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An Iranian woman marks the Persian Fire Festival holiday. (Photo: BEHROUZ MEHRI / AFP / Getty Images)
There were widespread reports of political activities throughout Iran following a call by the network of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) for mobilization on the occasion of the March 13 National Fire Festival, known as Chaharshanbeh Suri in Persian.
A few weeks ago, MEK’s network of supporters inside the country called upon all Iranian people to show their protests against the ruling mullahs in Iran during the last week of the Persian year. Iranian protesters distributed leaflets and flyers in support of this call in scores of cities.
Pictures of Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), were posted in various locations while pictures of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei were set on fire by activists and protesters who chanted “Down with Khamenei.”
The MEK’s call to action has been embraced in public statements by shopkeepers, bazaar merchants, university students and people from various social strata throughout the country.
The Tuesday protests took place against the backdrop of a flurry of related activity on social media and in cyberspace. The hashtag #ديكتاتور در آتش, meaning “dictator on fire”, was used extensively with photos and clips of anti-regime activities, relaying the spirit of this year’s Chaharshanbeh Suri campaign.
Multiple Iranian cities have witnessed new anti-government protests in the last few weeks. Thousands of farmers in eastern Isfahan rallied on March 9 to protest against the regime for lack of water due to the regime’s policies.
A strike by Ahvaz National Group Steelworkers entered its 20th consecutive day on March 11 with a protest in front of the city’s governorate office.
The Censored Women’s Film festival, together with Women’s Voices Now, is sponsoring a screening of the Academy Award-nominated animated film, The Breadwinner, in New York City on March 13. Clarion spokeswoman Raheel Raza, Honor Diaries star Zainab Khan and Honor Diaries Board member Linda Church will participate in a discussion after the film. For details, click here.
The next Censored Women’s Film Festival will be hosted by the Duke University Honor Council. If you’re in North Carolina March 23-25, check out this incredible line up and the inspiring keynote speaker, Naima Dido.
The Censored Women’s Film Festival, a project of Honor Diaries, gives voice to women who are censored in their own countries because of their gender and oftentimes, because of the topics they cover.
Films chosen push the envelope in the cinematic portrayal of women’s rights and brings together dynamic speakers (experts, filmmakers and activists) from around the globe.
Each year the festival selects the most powerful films which uncover silenced women’s issues, using this event to give voice to the voiceless.
Raheel Raza, adviser to Clarion Project, was awarded the prestigious 150 Medal by the Canadian Senate. The medal commemorates the 150th anniversary of the first sitting of the Canadian Senate in 1867, the year of the confederation of Canada. The medal was created to give Canada’s senators the opportunity to recognize Canada’s heroes, all of whom have been deeply involved in the betterment of their communities.
Raza is an award-winning author, journalist and filmmaker who raises her voice against the dangers of Islamism. She is president of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, and an activist for human rights, gender equality and diversity.
Raheel Raza honoured with Senate 150 Medal - YouTube
If you get frustrated by the difficulty of having an honest conversation about Islamism, but can’t quite put your finger on exactly why, you have to watch this video.
Former Islamist Maajid Nawaz, now a counter-extremism activist and head of the Quilliam Foundation, runs a talkshow on London’s LBC network. In it, callers dial in to speak to Nawaz, and he regularly argues with them about radical Islam. He carefully explains, from his experience and his deep understanding of the topic, the nuances of how to challenge radical Islam without veering into anti-Muslim bigotry.
But many of the callers attack Maajid for it. Muslim callers have berated Nawaz in the past and accused him of misrepresenting Islam or worse. One memorable conversation saw him baffled by a Muslim woman who refused to condemn verse 4:34 in the Quran, which allows a husband to beat his wife in certain circumstances. On the other side, he has been attacked by angry non-Muslims who are worried about an Islamic takeover and blame all Muslims for terrorism.
Satirist Veedu Vidz (previously interviewed by Clarion Project) made a video brilliantly skewering the many callers who have contended with Nawaz, as well as lampooning Nawaz himself.
