her death, my mother, a very opinionated but also a compassionate woman, used to tell me, you, and others outside of Iran must take a more proactive role. And I, in my own way, would kind of dismiss her. “We do what we can.”

My brother was a revolutionary in his young age and then he became a scholar with equally strong yet more measured opinions. He was a visionary. He said in one of his last interviews that Iranians deserve better than what they have, and that change should come from within Iran.

Well, change is happening today.

He predicted that the Islamic Republic would fall with the hejab issue. I am not sure if that is necessarily the case. I believe that we are in a revolutionary period in Iran but are not necessarily witnessing a revolution. What is a revolution? The toppling of a regime in place?

Since the killing of Mahsa Amini on September 16, 2022, it is estimated that some 500 young people have lost their lives. The range of age is from 13 to 30 years old. Thousands have been detained and dozens face execution. Two young men in their twenties Mohsen Shekari and Majidreza Rahnavard have already been executed. Their crime: Moharebeh ba khoda (waging war against God). Their names have been added to countless names of young men and women who have been kidnapped, shot at close range, or tortured in prison. Some have even committed suicide. Many are awaiting trials without due process, which has been customary since the inception of this Islamic Republic.

Article 38 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic forbids “all forms of torture for the purpose of extracting confession or acquiring information” and the “compulsion of individuals to testify, confess, or take an oath is forbidden.”

The IRI has not even followed its own laws.

Yet, a whole population has been relentless in voicing their anger and defiance. The intelligentsia, film actors and actresses, poets and writers, football players and so many individuals are now outspoken without even fearing for their lives. Among them is Taraneh Alidoosti, who won the best foreign language film award for her role in the Salesman (2016). She has been arrested.

This regime is not going to give up on its terror tactics. Its leaders will go all the way to stay in power since they have nothing to lose. Where would they go anyway?

The Shah and his people decamped to the West, but the henchmen of the Islamic Republic have no place to go. Most of the high-ranking officials are already on an international sanctions list. No Western country will accept them even if they have investments. They could go to Russia, China, Venezuela or Lebanon and Syria. But most prefer the West!

Today more than any other period, the Supreme Leader faces opposition from many sides, even from within his own family but he is not relinquishing his power despite the popular outcry against its policies. The excuse is maslehat-e nezam (in the interest of the system). It has always been.

There have been many times in history when dictators would not give up their power until it was too late.

Hitler would not relinquish power until the Soviets were already in Berlin. Saddam Hussein persevered until he had to go into hiding. Assad had to take violent measures to subdue the Syrian people.

In many ways, the plainclothes of the IRI are acting like the Brown Shirts who terrorized civilians.

Intimidation is their tactic. Creating fear is their motto.

Khamenei has clung to his own specific Islamic ideology. To create a society where all laws are according to the teachings of their version of Islam. The IRI has been an ideologically inspired regime but in history no regime especially those who adhere to a specific ideology has survived

Khameini is on the same path of self- destruction and Iran’s breakup. Still, the solidarity shown in recent times by many of the ethnicities of Iran, especially Baluchis, Kurds and others, shows that a determined nation will preserve. The slogans revolve around the notion of a united Iran.

What Mr. Khamenei doesn’t realize is that human spirit is more powerful than any ideology.

As Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible, until it is done.”

From Evin prison, Bahareh Hedayat, a former student and a woman activist, wrote recently: “The Islamic Republic is the enemy of this land and its people. And even if people must pay a price in getting rid of this criminal regime, it must end. They have no qualms inflicting harm since the very nature of its being cannot recognize the many social elements that have taken shape.”

All over the world, ordinary people struggle for recognition and freedom. They want to live in open societies where they can breathe and enjoy the fruit of their labor.

Today ’s struggle in Iran is not just about the hejab. It is about human dignity that the country’s women have stood up for.

This is a revolution of women even if it is not still a revolution per se.

Yet, all the slogans in recent times only tell us that, other than support, they want no interference from the outside world.

Iran is not the only country going through major changes.
But Iranians and especially women are determined to create a better life than what they have endured for 43 years.

The Iranian poet, Ahmad Shamlu, confronting the dark days of the early days of the Islamic regime, once wrote:

“In this crooked blind alley, as the chill descends,
They feed fires
With logs of song and poetry.
Hazard not a thought
These are strange times, my dear.
The man who knocks at your door in the noon of the night
Has come to kill the light.
Let’s hide light in the larder.”

