Iran – November 2019 – January 2020

See also chronology December 2018 back to August 2014

For all post-Jan 2020 Coronavirus references, see Contestavirus

14/1/20:

Tehran: student protests continue

12/1/20:

This is kind of interesting, despite the anarchist fixation and other annoying stuff:

Perspectives from Iranian Anarchists

Further demonstrations in Tehran, spreading to Tabriz, Shiraz, Kermanshah and others

List of chanted slogans here with video

11/1/20:

Tehran: protesters call for Khameini to resign after downing of plane  More here: “students at Melli (National) University in Tehran staged a demonstration, chanting, “Death to the oppressor, be it the Shah or the Leader (Khamenei)”

Some tweets here: “The government took the plane down “by accident”. Maybe the people should take the government down on purpose.” There are, sadly, a lot of moronic pro-Trump tweets amongst these soundbite-type comments, but there are videos of lots of angry demonstrators, including at least one with the cops retreating.

31/12/19:

To distract from internal miseries, the state begins provocation that could end in war with the US

7/12/19:

Tehran: statement from students’ organisation

The language is a bit stodgy at times, including repeating the usual “martyrs” stuff which seems to permeate Iranian culture. Moreover, it states opposition to “the present state” – “The present state has been able to link the most modern form of exploitation to the oldest forms of oppression.”  but is not clearly opposed to states as such. But despite that, it’s pretty good – clearly internationalist and against patriarchy. However, knowing some student organisations in the past, I wonder how many students’ views this in fact expresses or whether it was written in the name of students but just by a couple of people who were claiming to speak on the behalf of all the students. Maybe I’m over-suspicious, but often there’s a sub-Leninist tendency to do this.

1/12/19:

Guardian report on the movement in Shiraz

““Everyone took to the streets, I was really hopeful that things would change,” one of the recordings to Alinejad said. “For two days Shiraz was under the control of the people, but nothing bad happened. There was complete peace. It was such a great thing that people had the control over the city. I could see how the country would look like if we take power.””

This text, although coming from a ridiculously clichéed  Marxist-Leninist angle,  constantly repeating their mantra of the necessity of the vanguard party to seize state power, has some interesting facts about the movement of 1978-9

“On 8 September 1978 (Black Friday) troops killed thousands of demonstrators in Teheran. In reply, the workers went on strike. That strike was the spark which ignited the dynamite which had been building up all over the country. On 9 September 1978, the Teheran oil refinery workers issued the call to strike to express solidarity with the massacre on the previous day and against martial law. On the very next day the strike had spread like wildfire to Shiraz, Tahriz, Abdan and Isfahan. Refinery workers went on strike everywhere. The economic demands of the workers were rapidly transformed into political one: “Down with the Shah!”, “Down with Savak!”, “Marg Ber, American imperialism!” Then the Ahwaz oil workers went on strike, followed by non-oil workers in Khuzistan who joined the strike at the end of September. It was above all the movement of the oil workers—the so-called privileged section of the working class in Iran—that decisively undermined the regime. As the rhythm of the strike movement was intensified and prolonged its character also changed. Ever newer sections were being drawn into the struggle: workers from the public sector—teachers, doctors, hospital workers, clerks, postal workers, telephone and television, and employees from transport, railways, domestic airports and banks all joined the mainstream. White-collar workers with little or no experience of struggle were also drawn into the general movement. The strike of the Central Bank of Iran was particularly effective. This followed the burning of hundreds of banks by the enraged masses. When the bank clerks went on strike, they revealed that in the last three months $1,000 million had been spirited abroad by 178 members of the ruling elite, including the Shah’s relatives. Now busy making preparations for a comfortable exile, having sent his family abroad, the Shah had transferred $1,000 million to America (this was in addition to the $1,000 million or so which was held in banks in Bonn, Switzerland and other parts of the world). The Iranian treasury had been plundered by the autocracy and its watchdog, the hated Savak. The tidal wave of strikes paralysed the state machinery; the civil servants were on strike. But it was the magnificent 33 days oil workers’ strike that crippled almost everything. This fact alone showed the colossal power of the Iranian proletariat: a single strike of the oil workers caused the government losses of no less than $74 million a day in lost revenue. Oil workers cut the main artery of state revenues… Day to day there were continuous demonstrations and mass mobilisation which went far beyond the limits of ordinary life. The masses attacked the embassies of Britain and America and burned thousands of American flags. Effigies of US President Jimmy Carter and the Shah were hanged a thousand times over on every street corner of every Iranian city. The Shah came to symbolise both the hated existing order and the Savak’s bloody repression…

