Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Guest Contribution: Hunger Strike and Mujahadeen

Professor Alison Assiter of the University of the West of England has requested that the following text by her be posted on this on this blog as part of her campaign to get publicity for the situation described here:

"Outside the US Embassy in London, a group of exiled Iranians have staged a hunger strike and 24-hour protest. A number of them have been on hunger strike for two weeks. They began their protest on Tuesday 28th July, when Iraqi police set out to establish a station inside the headquarters of the PMOI or MEK – Camp Ashraf in Iraq. A number of their members were killed and hundreds more were wounded. The protesters want US or UN protection for their members in Ashraf City. The raid from Iraqi police coincided with demonstrations inside and outside Iran against the clerical regime.

The politics of the issue are complex. Supporters say that the MEK forms the backbone of the Iranian resistance to the Islamic fundamentalist regime. Critics question this. There are many more differences of political view and feelings run high on both sides. The position of the Obama administration remains unclear. There are hunger strikers also demonstrating opposite the White House in Washington.

One thing, however, is clear. This is that followers of the Mujahadeen, now residing in Europe and the US, place a fundamentally different emphasis on the individual and on the value of individual human life from the value attached to the separateness and distinctness of persons by most people in the liberal west. For many years, now, the Mujahadeen have renounced violence. The politics of the suicide bomber are not for them. Indeed such politics are associated with their opponents: the fundamentalist Islamic regime of Iran and their supporters. The Mujahadeen are Muslim, but they claim to advocate a secular democracy for their country.

However, the Mujahadeen value the collective over the individual. The collective welfare of the group takes priority over individual human rights. If the collective welfare of the group demands the sacrifice of some, then those individuals are prepared to sacrifice their lives for the cause.

As one hunger striker put it:’ my blood is no more red than that of the next person and the whole movement is my family’. Another, a 19- year old girl said ‘ I am ready to join Neda’ (the Iranian girl who died in fighting for democracy in Iran recently and who has become a symbol of resistance).

The courage and the resilience of these people is immense. One very significant problem, however, is that few people in the UK know that this hunger strike is going on. Londoners walk along Oxford Street in their thousands doing their shopping, oblivious to the hunger strikers round the corner. Just as it is no longer possible to travel anywhere in the world that some human being has not already visited, so too the ultimate political weapon – hunger strike to the death – has been downgraded. When Bobby Sands went on hunger strike in the early 1980’s, few people in the UK would not have heard of him. Now the use of the hunger strike as a political weapon has become more commonplace. If the cause of the exiled Iranians is to be successful then some version of their story needs to be heard."


Anonymous said...

It's rather sad that Ms. Assiter, as an academic, didn't bother to do even the most trivial research on the MEK.

"Supporters say that the MEK forms the backbone of the Iranian resistance to the Islamic fundamentalist regime. Critics question this." That's like saying "Supporters of Holocaust Revisionism say that Nazi atrocities were fabricated. Critics question this." Aside from members of the MEK, almost no Iranians, from the communist left to the royalist right support an organization that not only combines the worst of Islam and Socialism but actively aided Iraq in the war with Iran. And I have not even mentioned the cult of personality that surrounds the Rajavis. Shame on you for such a facile and ignorant post.

alison assiter said...

Thank you, anon, for your comment. In relation to your point about royalists, you may like to read the recent comment from Reza Pahlavi (the son of the late Shah of Iran) who emphasises, as do many other Iranians who are critical of the MEK, the humanitarian aspect of the recent atrocities. He further stresses that opponents of the regime, if that is what you are, should attempt to join hands at the present time in order to reduce the bloodshed of innocent Iranians.

In relation to your point about the Holocaust, I think that the full history of what happened in eastern Europe at the hands of the Nazis, is yet to emerge.

The MEK has been resisting the regime in Iran, successfully or not, for thirty years. You make the point that is familiar to Iranians, on both sides, that the PMOI supported Iraq in the Iran/Iraq war. The PMOI have invited any Iranian who claims to have suffered at their hands in this period, to bring their case before the European courts. So far, no case has been successful.

I would like to stress again, that if you are Iranian and if you would like to see real change in Iran, then these enormous differences between the various opponents must be set aside, at least in the short term.

With best wishes, Alison Assiter.

Gary Banham said...

I should point out that the rationale for including the guest comment was, as Alison indicates in her comment here, a humanitarian one and implies no support on my part for the MEK but does indicate a problem with the attack on them by the Iraqi government.

Gary Banham said...

I should further make clear that I am utterly opposed to Holocaust revisionism although I find the connection between discussion of it and the MEK to be, to say the least, opaque!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps my reference to the Holocaust was unclear. I believe that the comparison of my case with Holocaust denials was way off the mark. But my point - although compressed - was that recent research is suggesting that the picture we now have of the holocaust may only represent part of the truth and that there were many more deaths in Eastern Europe than is recognised at the moment. The parallel is relevant for recent researchers argue that it required a relatively liberal regime in post war Germany to bring the Holocaust to light whereas the lack of open regimes in Eastern Europe has meant that this information has not yet fully emerged.Similarly, it is difficult, without an open democratic regime in Iran, to get the truth about the 1980's and what happened in the Iran-Iraq war. I hope this clarifies the point.

My rationale for my original piece was also a humanitarian one but it was also to make a point that has not been discussed about the relation betwen the individual and the collective in this movement. Alison.