There is hope even if the road is arduous and long.



Activist Student Movements have Shaped Iran at Every Turn: The Islamic Republic won’t be the Same https://www.juancole.com/2022/10/activist-movements-republic.html Wed, 05 Oct 2022 04:08:07 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=207385 Newark, Del. (Special to Informed Comment) – Iran’s student movement has never gone away. On 16th of Azar/ December 7, 1953, three students, Ghandchi, Bozorgnia and Shariat Razavi were killed at Tehran University while the then VP Richard Nixon visited Iran, following the Coup in August of that year.

Ever since, this date has been known in Iran as Student Day.

For as long as the Shah was in power, Iran’s universities remained hotbeds of student activism.

Before and during the revolution of 1979, students were active, whether at the universities or by joining the main Marxist and Islamist organizations, the Fedayeen or Mojahedin.

Some of the leaders of the movement, Bijan Jazani, Masoud and Majid Ahmad Zadeh and Hamid Ashraf, who came from different backgrounds, religious /nationalist families or the Tudeh, were all students in different fields of study.

Masoud Rajavi, the leader of Mojahedin, graduated in political law from Tehran University. He next became an activist and eventually its leader.

They were all smart, articulate, wrote books, and could have become technocrats or joined the government, but they chose the revolutionary life. Many were tortured and sentenced to death during the Shah.

Rajavi escaped death. Others were not so lucky.

Often born into religious or nationalist and leftist families, then as now common among many families in Iran, they were anti-Shah and anti-imperialist. This was certainly the case of Majid and Masoud Ahmad Zadeh, whose father was a devout Muslim. Masoud had studied mathematics at Tehran University. But both brothers became Marxists.

Photo from Iran via Facebook.

After undergoing severe torture, they were executed.

Amir Parviz Poyuan, a student of law, became a theoretician of the movement. Inspired by the teachings of Che Guevara and Regis Debray, he promoted guerrilla warfare against the Shah’s regime. It was the mood of that time. For better or for worse, this was how things were. He was killed in a confrontation in 1971.

And now the student movement is once again leading protests, sit-ins and strikes at various universities in Iran. In Tehran, Isfahan, or Tabriz, and even in other cities and towns, they are struggling against a regime far more brutal than the previous one.

In the last few days, many have been arrested or even gunned down.

Sharif University of Technology, sometimes called the MIT of Iran, has been the scene of bloodshed. Some of Iran’s brightest, among them the late mathematician, Maryam Mirzakahani, graduated from there.

Two other Sharif University students, winners of the 2017 gold and silver National Astronomy Olympiad while in high school, Ali Younesi and Amir Hossein Moradi studying physics and computer science, were arrested on trumped-up charges in 2020, held for two years and each given 16 years of imprisonment. Younesi just turned 22 in prison.

Sharif is now under siege.

At the entrance of the university, a hand-written poster announces: “Students’ place is not in prison. We won’t go to class without our classmates.”

University students and even high school students are going full force against the 43-year-old theocratic establishment. In many ways, the new generation which received religious indoctrination has become the very anti-thesis of the Islamic regime.

Today, in Iran, nearly 65 percent of university students are female. I remember back in 2017, while sitting in a class at Isfahan University, I noticed that most of the attendees, lecturers and participants were women. Exceptionally bright, they do not see any future for themselves.

A student at Isfahan university who was getting his PhD in Safavid studies told me that, if he didn’t find a job, he would go back to his hometown of Kermanshah and work on his father’s land. I met many students who were driving Snap (equivalent to Lyft) who also told me that, jobless, they had to survive by driving cabs.

The Islamic regime has always focused on what went on at the universities, especially at Tehran University. During 18 Tir, July 8, 1999, the university of Tehran was targeted when, following the closure of the newspaper Salam, a peaceful protest ended with the brutal raid on a dormitory during which hundreds were injured and one student was killed. The protest continued until July 11. In the aftermath, hundreds were arrested and jailed. In 2005, I tried to enter through one of the gates, but I was banned from going in. Security guards were everywhere.

I then went through another gate where a kinder guard allowed me in but told me not to enter any classrooms or talk to any students.

The regime was clearly scared.

Sharif University students, like many others, are once again fighting ferociously against a merciless regime that uses tear gas, live ammunition, or rubber bullets. According to one report, blood had to be scrubbed from the ground of the university.