An article in the American magazine Newsweek commented on an angry mob which had gathered on Jaleh Square reacting against the imposition of martial law by shouting slogans against regime: “When they came close, the armed forces ordered the demonstrators to disperse but instead of retreating, the demonstrators disobeyed the order and went on to cross the warning line, slowly choking from teargas fumes, but unwilling to go back. Finally the troops raised their guns, firing bursts into the air, but even then the mob edged closer to the ranks of the troops. And the troops lowered their sight and, when the crowd kept coming, sprayed the demonstrators with round after round.”

… When thousands of mourners marched to the gate of Teheran’s Besheste Zahra cemetery shouting slogans against the Shah attacked an armoured car, a major came out and shouted: “We have no intention of killing you! You are our brothers!” and offered his weapon to the mob: “Here, take my gun and kill me if you wish!” The mourners cheered and shouted slogans of unity against regime. There were other such incidents. Several conscripts shot their officers or committed suicide on being ordered to open fire on demonstrations. On other side, many deserters and mutineers were executed by the Savak.

A US Army Officer interviewed in Newsweek said of the Iranian army: “I would not put a lot of faith in their reliability, we do not know where their breaking point would be.” An Iranian official was also quoted as saying: “The longer the Shah keeps his army on the streets, the greater the danger of contamination”… on many occasions when soldiers and junior officers refused to open fire on the demonstrators…

By the time Khomeini returned from his Parisian exile on the first of February 1979, the battle against the Shah was effectively over. The old state had already completely disintegrated and power lay in the streets, waiting for somebody to pick it up. Although the old cleric had played no real part in the Shah’s overthrow, there were people who were anxious to give him a leading role. Consequently, he was met by officers who promised him the support of the key units of the armed forces. The army elite was anxious to reassert control and “order”. All over the country desertions were occurring daily, and when Shah Pur Bakhtiar used the army police and the Imperial Guard against a mutiny of air force cadets, fighting erupted. Insurgency spread all over military units. One section of the National Front led by Mehdi Bazargan, Khomeini’s Militant Wing and some ultra-left groups (the Fedayeen and Mujahidin), joined with the insurgents. Within a short space of time they smashed much of the Shah’s war machine capturing weapons factories, military bases, television stations, prisons and the parliament. The top officer corps was paralysed. Shah Pur Bakhtiar went underground and Bazargan, whom Khomeini had declared prime minister, took over.

In the process of the revolutionary mass strikes, the working class organised the shuras (soviets) and other embryonic independent organs of power. These were similar to the workers’ soviets which first appeared during the mass strikes of the Russian Revolution of 1905…

…the potential for workers’ power was present…At their inception, however, all that the soviets are is extended strike committees. There were already elements of dual power in the situation. Management could not pursue its “normal” functions without the permission of the workers, and neither could the administration. Thus, representatives of the Isfahan Steel Mill had to negotiate with the railway workers requesting the latter to carry the coal they required from Kirman to keep the plant’s boilers heated. A similar agreement was reached between oil workers and the railway workers to carry the fuel necessary for domestic consumption when all other production was at a standstill. These were already the elements of a rudimentary form of working class social administration.[6]

In December and February, the people took control of a number of cities and towns, particularly in the Northern Azeri and Caspian Sea provinces, including Zanjan, Orumich, Salmas, Ardabil Maraghel and Ajabsheer. The very idea of the shuras came from the direct and immediate experience of the workers themselves. … Three days after the insurrection, on the 14 February 1979, Khomeini ordered all workers to return to work. But the resistance of the oil workers forced Khomeini to resort to threats: “Any disobedience from, and sabotage of, the provisional government will be regarded as opposition to the genuine Islamic revolution.”[7] Despite these threats, the movement continued unabated. In the very first month after the provisional government came to power in February at least some 50,000 workers went on strike. This industrial unrest was fuelled by the radical transformation in the workers’ consciousness that had occurred in the course of revolution and particularly after the insurrection. The workers demanded the payment of delayed wages and resisted lockouts and layoffs.