“I share Maajid’s frustration when some Muslims condemn violent acts , but when asked to condemn them from scripture they fall short and make excuses,” Veedu Vidz told Clarion. “For any chance of any meaningful reform we have to confront our scriptures and tradition honestly without making excuses. Furthermore, the last conversation on the video with “Tom” shows that despite Maajid’s effort to hold Muslims up to the same liberal standard as everyone else, certain segments of the population still distrust all Muslims and consider him a stealth jihadist and untrustworthy, showing how difficult it is to be a Muslim reformer, as both sides seem to have something against you.”
Asma Jahangir in 2004 (Photo: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistani Human rights activist and lawyer Asma Jahangir died February 11 aged 66. She died of a heart attack.
At the time of her death she was the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran.
“We have lost a human rights giant,” U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.
The daughter of famous left-wing politician Malik Ghulam Jilani, Jahangir was a tireless voice for democracy and the rule of law in Pakistan. Her first public action was when she petitioned the Supreme Court, aged just 18, to challenge the “preventative detention” in which General Yahya Khan’s administration had placed her father. In 1972, after Khan’s rule ended, the court declared him a “usurper” and ruled Jilani’s detention illegal.
Jahangir began her career as a family lawyer. In 1980, along with her sister, she established a law firm specializing in divorce. The cases she saw there motivated her to fight for women’s rights for the rest of her life.
In 1983, she was imprisoned for her work supporting the Movement to Restore Democracy under the rule of General Zia ul-Haq, the dictator whose policies were widely regarded as increasing extremism in Pakistan. In 1986, she founded Pakistan’s first legal aid center. In 1987, she went one better, establishing the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent body that still fights for justice in Pakistan.
Later she became the first female president of the Supreme Court Bar Association. In her capacity as a human rights lawyer she fought many cases on behalf of those accused of blasphemy, women seeking divorce from dangerous marriages and other important cases.
Her work was not just confined to Pakistan, but also overseas. From 1998-2004, she was the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. From 2004 to 2010, she was the U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
Eulogies are pouring in for Jahangir from across the political spectrum in Pakistan and from leaders around the world.
“She was not only a prominent lawyer, she was a kind-hearted human who cared for the poor and marginalised, she never left the poor in hard times. She always struggled for democracy and supremacy of law,” former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said, visiting her family home to offer his condolences. “May Allah raise her status [in the afterlife].”
Democracy Now reviews her life:
Remembering the Extraordinary Life of Pakistani Human Rights Lawyer & Activist Asma Jahangir - YouTube
The British government has appointed Sara Khan, a veteran counter-extremism campaigner, to head up its new “Commission for Countering Extremism,” much to the objections of Islamist organizations.
The commission is charged with advising the government on new policies, publicly challenging different forms of extremism and promoting “pluralist British values.”
Khan is the co-founder and CEO of Inspire, a Muslim women’s counter extremism organization. Since 2008, Inspire has run counter-extremism programs, conducted media campaigns, trained teachers and organized conferences on gender equality in Islam. Khan has over a decade of experience in the field and is widely respected for her many achievements.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd described Ms Khan as “expertly qualified,” saying she “will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the Commission which will prove vital as it works to identify and challenge extremism and provide independent advice to the Government.”
Rudd also underscored her commitment to stamping out extremism. “This Government will not stand by and allow the menace of extremism to undermine the fundamental, pluralistic values which underpin our society.”
Khan has pledged as her first act to undertake a comprehensive review of the “scale, influence and reach” of extremism in the United Kingdom. She pledged to both listen to counter-extremism campaigners and victims in building an accurate picture.
Some in the Muslim community hit back against her appointment, in part due to Khan’s outspoken support for the government’s counter-extremism program, PREVENT . Founders of the Muslim Women’s Collective Bushra Wasty and Sulekha Hassan wrote a wary op-ed in The Guardian calling on Khan to avoid making Muslims the focus of counter-extremism efforts and take care to consider “Islamophobia.” As a Muslim herself, Khan will no doubt already be attuned to the need to avoid increasing anti-Muslim bigotry.
Other groups, mainly Islamist-linked organizations and their apologists, went further and demanded Khan be sacked.
“We believe that this appointment will further damage relations between the Government and Muslim communities,” the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Muslim Council of Britain said in a joint letter with Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND). “We have no confidence in this appointment and are concerned that Muslim communities will refuse to liaise with Ms Khan, thereby defeating the purpose of her appointment to the role.
