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Enduring America Article & Comments

December 28, 2009

ASHURA6Josh Shahryar offers this assessment of Sunday’s events, also posted on his blog:

The Ashura (December 27) protests across Iran are over. Tens of thousands marched across the country as in the past to show their discontent with dictatorship and human rights violations. They yet again proved that the Iranian struggle is far from over. But after following the protests for almost 200 days, I don’t think that it was just another show of force. This was a tipping point in their struggle for one of the most basic of human rights –– the freedom to speak one’s mind without fear of repression.

Since June, the people of Iran have come out to streets peacefully and have tried to make their voices heard. And what was the government’s response? Bullets, batons, cables… arrests, injuries, deaths… torture, rape, murder. Few people have been so fearless and devout with their resolve to overturn the tide of tyranny as the people of Iran. Their humanity has been written about and well-deservedly praised. However, let us not have unreasonable expectations from them. They are human after all. And like all humans, they are susceptible to frustration and eventually – anger.

The Latest from Iran (28 December): Taking Stock
Iran: A Point of No Return?
Iran: A 5-Minute, 5-Point Reaction to The Events of Ashura
Latest Iran Video: The Ashura Protests (27 December — 3rd Set)
Latest Iran Video: The Ashura Protests (27 December — 2nd Set)
Latest Iran Video: The Ashura Protests (27 December)
The Latest from Iran (27 December): The Day of Ashura

For the first time in 200 days, the Iranian people decided that enough was enough.

If the government was going to send goons, then they were going to deal with them the way goons are dealt with. We had seen burning homes, bleeding protesters and protesters being dragged across streets. This time around, we saw burning police cars, bleeding Basijis and riot police being dragged and beaten.

As a human rights activist and an admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, I am strictly opposed to violence. What went on in Iran yesterday was anything but peaceful. Protesters fought back and they fought back hard. The level of violence against protesters may have been high, but it was answered. The response may not have been as violent as the assault of the security forces, but it was clearly expressed.

This prompted many of my friends and colleagues to question their support for the Green Movement. After all, we were expecting a non-violent revolution, one spurred by peaceful protests. But let us not forget. There is a difference between unprovoked acts of violence against individuals and self-defense. Did we really expect the Iranian people to just sit back and allow the government to kill, maim and arrest people ad infinitum? What would I or you do if someone used violence against us for six months over and over and over again? Are we going to go out and present ourselves as living targets for shooting practice? Or are we going to hang “Hit Me!” signs on our backs to make it easier for our attackers?

I won’t. The problem is that peaceful protests are great. However, they only really work when the opposing side is human enough to not use violence on such a massive scale. The protests in Iran in my opinion have been far from peaceful. It takes two hands to clap. How can we expect the government to repress people and at the same time not expect the people to fight back? This is what happens with bullies at schools. They only attack those who they think won’t fight back.

Next time the Basij, riot police, IRGC and plainclothesmen are out in Tehran during protests, they’ll know that their actions are going to be met with counter-measures. They’ll know that Iranians aren’t just sacks of wheat that they can pound on endlessly and mercilessly. If they fall into protesters’ hands, they should expect the worst.

Ashura’s protests in my opinion started a new phase in the revolution in Iran. The people are no longer going to sit back and watch as the government continues to not listen to their demands. They will come out and if they are attacked, there will be a crushing answer. The security forces can no longer use violence against protesters and then go back home to their children, enjoy a good meal, and make love to their women. They can no longer do that while bleeding protesters lay dying in hospitals, which will promptly transfer them to prisons where they will be locked in tiny holes for months on end.

The goons should know that in the future when they are out during a protest in Tehran, that if they attacked protesters, they will go home covered in their own blood and know how it feels. Because if they had felt it before, we wouldn’t have had to hear about Sohrab A’rabi’s body locked away in a morgue for weeks or see Neda Agha-Soltan’s dying eyes. I believe the Green Movement is still fully committed to non-violence, but yesterday they illustrated that their commitment extends to self-defense as well.

Tags: This entry was posted on Monday, December 28th, 2009 at 09:23 and is filed under Middle East & Iran. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You canleave a response, or trackback from your own site.

17 Responses to “Iran: Ashura’s Message “Iranians Are Not Punching Bags” (Josh Shahryar)”
  1. ange paris says:

    Josh
    Bravo ! great analysis !

  2. AZ says:

    Very true. The people have every right to protect themselves.

  3. PBE says:

    It’s certainly true that the success — even the survival — of great examples of nonviolence like Gandhi, King and Mandela depended on dealing with relatively “humane” oppressors. The same point is made interestingly in the more frequent comparisons now made between the reactions to protest of the Khamenei regime and those of the Shah. And it’s interesting to note that the Vietnamese struggle for independence BEGAN non-violently, with a peaceful march on a regional headquarters of the French colonial authority… which was mercilessly gunned down.

    One of the critical questions that Josh’s article and these examples pose, however, concerns the ORGANIZATION of the opposition to “Khameneinejad.” People are truly entitled to protect themselves, but doesn’t doing so successfully. consistently and with effect assume some coordination and planning of the response? Now that the opposition movement seems to have outrun its putative leadership (Karoubi, Khatami, Mousavi… forget Rafsanjani), where will that organization be coming from? And how can things move to the next stage and from there to securing human rights in a new Iran without it?

  4. Jamshid says:

    [Edited by Moderator]

    But I could have told you that six months ago. Those who lead the nonviolent struggle are responsible for the murder & rape of protestor’s.
    Your own article explains why.
    Who are these friends of yours who would dare not support the people?….
    The only way to destroy this regime is to fight hard.
    Anything less will just lead to more beatings, rape, & murder….

  5. ange paris says:

    Jamshid
    From Washington DC you give your orders ! how brave you are !! unfortunately this blog is not your place ! you have tried several times but it dosen’t work !
    Jamshid , bye bye and Izad be hamrahat !

  6. Jamshid says:

    DNI has been working behind the sceens for years.
    We will achieve democracy in iran. Not communism or anything else.
    Sorry.
    This is our movement.
    Get out of our way.

  7. Adam says:

    Excellent article Josh!

    “Peaceful protests: they only really work when the opposing side is human enough to not use violence on such a massive scale.”

    I have been waiting for 6 months for Iran activists to understand this. People seem to have formed a religion of pacifist protest in the example of Gandhi, forgetting that Gandhi himself pointed out that British rule of law was what allowed for peaceful rather than violent change. Even Gandhi understood that pacifism would probably not be effective against Nazi Germany (and Ahmadinejad’s disregard for human life reminds us a lot of Nazi Germany).

    Don’t get me wrong, the Green Movement’s dedication to non-violence has definitely succeeded in unsettling the government in a way that violent movements such as MKO never have and has unified public opinion against the government. However just because Mousavi and Karroubi’s best tactic is to act through exclusively non-violent means doesn’t mean that they expect Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to suddenly find a conscience/soul and decide to release the prisoners and hold real elections. They understand that the ultimate resolution will probably require some use of force by disaffected security forces or military units.

  8.      Thank you Josh Shahryar. Even after your lament of repression you continue your recitation for the cocktail circuit and the left wing chic pacifists that non-violent protest is elegant. We will kill every Mahatma Gandi. We will not make the mistake of leaving hope alive. We will crush every Mother, every child.
         We could tell you what to do to win and even so you’ll never do it, so we are not afraid. Yes, do continue your non-violence.
         If I were you: for every Basiji I see at school, you know, those pompous fanatics, I would kill them on sight to the cheering of your classmate comrades. For every Basij spy at work, I would kill them. For every Basij spy in the army, a soldier would kill him and his superior. For every Basiji at work, at the bureau, at the shop, I would kill him on sight. But you’ll never do that, because I’m a psychopath and you’re not. So I’m not worried at all , because you believe in non-violence and I don’t. My basiji and my Revolutionary Guards are my unthinking slaves and robots. We are experts at brain-washing and you are chic.
         Religious objections? Ha. We will issue a fatwah. The devout are irrational and easily manipulated as the left wing west on opiates knows. We simply declare ourselves the underdog against the Crusaders,Colonialists,and Imperialists, wrap ourselves in a black and white scarf and the leftist western hippies will support us along with the mainstream media who will say,”yes, let’s negotiate about the nuclear bugaboo”.
         Meanwhile, we fill the prisons.The media attention will fade. There is no revolution. Just a few hooligans. Everything will soon be back to normal. We can count on your complacency.
         Thank you Josh Shahryar. Even after your lament of repression you continue your recitation for the cocktail circuit and the left wing chic pacifists that non-violent protest is elegant. We will kill every Mahatma Gandi. We will not make the mistake of leaving hope alive. We will crush every Mother, every child.
         We could tell you what to do to win and even so you’ll never do it, so we are not afraid. Yes, do continue your non-violence.
         If I were you: for every Basiji I see at school, you know, those pompous fanatics, I would kill them on sight to the cheering of your classmate comrades. For every Basij spy at work, I would kill them. For every Basij spy in the army, a soldier would kill him and his superior. For every Basiji at work, at the bureau, at the shop, I would kill him on sight. But you’ll never do that, because I’m a psychopath and you’re not. So I’m not worried at all , because you believe in non-violence and I don’t. My basiji and my Revolutionary Guards are my unthinking slaves and robots. We are experts at brain-washing and you are chic.
         Religious objections? Ha. We will issue a fatwah. The devout are irrational and easily manipulated as the left wing west on opiates knows. We simply declare ourselves the underdog against the Crusaders,Colonialists,and Imperialists, wrap ourselves in a black and white scarf and the leftist western hippies will support us along with the mainstream media who will say,”yes, let’s negotiate about the nuclear bugaboo”.
         Meanwhile, we fill the prisons.The media attention will fade. There is no revolution. Just a few hooligans. Everything will soon be back to normal. We can count on your complacency.
         A man in a wheel chair was thrown off a cruise ship and did anyone in the left world care? No. So the chic chatter, and the rich man’s son becomes a terrorist. We well know the game. We are on the side of history. What you call evil triumphs in the end. Thank you.