In a number of northern areas the people formed shuras in order to run their day-to-day affairs. For the same sort of administration, shuras were also formed after the insurrection the in air force—the shuras-e-home faram (councils of air force servicemen). These workers’ organisations and factory shuras which had sprang up after the revolution persisted for some time, fighting stubbornly for survival under difficult conditions…. As soon as the new state had consolidated itself, a national campaign of intimidation, harassment and terrorism began against the workers’ shuras. After the invasion of Kurdistan and the gradual restoration of the government’s policy of management from above, the elements of workers’ power in the factories were brutally suppressed. After this setback, there was a general downturn in the worker’s movement….”

More on the shuras of ’78-’79

28/11/19:

Movement involves at least 180 cities across the country, with at least 450 killed

27/11/19:

Interior ministry, invariably minimising extent of revolt, says that protesters destroyed at least 50 police and army centers, 140 government centers, 183 police vehicles, nine seminaries, 731 state-affiliated banks and 70 gas stations

24/11/19:

Iran, Tehran: students protest poor living conditions & massive security measures171 cities now involved in uprising

“Iran protests against fuel price hike continued in various cities on Saturday and Sunday, November 23 and 24, 2019, including in Tehran (Tehranpars district), Malard and Fardis in Karaj, southwest of Tehran, Urmia, Isfahan, Sirjan, Shiraz and the areas surrounding the Port of Mahshahr.”

Of course, if the Iranian organisations linked to on this page ever got to power on the backs of this uprising they’d obviously just be a more modern, perhaps subtler, version of the obnoxious mullahs.

More here

23/11/19:

Iran: clashes continue in Fardis, Orumiyeh, Shiraz, Quds, Saveh and Mahshahrcall for arms by the Anarchist Union of  Iran and Afghanistan

This call also says that they’ll fight with the largely bourgeois opposition parties (the ones that almost certainly have the arms or the means to get them), even though they must realise that they’ll be used as cannon fodder, that  the hierarchies of these organisations will  very much control who and how the arms are used, making sure that, should the revolution succeed, the anarchists, at best, will be speedily disarmed, if not shot, and the situation will become a modernised version of  capitalist misery.

22/11/19:

Iran: 165 cities now involved as death toll rises to 251

21/11/19:

Iran, Shiraz: movement forces state forces to retreatvideo of people attacking Revolutionary Guards base while chanting, “Mullahs get lost”youths build roadblocks in Isfahan, banks and admin buildings torched in TeheranInternet partially  back on; government was ready for this uprising

“On Wednesday, a number of state-run media outlets ran stories highlighting the damage the blackout was doing to Iran’s economy. Communications Minister Mohammad-Javad Azari-Jahromi was quoted as saying that online business transactions “have fallen by 90 percent” while Chamber of Commerce member Ali Kolahi said the blackout was impacting exports. “We have no idea where our shipments are,” he told conservative news agency ILNA… speeds were so slow that videos could not be uploaded…The process of cutting off access to the internet was one of the most complex ever tracked by NetBlocks, and one expert told VICE News earlier this week that the government would have been planning this move for a long time.  “In every round of domestic unrest they have experienced over the last decade, the Iranian government has done some evaluation of their strategies and their responsiveness and they have learned lessons” Sanam Vakil, a senior research fellow at London-based think tank Chatham House, told VICE News on Tuesday. “What we are seeing today is that they were prepared for these protests because we immediately saw the presence of law enforcement on Iranian streets, and the internet blackout was a signal that they were ready. One of Iran’s most prominent political activists close to the reformist faction, Abulfazl Ghadiani, issued a statement blaming Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has thrown his weight behind the gas increase policy and effectively shut the door to any reconsideration.”

144 towns effected (videos and links)

“The mayor of Shiraz, where clashes have been severe, said on Wednesday that transportation infrastructure in four of the city’s districts have been destroyed. The owner of a popular hypermarket, Refah, the Iranian equivalent of Walmart, said shops in three of its locations had been ransacked.”

More on the political manoeuverings and gambles behind the price hike

20/11/19:

Iran: somewhat economistic but informative report on the last 2 years of struggles

 

19/11/19:

Haiti: a report

Iran:  map of cities and towns involved in movement (124 so far) and torched government buildings (42 so far), and cities where protesters have been killed (27 so far)Some Iranian state propagandaTwitter feed

The twitter feed is for information only – lots of would-be rulers and their supporters waiting in the wings to swoop down should this movement succeed in ousting the current archaic form of capitalism there.

