Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

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

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power

What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains

The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going

A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism

Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase

Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields

Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton

Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi

A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain

Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank

Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded

West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens

Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age

Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today

The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun


3