“We call upon the Government to reverse this decision with immediate effect.”
Four MPs pulled out of a House of Commons event meeting with MEND in October 2017 over the group’s reputation for dismissing terrorism and hostility to Jews.
More than 100 Muslim organizations signed a petition calling on the government to fire her. Those calling for her dismissal included Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation, who previously campaigned to have counter-extremism activist Maajid Nawaz struck off from the Liberal Democrat party after retweeting a cartoon of Jesus and Mohammed saying hi to one another.
But despite the ill treatment she received, Khan remained dignified and optimistic.
“I recognise the scale of the challenge we face in confronting extremism and I am deeply committed to this role,” Ms. Khan said in a statement accepting the position. “I will create a Commission that is forthright in challenging extremism in the name of our shared values, fundamental freedoms and human rights. To those in our country who recognize the harm and threat extremism continues to pose in our society, I am eager to collaborate and engage.
“I extend my hand out to you to work with me in supporting the Commission’s work in building a Britain that defends our diverse country while demonstrating zero tolerance to those who promote hate and who seek to divide us.”
However, Khan has received wholehearted support from organizations interested in tackling extremism.
“Many of those who claim to speak for Muslims do not like Khan because she promotes a positive message,” said the National Secular Society, which opposes the undue influence of religion in public life, in a piece slamming the media for undue criticism of Khan. “She encourages a degree of integration into British society. She says Muslims should obey the same laws as everyone else and cooperate with the British state. She has called for honesty among Muslims about hateful ideologies and intolerant practices which are specific to, or particularly prominent among, those who share their religion.”
Sir Barney White-Spunner, a retired general who commanded some of Britain’s forces during the Iraq War went further, saying “By appointing Sara Khan, the Government has shown that it is finally taking Islamic extremism seriously.”
Khan’s tenure could see the British government take a far more robust line against extremism than it has done in the past.
Emad Mishko Tamo in Canada after escaping three years of ISIS captivity (Photo: video screenshot)
A Yazidi boy in Canada who was held captive by ISIS for three years is asking for a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to advocate for other children still in captivity, CT News reported.
Emad Mishko Tamo, 13, was separated from his family when ISIS took over large swaths of Iraqi territory in the summer of 2014. His mother, Nofa Mihlo Zaghla, was able to escape and make it to Canada as a refugee. While other siblings and relatives managed to make it to Canada as well, she was unaware of the fate of Emad, another brother and her husband.
Last summer, a relative saw a photo of Emad on social media and recognized him. With the help of the Yazidi Association in Canada, Emad – still suffering from a gunshot wound after being liberated in Mosul — was reunited with his family.
“A lot of these children are coming back but there’s no parents, there’s no family left. They’ve all been killed or massacred and nobody knows where the rest of their families are,” said Hadji Hesso, the association’s president.
In this moving video, Emad thanks Canada and says, “There’s a thousand other kids like me who are still held captive. Hon. Justin Trudeau, will you meet me?”
Siavash Safavi on a CIvil Space video (Photo: Video screenshot)
Siavash Safavi is a dissident from Iran now living in Toronto, Canada. Born in Tehran he moved to the north of Iran with his family when he was very young. Seven years ago he fled Iran after being arrested for political protests against the regime and escaped to Canada via Turkey. Over Christmas, 2016 an Iranian newspaper listed him as one of their top 30 traitors to the country.
Safavi now runs the Civil Space Network alongside co-founder Daniel Bordman, which uses comedy to illustrate current affairs issues and promote classical liberal ideas. You can subscribe to the Civil Space Network YouTube channel, join them on Facebook and support them on Patreon.
He graciously agreed to speak with Clarion Project Dialogue Coordinator Elliot Friedland about the current protests in Iran and his own story of escape from the Islamic Republic.
Clarion Project: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Siavash Safavi: I was born in Tehran but my family moved to the north of Iran near the Caspian Sea when I was little. It’s very temperate weather, between the mountains and the sea. I went to university there initially to study accounting. The second year I went to my dad and said either I can drop out or blow my brains out. So I switched to English literature.
Clarion:How did you go from studying English literature to fleeing the country as a political dissident?
Safavi: When I went to University for the second time, former President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been in power for about two years. When he came to power, the first thing he did was shut down all the student associations. They were the largest and strongest non-governmental organizations in Iran. Every university had one, which sent a representative to the national congress. They were very strong during the period of reformist President Mohammed Khatami (1997-2005).
Along with the others, our university association was shut down and its members were arrested. After a year of closure, five of us decided to reopen the association. We applied for it legally and they wouldn’t let us open it, but said we could run it unofficially. The first thing we dealt with was about surveillance. The administration was putting up cameras on the university campus in every classroom and to cover every inch of campus. So we gathered student signatures for a petition asking the university to let us know who would be watching these videos and what the purpose of the cameras was.
Although what we did was in no way illegal, we were sent to a disciplinary committee for it.
Next, we held an open-mic rally in the university, which we planned very secretly and we brought in the apparatus, the mics and everything, secretly. We had a good rally and were sent to disciplinary committee for that, too. We also ran a book club teaching classical liberalism and stuff like that. Things were going well until the second term elections of Ahmadinejad happened in 2009. Just before the election, the Iranian regime’s “Pravda” announced that Ahmadinejad was going to win with 63 percent. They called it an “Ahmadinejad tsunami.” Then two hours after the election, they announced he had won with 63% of the vote.
Watch Safavi on a Civil Space video explaining the Iranian Republic of Iran for Dummies:
Islamic Republic of Iran for Dummies. By Civil Space. - YouTube
Clarion: Many Iranians felt the election had been rigged. The Green Movement took off in Iran to protest the outcome. Three million people were involved in protesting before the movement was eventually and violently crushed.
Safavi: Two days later the intelligence forces kidnapped the political-secretary of the association. There were six of us on the board, I was head of communications. It was during the final exams period. We held a rally to ask the university dean where he was, because the dean was a member of the security council for the province. We wanted him to just let us know how this student of his was doing, where he was and how was he being kept. He didn’t respond.
On the second day, we had another rally. This time 4,000 students came out of 12,000 students overall. Final exams got cancelled and at around 2 pm the university started to get surrounded. First police came, then some army jeeps came with soldiers. Next some trucks came and dropped off the paramilitary Basij militiamen, with their faces covered and holding big sticks. Soon we saw every type of military the Islamic Republic has in front of our university. By around 5 or 6 pm, the university was completely surrounded so people couldn’t escape any more.
At around 9 pm, we realized that they were going to come in. So we started negotiating with the representative of the interior ministry who was there. We asked them to pull the Basij militia back so the girls could get into their dorm. Because there were so many protesters, we knew that the government couldn’t write everyone’s information down. This way the girls at least wouldn’t get into trouble because they could just say they were in the dorm.
They pulled the Basij back allowing the girls to go to their dorms and then came in and we surrendered. They told us they would escort us to the dormitories. But when we saw there was a colonel from the robbery and homicide division there, we knew he was not there just to escort us to the dorms. By the time we surrendered, there were only around 300 people still left. They packed us up onto buses and took us to the police station.
There was a university Basij representative there and a representative of university security. From that group of 300, they took out 30 people after taking names from the others and releasing them. From the remaining 30, they took out 10 people after consulting with the university security representative. So that was the six members of the board, two socialist students, one who was very active that day and one who was just a Sunni Kurd. The guard heard his name and asked if he was a Kurd and if he was Sunni and he said yes, so they dragged him alone.
Then they took us to the robbery and homicide jail. They put us in the jail and we stayed the night there. It was a big cell all together with one shared toilet. It was horrible. The next day they took statements from us. They didn’t let us speak to a lawyer or anything. The judge said we would spend two nights in jail while he decided what to do with us. Those two days turned into weeks, still with no contact with family members who didn’t know where we were or what was happening. I had spoken to my dad briefly when they took us away on the bus to let him know I wouldn’t be coming home soon and they were arresting us. He was very cool he said, “Yeah, they are arresting a lot of people.”
