Thursday, July 16, 2009

GAZA: The Face of Reality

Open Letter to President Barak Obama

Mr. President, there comes a moment in the realization of reality when that which we had all along perceived and patronized as righteous, itself metamorphosizes into an incendiary kiln, tempering bricks of condemnation that progressively mount and eventually imprison us with corporal guilt.

Mr. President, the devastating siege on 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza is one such reality, brought hauntingly home in the petrified face of this Palestinian child. Her tearful glare is a glaring indictment of our inhumanity towards our fellowbeings.

Mr. President, if this was your daughter’s plight, you would have commandeered every human effort and resolve — even if it meant altering the earth's axis — in order to armor innocence from dehumanization and collective decollation.

Mr. President, it is not necessary to go that far or exert as much. The siege on Gaza can be lifted by simply picking the phone and giving freedom its democracy in the ark of human conscientiousness!


Democracy On Their Lips, Destruction In Their Hearts

by Gulamhusein A. Abba

President Obama is a gifted speaker. His speeches soar. They give hope and they inspire. Often he sounds more like a preacher than the President of the USA!

In reacting to the turmoil in Iran, he was restrained and circumspect but did not hesitate to voice strong feelings.

Eager not to give Iranian clerics an opportunity to divert world concern from Iran’s excesses to alleged American meddling in Iran’s internal affairs, initially the White House on June 13 was merely “monitoring” the situation in Iran. On June 14 Vice President Joe Biden said he had “doubts” about the election. By June 15 the US had become “deeply troubled” by events in Iran and Obama spoke out. “I am deeply troubled by the violence that I’ve been seeing on television. I think that the democratic process, free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent – all of those are universal values and need to be respected, and whenever I see violence perpetrated on people who are peacefully dissenting, and whenever the American people see that, I think they are rightfully troubled.”

In an interview taped on June 19 with CBS, Obama said he was very concerned with the “tenor and tone” of Khamenei’s comments. He also said that how Iran’s leaders “approach and deal with people who are, through peaceful means, trying to be heard” will signal “what Iran is and is not.”

On June 20 Obama challenged Iran’s government to halt “violent and unjust” crackdown on dissenters. “We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people,” Obama said in a written statement. “The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights. …. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. …. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.”

By June 23 millions had seen the video of the beautiful, young Neda Agha Soltan laid out on a Tehran street after being shot, blood pouring from her mouth and then across all over her face, eyes rolled upwards.

On June 23, in his news conference Obama strongly condemned the Iranian government’s crackdown and said the US had been “appalled and ouraged by the threats, beatings and imprisonment of the last few days.”

In the US Congress, the House voted 405 – 1 to condemn and protest the governments interference with Internet and cell phone communications. The Senate followed suit later in the day

Senator Joseph Lieberman on June 14 said the Iranian rulers had stolen the election and made a mockery of democracy. He urged Obama to “protest and speak out in defense of silenced Iranian demonstrators.”

Among those condemning the actions of the Iranian clerics and pushing Obama to be more critical of the Iranian government and offer greater praise and support to the demonstrators was Senator McCain.

In Paris, demonstrators held banners saying “Freedom of Expression in Iran” and “Where is my vote” near the Eiffel Tower

In Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu, commenting on the protests in Iran, said, “…..What we see there is a great thirst for freedom among a part of the population.”

No one can take any issue with any of these pronouncements. They are impressive and welcome. It is good to see people and governments around the globe being concerned when human and civil rights are violated brutally.

However, there is a strange disconnect here. One cannot forget that the US repressed even more ruthlessly, violently and persistently the civil rights movement. Baton wielding uniformed police fired not only water cannons and tear gas on the protestors but also let loose on them ferocious dogs.
Equally determinedly and systematically crushed in the US were the mass protests against the Vietnam War, specially the student protests on campuses across America.
And who can forget what the US army personnel did to the helpless prisoners in Abu Gharib?

In Beirut many, many “Nedas”, young men and women sacrificed everything to defend their land, their freedom and their loved ones. They were killed by Israeli bombs and missiles and cannon fire. None can recall any of those so contrite now over the deaths of the Iranian protestors mourning those who died in Beirut.

In Israel young, unarmed men and women protesting the occupation and the theft of their lands – protesting peacefully and non-violently -- are being on a regular basis tear gassed, shot at by rubber coated bullets and killed. One can hear no mourning for them from Obana or the US Congress or Senator Lieberman or Senator McCain. Nor any condemnation of the Israeli violence, suppression and killings.