Youths torch 3 State Security Forces’ vehicles – report on other aspects of the day…More here

18/11/19:

Iran:  officer refusing orders to shoot protesters, kills 2 other officers who’d given him the order… and more

“…protests have spread to 107 cities in most of Iran’s provinces. The regime has killed at least 61 protesters… two IRGC commanders in Fajr Garrison in Shiraz were shot and killed by another officer when they ordered the IRGC to open fire on protesters…. Protesters set on fire the office of the Supreme Leader’s representative (a notorious mullah) in Sadra, a district of Shiraz…Iranian protesters torch security forces booth…Shiraz, south-central Iran – The city is falling into the hands of protesters. Members of the regime’s Majlis (parliament) are acknowledging that the situation is now a “crisis.”
I  should point out that the link is from  a usually disgusting (e.g. often pro-Trump) and invariably  bourgeois reformist organisation which , nevertheless, provides useful information (there’s also a leftist site here, though it seems to be updated almost invariably well after events have developed).

“Islamic Republic, say hello to your end.”

3 state “security” scum stabbed to deathIraqi Protesters Deliver Message of Solidarity to Iranian Counterpartsdozens  reported killedincluding 37 Kurds

17/11/19:

Iran: 100 cities & towns involved in protests

“The semiofficial Fars news agency, close to the Guard [ie the state’s version of events], put the total number of protesters at over 87,000, saying demonstrators ransacked some 100 banks and stores in the country…Iranian internet access saw disruptions and outages Friday night into Saturday, according to the group NetBlocks, which monitors worldwide internet access. By Saturday night, connectivity had fallen to just 7% of ordinary levels. It was mostly unchanged on Sunday. NetBlocks called it the most severe shutdown the group had tracked in any country “in terms of its technical complexity and breadth.” On Twitter, NetBlocks said the disruption constituted “a severe violation” of Iranians’ “basic rights and liberties.” The internet firm Oracle called it “the largest internet shutdown ever observed in Iran.”

A charred police station that was set ablaze by protesters in the central city of Isfahan on November 17, 2019.

Twitter used to  get round internet blackout …though it’s not clear how.

For some information about the struggles in Iran less than a year ago see this.

16/11/19:

Iran: cop killed, police station stormed in Kermanshah

“The attack on the police station in Kermanshah was not an isolated incident, as the protests sparked by a surprise gasoline price hike apparently grew increasingly violent. A footage obtained by RT Arabic shows a transport police headquarters in the city of Karaj, located just west of Tehran, burning, after it was supposedly stormed by violent protesters…the Iranian authorities said that one person was killed in the southeastern city of Sirjan. Sirjan’s acting Governor Mohammad Mahmoudabadi also told journalists that some violent elements within a largely “calm gathering” damaged public property, including fuel stations, sought access to a local oil company’s major fuel depots and even set them on fire.”

Brave woman unveils herself and gives speech attacking regime on bridge over motorwayAllah removed Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran torched in Behbahan clashes spread to over a dozen towns and cities

“State news agency Irna said there were clashes with police when protesters attacked a fuel storage warehouse and tried to set fire to it. Several more people were injured. A protester also died in the city of Behbahan. Other cities were also affected including the capital, Tehran, Kermanshah, Isfahan, Tabriz, Karadj, Shiraz, Yazd, Boushehr and Sari. In several cities, dozens of angry motorists blocked roads by turning off car engines or abandoning vehicles in traffic. Videos posted online purportedly showed motorists in the capital, Tehran, stopping traffic on the Imam Ali Highway and chanting for the police to support them. Another clip shows what appeared to be a roadblock across the Tehran-Karaj motorway, hit by the season’s first heavy snowfall.”

Details of the fuel price rise and rationing here. More here

X writes: What were the Iranian theocrats thinking of? Their two areas of  greatest influence are already boiling with discontent over corruption  – of which Iran itself is also heavily freighted – and they think they  can get away with a snap austerity move without first conducting a  propaganda camaign to justify it (here of course the Americans, Saudis  and Israel always come in handy since they are almost aways doing  something that can be construed as provocative).

15/11/19:

Iran: clashes in 6 cities as Mullahs pour petrol on troubled waters

2 Responses to Iran – November 2019 – January 2020
  1. T writes:

    Short article triggered by the latest Israeli hit-series “Tehran”

    [Translated from Hebrew by Google + my corrections]

    ***
    The creators of the “Tehran” series thought that the only way to bring Iran closer to the Israeli viewer was through the Fauda-Homeland genre. But the history of the Jews in Iran can serve as a basis for less stereotypical and no less interesting scripts

    The importance of the fact that a series, in which large parts of it speak Persian, receives peak viewing time and rave reviews should not be underestimated. Tehran’s international success certainly adds. We should welcome the breaking of even the smallest partition between the demonic image of Iran and the average Israeli spectator, and the widening of Iran’s range of representations between the rage of the ayatollahs and the ridicule of the accent.