“It is like a war zone,” a witness said.

Photo from Iran via Facebook.

Two weeks have passed since the vicious killing of Mahsa/Zhina Amini but Iran is still in flames. Ruthless beatings of young men and women are a daily occurrence and prisons are reportedly running out of capacity.

Chants of Woman, Life, Freedom have been in the air all over Iran for weeks, but now the slogan Freedom, Bread, Equality has joined one amongst the many.

This new wave of nation-wide protests is primarily directed against the mandatory hejab. But behind this symbolic issue looms the daily reality of most Iranians- marked by economic deprivation, unemployment, corruption, and mismanagement, all of which is strangling the Iranian society.

Khomeini once said, economy is for donkeys (let’s say for fools). He was all wrong, of course. Economy is everything. As is freedom.

Mahsa, a National Iranian Symbol of Resistance https://www.juancole.com/2022/09/national-iranian-resistance.html Fri, 23 Sep 2022 04:08:49 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=207126 Newark, Del. (Special to Informed Comment) – In the summer of 1993, I went to Iran to visit my parents who at the time were living in Tehran on and off. We had left Iran six months after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and I had not returned until 1993.

I remember the atmosphere at the time, which was quite gloomy. The hejab of course had already been put in place and one could not wear anything other than dark colors.

As a young woman, I was not in the habit of putting any make-up on (I still don’t), but sometimes I would put a lipstick on. My mother and a male cousin decided to take me to the rug exhibition, which was held in a large, confined area in Tehran. It was a huge exhibition depicting the art of rug making and showing off an enormous rug destined for one of the emirs of the Persian Gulf, the largest one ever made.

As we were walking inside this large compound, a white van approached and stopped. Three women and a man came out. They came toward us and told my mother, tell your daughter to lower her scarf for it is not covering all of her hair, and to wipe her lipstick off. My head cover was a colorful silk scarf and I presume that is what drew their attention. My mother replied by telling them, my daughter doesn’t even wear any make-up and her head is covered, but they insisted. Finally, they left but I, as a young woman, was shaken by this encounter. On that same trip while leaving to return to the U.S., I had to go through the female security line, and, again, one of the “sisters” as they are called, said to me, you have too much lipstick on. Take it off. I obeyed. I was scared and I just wanted to leave Tehran as soon as possible.

Embed from Getty Images
TEHRAN, IRAN: An Iranian policewoman (L) warns a woman about her clothing and hair during a crackdown to enforce Islamic dress code on April 22, 2007 in Tehran, Iran. Police issued warnings and conducted arrests during an annual pre-summer crackdown, which was given greater prominence this year, according to officials. (Photo by Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)

On a different occasion during the same trip, my two female cousins and my young daughter and I went to the mountains. It is customary for Tehranis to go on such outings; the mountain range is very close and on clear days, you can see the beautiful snow-capped peaks from anywhere in Tehran. Depending on how strong and athletic you are, you can engage in serious climbing, but we had just wanted to go and get some fresh air and on the way stop at one of the tea houses. There I noticed that many young girls had taken off their scarves and were airing their hair and necks in the fresh air after a long walk up the hills. It was the only time that I had seen women feeling free in an outdoor setting. This freedom soon ended after newspaper reports began to speak of girls and boys getting together up the mountains, mingling and playing music.

By doing so, these young people had committed a most horrible sin according to the officials.

On that same trip, while having lunch at my parents’ house, one of our relatives showed up. He was shaking telling a scene he had witnessed in Meydan Tajrish, a central square in northern Tehran. He told us how shocked he had been watching a young woman enter a telephone booth. A young pasdar (revolutionary guard) had asked her to get out and she had refused and told him to go to hell. He drew his weapon and shot at her right there. Our relative was not sure whether the girl had survived, but no one dared to do anything. The revolutionary guards had all the power and all the weapons. They ruled Tehran.

Many equally dramatic and distressing scenes of violence against women have been recorded.

In 2003, Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian Canadian photographer, was taken in by security forces while taking photos of Evin Prison. She had been also hit on her head by a prison guard. She later died of hemorrhage.

A military staff physician who used his knowledge of Kazemi’s case for seeking asylum in Canada in 2004, stated later that he examined Kazemi’s body and observed that Kazemi showed obvious signs of torture, including a skull fracture, broken nose, signs of rape and severe abdominal bruising.

