Essay response: Which side are you on?

Alastair Crooke's glorification of the Islamist movement is based on distortions and falsification, says Azar Majedi

October 17, 2009
4 min read

Alastair Crooke portrays one of the most brutal, repressive and misogynist political systems of modern times as one that defends ‘social justice’. Not only is his historical analysis of the coming to power of the Islamic Republic flawed, but his presentation of the current mass movement in Iran is mere distortion of facts. His essay is an attempt ideologically and politically to justify political Islam.

Ali Shariati, a mediocre writer-thinker influenced by Frantz Fanon’s ideas on post-colonialism, was never considered the ideologue of the 1979 revolution. In 1970s’ Iran, leftist ideas were much more popular than Shariati’s complaints about the ‘invasion’ of western ideas and lifestyles. Shariati’s main concern was not social and economic injustices and inequalities but rather the development of modern trends and the influence of western lifestyles and culture. He was more enraged by the breakdown of traditional social mores and the growth of women’s participation in economic and social life. His vision was not forward looking but very backward, traditionalist and misogynist.

The 1979 revolution began as a wave of protests by different sections of the society against the dictatorship, for more freedom, greater economic equality and socio-economic justice. These protests soon developed into a mass movement against the regime.

In the midst of the cold war, the fear of an increasingly popular leftist movement in Iran brought the western states around the table in a summit held in Guadeloupe to change the course of events in Iran. In a short time, to our shock and bewilderment, the Islamists, who were marginalised in the initial phase of the protests, took over the leadership of the anti-monarchist movement. Khomeini, who was no more than an exiled clergyman, hardly known by the majority of the population, became the leader of the mass movement as a result of careful planning by western powers. Overnight, he became an international media celebrity. A ‘leader’ was born. A revolution for freedom, equality and justice was aborted. This was the beginning of 30 years of bloodshed, oppression, misogyny, gender apartheid, stoning, mutilation and a most heinous political system.

Khomeini, contrary to Crooke’s assumption, did not, in any meaningful practical sense, endorse either ‘the material welfare’ or ‘good education and healthcare for all the people’. It seems that Crooke has accepted the demagogical populist rhetoric of Khomeini and the like as actual facts. Indeed, the gap between rich and poor has become much wider under the Islamic regime; real wages have fallen significantly. According to official estimates, around half of the population lives under the poverty line.

The Islamic Republic has faced opposition to its rule from the outset. The first mass protest was organised by women against the forced veiling ordered by Khomeini on 8 March 1979. This protest led to a week of rallies, meetings and sit-ins in defence of women’s rights, which resulted in a temporary retreat by the regime. The regime was only able to begin its forced veiling and gender apartheid after the brutal clampdown on all opposition groups. In June 1981, it organised a coup d’état-like assault in which thousands were arrested, brutally tortured and summarily executed. It is estimated that there were in the region of 150,000 political executions during the 1980s.

The women’s question has haunted the Islamic regime from the start. The Islamic Republic has been in continuous conflict with the women’s liberation movement, which has grown considerably in the past decade in opposition to the misogyny and gender apartheid of the Islamists. Despite brutal assaults on this movement, the regime has not succeeded in silencing it.

The current mass unrest is proof of people’s hostility to the repressive ideology of the Islamists in Iran. Just as the coming to power of an Islamic regime in 1979 created a renaissance of Islamism as an ambitious political movement, its overthrow will help marginalise political Islam. The left should be clear which side it is on.

Azar Majedi is a writer and chair of the Organisation for Women’s Liberation – Iran. www.womensliberation.net


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports

On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.

Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns

The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections

In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines

Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.

West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective

How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences

The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally

Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change

Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces

Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'

Confronting Brexit
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond

On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network

Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter

#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement

Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.

Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees

Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides

The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari

Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next

Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace

Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill


3