Maryam Namazie Frequently Publishes Misrepresentations about Iranian Politics

Maryam Namazie Frequently Publishes Misrepresentations about Iranian Politics November 15, 2014

It happens often that Iranians who have lived outside Iran for decades or less portray a very misleading and dishonest picture of Iranian politics and the 2009 protests that broke out after the fraudulent “reelection” of Ahmadinejad. I don’t know why these Iranians do so. Maybe they’re projecting their wishful thinking into facts, and indeed it seems to be so. Maybe they’re lying and they want to make their own supporters think that they are powerful. Indeed, in Iran, if you ask anyone – whether it is regime supporters or reformist or the revolutionary opposition – it seems that 98% of Iranians firmly support them and that 2% are paid by the USA or the Islamic regime.

Maryam Namazie, who writes for Maryam Namazie’s blog, is one of the worst offenders. I shared a network with her – Freethought Blogs – until roughly a month ago. While I loved FtB and was proud to be included and in general I was very happy to be on FtB, being on the same network as hers was the most unpleasant thing about that network. I refrained from directly addressing her but I shouldn’t have. But I’m going to do so now.


Maryam Namazie’s problem is not only a problem limited to herself. She basically gives voice to a narrative that is not only false, but dangerous if people were to believe it. This narrative is that all the officials in the Iranian regime are the same, that there is no difference between reformists like Mousavi and moderates like Rouhani and fundamentalists like Ahmadinejad, and what Iran needs is a revolution that overthrows the regime, and that when that revolution happens, a secular democratic utopia is just around the corner.

I know that to your western ears this might seem very obvious. Why would I – an atheist and a liberal – be so adamantly opposed to the idea of a revolution that overthrows the regime? Why would I have to look inside a theocratic regime to see which ones are the moderates and which ones are the reformists to choose someone among them?

But that is a wrong impression. We support people and ideas based on their consequence. And actual facts have shown – again and again – that following these opposition members has no consequence but pain and misery.

They usually want us to boycott elections. They say that the reformists who are allowed to run and the conservatives are no different. But that is simply not true. Anyone who has actually lived under Khatami and Rouhani can you that there are great differences. Now the differences were bigger under Khatami, but that’s not the most important point – the most important point is that Ahmadinejad was a disaster. He destroyed the economy and brought the country to the brink of financial ruin, he made everything worse. If you asked Iranians, they all felt a country called Iran might not be on the map anymore.

The position of the opposition is dangerously wrong because of that. No matter how small or insignificant is our political breathing space, we need to use that space to prevent people like Ahmadinejad taking power. These people are not your normal conservatives. They’re not your normal religious fanatics. They can destroy an entire nation and they almost did.

So basically, the opposition is asking us to roll the dice and gamble. If we boycott the elections, as we are asked, either a relatively moderate conservative will come to power, who might or might not make the situation worse, but will surely not make it much better, or a fanatic like Ahmadinejad might come to power. And Ahmadinejad did come to power because Iranians either didn’t vote for his conservative rival (he’s now a leading reformist) or mistakenly believed his economic promises or mistakenly thought he is the lesser of two evils.

But why should we make such a gamble? If you can use your very limited power and voice to elect into office rational and moderate people, why not do that? Just to make a statement about how fake Iranian elections are? Is our actual well-being worth less than political statements about the validity of Iranian elections? Or, to actually make sure that Iran gets worse, people get riled up, and the Islamic Regime falls? Are we the meat fodders of the opposition? Should we welcome poverty and sanctions and suffering and death to marginally increase the chance that the regime might fall?

Ultimately people like Maryam Namazie don’t care for Iranian people. What they care for – the only thing they care for is the downfall of the regime, and it doesn’t matter what is the human cost of that.

Now, you might say, Kaveh, isn’t the human cost worth it if the regime falls and Iran becomes a democracy?

Which makes me ask you – why are you so sure there will be a democracy? What makes you sure that Iran won’t become an unstable country like many other, torn apart in civil war? Who guarantees that another authoritarian regime will not take the place of this one?

You see, in the fictional world of the Iranian opposition, all Iranians are already “democrats”, or their understanding of the concept anyway. And the cause of all problems is one thing and that is the Islamic Regime. Ask them about any problem and it will be solved once the regime is overthrown. Economy! Politics! Even the environment! Just kill this monster and then everything will be alright. The Islamic Regime is the only obstacle against utopia!