In 2011, Haleh Sahabi, the daughter of the late religious/nationalist leader, Ezatollah Sahabi, after having been granted a leave from prison for her father’s funeral, died at his burial site. It was claimed that she had cardiac arrest but Ahmad Montazeri , the son of the Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, said that he witnessed a guard hitting her so hard that she fell down.

And now the world has witnessed the beating and murder of a young, 22-year-old Kurdish woman who, terribly scared had reacted by screaming why she was being taken away. When her 17-year-old brother had objected, he had been beaten as well. She and other women were surrounded by the same “sisters” at one of Tehran’s metro stations. She was tall, beautiful and had an angelic face.

Mahsa Amini. H/t Lunapic

At the time of the confrontation, Mahsa Zhina as she was called at home, had a long black robe with her dark scarf covering almost her entire hair. She did have red nail polish on. Perhaps the fact that she was a beautiful young woman drew the attention of the morality police or perhaps this was because of harsher measures introduced since Ebrahim Raisi had become President of Iran— an ex-guard in the infamous Evin prison who has been accused of ordering the murder of more than 4000 political prisoners.

Whatever the reason, Mahsa was hit hard on her head, causing her to fall and when she came to, the head of the interrogation room, a hardline Pasdar Colonel, hearing her screams, pushed her to the ground and hit her even harder on the head, until two women(sisters) noticed that she was not moving, and blood was coming out of her ear. The colonel who was about to leave for Iraq, for Arbain (the ceremony remembering Imam Hussein’s martyrdom some 1400 years ago) called her a bad-kareh, which means a whore.

The circumstances in which all this happened remain murky, but the father of Mahsa Amini told the press that his daughter had no previous ailments. She was healthy and she had come to Tehran to have some fun with her brother and cousin.

She ended up in the ICU section of the hospital and died two days later. No autopsy was done and lies upon lies came out of the mouth of government officials who have always denied their role in any crime.

Mahsa Amini was buried in her hometown of Saqqez, a city in the Kurdish region of Iran. A note was written next to the roses left on her burial place in the Kurdish language, which read, “Dear Zhina, you will not die, your name shall become a symbol.”

Violence against women, and especially young women began soon after some 43 years ago when Khomeini announced that the mandatory hejab would be among the laws implemented in the newly formed Islamic Republic. Thousands of women reacted by demonstrating against this mandatory rule, yet no one thought this would become the law of the land until it did. Yes, indeed the hair of women must be covered just as their bodies should be covered in dark long robes. Later, during various administrations, gasht ershad or the morality police was visible, to a lesser degree. Women were now wearing tighter clothes, showing off their bleached hair and even having plastic surgery to show their nose jobs, their full botox-treated lips and wide colored eyebrows.

But violence against women never stopped. And women have never stopped fighting back. Iranian women have stood up to these injustices by either showing off more of their hair or by expressing their views-always finding ways to confront the male-dominated rulers of the Islamic Republic. So many have faced arrest, torture and imprisonment.

So many unknown and known names come mind.

The Taliban of Iran are now in full force targeting the population they are most scared of: Women. Headed by the criminal Raisi, the regime’s institutions have become emboldened. And now they are even monitoring people by newly bought Chinese-made sophisticated technology.

Embed from Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 21: People step on a poster of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi as they participate in a protest outside of the United Nations on September 21, 2022 in New York City. Protests have broke out over the death of 22-year-old Iranian woman Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody for allegedly violating the country’s hijab rules. Amini’s death has sparked protests across Iran and other countries. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images).

But the death of Mahsa, like that of Neda before her (shot during the Green Movement), shows that the Iranian population in general and women in particular have had enough. Even if more oppressive measures are taken which will most likely happen, an entire nation is up in arms against the Islamic Republic.

Embed from Getty Images
TEHRAN, IRAN – SEPTEMBER 21: Dozens of people stage a demonstration to protest the death of a 22-year-old woman under custody in Tehran Iran on September 21, 2022. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

While I was waiting to interview a famous American journalist at the Watergate hotel some years ago, a group of Iranian men were in the lobby, presumably to negotiate the nuclear issue with American officials. I knew what I was doing when I offered my hand to be shaken by them. They refused apologetically, one of them telling me we respect you but can’t shake your hands!

