Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When Dignity is Seen as a Concession

By Paul Iddon

Does it take a bloody insurrection to make dictators seriously consider granting the most fundamental human rights to their people?

Damascus riot police.
Interestingly it was the last Shah of Iran whom I was in a latent manner reminded of when the Syrian dictator of 11 years Bashar al-Assad announced a referendum and the beginning of reforms. The tinpot dictator whom last year following demands from his people for openness, democracy and pluralism (hence citizenship for the country's Kurds) unleashed tanks and artillery leading many to nervously watch if another Hama massacre was in the making.

Now – after nearly a year of Syrian soldiers under his command shooting and indiscriminately murdering civilians – Assad has decided to hold a constitutional referendum for what he claims is the start of serious reforms. The U.S has aptly stated that this referendum is “laughable” whilst at the same time taking flak from China whom -- along with Russia -- has vetoed any resolution on Syria, accusing the U.S of being “arrogant” for criticizing it over its policy towards the situation in Syria, a move which is hardly surprising on China's part given that country's foreign policy initiatives and UN Security Council vetoes over the past 20 years. The more salient of which include, but are not limited to, its support of the Burmese junta, the ghastly Mugabe dictatorship in Zimbabwe and the family oligarchy in Pyongyang. As well as all that we're seeing increased Chinese settler activity in Tibet -- which is proving to be little more than a coordinated effort with the aim of eradicating the Tibetan identity -- which is comparable to the controversial actions of the more extreme Israeli settlers on the West Bank -- who unlike the Chinese settlers in Tibet garner immense acrimony for their actions.

It's also hardly surprising that the Iranian regime is supporting the Assad dynasty. Whilst it speaks warmly of concordance with the majority of Sunni's in Egypt whom are very supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood – which represented the grassroots opposition to Mubarak's dictatorial rule for quite a long time – it actively supports Assad whose minority clan divide and rule over the Sunni majority and suppresses the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. It does this in a manner similar to how the late Hussein family Baathist dictatorship in Iraq did with regard to the Shia majority in that country.

The Shah's army opened fire into a crowd of protesters in the 1979 revolution before he decided to embrace the revolution and acknowledge the error of his ways, and his corruption. Not granting concessions for so long the varied stripes of the opposition banded together and increased the pressure, when he finally offered concessions it was too late, the people were empowered, concessions were merely signs of his weakness that encouraged the young revolutionaries of the day to further pressure him to grant more concessions, until he finally left Iran which was symbolic of his capitulation.

Assad similarly has waited a considerable amount of time before considering reform, however he seems to be continuing to ignore key tenants from the old constitution, which include basic rights such as personal and political freedoms as well as the banning by law of torture. The Turkish Foreign Minister questioned this questionable referendum saying to the Syrian regime that: “on one hand you say you are holding a referendum and on the other you are attacking with tank fire on civilian areas,” and then proceeded to inquire if the Syrian regime seriously thought that the "the people will go to a referendum the next day in the same city?"

Of course this is in a region where dictators often claim 99 to 100% of the vote – even when only running for re-election against themselves – of which some credulous people – as well as some sly propagandists – in the west cite as a positive with regard to the respective dictator. Some eager to inflate the infinitely small “pro's list” with regards to the Saddam Hussein dictatorship cited the fact that he won an election -- at 100%

A similar political camp of people – some ignorant and deluded, others intentional obscurantist – often cite the fact that Iran holds elections on its own accord, and some regime apologists often state this is proof that Iran is a consensual democracy, ignoring and omitting the fact that since the last Presidential election the Supreme Leader and cohorts in the regimes state-within-a-state have made the totalitarianism of the regime self-evident, when it was up until two years ago a quasi and semi-democratic hybrid regime it is now a full blown no-apologies totalitarian regime, which terrorizes and kills its own people, the opposition to speak of is no longer a partisan organization promoting the causes or campaigning for the vote of a new reformist minded president to represent them within the system, instead it has evolved through circumstances to a relatively loosely associated group with the simple cause of campaigning and fighting for the most basic civil liberties and human rights which has been denied to them by this dictatorial theocracy.

There is a brilliant moment in the opening of Con Coughlan's brilliant book Khomeini's Ghost where he illustrates the apt manner in which a girl crying upon the onset of Khomeini's purges summed up what had really happened: “I thought Khomeini was going to bring us democracy, but now I realize that all is going to happen is that we are going to simply replace one dictator with another.” (I'd highly recommend if you haven't already to read the story of Samiye Tohidlou a child of the revolution and her horrific treatment for the mere act of voicing some well overdue criticisms of this supposedly infallible regime and if you still have the stomach for it; then read about the families of students shot by the ruthless, cruel and savage Basij goons whom were sent bills for the bullets used to murder their sons and daughters to truly get a whiff of the kind of democracy the Iranian people have thanks to this regime.)

The Shiite theocracy of which Ayatollah Khomeini implemented and built up in Iran is to that sect of Islam what the Berlin Wall was to Marxism in the sense that it missed the entire point and primary teaching of the beliefs it claimed to adhere to and practice. It is a core corrupted form of Islam that was propagated and advertised as the pure and true form, but is instead plain unadulterated fascism masquerading as an Islamic guided and mandated form of governance, an autocratic rule determined by the autocrats whims.

The regimes unapologetic policies of oppression and suppression become more tangible by the day and in the ghastly world of brute dictators where the dignity of the people is considered a dangerous concession to grant we're seeing the Iranian regime pave the inevitable path towards confrontation, where to suppress the opposition is to inevitably destroy that opposition, and instead of learning a lesson from the systematic massacre of dissidents in 1988 it is putting itself on course to repeat those horrific actions yet again.

It is therefore a lucky thing for this regime that the concept of shame is a wholly alien one, because if it weren't they would not be able to go on living with the shame they have garnered for themselves.


Anonymous said...

Obama should come out and make following two steps publicly: He should say that USA does not seek regime change in Iran; then, he should go on and attack the regime morally; that is their week point; the are totally bancrupt on that front; even Schimon Peres saw this point; but Obama should make the case; they forge election; they oppress the opposition; their antisemistim, their hypocracy and so on; that would force them to chance their behaviour; but in case of military threats as right now they will continue to play the victims;

Anonymous said...

Paul, thank you for the fantastic editorial! It really breaks my heart that the hopes and desires of the people of Iran and this totalitarian regime are so far apart, and yet Iranains suffer the consequences in every aspect as a result of the actions of the ruling minority.

Anonymous said...

I wish you would study the history of B. Assad's presidency a little more closely. Clearer details would have provided a better opinion piece.

I used to think we Americans were the only ones telling other peoples in the world how they should live their lives. I see this bad habit has now afflicted others from unlikely places, even from a colonized rock west of Britain.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry Paul on Friday they will claim the "Parliamentary elections" were an outstanding success with 97% turnout.Press TV IRIB will film crowds of people lining up to vote(mostly basij members and families)also those people who receive small allowance from regime who are told to vote or else.Yes Paul this regime will do anything to maintain the Tavileh at any cost to serve the purpose of Agha's whim.