Then they took us to a special ward for political and religious prisoners in a different prison. While we were there, each of us was interrogated a few times. We were also beaten. I had my face smashed into the ground a few times. After about a week, there they sent in these three big criminal looking dudes into our ward. It turned out one was a gang leader who was there for murder and necrophilia. I could write a book just from meeting this guy who was in jail for murder and necrophilia.
Because they didn’t get anything in the interrogations, they sent them in to basically beat us up a bit, scare us and show us a “good time.” What saved us — because we were all nerdy students — was that one of us, the most athletic one, was a wrestler. He started to suck up to the leader, who was called Mahmoud Dinosaur, and say, “Hey, do you go to the gym? You look well built” and stuff like that. So the guy said, “Yeah, I go to this gym,” and our friend said, “Oh wow, I go there all the time too. Do you know this guy? He is my best friend.” And then Dinosaur said, “Yeah, he is my cousin.”
And that’s how we were not raped in prison.
Mahmoud Dinosaur told us the gang were sent here to rape you, but you guys seem cool so we won’t. And they had raped many other people. So a few days later, they allowed our families to visit. After another couple of weeks they took us back to court again, and the judge sent us home on bail.
A couple of months later our sentences came and we got six months. The judge said they were not going to enforce the sentence right away. When they give it to you, you have 30 days to hand yourself in and go to prison. So basically, they wanted to hold it over our heads, or maybe the prisons were full — we don’t know.
So the three of us from the association decided we were going to escape, because we didn’t want to go to prison again. We found a smuggler to take us over the Turkish border.
We used to joke that our smuggler was going to be the next minister of transportation after the regime was overthrown. He took less money than the others and even gave discounts to those who couldn’t afford his price. He paid all the drivers who picked us up in advance. We drove to one point, then another car picked us up and took us to another point, then from there another car took us to another point and so on until we were right up by the border in the mountains.
The border is a little canal with a small barbed wire fence. There is a small road there where patrols come and go and our smuggler had spotters there to tell him when the patrols come and go. We jumped over the border and ran down the hill and there were some horses to meet us there. We rode down into Turkey with a can of gasoline — we had to smuggle some gasoline as well — and then got picked up by a truck which took us to a small town. The next morning, a car took us down to the city of Van in southeastern Turkey. Because it was New Years, we stayed indoors for a few days until everything re-opened. Then when it did, we went to the UNHCR and filed for asylum.
I stayed there for a year until the Van earthquake happened and my house was destroyed, then moved to another city in Turkey and then to Canada.
Banners of the Supreme Leader Torn Down in Iran! - YouTube
Clarion: Can you tell us about some of the differences between living in Iran and living in the West?
Safavi: The biggest difference is the freedom, obviously. People in the West really don’t understand what it means to not fear the government and not fear even walking in the street and having tension. Even walking with a girl or being a little drunk, you wonder what’s going to happen, if I’m going to be arrested. On every street, there is a picture of some ayatollah staring at you and some religious text. You see police on the streets.
On the hijab issue, the reason the regime will never give in regarding the hijab is because that is one of its foundations. By having to enforce this rule, they can remain in people’s lives every day. The most personal aspect of your life is clothing.
Of course it’s good that people in the West don’t understand that way of living. Why would you want to have an idea about fearing the government like that? But you have to realize it is very important that we don’t have that fear. So we have to be very careful not to give that up.
Clarion: So reports that mandatory wearing of hijab in Tehran has been lifted are not true?
Safavi: That’s a lie, that’s fake news. We tried to raise awareness about it, we told everybody but they are not listening. The news was that the chief of police said women without a hijab (or a bad hijab) would not be arrested. But he never said that. What he said was women with no hijab or bad hijab will not be sent to prison. They will be arrested, but they will be sent to mandatory morality classes. Nobody talked about no hijab, it was just The New York Times that said no hijab is ok in Iran now. Even the police clarified, saying, “We will arrest you, but it won’t go on your record, we will just put you in a mandatory morality class.” And then a couple of days later, because all this propaganda went out, the police issued another statement saying, “No, we will arrest you.”
But The New York Times, none of them care, they just want to say good things about the regime in Iran.
Clarion: How widespread is resentment against the Islamic Republic in your opinion?