They respected neither me nor women. For them, shaking the hand of women is sinful, just as women showing their hair is sinful; all while the regime commits unspeakable sins by any religious standard.

The Quran and the Hadith demands female modesty but neither command women to cover their hair or forbids them to shake hands with men. It is all made-up to cover a Republic which has put to shame the concept of human rights, women rights, or any rights.

In the hall of the United Nations, where Raisi spoke while attending the UN general assembly, lying to the world about Iran having the best record in social justice, the verse of Sa’di, the great Iranian poet of the 13th century is inscribed.

The sons of Adam are limbs of each other,
Having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time affects one limb
The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If you have no sympathy for the troubles of others,
You are unworthy to be called by the name of a Human.

The Islamic Republic, has, for forty-three years, trampled on the words of Sa’di.

Yesterday Mahsa would have turned twenty-three.

Revolution and Exile: A Poignant New Memoir of Iran https://www.juancole.com/2022/03/revolution-poignant-memoir.html Fri, 11 Mar 2022 05:08:48 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=203426 Review by Fariba Amini.

Neda Toloui-Semnani, They Said They Wanted Revolution: A Memoir of my Parents, New York: Little A, 2022.

Newark, Delaware (Special to Informed Comment) – Beautiful, inspiring, heartbreaking and truth telling are terms that come to mind describing the new memoir by Iranian- American journalist Neda Toloui-Semnani.

Among the many memoirs written by Iranians and their experience of revolution and exile, “They Said They Wanted Revolution, a memoir of my parents” is one of the best I have read. It is written in such a gripping way that it is hard to put it down. It captures the imagination.

For me this may be because I knew both her parents, because we shared the same ideals and ideas. But what really leaves an indelible impression on the reader is that this work is written from the perspective of a young woman who lost her father when she was only three-and-a half, years old, which means that she had barely seen or remembered him, and then her mother many years later.

Both her parents were revolutionaries. They were members of the Confederation of Iranian Students, perhaps the largest student organization in the world at the time. I belonged to the same organization in my teenage years. We all fought against the shah, wanted a revolution, unaware of what would come next.

Neda’s father, Faramarz was executed on January 25, 1983 by Iran’s new rulers. He was only 38 years old at the time. Farah, her mother, lost her life from cancer in 2010. I barely knew Faramarz. I remember seeing him a few times in Chicago, where members of the Confederation lived together in a small apartment, and then at the famous demonstration against the Shah in Washington, D.C., where tear gas caused him and President Carter to cry!

Neda Toloui-Semnani, They Said They Wanted Revolution: A Memoir of my Parents, New York: Little A, 2022. Click here.

I remember Faramarz’s beautiful green eyes, which Neda inherited. But I knew Farah. I had come to know her, went to her house, and appreciated this lovely soul. She was an inspiration. I truly admired her and remember her infectious laughter. I still miss her.

They met in Berkeley, a hotbed of student activism in the 1960s. The Student for a Democratic Society (SDS) and members of many other organizations were there. It was the time of rebellion against the status quo. Everyone was a revolutionary.

In her book, Neda moves from Berkeley to St. Louis, Missouri, where her father first came to study engineering. Next, she moves to Iran, then back to D.C., and in between visits and lives in many other places. She traces the journey of her parents and wants to find out what motivated them. Why did they go that route? How did they meet? Why did they want a revolution? There are so many why’s that this heart-wrenching memoir seeks to find the answers to.

Faramaz and Farah belonged to a wing of the Confederation which was at that time pro-Mao. There were many factions in the movement. I didn’t belong to their group, but we all shared a common goal. We all knew each other and respected one another. Theirs was the Union of Iranian Communists. He came to America to study and somehow became politicized, ending up in Berkeley where his future partner and wife happened to be a student as well.

The Vietnam War was raging. Activism was our life. The Shah’s regime was the number one enemy and so groups of Iranian students gathered around one goal: To topple the dictatorship.

Neda asks herself and her father’s American girlfriend at the time (some 40 years later) “So if they wanted a Revolution, why did they have a family?” She is torn; she is still grieving for the father she had touched and loved and the mother she lost to cancer.

How did he die? From a bullet? What were his last hours like?

She and her brother Nema, the son who never met his father, remain close. Farah, seven months pregnant with Nema and the almost 4 -year-old Neda, crossed the border into Turkey, braving the cold, the smugglers who demanded more money and yet left them alone. The last leg of the trip, they walked barefoot until they reached the town of Van. It is a harrowing story of courage and determination of a woman, who, upon the advice of her husband, left Iran to save herself and her children.