  9. Jamshid says:

    [Edited by Moderator]

    It takes Ali Khamanei himself to explain reality to the idealistic fools….

    But I only have one important question for you Khamanei:
    Why did you delete your twitter account?
    khamanei_ir

  10. ange paris says:

    Josh
    Your success, & professionalism arouse jealousy ; I feel somebody being ” green ” with envy !!
    Don’t forget the espand !

  11. Parsione says:

    Josh,
    Thank you for the article and all the articles and posts before this.

  12. Hamid says:

    PBE, I really like your “Khameneinejad”. A very effective word that embraces this awful regime!

  13. Dear Jamshid,
         Thank you for your left-handed compliment. I appreciate it.
         I’m on twitter. It’s just that I’ve given myself an affectionate ending to my first name. In the Western tradition as I understand it, the “ie ” ending is given to charming people such as my self.
         So my twitter account is @AlieKhamenei
    or as they say http://twitter.com/AlieKhamenei
         But recently, I haven’t posted much as it’s been difficult to have a sense of humor about death and torture. These are difficult subjects for musicals and other amusements. Next time I’m whistling a happy tune, I’ll post a wistful comment about the old days of martyrdom and gleeful death or dancing with the stars…. It’s lonely being King or Supreme Leader…”Death to ___” Oh nevermind. I’ll take a nap. My heart is weary. Slaughter is tiresome.

  14. Bozorg says:

    Josh, thank you for this much needed essay.

    Non-violence is a tool. Its goal is to persuade those with a monopoly on violence to concede to the demands of the public. It aims to do this by shaming the security apparatus. However, if those with a monopoly on violence are shameless, then non-violence becomes a self-defeating tool. It needlessly exposes non-violent practitioners to relentless brutality.

    Non-violence has yielded dividends in this struggle, and the protesters should continue to organize peaceful protests. But they are also morally obligated to protect themselves and each other when attacked.

    Those who characterize self-defense as a betrayal of non-violence are as dogmatic, myopic and morally repugnant as those who direct the suppressive forces.

  15. Bozorg says:

    The protesters should definitely continue to show clemency to captured security forces. Bravo for their humanity!

  16. Observer says:

    Hello, thanks for this ‘discussion,’ if that’s what we can call it. Seems like more people than not are the most comfortable with ‘black and white,’ even though at some level of awareness, they realize that ‘life is not really like that.’

    Semantic ‘tricks’ seem to be the name of the game. And please do not make the mistake of trying to ‘understand’ regime motivation/psychology. Every announcement/action they produce sends a loud and clear message about all that — remain in power at any cost. The rest of their story is only detail of the moment.

    If recall is correct, Nobel Prize winner Nelson Mandela planned, approved numerous violent operations by his followers against the SA government while behind prison bars. The outbursts/explosions provided a primary pressure on those in power. In combination with other measures at work — world opinion, sanctions, etc. — the end of Apartheid arrived.

    From this western viewpoint, living beings inherent an innate will to survive, else there would be no constancy in surviving species. The concept of ’self-defense’ arises from this will to survive. Seems like we witnessed that yesterday. However, among the rocks, fire barriers and other self-defense measures, we also witnessed a certain morality at work in the foggy videos from the internet — even on Ashura, some protesters protected ‘captured’ security members from further harm.

    In the past, opposition ‘leaders,’ (Mousavi perhaps) have stated that if protesters had exhibited violence from the beginning, then their movement would have quickly disappeared — the regime would have done its best in a repeat of the 80s.

    So what’s the point? Am not sure there is one when concepts, though convenient starting places, cannot work well in the gray and ever-evolving world of choices. I applaud J Shahryar’s honest reportage of what he saw and what it meant to him. And I don’t see him climbing on any of those black & white bandwagons. One must appreciate common sense when one sees it.