But history teaches us that it is not so. Iranians had the same attitude towards the Shah’s regime. The Shah was the symbol of all evil and the sole cause and if you just overthrew him everything would be fine. Well, he was overthrown. The results, as you might know, were not as stellar as the revolutionaries expected. Now some of the same people who gladly jumped on the revolutionary bandwagon back in the 70s are selling us the same narrative about the current regime. Some have the nerve to do it while they’re admonish Iranians for buying it back in the 70s and bringing the “mullah regime” into power.

And the most dangerous delusion of the Iranian opposition is their delusion that there is no racial and ethnic tensions in Iran.The Persians and the Kurds and the Turks and the Arabs are living in absolute harmony and everyone is wronged by the same regime. But ask any Kurd or Arab or Turk in the poor regions of Iran and they will have a much more different story to tell you.

And even if the regime falls, who takes their place? The Royalists? The communists? The horrifying terrorist cult the Mojahedeen who are a medley of Pol Pot and Al Qaeda? The ultra-nationalists a majority of whom are vicious racists completely indifferent to the ethnic minorities? People who think Reza Shah was a good ruler – an authoritarian dictator who killed journalists and undid all the reforms of the Constitutional Revolution – people who openly support Reza Shah’s act of removing women’s hijab forcefully?

Or the handful of democrats who lack all organization and support and have absolutely no power?

There is simply no guarantee that the Islamic Regime can be overthrown without a civil war and much bloodshed. The regime has shown repeatedly that it will crush every protest. Many people believe what they did in Syria is like a testing ground for what they should do if Iranian people rise. So if – theoretically speaking – people pour into streets and the regime starts killing them, they either have to make a choice to go back home (the revolution has failed) or fight back (civil war). The regime has a legion of supporters who are by no means small and by no means support it only out of financial greed, and they will most possibly will not back down (civil war). The anger that the ethnic minorities have might erupt and cause them to rebel, to ask for secession, and the nationalists would never allow that (civil war).

Also remember that if we actually do let the worst sections of the Islamic Republic rule, they’ll just destroy the country so much that it will take decades before the country recovers (right now it will take years to undone Ahmadinejad’s damage), and that greatly reduces the chances of a stable country to come afterward.

So – does it make sense now that we prefer to not listen to our dear opposition members living comfortably in the West and not risk total annihilation of our country and instead vote for reformists in hopes that the country moves away from the brink of destruction?

Now this was just general intro. I was telling you why all people like Namazie are wrong. Now I’m going to get into actual actual quotes from her blog, showing how she misrepresents the truth about Iranian politics.

The article is so full of absurdity that it caused me to write what you’re reading, and it’s a nice selection of greatest hits of opposition illusions and misrepresented facts.  It is hosted by Namazie and written by someone called Mostafa Saber. He’s very clearly a communist like Namazie herself. Iranian communists are not famous for their honesty, and he is not honest at all.

The argument of the article is that Arabs failed to make Arab Spring work. So Iranians should get back to their 2009 revolution and set a good example for the entire region. Right off the bat, you can see his problematic approach. Arabs are not Persians’ students. They are people who struggle for their own freedom, and they weren’t inspired by the Green Movement. It’s rude and borderline racist to use the Arab experience like that to score Iranian political points. I’m sure the democratic youth who began Arab revolutions don’t appreciate being talked about like this.

But let’s get to the article and unpack the falsehood.

In recent history, nothing has been more misrepresented than the 1979 revolution in Iran. At its heart, it was a working class revolution that was ultimately defeated by the Islamic movement, which was backed by Western powers who had lost hope in the Shah of Iran.  

Right off the bat, this is one of the opposition wrong assertions. That the 1979 was hijacked by the Islamists. This falsehood may differ based on who is telling it. It can be liberals. It can be nationalists. It can be communists. But that’s entirely a falsehood. The 1979 was a revolution that included liberals and nationalists and communists too, but ultimately it was Islamists’ revolution – most of all, it was was Khomeini’s revolution. The very first major event of the Revolution was people revolting after the death of Khomeini’s son, because they thought he was murdered by the Shah’s regime (which sounds dubious). [evidence in Persian] People pour into streets and all considered Khomeini the leader. Half of people’s slogans were in praise of Khomeini. They included all classes of people.