The Islamists have now arrested Faramarz and he is awaiting his trial, likes hundreds of others. The judge and the jury have already decided their fate: Execution.

Like thousands of others, Faramarz and Farah go back, in hopes of a better Iran. Faramarz had gone to Iraq to oversee the radio station there, and Farah went to Yemen. It remains unclear how she spent her time in Yemen. They finally return to California. They mend their relationship but now the Revolution is in full force, so it is time to put their ideas into action.

We all know how that ended. Soon, the Islamists led by the Ayatollah round up their erstwhile allies. There is no mercy. Their version of Islam and Islamic state rules. A good communist or any leftist activist for that matter is a dead one.

There are differences in the group. A few dozen decide to go to the forests of Northern Iran, near the city of Amol, to start an uprising against the Islamic regime. They are called the Sarbedaran, after the 14th-century rebellious movement of that name. But Faramarz is against this armed movement. They are trying to copy the armed insurrections in Cuba or Latin America; they follow the same route, but Iran is not Cuba. They make strategic and tactical errors. Some take up guns and accidentally kill some locals. The Revolutionary Guards show up and round up everyone. They are brought to Tehran, to Evin prison, for months of interrogation and torture. And then a show trial begins, broadcast on television.

Faramarz Semnani is seen being interrogated by two despicable people.

The prosecutor asks, “How did you fight against imperialism? You were raised in the bosom of American imperialism. For fifteen years you sucked its blood. You grew up in America. You didn’t even have the courage to slap an American cop across the face.” “Your protest in America was an American plot, too. It helped the CIA to make it easier for people like you to recruit people.”

Many of Faramarz’s friends were in fact arrested and imprisoned in the U.S. They were called the 41. Forty-one members of the Confederation were arrested and imprisoned in California.

The prosecutor Assadolah Ladjervadi, cool and calculating, without an ounce of humanity (later assassinated by the MEK) and known as the butcher of Evin and the judge, Mohammadi Gilani, utterly ruthless and semi-literate, preside over the trial. The prisoners are mainly educated young men and women, sitting in rows, being called one by one, hounded, mocked, and demeaned. The families of some of the civilians of Amol are there for the show trial.

They chant “death to the communists.” They are brainwashed.

Neda spends many hours interviewing her parents’ old friends and family members. She talks to her aunts and uncles; she even travels to Iran and stays in the same apartment where her parents had some of their memorable days together.

Faramarz was not part of that group that took up arms. In fact, both tried to live a normal life in Tehran, not knowing what would be next. One day, when he goes out, to run an errand, he is arrested.

They never imagined that this was the last time they would see each other. It was the very last time. Faramaz sends a message to his wife from prison. Go to your mother soon—her mother, who lives in California.

Neda ends up with her mother in Washington D.C. Farah, still hoping that Faramarz will be acquitted. That is what she was made to believe.

Then the news comes. Farah’s sister, Neda’s aunt, Mahnaz delivers the news.

Farah is devastated. She just says, “Oh what a shame, what a shame.” And then she screams and cries.

But now she has a newborn, Nema and she has Neda. She must survive and live.

She remarries years later to a well-known academic, the late Habib Ladjevardi.

But then cancer strikes. She is a fighter like always, but the dreadful disease finally takes over and she dies. Oh, how can life be so cruel? Why her? Why this beautiful soul who had gone through so much pain? It is a cliché, but life is not fair. “Mu, I love you as big as the universe, as wide as the ocean, and back, forever and always,” Neda writes.

Neda’s story is one of a hundred of others whose parents were imprisoned, executed, and or immigrated during the reign of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Each has a personal story to tell, but this memoir is told by a young woman who longed for her father and still does. She longs for her mother, Farah, my friend, who took her last breath at 2:45 on that fateful day, next to her beloved children.

This book captures the essence of goodness, of evil, of tragedy and of courage. It travels through time and space, through places and countries. It is a story of love, revolution, and Idealism. It is the story of Iran.

Yes, America overthrew the Democratically Elected gov’t of Iran in 1953 and Ray Takeyh is wrong on the History https://www.juancole.com/2021/12/overthrew-democratically-history.html Wed, 08 Dec 2021 05:08:07 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=201679 Newark, Del. (Special to Informed Comment) – It is likely that, if the elected government of Iran’s Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh had stayed in power, the Middle East or at least Iran would look very different now.

