press conference with behrooz karimizadeh and kaveh abbasian

On Monday 29th September there was a press conference at the University of London Union with Iranian activists Behrooz Karimizadeh and Kaveh Abbasian. The pair were among the founding members of Freedom and Equality Seeking Students, an organisation which is opposed to war and sanctions as well as the Islamist régime and which last autumn played a central role in student protests against President Ahmedinejad. Following these demonstrations the régime cracked down on the student movement, arresting dozens of activists – Behrooz Karimizadeh was subjected to torture. Ted Crawford has kindly given us permission to reproduce his report on Monday’s press conference:

Two students from Iran spoke in Farsi. Both had escaped, had not been allowed out, one had been tortured in prison we were told, though no details were given, and both were seeking refugee status here. Those present numbered about 25-30, were largely Iranian and, I would guess, were people who had left in the ’80s. A camera crew from the Hekmatist TV were present. The students did not seem to be affiliated to anything except the student movement. We were told that the students as a whole had lost confidence in the “reform” elements in the regime. Workers and women were mentioned but there did not seem to be any links with the working class though clearly the students hoped that there would be links and that this could change the regime. Clearly the students are socially isolated on their campuses, with some rights of association and speech but unable to reach outside. The regime is becoming more oppressive and even groups of Sufis, meeting in private houses are being arrested.

At one point they were asked by a bloke of about 50, (he translated his own questions for our benefit) about the argument on violence (which I took to mean terrorism). The students were evasive about this saying it depended on circumstances and what individuals thought. I was told later he was an ex-Fedayeen bloke who helped overthrow the Shah but his group, just like the Tudeh, supported the regime afterwards and helped to put the boot into the leftist opposition only to be discarded and crushed later by the clerics.

One odd thing happened. There were the two students, the English chair and translator on the platform and on their left another bloke who in the course of the introductions rose said he was from Workers’ Liberty and said how much they had developed this solidarity work as if they were organising the meeting. No-one had thought to ask him what he was doing, the Iranians thinking he was something to do the English in Hands Off the People of Iran and the English thinking he was something to do with the Iranians. When after the meeting I asked Mark Fischer [from the CPGB] what this meant he said that this bloke had insinuated himself in, put himself on the platform and Mark used some sharp and inventive language in which the word “slimy” played a part in which he described the Matgamna tendency [i.e. Workers’ Liberty].

As always of course some of the most interesting information was gained in the ULU bar afterwards when I chatted with Mark and others. I met my first Hekmatist. When I asked him about all these stories that they got money from the CIA, Israel etc, he laughingly said it was untrue and most of the CIA money was going to the Monarchists, huge sums! Instead they had to give the money themselves and he himself was an engineer paying a lot per month. In any case the Israelis never gave people money but that they had promised his group 2 million dollars which never came. Or that is what I understood him to say. I said nowt but nodded and thought about this response.

On the whole the people present seemed a very decent lot, very middle class I would guess, and most had been out of Iran for some time. Clearly the repression is intense but focused quite intelligently on the relatively few, the most active activists – 70 students were said to be in prison – while the oil revenues enable the regime to provide some goodies to the populace. The women seem to be a bit better treated than the men as they do not wish to make martyrs out of them though one very gutsy woman [Anoosheh Azadbar] has recently been sentenced to 11 years.

I have probably missed a great deal but these were my impressions.

Hands Off the People of Iran is holding a meeting with Behrooz Karimizadeh, Kaveh Abbasian, Yassamine Mather and Torab Saleth at Kings’ College London (Strand Campus) from 7pm on Wednesday October 8th.

8 thoughts on “press conference with behrooz karimizadeh and kaveh abbasian

  1. I don’t think socialist media should publish gossip like the fourth paragraph. It doesn’t help clarify anything, to get a report of what Mark Fischer said about the AWL to someone’s friend in a meeting about Iran. If there’s a political point to make, then it should be made – e.g. if there is actually an accusation that someone set out to hoodwink some comrades from Iran. But feeding the mill of vague rumour does no one any good…

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  2. Tom, it is important to show what the AWL are up to. Lets be quite clear it is plainly odd for the AWL who have condemned and tried to undermine effective solidarity with comrades in Iran by attacking HOPI to jump up all of a sudden and praise the work HOPI has been doing.

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  3. No, it’s not at all important. This is a spat among minnows in the pond of the left. The idea that HOPI is the expression of all “solidarity with comrades in Iran”, and thus any attack on HOPI is an attack on such solidarity is absurd and pretentious. I’m completely uninterested in any further recounting of AWL’s numerous ‘sins’, just as I’m completely uninterested in them recounting those of your group.

    And even if it were important, this would not be the way to go about it. If there are accusations to be made, let them be made properly. i.e. with a clear account of what happened, why, and with the AWL asked for their explanation properly. This is not the same as someone’s mate giving an off hand account of a conversation with someone who’s a well known opponent of the AWL, and reporting that persons particular choice of adjective. I don’t care what Mark Fischer’s opinion of the AWL is! It’s completely irrelevant to the class struggle!

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  4. Tom, If you don’t care about all of it, then simply don’t read about it. Very simple way not to get yourself all worked up.

    “It is completely irrelevant to the class struggle”

    Now, what Mark thinks is not the point here, the fact of the matter is, social imperialism is damaging to the workers movement therefore anyone with a bit of sense in the movement would do well to combat it and stamp it out.

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  5. I don’t care about it, but I have to read about it because articles ostensibly about topics I am interested in, or meetings I go to, are invariably littered with this stuff.

    Sean M may be a bit of a loose cannon, and wrong about many things, but the AWL are not ‘social imperialists’ in any meaningful sense. This is hysteria.

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  6. It is not hysteria, if an organisation or individual beleives that imperialist occupations have a positive role to play in the middle east in bringing democracy then how would you descibe them?

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