Iranians discuss democracy movement

Thirty people at a July 6 meeting hosted by the Sydney Stop the War Coalition heard from Sara Poya, an Iranian-Australian anti-war activist and researcher, and Mansour Razaghi, from the Committee in Solidarity with Iranian Workers (Australia). Razaghi is also an organiser with the CFMEU.

Poya explained that the election campaigns had opened up democratic space in Iran. She quoted evidence which supported allegations of electoral fraud and disputed the claim that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is popular in rural areas.

She said part of the reason for Ahmadinejad's unpopularity was an economic crisis in with 25% inflation for the last four years, and his failure to deliver his promise to end poverty with oil money.

Thousands of young people had become active in the election campaign, a factor in the 85% turnout in a country where voting is not compulsory. The previous presidential election in 2005 had a 63% turnout.

She said the movement since the elections was a lot broader than the Western media described.

"Women in full chador, others in half veils, and unions, were all there … Just because the unelected political bodies — such as the Guardian Council — are a big part of the political landscape in Iran, that doesn't mean that that there is no political debate."
While young Iranians are influenced by US culture, "they are very opposed to US foreign policy, just as they hate Israel — and for good reason".

Razaghi, while supporting the protests, cautioned that "the left should be wary of supporting a movement which has no clear radical or progressive leadership ... we cannot support everyone". He argued the elections were a farce from the start, pointing out that only four candidates had been authorised from a field of 400 to run in the elections.

He pointed out that opposition candidate (and victim of the alleged electoral fraud) Mir-Hossein Mousavi was a former prime minister and part of the Islamic regime's establishment. The current split in the religious and political hierarchy as fights between thieves, he said.

He described the repressive nature of the regime, in which unions are criminalised and workers face a very difficult struggle to organise to defend their rights. Mousavi would not change this. "Whose 'democracy' are we talking about?" he asked.

The meeting agreed that imperialist intervention, covert and overt, had to end. "No regime can be changed by outsiders", Poya said. US deputy Joe Biden's recent comments, largely seen as giving the green light to Israel to carry out bombing raids on Iran, were also condemned.

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