As for Netanyahu, it is surprising that he can see so clearly “a great thirst for freedom among a part of the (Iranian) population” but is unable to see the unquenched thirst for freedom among the entire population of Palestinian lands that Israel invaded, occupied and is trying to annex – a population that Israel has kept crushed under its boots for more than 40 years. Stranger still that he cares so much for the very people he is so intent on bombing.

He is not the only one. Among those who are presently shedding tears for the Iranian demonstrators and are clamoring about the need to support the Iranian protestors become free from the “tyranny of the mullahs” are the very ones who cannot wait to bomb Iran to smithereens.

It is jarring to hear people like McCain and Charles Krauthammer and Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman praise to the skies the freedom loving Iranians demonstrating against their government.

Perhaps most curious is the US and EU “outrage” at Iranian government having “stolen” the election.

Just three years back three and a half million Palestinians held democratic elections under the supervision of international observers who certified them to be fair. Jimmy Carter, ex President of the US described these elections as exemplary. Nevertheless, instead of accepting and honoring the will of the people as expressed in the results of the elections, those who are now clamoring that Iran respect the voice of dissent, refused to accept the results. Instead they put sanctions on the resulting united government composed of Palestinian Authority and Hamas representatives, forced PA president Abbas to dislodge Hamas and ultimately put the whole of Gaza under crippling sanctions, made worse by the Israeli siege of that unfortunate strip of land.

And not so long ago, in the US itself, George W Bush, with help from his brother and the Supreme Court, “stole” the elections, deprived Gore of the crown and became the President of the United States.

Among those condemning the excesses of the Iranian government and lavishing praises on the protestors are people and governments who are itching for a war on Iran. They have welcomed and love the protestors in Iran, not because they care for their freedom or for justice but because the protestors have given them an opportunity to present the Iranian government as being opposed to democratic norms and ruthless in suppressing dissent. They want to bring freedom to the demonstrators by bombing Iran and killing them. They have democracy on their lips and death and destruction in their hearts.

All that one can tell the Iranian dissidents is to beware of such “friends.”

For Obama, people – and I among them – have the greatest respect. He is sincere. But he needs to have moral clarity. He needs to take off the blinkers he seems to have when gazing at Israel and Palestine. He needs to follow up the fine speech he gave in Cairo with a clear stand against the continuing illegal occupation of Palestinian lands by Israel, condemn Israeli stranglehold on Gaza, denounce the gassing and killing of unarmed Palestinians protesting peacefully against the theft of their lands and lead by lifting the sanctions against Gaza.

When one person suffers, we all do. And right now Palestinians hungering for freedom are suffering at the hands of the Israeli government and the IDF far more than the Iranians struggling for reforms are suffering at the hands of the Iranian clerics.

Perhaps these pictures may help him see what the Palestinians are suffering.

Photos: Source and credit

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


he blatant horror
Of our War on Terror!

Behold the face:
What’s left to efface?

A child of innocence
Woken by the impudence
Of political vengeance
And self-righteous insolence!

There’s scope
On the Afghan slope
For dope!

There’s crude
In the oil wells
Of corporatism!

There’s wealth
In the stealth
Of evil!

There’s peril
In the anvil
Of imperialism!

Maker of the Universe:
Where’s the prism
To the converse?

The menacing power
Of our War on Terror!

Behold the face
Pleading grace!

A child of humanity
Petrified by our insanity
To displace human ease
With nuclear disease!
-Dom Martin

Friday, July 10, 2009


by Gulamhusein A Abba

To claim that the CIA engineered the protests would be giving too much credit to that agency. It must be remembered that the protestors went to sleep on June 11 supremely confident that their candidate, Mousavi would be elected. Within a day of the announcement of results to the contrary, hundreds of thousands of protestors were out on the streets protesting. Even with the vast resources at its command, the CIA would not have been able organize so huge a protest at so short a notice.

Claiming that the CIA engineered the protest is insulting the progressive forces inIran.

It was a spontaneous protest by sincere and dedicated Iranians who believe in truth, justice and fair play and who are fed up with the power play by the entrenched, unelected clerics.

This is not to rule out the hand of the CIA completely. The US notoriously has been working for a regime change in Iran. After the Iranians replaced the puppet, despotic Shah of Iran with Mosaddeq, the CIA engineered a take-over and re-installed the Shah on his peacock throne. Then, ever since the people of Iran toppled the puppet Shah once more, put their beloved Ayatollah in charge of the country, took over of the American embassy there and held Americans hostages for 444 days, US has been working for a change of regime there.