Also it’s completely conspiracy theory to say the Western regimes supported the Islamists. The United States government was divided. Among Carter’s advisers, Zbigniew Brzezinski was pro-Shah to the end, while people like Gary Sick wanted to enforce more moderate voices within the revolutionaries. (You can refer to Sick’s book, All Fall Down, for reference). It was in the Guadalupe Conference that the Western powers came to the conclusion that supporting the Shah was futile, and that was a month before the actual victory of the regime. While it’s true that the Western powers decided to make peace with the regime and to empower the moderates (like the liberal Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan), they weren’t happy about it. They didn’t like Khomeini.

Someone with even a rudimentary knowledge of Iranian history can show that he begins with a false picture of history that can only suit his ideological needs.

Also, unlike what the article claims, Khomeini was no capitalist. He was fiercely anti-west, and although he did ruthlessly repressed communists and workers who supported them, he himself leaned heavily socialists on economics, so comparing and equating him with Thatcher is just bizarre, also because Thatcher may have been a bad PM for the UK but Khomeini was a mass murderer and the founder of an autocratic regime.

He then goes on to lump in the events in the entire world to create a fictional narrative of global Marxist revolution – Green Movement in Iran, revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria, riots in Greece and Spain, the Occupy Movement in USA, revolts in Turkey, etc. I’m just adding this here as an evidence of the caliber of the ideological simplification this guy is so capable of.

But, what is the relationship between the Arab Spring, as I described, and Iran? Well, it started in Iran. You may recall that the 2009 uprising in Iran was the first example of the so called “Twitter” revolutions and inspired the whole world including the Tunisian revolution, which in its turn triggered a chain of revolutions and social movements thereafter.

No. The Arab Spring did not start in Iran. The Green Movement was fundamentally different from the Arab Spring, which also included fundamentally different revolutions at its own heart. That’s why they started in 2011 and not in 2009.

The 2009 revolutionary uprising in Iran was in a way the comeback of the spirit of the ‘79 revolution, to take revenge on its Islamic counter-revolution.

That is a falsehood. The 2009 events were not a revolutionary uprising. I know that because I was there. I took part in every demonstration. I saw every tweet and Facebook status. A bullet missed my face by mere centimeters. I know many people who are like me in that regard.

The 2009 Green Movement was a movement which was inspired by the “defeat” of Mir-Hossein Mousavi in the elections. We wanted him to be acknowledged as the rightful president. It included all kind of people. It included people like me who are atheist liberals who support the idea of democracy. It included reformists who wanted to change the structure of the regime to be more open and democratic. It included people who wanted to keep the regime intact but have a better Supreme Leader than Khamenei. It even included people who liked Khamenei but wanted him to change his behavior. I know that because unlike Saber I was actually walking side by side these people.

It’s impossible to characterize the movement with one goal. It was too pluralistic for that. But one thing it certainly wasn’t was revolutionary. When a great number of the members of a movement don’t want a revolution either because they’re afraid of the consequences (like me) or still believe in the regime, then you can’t call it revolutionary. I find Mousavi’s characterization the best, he said that our minimum of demands is the civil rights in our flawed constitution, and we are a pluralistic group who agree on these demands, free elections, free press, freedom of political prisoners, etc.

Ultimately when the regime showed beyond a shadow of the doubt that it won’t stand the protesters and there’s a choice between escalating things or going back home, people went back home. Hardly revolutionary.

Moreover, the 2009 uprising was trying to open a much wider revolutionary perspective for the world, much wider than what it did by inspiring the Arab Spring.

What? People never said “the nation wants the overthrow of the regime”.

Imagine, what if the 2009 uprising had succeeded to realize its main slogan, “death to the dictator.” Imagine, what if the people of Tehran had overthrown the Islamic regime in the winter of 2009, something that was feasible at the time.

“Death to the dictator” was a slogan, but main slogan was “Give me back my vote”. Also “ya Hossein, Mir Hossein”.

I already established why the Green Movement didn’t want to overthrow the regime, but it’s even more laughable to say it was feasible. The Green Movement was led by women, students, and middle class people. It was mostly contained to Tehran and other big cities. It had not spread to poor people and small cities. It had never become violent, except in very limited cases. And people followed Mousavi’s and Karroubi’s instructions to a tee – we didn’t show up when they asked us to show us, we did when they did. How feasible.

Also, what kind of arrogance and magical thinking does it take to look at Egypt and Syria and instead of learning from the situation in the region conclude that what we need is more revolution?

So how full of falsehood and how divorced from reality you can be before losing all credibility?

This is another post she wrote to protest the execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari. This is one of the causes that we superficially agree on. Jabbari was killed because the laws of Iran are barbaric and outdated and she shouldn’t have been. But I don’t think this – like any other issue in Iranian politics – is something she has any use for but to spread her political falsehoods.

The Islamic regime’s ideologues, its professional criminals and murderers, the real killers of Sarbandi (whom Reyhaneh was accused of killing), all banded together and despite an enormous international outcry executed this young woman.

What? First of all, there’s no doubt that Jabbari had killed the man. The problem is that she (most probably) did so when she was raped and for self-defense. There’s zero evidence that Sarbandi was killed by the regime officials. This is another sign of conspiracy theory. Before the revolution no one could die without some people saying they were killed by the Shah. Now they repeat the same trope with the Iranian regime. Again, a sign that reality doesn’t matter.

Also, what would be the point of killing Jabbari like that? She was a normal citizen. Why would the regime go through such an elaborate ruse? Makes no sense.

Plus, she either doesn’t know or simply doesn’t care for the fact that ultimately the regime officials did not have the final word in Jabbari’s life or death, but Sarbandi’s family did. Based on the Iranian law, the family of the victim decide the fate of the murderer, whether they should be executed or not. It seems that the regime officials were eager to seek their approval to not execute Jabbari, but they failed. It’s also true that the current Head of the Judiciary is very happy to execute as many people as possible, but all evidence points they didn’t want it to happen this time, to avoid the international outcry.

But you know, “the country’s rules are based on a barbaric version of a bronze age religion so a tragic case ends up with a tragic ending” doesn’t sound as sexy as “the regime with no apparent purpose kills a random man and accuses a random woman of a crime just because”. It doesn’t serve this purpose:

Let everyone see the kind of monsters the people of Iran are dealing with. Let the world see that the one skill the heads of the Islamic regime, from the supreme leader to Rafsanjani, the president Rouhani, the paramilitary force Sepah and the Ministry of Intelligence, have in common is this: murder, lying and barbarity. […] But the regime in Iran should be certain of this: by killing Reyhaneh, they will only harvest a storm.

If you’re so uneducated that you believe Rouhani is no different from the Supreme Leader or the Revolutionary Guard, I’ve got a whole lotta bunch of links for you. Here, here, and here. All these links include more links. If you read them you will see that I establish their difference with facts. I have evidence for my claims that Rouhani is a million times better than the conservatives and fundamentalists in the Islamic regime. Namazie just claims they’re as bad. If you read my articles you will be convinced.

Now let’s get to this one. Hassan Rouhani’s charm offensive is just plain offensive.

During the “election”, Rouhani “promised” that “all Iranian people should feel there is justice”. They are certainly feeling it – his version of it at least – with 40 executions in the first two weeks of January and over 300 executions since he took office. Iran remains one of the main execution capitals of the world despite all claims of “moderation”. When Rouhani said “We must do something for all these prisoners to be released”, he must have meant in body bags.

That is what the opponents of reformists claim most of all. That’s because they rely on you to don’t know anything about the Iranian politics.

So bad Rouhani has exactly zero to do with executions. Based on Iran’s law, either the family of victims or the judge decides if there should be an execution. The order of execution is signed by the Head of the Judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, a radical conservative cleric, who is directly appointed by the Supreme Leader. Neither on paper on in action, the president has zero jurisdiction on the number of executions. Nada. There are some areas that president has some legal jurisdiction but Rouhani has no control over them. But this one is not in his jurisdiction even on paper.

So, Rouhani is responsible for what his sworn enemies and political rivals have done. Got it.

Also, Rouhani’s “promise” to uphold the rights of the people as enumerated in the country’s constitution is yet another example of an empty exercise in PR. The constitution is one of the obstacles to upholding rights and actually violates them as does a theocracy.  Article 20 of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s constitution, for example, says men and women “enjoy equal protection of the law…in conformity with Islamic criteria” and Article 21 states that “the government must ensure the rights of women in all respects, in conformity with Islamic criteria”. As a result, it is perfectly legal that women cannot run for presidency, enter sports stadiums and certain fields of work or study, are segregated and have limited rights to divorce and child custody.

That’s strictly speaking true. However, it still ignores the fact that upholding the constitution completely would drastically improve the situation. Also it ignores the fact that someone running for president in Iran cannot say “lol let’s flush the constitution down the toilet secularism FTW”. That would be political suicide. So he wouldn’t be elected.

I wish I could say that Namazie is making perfect the enemy of the good, but she’s actually making dystopia the enemy of the good. Rouhani is our chance to move away from sanctions and hostility with the west and economic ruin, and we might add some political reform as a bonus. Namazie doesn’t seem to care. Iran can go down the toilet and a moderate cannot be elected president because everyone should just call out for secularism right now.

In less than 6 months of his presidency, his pledge to uphold the rights of women and bring legislation to the Islamic Assembly that addressed discrimination has only translated into more discrimination and misogyny, including the legalisation of paedophilia and child rape by making it legal for step-fathers to marry their adopted daughters as well as plans for a “Comprehensive Population and Family Excellence Plan”. The proposed legislation includes new limits on contraceptive use and added restrictions on women from accessing employment and educational opportunities. More efforts in lieu of keeping women in their place – barefoot and pregnant.

Again, the Parliament is controlled by Rouhani’s enemies. Rouhani is as responsible for those laws as Obama is for Republican congress blocking his laws. Also, Rouhani actually fought those laws, and he won! Yes, those laws didn’t pass in the end, because Rouhani tried his best and lobbied and negotiated and achieved one of his small victories we elected him for.

So, when you want to know how completely wrong Namazie is remember this: She once blamed Rouhani for a law he finally caused to be defeated.

Of course the list is endless. Rouhani and his friends Tweet their sweet nothings and have Facebook pages whilst people in Iran are banned from using social media and can actually face arrest and harassment for it. 

Rouhani is not in charge of filtering. He’s been fighting to make Facebook and Twitter free. He is the reason that Viber and WhatApp are not filtered. His Minister of Telecommunications actually broke the law to ensure that. The judiciary ultimately decided it wasn’t worth fighting over it.

And Iran remains the second largest jailer of journalists (forget political dissidents and opponents) though Rouhani “promised” that “justice means that anyone who wants to speak in a society should be able to come out, speak their mind, criticize and critique without hesitation and stammering”.

And if you poll those journalists, most of them are Rouhani’s supporters. It makes much sense for Rouhani to jail his own supporters while the public TV and the majority of legal media in Iran are strongly against him!

Absurdly, those celebrating Rouhani’s “charm” claim he is not to blame for the repression as he has no power – the supreme leader Khamenei does. Aside from the fact that Khamenei approved his candidacy, if Rouhani has no power, why so much jubilation? And if he does, then why not hold him accountable?

Because there’s no middle ground between “no power” and “absolute power”. Because there’s no point between “absolute tyranny” and “Utopian democracy”.

Of course any relief as a result of a reduction of economic sanctions, which adversely hurt the public, and a move away from threats of war is good but it’s not good enough.

Here Namazie shows her utter disregard for Iranian people. Economic relief and the removal of the threats of war is just sort of “meh” to her. Yeah, people will suffer less. Who cares.

That’s what infuriates me. To people like Namazie Iranian people are simply steps for power. I’m an atheist liberal, but I care for the well-being of people more than my own atheism or even liberalism. If Rouhani can take the country away from absolute ruin, then I will support him.

And one thing that’s always absent from Namazie’s blog is the scale of things. There’s never any worry, never a sense of emergency. That’s because she has no idea how urgent the situation is. I see a dystopian wasteland right in the corner ans she thinks Swiss democracy is there.

She’s greatly misinformed about Iranian politics. Her position in the atheist movement should not enable her to speak about Iran. Because her views are inaccurate and dangerous.

I skipped some of her posts that were about IS and Islam. Most of them are as equally void of nuance. It’s very clear that her Islamic knowledge isn’t necessarily deep. But ultimately she’s not wrong about them and I guess I don’t care. Her views on Iran are dangerous, and the westerners should not be influenced by them, so I do care.

I skimmed past all her posts about the jailed workers in Iran. “Workers” are a euphemism for communists, I guess. I don’t disagree that workers and communists should be freed, obviously. I’m a bit perplexed that she doesn’t apparently care for the rest of the political prisoners. Maybe because a majority of them are reformists and reformist supporters?

I also skipped all her videos. Because I have a life.

"You can’t eradicate cannibalism by eating the cannibals; there is no better analog for what ..."

Why I’m Rooting for Kirsten Gillibrand
"RE: Your opinion on police officers also misses the unions, who have resisted many efforts ..."

Let’s Fight: On the Margin of ..."
"My unpopular opinion: The US should intervene less in other countries' matters and let them ..."

Let’s Fight: On the Margin of ..."
"Maternity leave is inherently discriminatory and should be replaced by a universally-available system of paid ..."

Let’s Fight: On the Margin of ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment