Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Déjà vu surrounds progressives' failures to be in solidarity with pro-democracy movement in Iran

Solidarity with Iranian pro-democracy demonstrators.

"An unveiled woman in Iran stands defiantly at anti-government rally." - Andy C. Ngo

Protests broke out in Iran in the city of Mashhad on December 28, 2017 and have spread to 50 cities and towns including Tehran. The regime is threatening demonstrators with the death penalty. The protesters demands are clear unambiguous and familiar to democrats everywhere.

The rhetoric of some commentators and political leaders about the Iran protests is reminiscent of what Cuban pro-democracy activists heard over the years about "reformers" and "hardliners" to justify marginalizing the democratic resistance or create a false equivalence between victims of the regime and the dictatorship. In the case of Cuba, some "experts" claim that Raul Castro is a reformer, despite the rise in repression and the murder of dissidents on his watch.
It was Secretary Kerry who on August 20, 2015 said, "the United States and Cuba are talking about ways to solve the Venezuelan crisis." This implied that the U.S. was on board with Maduro continuing in power in Venezuela while trying to find ways to stabilize the country. This is a top down approach that ignores the pressures emerging from a dissatisfied populace and that the Castro regime bears a fair amount of responsibility for the deteriorating situation in Venezuela. An approach that prefers to preserve a terrible status quo rather than support democratic aspirations. It also ignores the changing situation on the ground and the nonviolent tactics of the protesters.
In the effort to reach an accommodation with an outlaw regime all too often Western democracies make unacceptable deals. Newsweek reported on December 18, 2017 that the "Islamist militant group Hezbollah, backed by Iran, exploded into a major cocaine trafficker for the United States over the past decade—and it happened under former President Barack Obama's watch to help score a nuclear deal with Iran."

The Obama White House had a poor track record of politicizing reports to pursue political objectives. In the case of Cuba this meant watering down reports on human trafficking, looking the other way on connections to drug trafficking, terrorist groups and downplaying Cuba's role in Venezuela's crisis and attempt to smuggle tons of heavy weapons to North Korea. It now appears that the practice has also been repeated with Iran. What is often ignored is that the Castro regime is a crucial linchpin to relations between Venezuela and Iran. The dictatorship in Cuba has had close relations with Iran's revolutionary Islamic regime for decades.

Iran's Hassan Rouhani (Left) shakes hands with Cuba's  Raul Castro in Havana, Cuba 9/19/16
Human rights have been downgraded internationally with the rise of China as an international power over the past twenty years. Dissidents and victims of repression have joined together in nongovernmental networks of solidarity. On 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Amnesty International produced a video at the United Nations titled "The Price of Silence."

The past decade has found the United Nations failing all too often to protect victims of human rights violations while honoring their oppressors. It  is being repeated now in Iran. The regimes that systematically violate the human rights of their nationals now share worse practices.

Neda Agha Soltan and Génesis Carmona
The Basij, formed in 1979 in Iran, murdered nonviolent demonstrators like Neda Agha Soltan in 2009 during the Green Revolution. Hugo Chavez copied the Basij and formed Colectivos in Venezuela. Both are pro-government militias with long track records of repression and murder. The Colectivos in 2014 did the same thing in Venezuela murdering nonviolent protesters like Génesis Carmona during mass anti-government protests.

Furthermore the mistake of replacing short wave radio transmissions of uncensored news with internet broadcasts is revealed a mistake once again, as it was in Egypt during the Arab Spring, as the Iranian regime shuts down the internet. As a result, the images of nonviolent protests slow to a trickle but some continue to emerge, along with reports of the price paid by protesters for their courageous dissent. We cannot remain silent when students are being rounded up by secret police.

Former political prisoner and journalist Ahmad Batebi ‏reported over twitter on protesters gathered front of Evin prison, one of the most horrific in Iran, to put pressure on the Iranian government to release political prisoners on the sixth day of anti-government protests in Iran.

This is a time for people of good will to get the message out about what is happening in Iran and to demonstrate solidarity with the democratic aspirations of millions of Iranians. Russian chess champion and human rights defender Garry Kasparov is right, now is a time to be counted.
We cannot, must not remain silent. The price in lives lost and the stain on our character is too great. Spread the word on what is happening and use the hashtag #IranProtests.

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