Safavi: Everyone in the country hates them. And the people are crying out of desperation, out of frustration, and they are literally in the streets saying, “We will die, we will die, but we will take back our Iran.” That’s what people were chanting in Zanjan and in many other cities. Protests are taking place in 66 cities. That’s revolution scale. Cities as small as a population of 50,000. You never see small cities like that get involved in big riots. It’s always big cities. But this time it’s everywhere.
Clarion: How are people communicating?
Safavi: The regime is basically cutting off internet. In every area, that is problematic; they shut off internet. Telegram, the number one popular communications app in Iran, is completely down. They also shut a few other communications apps. WhatsApp is still available, but I don’t know what the deal with that is or why it’s still available. They can still use the internet, but they can’t upload videos.That means people won’t be able to get news out about the protests taking place in their small towns.
And then the mainstream media, The New York Times, The Guardian and all of them start asking, “Hey, is it ok for the Iranian people to want a better future? How do we feel about this?” Here is the headline of an article in The Guardian: Iran’s Enemies Would be Wise Not to Wish for Regime Change.
The people are doing it! Who the hell are you! It’s like if someone was eating something for dinner and someone else came in and said, “You know, these guys eating dinner is a problem.” How is it any of your business?
"Down with Hezbollah" Iran uprising continues. - YouTube
Clarion: Some people are worried that it could turn out like Iraq or Syria and if there would be regime change, and what would come afterwards would be worse. Can you speak to that?
Safavi: That is the biggest fallacy that everybody makes, and I understand that. It’s the same region so since they don’t actually know the geopolitics and demographics of the region. They just see Iraq, Syria and Iran next door, so they think they’re all the same.
Iran, unlike every single other country that had a problem like this, (Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, etc.), is a melting pot of different ethnicities that have been together as a country for thousands of years. They strong national identity. It is an Islamic identity, but luckily, the Islamic Republic — the first fundamentalist, radical, jihadist regime in the world — beat it the hell out of people.
It’s not that everyone hates Islam. They just don’t want it in politics anymore. They just don’t want to see it in the streets anymore. In western Iran, the Kurds — about whom everybody says want independence — were demonstrating in the streets chanting, “Independence, Freedom, Iranian republic.” Thirty-five years ago (at the time of the 1979 Revolution) that chant was “Independence, Freedom, Islamic republic.” Now Kurds also are saying Iranian republic. In Khuzestan, which is an Arab populated area, same thing. Everybody is focused on Iran.
Secondly, every other country with these problems were very hardcore fundamentalist countries run by a secular dictator. Fundamentalists wanted to overthrow the dictators. Iran already did this 35 years ago. Iran was ahead of the whole region. So people tasted Islamic fundamentalism and they don’t want it at all.
You see the biggest demonstrations in Qoms, the Vatican of Iran, the most important Shiite city in the world. Qoms and Najaf are where all the ayatollahs are trained. That’s where the seminaries are. And in Qoms, people came out onto the streets and said, “We don’t want the Islamic republic,” which blew my mind. In Mashhad, where the shrine of Imam Reza is, people said the same thing.
I’m getting this information from videos that are coming out; we have contacts in Iran; we’re calling people. I’ve been in Iranian politics for 15 years, so I’ve been speaking to a lot of people.
And many people are chanting the name of the former king. People are apologizing, literally apologizing, for the revolution of 1979. Some people want to see the shah return, by no means all of them. But that is an option. Reza Pahlavi, the son of the previous shah is still alive. I don’t mind if he returns or not, that’s for the people to decide in a referendum.
I don’t care, as long as it’s a liberal democracy. It could be a constitutional monarchy. It could be a representative republic or a parliamentary system. I don’t care. As long as it is agreed in a referendum and it is a liberal democracy. A constitutional monarchy could help in that people need a symbol right now. The Islamic republic has beaten people into submission, beaten their daughters in front of them in the street. Do you know what kind of effect that sort of thing has on people, to see those kinds of things every day? How traumatized they are?
So a constitutional monarchy might, in a way, be a safe feeling, restoring tradition and national pride, I don’t know.
So these other countries (Syria, Iraq, etc.) are moving towards Islamic regimes. We had them. We had ISIS. Thirty-five years ago, “ISIS” came to town. The difference was there were no cameras, no internet or satellites. Nobody found out the evils they did in this country.
