An Outrageous Proposal: Peace Boats to Iran

Photograph Source: MojNews – CC BY 4.0

Tis the season! Season of giving.

I’ve been receiving numerous emails daily this past month from organizations that sponsored one or more of the hundred or so petitions I signed this past year. “Will you donate to save the wolves?” “Help us to save the arctic!” “Donate now to ensure our water is clean!” “Donate to oust Betsy DeVos!”

Unfortunately, I have been mostly unemployed for a year now, so there’s not much I can donate without draining all my savings. So, I have had to donate selectively, and having done so very selectively this year, I’m fresh out! (How I wish I had a million dollars; as an educator, I would have definitely loved to donate to oust DeVos!)

Worry not, though, gentle readers; I am not here to ask for monetary donations.

I am writing to ask for something far more outrageous: A fleet of peace boats full of western leftists to bring comradely salutations to the people of Iran, who are struggling mightily.

You may still remember the news about the latest protest wave in Iran, in November of this year, when Iranian government killed at least two hundred of our people protesting against suffocating social and economic conditions. The state killed two hundred people in one week. More than seven thousand have been arrested. This latest wave of mass protests may have been crushed by now, but the social conditions that produce cyclical protests are only getting worse as the class conflict and social injustice continue to deepen further. What’s more, there are no signs the system is even capable of reforming itself, even if it were capable of imagining such things; which it is not.

This last round of mass killings has put an authoritative end to illusions that there is such a thing as the ‘moderate’ or ‘reformist’ wing in this theocracy.

Some reports have suggested the numbers of those killed are much higher than two hundred. We don’t doubt that the numbers can be much higher. Our history of the past forty years proves that the numbers are always much higher. Just for one example, one of the most gruesome in our modern history, you can read this Amnesty International report, titled, “Blood-soaked secrets: Why Iran’s 1988 prison massacres are ongoing crimes against humanity.”

Now, here is a troubling trend that has been unfolding in the last ten years. For the past decade, we have been witnessing a very strange upside-down reality emanating from a significant segment of the western left: We see them providing support for our mass murderers and our oppressors. When we ask for solidarity while our people are being shot at from rooftops by state security forces, we receive silence or, even worse, we get labeled as ‘agents of imperialism’!

I don’t know when it became an imperialist thing to protest against ruling classes and their policies of impoverishment.

People who level such absurdities at us must assume that ‘imperialism’ is the foreign policy of a few western states, and not a world system of capitalist accumulation; a system in which whoever can throw their weight around will do so (e.g., Iranian expansionist moves in the Middle East); a system where the global division of labor and the production processes are based on an internationally inter-connected reality, and a system in which the natural resources of a particular locality reproduce the global system of capital accumulation. In other words, unless we are talking about a socialist social formation of some significant size, every state on earth today is the very realization of an imperialist world system.

But, some of our good comrades go further than simply adopting a wrong-headed evaluative system. We have luminary leftist activists visiting (on friendly terms) the mass murderer Bashar al-Assad. We have a leader of the Green Party USA sitting down for a friendly dinner with the Russian leader, Putin, the mass murderer of Chechens and now Syrians. We have American feminist anti-war activists on friendly visits to the halls of governmental power in Iran, just as our government is busy jailing feminists, labor activists, student activists, environmental activist and even their lawyers; and right after the Iranian government got done helping Assad slaughter half a million Syrian people.

But, again, ‘Tis the season to ask for miracles which are outrageous asks.

So, here’s one:

Let’s put together a flotilla of peace boats full of activists consisting of environmentalists, women’s rights activists, LGBTQ activists, labor activists, anti-war activists, human rights activists and others who work for social justice and let’s have them go on a mission of mercy and humanity to Iran’s southern borders in the Persian Gulf. Let’s have them ask our authorities to let them visit Evin and Gohardasht prisons and other torture dungeons in Iran, to bring our political prisoners heartfelt Season’s Greetings that tells them they are not alone, not forgotten.

Remember the activists on boats trying to reach Gaza, back in the day?

The Iranian people need the same signs of solidarity from western leftists.

Our plea: Please organize a flotilla of activist-to-activist mission to Iran (not activists-to-state functionaries);

Use the connections you have built over the last decade (first Iran visit by Code Pink in 2008, second visit in 2019) to do something righteous for our political prisoners, and to give the population at large reassurances of the continuing existence of human decency outside our borders;

Ask for access to the thousands of detainees who have been in prison for nothing other than their political thoughts and activities, for defending human rights activists, for demonstrating against government policies that impoverish more than half of our population.

The age of grand narratives is here again, comrades. Stand on the right side of grandness. Enough with relative truths, all equally valid, “It’s their culture and we must respect it” relativism that excuses the mass killings of our citizens by our governments in the Global South. We are once again in the clear understanding that absolute truths do exist and should be taken into account.

Here’s an absolute truth: A government that finds it necessary to order its security forces in one hundred towns and cities to murder more than two hundred people who have taken to the streets to protest against an unacceptable social contract, is not a legitimate government.

Here’s another absolute truth: If you cannot have an unambiguous stance against a theocratic state formation, you have no claim to truth.

Code Pink activists who were visiting Bolivia to report on the ongoing coup there and on the brave Bolivian people’s resistance to that coup, wrote with righteous indignation that, at the time of the writing, eight (8) people were confirmed dead by security forces in that country.

Our security forces mass murder us on a regular basis: Leftists, liberals, radical democrats, women’s rights activists, labor activists, student activists, journalists writing out of line, socialists and communists, activists in Turkmen Sahra and in Kurdistan and Khuzestan; nobody is spared. Just the decade of nineteen-eighties was riddled with waves of violent oppression against our citizens by the state security forces, culminating in the mass murder of thousands of political prisoners in the summer of 1988 mentioned above. Then there were the mass uprisings and mass killings of 1999, 2009, and now 2019.

In between those well-documented episodes, our people have barely survived mass unemployment, skyrocketing inflation, oppressive social norms that aim to control even our private acts, and deeply systemic corruption to such a degree that on Friday prayer sermons our clergy rationalize to their flock why bribing a government official is not so bad, simply a way of supplementing meagre earnings of a government official, considering the high inflation that top government officials cannot bring under control. It’s not a manifestation of corruption, a bribe; it’s charity, they advise.

Do our good comrades in the western left have a word of protest against the latest mass killings of more than two hundred of our citizens, in one week? Our good comrades in Code Pink are obviously in good graces of at least some government officials in Iran. Have they used those good graces to pose some protests, or some questions even? We certainly hope so, considering what season it is. ‘Tis the season to be truthful.

Would they do so publicly, please?

Our people are fully and painfully aware that there are no ethical standards inside our governmental system. It is an absolutist state exercising absolute control. Fortunately for our national long-term health, there is plenty of ethics alive in our civil society. We know that, no matter how well-organized, no tyranny lasts forever. Tyrannies always rot from within. The deep rot in our current governmental system is very clear, even to its own functionaries.

People in Iran, the ordinary citizens who are denied their dignity daily and see no alternative but to take to the streets for their voices to be heard, and hope that they won’t get shot with live ammunition by snipers from rooftops aiming for their heads and hearts … they really need to know if there still remains any grand narrative ethics in the ranks of the western left.

Please consider donating hope to Iranian people. They desperately need to have some signs of overseas solidarity; so rare these days. So rare.

Reza Fiyouzat may be contacted at: