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Exchanging Puppets: Why the International Left Should Not Support the So-Called Iranian Reformist Leaders

Lila Ghobady

While I have no doubt that those leftists who support the so called reform movement in Iran have good intentions, I believe that they have been misinformed, misguided, and are not aware of the whole truth about what has been really going on in Iran.

The dark fact is that those who lead the so-called Iran reform movement outside of the country, with huge financial support from Rafsanjani's mafia, are mostly people who have been part of the fundamentalist Islamic regime for years, including Mr. Ganji and Sazgara. Their goal was, and remains, limited to removing the Khamenei/Ahmdainejad band and installing the Rafsanjani mafia/reformist band in their stead.  This sham reform has everything to do with power and nothing to do with the people's fight for freedom. Rafsanjani and his front man in the recent [s]election, Mousavi, have been willing participants in the regime's system of control, massacre and economic corruption for the past 30 years.

This, incidentally, was the strategy of the hardliners when they came to power in 1979.  The Iranian people supported the revolution because they believed that the new regime would deliver basic social, political and economic rights and freedoms and independence from foreign influence.  However, under Ayatollah Khomeini they did not even receive the minimum of what they had asked -- in fact, they lost whatever basic rights they already had.

This deception triggered the 1981 uprising, only three years after the revolution, in which thousands of freedom loving students, leftists, political activists and ordinary Iranians took to the streets, declared the revolution stolen and chanted "Down with Khomeini".

The Revolutionary Guards and Islamic Regime Militia responded in ways that are now all-too-familiar. There was a massacre: many protesters were killed and many more put in jail where they were tortured in the most brutal possible ways.  Seven years later, in 1998, as many of these political prisoners neared their release dates, thousands of these daughters and sons of Iran, were executed on the direct orders of Ayatollah Khomeini and tossed aside into group or unknown graves.

Today's "Reformists,"Mr. Ganji, and Hajarian, were at the top of the secret police in Iran. They worked hard to maintain the new Islamic dictatorship that gave them so much power, and their hard work, massacring and torturing their own people, succeeded in securing for them the power they wanted. After the regime killed most of the opposition inside and outside the country, they needed a new illusion to maintain their legitimacy: an opposition.  After crushing the real opposition, which was committed to the fight for human rights, the regime created a sham opposition from within the regime.

Mohamad Khatami epitomized the reformers' duplicity. He came to power espousing freedom of speech, civil rights and dialogue between cultures, but after he became president there was a crackdown on the students uprising in 1999. Again, many were killed, many disappeared and many were jailed for years and tortured even though many of them were the same young student who voted for Khatami and his promises for change in a first place. During his presidency many artists, authors and intellectuals disappeared and were found "mysteriously" murdered.  Khatami never tried to stop the violence and never showed sympathy to his supporters. Instead, he openly avowed that his responsibility was to respect the wishes of the supreme Islamic leader, Ayotollah Khamenehi, and to protect the security of the Islamic regime!

In fact, real change never came under the eight years of reformist Khatami's rule, because real change was never the actual goal.  Khatami was essentially installed by the Islamic Regime to absorb and delay the demands for real change and in that he was successful.  

The power struggle following the recent presidential [s]election also has the same goal; to prevent and control a real grass-roots democratic movement by not letting it develop and by dissipating its energy in the illusion of reform. The current reformist movement is a conspiracy in service of continued oppression; a tool of the Islamist regime designed to protect itself from a hungry and oppressed Iranian people, who might otherwise be able to develop a real reform movement that would replace the current corrupt regime.

Over the last few years, the reformists' agenda was supported by western governments and media, who deliberately or through ignorance, misrepresented the reformists as supporters of an uprising toward real democracy and real change. However, Rafsanjani/Mousavi and their so called Reformist movement have no credibility as democrats and defenders of the Iranian people. The fact is that both Western governments and the Iranian regime do not want real change, because it would jeopardize their cozy economic arrangements that serve their common interests at the expense of the Iranian people.

In 1954, Americans supported a coup to prevent real democracy in Iran from taking root. What is different now? A puppet, Islamic regime that guarantees access to Iranian resources is what Western governments wanted. It is what they continue to want. Therefore, no Western government has ever supported a true democratic uprising in Iran. They simply closed their eyes to human rights concerns, purchased the oil, sold the weapons and enjoyed the ride. Western leftists and intellectuals, partly, have been equally blind and complicit in human rights violations in Iran. They supported Khomeini's regime simplistically, because they had the illusion it was anti-Imperialist!

Despite all propaganda, most Iranian people who are fed up with the dictatorship of the Islamic Regime know that the so-called reform movement is part of the regime. As a result, even though Mousavi is urging people not to use anti-Islamic Regime slogans and trying to limit people's demands within the framework of the "Islamic Republic", he has largely been ignored by the citizens who shout him down with slogans such as "Down with the Islamic Republic!" or "Independence, Liberty, Iranian Democracy!" during recent protests in Tehran. Finally, the people do not even want corrupt reformists in power and are only using the current situation as an opportunity to express what they really want when they shout: "Supporting Mousavi is an excuse -- the whole regime is our target!"

Based on these facts, I argue that Western Leftists should not be mesmerised by the corrupt reformers' seductive propaganda in western countries, and need to do more research on the backgrounds, and also recent agenda, of Mr. Mousavi and his followers before supporting them.  Yes, I also believe that people do change, but the reformers have changed only their tactics.  They continue to support a profoundly repressive Islamic regime while paying lip service to human rights.  For instance, one of the top so-called reformist theorists, Ganji calls dictator Ayatollah Khomeini, "his Imam" (Leader) in his manifesto.  Mousavi himself has also claimed to be a Basiji and Khomeini's true follower many times!

I urge you to look clearly at the Iranian situation so that you will see that the reformers who claim to care about democracy and human rights are using these sentiments, and the frustration of the people, merely as pawns in an internal power struggle.  Look carefully at their dark and bloody history before throwing your influential support behind them.

I would hope that leftists of all people would have a healthy skepticism about any sham reform movement inside Islamic Republic of Iran. I hope they would support the people's Revolution against the whole corrupt Islamic regime, not their killer's sham reform whose plans are limited to saving the murderous regime. Please support our people's fight for a free, independent and secular Iran which certainly won't be possible while the fascist anti-human Islamic regime stays in power.

Long live freedom for Iran.

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Lila7.jpgLila Ghobady is an exiled Iranian writer-journalist and filmmaker. She has been involved with human rights since working as a journalist in Iran at the age of 17 and continued her work in Canada when she arrived as a refugee in 2002. She worked as a Producer and Associate Director of internationally-praised underground films alongside fellow exiled filmmaker Moslem Mansouri before leaving Iran. As a journalist, she received the title of BlogHer of the Week for her Review piece on Slumdog Millionaire in March 2009. Lila received her Master's Degree in Women's Studies from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. For more information, please read her blog at: Lila can be contacted by e-mail at:

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