But, in history, we cannot reach satisfactory conclusions based on ‘ifs‘. We have to consider only the facts and the events that took place.

Ray Takeyh, who keeps harping on the ill-founded notion that Dr. Mossadegh was not democratically elected– most recently in a column in the arch-conservative Commentary — continues to reiterate that statement based on incorrect assumptions and lacking any documents. In fact, in his recent article, filled with much disinformation and misinformation, every other line can be questioned. His goal, in pushing this view, is to show that Mossadegh’s government was not democratic or democratically elected and thus, when foreign powers acted against it, they were right to do so.

First, when we talk about ‘democratically elected’ what do we mean? How does a parliamentary system work? Is the PM elected by the Parliament like in Great Britain? The answer is YES.

Which country do we have in recent modern history whose government was totally democratically elected? Not many. Even if we look at the U.S. we have doubts as many of our citizens are prevented from voting. In Iran of 1950’s, half of the population, that is women, were not even allowed to vote until much later (although Mossadegh was preparing a bill for their enfranchisement).

On this subject, Maziar Behrooz, associate professor at San Francisco University, who has researched and written both about the Tudeh Party and the Coup, says, “If one reads and understands Iran’s 1906-1907 constitution, it becomes clear that under Iran’s parliamentary system, members of the Majles (parliament) were elected by popular vote (in 1951, by male suffrage). The Majles would then vote for one of its members as Prime Minister and the person thus elected would be rubber-stamped by the Shah (issuing a royal decree). This latter act would be a ceremonial act under normal constitutional procedures. Hence, to say that Dr. Mosaddegh was not elected democratically is incorrect and shows the author’s lack of knowledge of constitutional procedures during that period.”

Mossadegh was elected by the majority of the Majles, the parliament of Iran, which was comprised of his supporters as well as those who were opposed to him. Some of its members were corrupt and had received British financial support. As professor Mark Gasiorowski, a scholar of this period and author of an important book on the topic, says:

“Takeyh’s argument is that Dr. Mossadegh was appointed by the Shah, rather than elected.”

Dr. Ali Gheissari, in his well-documented piece, The U.S. Coup of 1953 in Iran, Sixty Years On, published in the journal of The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations Review, dated September 2013, writes, “Technically the Shah no longer had the constitucional power to dismiss the premier without the approval or the request of the parliament (the Majles). Mosaddeq, on the other hand, had already obtained considerable emergency powers from the parliament in the previous year in order to strengthen his position. He could bypass the parliament and legislate by decree, and he could limit the powers of the Shah.”

Mossadegh was elected repeatedly in his district, always gaining the highest number of votes, which Takeyh fails to mention.

The elections for parliament in this era generally were not very democratic, with wealthy landowners, the Royal Court and other powerful entities and figures, as well as the British embassy and perhaps the Soviets, using various means – presumably very extensively -to get their preferred candidates elected. Also, women (50% of the population) were not allowed to vote. All of this certainly occurred in the 1952 parliamentary election — the only one that occurred when Mossadegh was in power.

Dr Abrahamian, distinguished professor of Iranian history and the author of many important books says: “I have spelled this issue out in my new book (Oil Crisis in Iran) on US documents and on the Mossadeq period. The chapter on parliamentary politics tries to spell out the shah’s limited powers in the constitution and that it was the prerogative of the majles to elect the Prime Minister–the shah’s authority was supposed to be purely a formality. So Mossadeq was legally elected premier. Takeyh, I suspect, is accepting Reza Shah’s interpretation of the constitution–but then Reza Shah could choose his prime minister because he could dictate to the majles on who to elect. The fundamental laws of 1906 are quite clear: all the ministers are elected by the majles and responsible only to the majles.”

Despite many interferences, Iran in the Mossadegh era, experienced some of its most democratic years: the press was free, though manipulated by the above-mentioned forces as well as the CIA (in a televised interview, the CIA operative Richard Cottam stated, “I would write a piece in the evening and the next day it would be printed (translated) in one of the Teheran papers that we controlled”).

Not only the press, but political parties (except for the Tudeh) and civil society groups were very free; demonstrations and rallies occurred frequently, with little obstruction; and there was little or no repression or unlawful activity by the government. Mossadegh, who was against violence by any means even to save his government, never suppressed dissent as Mr. Takieh wrongly states.