"No to Gaza and Lebanon", Iranians chant in the streets - YouTube
Clarion: What are some of things the Islamic Republic did that people didn’t find out about?
Safavi: When the Islamic Republic came to power in 1979, for the first year they just executed anybody who had anything to do with the previous regime. The first female minister of health, for example. They executed her for sexual misconduct or some similar trumped up charge. The head of the Jewish community, one of the first guys to go.
In the military, every army officer above a certain level was killed. Two years later, Iran basically had 17 high-ranking officers left. Eleven were killed in one go in an “accident,” and a captain became the head of the Iranian ground forces. This is even though the army stood aside and said we are not going to participate in the revolution. Yet, they still got purged.
Then they went through the ethnicities. Kurds took the worst of it. They massacred Kurds. They sent helicopters and just bombed their whole region. In Ahvaz, [an Arab minority region], there were massacres of all political activists. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps went to Ahvaz and carried out street executions. They killed most of the political activists on the spot, in their houses or wherever. The Turkomans and Baluch were also persecuted. Sunnis got the worst of it.
Then they went after all the political dissidents, because there was just been a revolution and hundreds of different groups were involved. So they rounded up all the socialist groups. One by one they sent them to prison and executed them. Tens of thousands were executed in the first two years after the revolution.
The estimates are that over 100,000 were executed in the first three years. Then they went after the People’s Mojahedin Organization, who were the only ones left who were sort of religious. They started a civil war with them, killed a lot and sent a lot to prison. Then the prisons were full and the scene was empty from any political players. They killed or imprisoned all of them or forced them to leave the country. So, in a span of three years, they emptied the country of any intellectual or political power except themselves.
Then Iraq attacked Iran. The reality is that [Ayatollah] Khomeini’s ideology when he came to power was exporting the revolution. He announced it, “We will export revolution in the region.” And the first country they started to export it to was Iraq. Iraq has a large Shiite population and Iran started to cause problems.
Saddam Hussein sent a lot of messages asking to negotiate, asking them to stop exporting this ideology. They didn’t, so Saddam attacked with the help of the United States and other backers. Iran defeated Saddam in less than two years. Every square meter of Iran that was taken by Saddam was taken back. Iraq was kicked out of Iran.
Then the Arab countries and America said ok, let’s sit down and make peace, and we will pay you all the damages and more for what has happened. Khomeini said no, that the road to Al Aqsa goes through Iraq. He pushed through and then Saddam pushed back and used chemical weapons.
It got to a point where nobody in Iran would go to war because they knew they were just dragging it out to kill the youth. So Khomeini started sending people to schools to sell schoolchildren keys to heaven. That’s why we find photos of so many child soldiers from the Iran-Iraq war. Khomeini guaranteed to them that if they would become a martyr, they would go to heaven. A massive number of 13-14-year olds went to war and got killed. They would just send them over minefields, using them as cannon fodder.
After the war, they realized that the army was very weak, and they still had tens of thousands of prisoners that they had locked up right after the revolution. The regime couldn’t keep them all forever. Some of their sentences were going to end, and the regime was weak.
So they took them into a room and asked them one question. Based on whether or not they would believe the prisoners, not even their answer, they would decide whether or not to execute them. Around 4-15,000 were executed in prisons in about two weeks before the end of the war.
These are just some of the atrocities of the Islamic Republic until 1988.
Clarion: Do you think these protests are going to continue?
Safavi: In these situations, you really never know. There is sometimes a switch that brings the whole thing down and which wasn’t even planned. That’s what happened in the Soviet Union. It wasn’t supposed to happen, the regime wasn’t supposed to fall, but it did. The army was supposed to take over, but people were just tired. So you never know.
But this time, it’s in small cities even. Usually demonstrations happen in the big cities because the middle class is in the big cities. And the regime brings forces from small towns and areas to the big cities to shut down any demonstrations and kill people and beat them up. That’s how they do it in Iran.
During the Green Movement (in 2009), with all the might of the people, it was really just three cities. The main focus was Tehran. A little bit Isfahan, a..
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