by Sam Parsa
I met up with Behrouz Karimizadeh, a prominent member of the socialist ‘Freedom and Equality Seeking Students’ of Iran, to ask him about the current situation of activism and trade unionism in Iran as well as his thoughts on internationalism and solidarity with comrades across borders.
Behrouz tells me that he has been a student activist since high school, and he has been arrested several times by the Iranian security services for organising student and worker activist committees and being the editor of a number of publications. Last time he was arrested he spent five months in the section 209 of Tehran’s Evin prison, a designated section for political activists.
In respect to organised activism, Behrouz says “it must be very difficult for you to imagine, but unless you are organising something through the government, or want to organise something on Islam, you are bound to have difficulties”.
“Non-governmental organisations are largely illegal, semi-governmental unions and student bodies are the only ones that are allowed to openly advertise their events without fear of prosecution”
The Freedom and Equality Seeking Students, the group which Behrouz belongs to, is the only independent student activist body that challenges university management and government. The group has faced major problems after many of its members were imprisoned and/or expelled from their universities.
The situation of the workers is not much better, as one can imagine. In fact, no independent union is tolerated says Behrouz “there are many workers and social activists who have attempted to organise unions in Iran but they have all been imprisoned”. However there are also glimpses of hope, as there are a number of organisations or those who seek to establish soviets and syndicalist unions.
“Two of the major unions are syndicalist unions: the Tehran bus drivers’ union (Hamlonaghl), and the union of Neishekar Haftabbeh, organised by the workers of a sugar production plant.
The government views them as illegal but the workers are well involved. There are currently two syndicalists, Mansour Osanlou and Ebrahim Madadi from Tehran B.U., and also a number of Neishekar are currently waiting for court time.”
When I asked him what the aims of the current student and worker activists are he said “Activists have various aims, many of which are definitely socialist and fight for these ideals. Some are liberals and fight for a secular republic. One thing that they all fight for is their right to organise and publish and promotion of their ideals.”
It is not a surprise that many activists in Iran want a liberal government but when I asked him about his thoughts on the matter, Behrouz said that liberal capitalism has no place in the third world and it cannot be fairly, ethically and properly implemented there: “A good example of this can be seen in Turkey. It is secular, 80 years of peace and has been both liberal capitalist and pro-America, but has its history includes the genocide of Armenians, torture and pressure of workers, it is something half Islamic and half dictatorship. This is all that is achievable in the form of liberal capitalism in Iran.”
Behrouz views the reform movement in Iran dead “they have already lost their war”, he claims. “Eight years of Khatami [former reformist president] did not achieve anything, as they don’t have a proper political or economical plan. Reform in Iran has no future, and their victory in any elections won’t achieve anything”.
Finally, I asked Behrouz what he thinks of internationalism by socialists in Britain, and how some of them turn their backs to Iranian activists inside in the name of anti-imperialism:
“.. I think in the new era of capitalism where it has become globalised, seeks wealth in international terms, and realises its interests in a globalised way, we as socialists must view our issues and interests in the same globalised manner.
We should follow what Marx said and focus on internationalism in activism. The European left must seek to organise itself again and make socialism a strong and powerful force to include and influence the rest of the world. They must be radical and must have straight and solid views, being strong not only on the matter of imperialism but also with regards to all the others too such as backwardness, dictatorship, theocracy, execution and harassment of worker and student activists and others.”