Monday 30 April 2007

More encouraging news from the Middle East

Following yesterday's massive rally in Turkey in support of secularism, today's Guardian carries more good news from the Middle East. According to Simon Tisdall:

A grand coalition of anti-government forces is planning a second Iranian revolution via the ballot box to deny President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad another term in office and break the grip of what they call the "militia state" on public life and personal freedom.

Although the immediate spark for current unrest is dissatisfaction with Ahmadinejad's economic record, 'opposition spokesmen say their broader objective is to bring down the fundamentalist regime by democratic means, transform Iran into a "normal country", and obviate the need for any military or other US and western intervention', writes Tisdall.

As Danny Postel's recent book made clear, Iranian reformists are often frustrated by western ignorance of their plight. Tisdall reports the views of Fariborz Raisdana, an outspoken Tehran economist and former member of the banned Association of Iranian Writers, who was recently jailed for his opinions:

"Do people in the west realise that independent trade unions are banned in Iran?" he asked. Did they know that the bus drivers and construction workers had no representation? Did they know that the students, watched all the time, were not allowed to demonstrate, that teachers' leaders who asked for salary increases had been jailed?

Women's groups seeking equal rights had been forced underground, Mr Raisdana said; the latest outrage was an offensive police campaign to enforce strict hijab dress codes on young women. Newspapers were frequently banned and academics silenced, he complained. If he and six or more fellow writers and intellectuals tried to meet in a coffee shop, they (and the shopkeeper) faced arrest.

Now, more than ever, Iran's liberals and reformists need the support of progressive forces in the west, rather than any more attempts to 'understand' the perspective of Ahmadinejad's discredited regime and the reactionary version of Islam it perpetuates.

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