    At the same time, does the only way to be exposed to Persian or Arabic have to be through the Fauda-Tehran-Homeland genre? What does the Israeli viewer learn about Iran from watching this series? I understand the consideration that in order to achieve an emotional connection to the Israeli audience, an Israeli angle must be included in the story. The creator of the series decided that the only way to imagine this angle is through the security arms, and thus the viewer is doomed to see Iran through the image of security.

    It is amazing to think of the tremendous resources invested in this production: turning the streets of Athens into Tehran-like, actors who have learned excellent Persian for their role, costume design and decor at an admirable level. And to think that all of these resources could have helped the audience learn something real and profound about Iran. Is the Israeli angle missing? Is it possible to compensate for it in the form of a Jewish angle? Perhaps to focus on the Jewish community, which until 1979 numbered between 80 and 100,000 men and women?

    Imagine that the script takes the viewer into one of the most exciting revolutions of the twentieth century; The Iranian Revolution of 1979, at the end of which the Shah was overthrown and the Islamic Republic was established. Imagine that the script focuses on the Jewish hospital, which has become one of the headquarters of the revolutionary groups. Not forced, but out of a complex sense of mission of an established and self-assured Jewish community.

    Imagine that next to the Dr. Sapir Jewish Hospital is a synagogue with a group of revolutionaries – some active in national movements and some in the Communist Party – organizing Jews to demonstrate alongside the other Iranians, Muslims, Christians, Zoroastrians and some Bahai. One of the conflicts that the series may reveal is the diversity of the Jewish discourse in Iran in times of crisis: supporters of the revolution versus supporters of the Shah, and on the side of those who are unsure of who to side with.

    And all this, as they say, is based on a true story! The Israeli viewer will gain an understanding of the Iranian revolution beyond the banal conception of the Khomeinists who killed liberal Iran, or the reduction of Jewish identity in Iran to Zionists or martyrs.

    The added value or twist will reach the viewer who knows how the revolution ended, but does not know the point of view of the Jews, which is usually absent from the narrative familiar to Israelis. The story must not be stopped in January 1979 with the departure of the Shah or in February 1979 with the return of Khomeini to Iran. One can go on to describe the period of utopian chaos, in which there seemed to be no end to the possibilities that the state could develop into, or to describe the story of one of the community leaders, Aziz Danshrad, who was a member of the post-revolutionary constitution writing committee.

    One can also look at the tragic end of Habib Alkanian, a Jewish philanthropist and industrialist who was the head of the community and executed in a speedy trial in May 1979 on charges of spying for Israel and spreading corruption on earth, or the fate of Edna Sabat, a young Jewish woman who was a member of one of the underground organizations (mojâhedīn-e khalq) and was imprisoned after the main revolutionary faction turned against its partners. Sabat was also executed in 1982 as a member of the Muslim underground.

    If we still want to offer an Israeli angle, then we can look at Israel’s role in fortifying the dictatorial rule of the Shah, Israel’s role in training and arming the threatening secret police, the Savakh, and in arming the army. You can look at Israel’s bustling embassy on Kaach Street and we’ll get something that is between the White House and Fauda. But maybe the viewer or the production will not be ready for that yet.

    The point is that one does not have to invent a story, in the end the viewer gets nothing but momentary excitement. History is fascinating and surpasses all imagination, and the Israeli viewer will gain both suspense and priceless knowledge about a loving neighbor who has become an enemy and we insist on locking her in an Enigma box instead of getting to know her. Even such a series could reach Netflix or Apple and give the international prestige, I am sure.

    Lior Sternfeld

    -Lior Sternfeld teaches the history of modern Iran in the Department of History and the Jewish Studies Program at Penn State University. His book “Between Iran and Zion: The Jews of Iran in the Twentieth Century” will soon be published by Ktav publishing house.

  2. I’ve re-posted the above (from an email) to provide information about Jews in the revolution of ’79, not to advocate massive amounts of money being invested in and accumulated through better cultural representations of revolutionary movements.

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