    If the rumored NIRU does act in the future, their program won’t be black and white either. And perhaps ‘forgetting about Rafsanjani’ is against common sense, too. One thing for sure — time will tell us something, and that’s the hardest part for this outsider. Too many suffer each day.

    Thank you, Josh, for your thoughts.

  17. Jamshid –

    I have not communicated with you in a few months, but upon reading your comments here (and noting that I’m back on your Blacklist), would like to ive you my current thoughts. However, they really are just slightly updated versions of the same thoughts I gave you a few months back.

    It’s kind of strange finding you here, especially back in an extremely combative mode again. This is a blog that Josh contributes to. The founders oppose armed conflict when possible, and advocate co-operation between peoples and nations. It would possibly be described as leftie to moderate, if you had to classify it on a political spectrum. Nonwithstanding the gracious appearance of Ali Khamenei, the readership naturally tends to be somewhat in agreement. There are not many neocons here. If you want the “likeminded”, you should be somewhere like this:

    http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2009/12/iran-revolution-massive-protests-deaths-reported-chaos.html

    I personally am still deeply disspointed and saddened by your (IMHO overly paranoid) obsession with Josh and others who I’d best describe as being Iranian democracy supporters on the left to center of the international political spectrum. 😦 (Actually, a few people on your blacklist that I’ve come to know are US Republicans who simply believe in letting the Iranian Greens determine their own destiny) The fact that these people have tactical or strategic differences with you about similar goals seems to cause you to virtually equate them with Ahmadinejad and Khamenei! That is deeply unfortunate to me. I find myself wondering if you realize that you will actually need this type of people for your proposed democracy – they would form something akin to a “left-leaning” party while you would likely form the “right-leaning” party.

    My important question is this. What happened to your apology letter to online #iranelection activists that you posted on your website? I was actually touched by it. In it, you seemed to miraculously realize a number of really important (and very true) things that would close the gap between you and most of the others. Indeed, some of these bulletpoints I had discussed with you, and all of them I completely agree with::

    1) Virtually all the people you were attacking and blacklisting were fellow people who supported democracy and human rights.

    2) Coming out of your harsh experiences in Iran, you have issues with trusting people, as well as paranoia. It was affecting your judgment about fellow people online as you tended to rapidly ascribe the worst possible motives to them (even if not evidence based.) .

    3) The #iranelection people on Twitter are just people from dozens of countries who mostly did not know each other prior to the election, who are experiencing a common bond of unity & friendship based on giving support to the Iranian Green protesters:

    4) Josh Shahryar, who like most people knew nobody at first, started out by being kind to people on Twitter, and asking what he could do for them? He then took the tweets that the people on #iranelection were sending, and used his journalistic skills to make a useful newsletter out of them. This kind of thing tends to make other people happy and appreciative and supportive..

    5) You made mistakes early on Twitter that caused most of your problems there. You angered people initially and caused them to unite against you, by sending wild tweets and conducting psychological warfare against a number of #iranelection twitterers. (I personally got a number of these tweets before I even knew who you were!) You also started off on Twitter by immediately asking for money, thereby naturally raising suspicions of people.

    6) After this, a vicious cycle occurred where you denounced more people on Twitter, and so those people and their new friends united and got more antagonistic towards you (a very common type of cycle which is not unlike the cycle in Iran where the regime beats more people, so the people unite and radicalize further, and then the regime gets harsher…)

    7) You and Josh both have strong and incompatible personalities, and you’ve let a simple personality conflict escalate to areas of the extreme (and seemingly absurd to most observers.).

    Oddly, I don’t even find you and Josh to be all that ideologically far apart in some ways, except for the methodologies you advocate to oppose the current Iranian regime.. He’s kind of a lefty-libertarian, and you are kind of a righty-libertarian. Perhaps the main difference between you and Josh, besides use of non-violence, is the same difference between you and the Twitterers, and the same difference between you and the authors of this EnduringAmerica blog. That is, you wish to have a specific pre-decided solution brought into Iran that was authored in the U.S. (albeit presumably by members of the Iranian diaspora). In your case is a constitution that supports democracy and separation of powers, etc. In the case of the other folks I just mentioned, they simply wish to give support the Greens in Iran, and then let the Greens work out the details of the (presumably much more democratic) government they set up or compromise on. I can see some tension there, but the lengths you have gone to make a huge deal and confrontation out of that seemingly small difference, especially with your Blacklist, is very saddening.

    I’m not really sure why you retracted your apology and moved back to this hyper-controntational approach, but it is very dissapointing to me. I would think that you’d see that once an entire community of completely disparate people are all on your list, that it is more likely that your assessment of them is off, rather than that everyone except you is a spy.

    Best, Kevin Scott

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