Though under Bush the US administration was eager to use hard power to effect the change and was working towards it, covert action is one of the tools that the US is and has been using – in a big way. In this context, it is useful to read two articles. The first is by Esam Al-ASmin entitled, Iran and Washington's Hidden Hand, first published in Counterpunch (

The second is by Seymour M. Hersh published in the July 7 issue of the New Yorker

Illustration: GUY BILLOUT

Thursday, July 9, 2009


The republic is dead

by Gulamhusein A. Abba
June 27, 2009 Updated July 12, 2009

Were the Iranian elections rigged? If so, would the results have been different if they had not been rigged? Even if the protestors are in the thousands or even millions, are they the majority in Iran? Is giving in to their demands in the best interests of the state of Iran? Were the protests aided, if not engineered by foreign powers bent on regime change in Iran (after all the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mosaddeq was toppled by a CIA engineered uprising which put the puppet Shah of Iran back on the throne)? Was Neda killed by a Basij or an extremist supporter of the clerics, or by someone from among the protestors in search of an iconic martyr, or by the CIA (as alleged by Iranian sources)? Was she a protestors’ martyr killed by a Basij or a Basij martyr killed by a pro-Mousavi demonstrator, as the regime is trying to portray?

All this needs to be investigated, thought about and decided.

What is undeniable is that the dissenters and protestors have been dealt with extremely harshly and the voice of dissent has been silenced.

Gunfire, tear gas and water canons were used by baton yielding security forces against unarmed demonstrators peacefully and non-violently exercising their inherent right to question their government, hold it accountable, express their feelings and make demands.

There can be no question that it is for the constituted authority to decide whether it is in the best interests of the nation as a whole to accept the demands made of it. But there can be no excuse for muzzling dissent, especially in the way the clerics chose to do.

Within three days of the start of the demonstrations, seven persons were shot dead by pro regime militia; hundreds of protestors were held all over Iran; Basij and police forces let loose an unacceptable level of violence in a raid of student dormitories of Tehran University, leading the speaker of Iran’s parliament to call for a thorough investigation of the violence by government forces.

Systematic and sustained efforts have been made by the Iranian authorities to intimidate and frighten the protestors and their leaders and silence all form of dissent.

Eye witnesses have said thousands of police and plainclothes militia members filled the streets to prevent rallies. Fire trucks took up positions in Revolution Square and riot police surrounded Tehran University, cordoning it off. People were barred from entering Freedom Street.

Helicopters hovered over central Tehran. Ambulance sirens echoed through the streets. Black smoke rose over the city.

Demonstrators were seen dragging away comrades bloodied by baton strikes.

On June 20, there were fierce clashes near Revolution Square in central Tehran after some 3,000 protestors, many wearing black, had gathered there. Reportedly some 50 to 60 protestors were seriously beaten by police.

The semi-official newspaper Fars reported on June 29 that a total of 1.032 people were detained during post election unrest. It quoted police chief Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam as saying that most had been released and the rest had been sent “to the public and revolutionary courts” in Tehran. However, according to Amnesty International 1,000 have been held, and, according to Paris based International Foundation for Human Rights, 2000 arrests have been made – “not just people arrested and later released, but who are locked up in prison.” These include politicians, intellectuals, protestors and journalists. On June 28, Amnesty International said it was concerned about the possibility that many detainees “could be severely tortured” in custody

Iranian police have said 1,000 people were arrested and that most have since been released. But the state-run English language news network Press TV quoted prosecutor-general Qorban-Ali Dorri Najafabadi saying that 2,500 people were arrested and that 500 of them could face trial. The remainder, he said, have been released.

A prominent human rights lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah was taken away by security forces from his office along with his daughter and three other members of his staff, the pro-opposition news Web site Norouz reported. A former deputy commerce minister in a previous pro-reform government, Feizollah Arab-Sorkhi, was also arrested at his Tehran home, the site reported. A large number of top figures in Iran's reform movement, including a former vice president and former Cabinet members, have been held for weeks since the electionus.

Various sources have claimed that up to 20 persons were killed, though rumors of higher death rates abound.

Even the family members and campaign offices of the presidential candidates were not spared. On June 21, Iran’s government arrested five family members of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, an ayatollah who is one of the country’s most powerful man. Those arrested included his daughter Faezeh Hashemi. Rafsanjani heads the cleric-run Assembly of Experts, which can choose and remove the Supreme Leader. He also chairs the Expediency Council that arbitrates between parliament and the unelected Guardian Council.

The repressive actions of the clerics were not confined to the protestors, their leaders and their families.

Certain websites, including Farsi BBC, Facebook, Twitter and G-mail were blocked by the government; Tehran based analyst Saeed Leilaz was arrested, as were a number of Iranian journalists; foreign journalists were barred from reporting in the streets; several newspapers were closed down; according to Karroubi’s reformist political group, Iranian authorities had banned the daily Etemad-e-Melli (National Confidence), a newspaper allied to presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, after he denounced Iran’s government as “illegitimate” because of claims of voting fraud.