“Despite Iran not being fully democratic, yet it was considerably more democratic than most other countries in the region at the time, and much more democratic than it ever was either before or after Mossadegh’s premiership.” (Gasiorowski).

Continuing with Gasiorowski, let’s not forget that black Americans were largely prevented from voting at this time and severely harassed in various other ways, including lynching, so the US could hardly be called fully democratic.

Dr. Mossadegh was elected despite it all — with the support of many Iranians and despite the objections and interference of monarchists, the Tudeh party, the clerics, and the rest.

“The CIA begrudgingly con-ceded that despite increasing parliamentary opposition, Mossadeq had continued to receive votes of confidence mainly because of his apt handling of the oil crisis.” Memorandum from John Waller (CIA) to Roosevelt, FRUS, in the book, The Oil Crisis: From Nationalism to the Coup d’Etat, Ervand Abrahamian, Cambridge University Press, 2021)

Dr. Mossadegh’s government lasted less than twenty-eight months. Financial and political pressure from within and without was placed on his government. He was portrayed as being pro-Soviet, a convenient lie that was instilled by the British and later the Americans. Although George McGhee later wrote: “I do not believe that Mossadeq formed an alliance of his own with the Soviet Union. Mossadeq was in my view, first and foremost a loyal Iranian.”

Mossadegh was a nationalist who saw that the saviour of his nation would be the nationalization of its oil industry. However, the British considered this act to be endangering their interests, political and financial. The British would not even accept the 50/50 proposal, as had been offered by the Americans to Saudi Arabia.

On this issue, George McGhee, the then representative of Harry Truman in the oil negotiations, writes that with great disappointment he went to the Shoreham Hotel to give the bad news to Dr. Mossadegh. “You’ve come here to send me home” said Mossadegh. “Yes,” I said. “I am sorry to have to tell you that we can’t bridge the gap between you and the British. It’s a great disappointment to us as it must be to you. It was a moment I will never forget. He accepted the result quietly, with no recriminations.” McGhee also writes that Eden had persuaded the Administration not to continue the talks with the Iranian delegation and to send Mossadegh back to Iran. (Envoy to the Middle World, George McGhee)

It was the Cold War and the Americans finally went along with the British meme that if Iran nationalized its oil, and if Mossadegh’s government stayed on, the Soviets would take over. The British were scared that Iran’s example would lead to other countries in their quest for the control of their sources of natural wealth. Egypt was a clear example. Mossadegh was eulogized in Cairo when he set foot there. He had become the hero of the region. The British saw signs they did not like.

Later, President Nasser, talking about the Suez nationalization, would say: “I went to pull the tail of the British lion. When I got there, I saw that Dr. Mossadegh had already cut it off.”

The United States, a close ally, finally succumbed to the British demands, promoting the bogey of the fear of communism, but with its self-interest in mind. In addition, unlike the democratic administration of Truman which had tried to find a solution to the oil question, Eisenhower was persuaded by the Dulles brothers to go along with the British plans for a coup d’état. In fact, when Mossadegh’s government was under immense financial pressure due to British sanctions, he had asked the American government for help. Truman had been in favor but then a Republican administration came to power in Washington.

The British foreign office advised the Americans not to assist Mossadegh’s government economically. An orchestrated effort was in place to bring his government down. Only a few days after the Coup did the foreign office send a communique to the State Department that now they could give the Zahedi government full-fledged help, and money flowed to Iran, personally enriching some of the coup perpetrators.

Mr. Takeyh wishes to rewrite history. He has done so in a number of articles written on this very subject. But there is never new information on his part. It is a repeat of the old, revisionist conjectures. If there has been libel, as charged by Takeyh, it is Mr. Takeyh himself who has libelled Iran. Mr. Takeyh should not try to distort history as we cannot deny facts. The British MI6 and the American CIA toppled the democratic government of Dr. Mossadegh for financial and political reasons. Through the years, the facts have been given to us in black on white, through government publications, and various archives, although the British have attempted to withhold much on their part. But the work of major scholars, Iranians, and Americans, testify to this truth.

The truth is Mr. Takeyh, even with his latest revisionist article, cannot escape real history.

Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

CNN: “CIA involvement in 1953 Iranian coup”