Sunday, June 21, 2009

Some Post-1979 Iranian History Revisited--Part 1

(Revisiting some of the following post-1979 Iranian people’s history might help U.S. anti-war activists understand better some of the historical background of what is currently happening within Iran in 2009).

The preamble to the October 24, 1979 Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran described how the people of Iran were able to create the 1979 Iranian Revolution:

“….The employees of all government establishments took an active part in the effort to overthrow the tyrannical regime by calling a general strike and participating in street demonstrations. The wide-spread solidarity of men and women of all segments of society and of all political and religious factions, played a clearly determining role in the struggle. Especially the women were actively and massively present in the most conspicuous manner at all stages of this great struggle. The common sight of mothers with infants in their arms rushing towards the scene of battle and in front of the barrels of machineguns indicated the essential and decisive role played by this major segment of society in the struggle.”

In response to the large pro-democratization demonstrations in Iran in 1978, the Shah of Iran’s regime also agreed to release some of its Iranian political prisoners before it finally collapsed on February 12, 1979. About 200 members of the People’s Mojahadeen group, for example, were released from prison in the summer of 1978, while another 700 People’s Mojahadeen members were allowed to return to Iran from exile at the same time. By the time the mass demonstrations and general strike had finally succeeded in bringing down the Shah of Iran’s government, about 3,000 to 5,000 Iranian activists were now members of the People’s Mojahadeen group.

It was the traditional Islamic opposition groups led by the anti-communist religious Iranian Bazaar merchant class and the anti-communist Iranian clerical hierarchy, not the Tudeh Party, the People’s Fedayeen guerrilla group or the People’s Mojahadeen guerrilla group, which soon ended up gaining Iranian state power following the collapse of the Shah of Iran’s regime in early 1979.

Led by Ayatollah Khomeini, the traditional Islamic groups were apparently able to gain political power by default because of the absence of mass-based working-class organizations in Iran in the late 1970s and the degree to which the Iranian masses were still strongly religious in 1979. Despite their hatred for the Shah of Iran’s police-state regime and the U.S. government that had installed and backed the Shah’s dictatorial regime, the Iranian masses in 1979 were apparently not willing to then throw their political support behind an effort to establish a new anti-imperialist, secular, democratic, leftist revolutionary regime in Iran.

Almost immediately after the 1979 Revolution in Iran, the People’s Mojahadeen group and the pro-Khomeini Islamic groups began to split apart. Then, in April 1979, a referendum to abolish the Iranian monarchical system of government and set up an Islamic Republic in Iran controlled by Iran’s fundamentalist clerical hierarchy under Ayatollah Khomeini’s leadership was held. Although all the secular Iranian political groups were opposed to the creation of this kind of Sh'ia-led Islamic theocracy (with Khomeini as the supreme and divine authority) within Iran, on the grounds that it would create an undemocratic post-revolutionary Iranian society, an Islamic Republic was soon established in Iran.

Ayatollah Khomeini had initially promised to organize a popularly-elected Constituent Assembly in Iran to draft the Islamic Republic’s new Constitution. But, fearing that a popularly-elected Constituent Assembly in Iran would give some representation to the People’s Mojahadeen group activists who now opposed him politically, Khomeini broke his promise. Instead, the Ayatollah set up a smaller, Islamic clergy-dominated Assembly of Experts which began drafting the Constitution for the Islamic Republic in the summer of 1979.

This new Constitution was completed around ten days before the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Embassy employees in Tehran were taken hostage on November 4, 1979 by young Iranian political activists--who were protesting against the Democratic Carter Administration’s refusal to extradite the [now-deceased] former Shah of Iran back to the new government in Iran to face a post-revolutionary Iranian war crimes tribunal.

On December 1, 1979 the new Islamic Republic’s Constitution was approved by Iranian voters. The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran of October 24, 1979 (and as later amended on July 28, 1989) does appear to contain many democratic articles. Article 13, for examples, guarantees religious freedom and Article 38 prohibits torture. Article 29 guarantees the Iranian people the right to universal health care and Article 31 guarantees the Iranian people their right to housing. Article 79 of the Islamic Republic’s Constitution also prohibits martial law, Article 81 prohibits the granting of economic concessions in Iran to foreign imperialists and Article 146 prohibits the establishment of foreign military bases in Iran.

With respect to freedom of the press rights in Iran, Article 24 of the Islamic Republic’s Constitution guarantees freedom of the press “except when detrimental to fundamental principles of Islam.” And marches and demonstrations are allowed under Article 27 of the Islamic Republic’s Constitution, as long as arms are not carried by demonstrators and the demonstration is “not detrimental to Islamic principles.” Under the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran “the mass-communications media, radio and television, must” also “serve the diffusion of Islamic culture.”

After the Islamic Republic’s Constitution was approved by Iraqi voters, the Islamic Republic’s first Majlis (parliament) of 270 members was subsequently elected in the Summer of 1980. Fifteen percent of the 11 million Iraqi voters chose to vote for People’s Mohjadeen-supported parliamentary candidates.

On September 22, 1980, however, the then-pro-U.S. imperialist Ba’ath Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein launched a military attack on Iran. And the new external Iraqi military threat to Iran’s national security apparently gave Khomeini’s Islamic Republic officials an internal security pretext for restricting democratic rights in post-Shah Iran. (end of part 1)

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