This is not all. The clerics and their enforcers have created a charged atmosphere in Iran and spread an all pervasive fear.

On June 19, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke of “bloodshed and chaos” and gave a stern warning to those who “want to ignore the law or break the law.” On Friday June 26, Ayatollah Ahmed Khatami, an influential Iranian cleric, close to Iran’s Supreme Leader, in a sermon at Tehran University, said that those stirring “unrest” in connection with Iran’s recent elections, should be punished “ruthlessly and savagely” and convicted for waging war against God, a crime that under Shiite Islamic law is punishable by death. “I want the judiciary to punish leading rioters firmly without having mercy… Based on Islamic law, whoever confronts the Islamic state should be convicted of mohrab… they should be punished ruthlessly and savagely.”

Regime critics can be – and have been – accused of committing treason and the penalty for that in Iran is death.

Iran’s feared Basij militia has accused Mousavi of undermining national security and asked a prosecutor to investigate his role in violent protests.

Fars news agency has reported that Basij sent the chief prosecutor a letter accusing Mousavi of taking part in nine offenses against the state, including “disturbing the nation’s security,” which carries a maximum penalty of 10 year’s imprisonment. “Whether he wanted or not, Mr. Mousavi in many areas supervised or assisted in punishable acts” the letter states in part.

Iran’s judiciary said on June 23 that a special court would be set up to “make an example” out of “rioters” arrested during the demonstrations.

The chief public prosecutor has assumed control over all investigations into “agitators” and has set up a “special court” to deal with such cases.

All this is most distressing and regrettable. The clerics now in charge of Iran have chosen violence and intimidation in order to concentrate all political power solely in their hands.

By their actions, the language they use, its tone and tenor, they have undermined their standing and power. There is now a split in the establishment itself. Even the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qom, Iran’s biggest group of respected clerics which has many leading ayatollahs with impeccable revolutionary credentials, has declared Ahmadinejad’s re-election to be illegitimate and condemned the subsequent crackdown.

The influential Grand Ayatollah Yosef Sanei considers Khamenei’s involvement on the election fraud to be haram (forbidden in Islam). Mohsen Kadivar, an imam and religious philosopher, referring to Khamenei, has said, “He reminds me very much of the Shah, who, in the end, was only concerned with preserving his regime.”

And that is the tragedy. The gains of the Great Revolution that toppled the Shah of Iran and established a republic have been squandered. Indeed that revolution has been stabbed in the back by the present day clerics that rule Iran today. The Iran of today is no republic. It is ruled by a cabal of clerics desperately trying to cling on to power.

It appears that just as the Israelis of today have become what their oppressors of yesteryears were, so have the Iran revolutionaries who just a few years back toppled an all powerful despot, have themselves become despots, vesting all power in a few unelected clerics led by an all powerful Supreme Leader more concerned with holding on to that power than making Iran a republic in the true sense of the term.

There is a glimmer of hope. Every time a regime represses, it undermines its own power and increases the ranks of its opponents.

History shows that when revolutionaries ultimately degenerate into themselves becoming despotic rulers, they sow seeds of another revolution which devours them eventually.

The ruling clerics have clearly lost much, if not all of their moral authority and are now relying on brute force to remain in power. They are bound to be toppled. It is a matter of time.

The question is, who or what will they be replaced by?

Author’s note: It has been very difficult for me to write this piece. On the one hand I love and admire Iran. For so many reasons. I love the warmth, friendliness and hospitality of its people. I love its flowery, soft, seductive language ( as a student in St. Xavier’s High School I studied Farsi, then called Persian, and later, in St.Xavier’s College, read Gulistan-e-Sadi). And I admire Iran for toppling the corrupt, despotic Shah of Iran Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, and replacing his regime with a republic; for standing up bravely and resolutely to the tyrant Saddam Hussein when so called freedom loving governments looked the other way at his using poison gas on the Iranians and his own people and went out of their way to make him stronger; for refusing to submit to the tremendous pressure from powerful governments and resolutely pursuing its inalienable right to enrich uranium and harness nuclear energy for peaceful purposes; for standing by the Palestinians and helping them as no other nation has done. But, I am also a committed defender of human rights and a firm believer in peoples’ right to assembly and to free speech. And I believe that when a wrong is done, by foe or friend, it is one’s duty to speak out. Silence, in such cases, is complicity. What is more, true friends always stage interventions in the case of those whom they love and admire when they pursue a course of action detrimental to them. It is in this spirit that this piece is written