Sunday, October 29, 2006

Nothing could be more offensive! On St Andrews University’s invitation to ex-president Khatami

Mr Khatami, a former president of the Islamic Republic of Iran (1997-2005) has been invited to St Andrews University on October 31 to receive an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws in recognition of his ‘efforts to encourage interfaith dialogue’.

Giving a theocrat a degree in secular law and doing so ‘considering global tensions relating to… faiths’ that incidentally he and his regime have been instrumental in creating is like giving PW Botha or FW De Klerk honorary degrees in race relations in recognition of their efforts to encourage inter-race dialogue!

Nothing could be more offensive, not only to those of us who have fled or lost loved ones to this vile regime but also to the innumerable who have lost lives and limbs to Islamists everywhere.

But there is more. In its attempt to dispel any illusion that it is organising student protests against this action as reported in media outlets [it is the National Union of Students, we and others who are doing so], the University of St Andrews Students’ Association’s statement blatantly and shamelessly defends Khatami and his presidency.

It asserts that Mr Khatami was never the ‘highest ranking political or judicial authority in the land, and held minimal influence...’ Clearly, this is untrue. Saying so is a deliberate attempt at whitewashing his role in the crimes of the Islamic regime of Iran. Power sharing mechanisms in a government, however dictatorial, do not mean that the executive role lacks power.

One case in point is the April 1997 German court’s verdict that found the then president responsible for the September 1992 assassinations of opposition leaders in Berlin. The court found that the killings had been ordered by a ‘Committee for Special Operations’ whose members included the Leader (Khamenei), the president, the Minister of Information and Security and other security officials.

In the past week, too, Argentine prosecutors have issued warrants for a former president for directing Hezbollah to carry out the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded hundreds.

And today, there are reports of two Iranian exiles, Safa Einollahi, 29, and Ali Ebrahimi, 34, who have lodged complaints under the 1988 Criminal Justice Act against Khatami for his accountability in the atrocities and tortures they endured as political prisoners.

Far from the rosy picture often portrayed in the Western media, Khatami’s presidency has been anything but.

During his bloody rule, over 1,300 people were executed, including sweet 16 year old Atefeh Rajabi for ‘acts incompatible with chastity’; 27 people were stoned to death or sentenced to die by stoning, 18 of them women; student and other demonstrations were crushed and their leaders arrested or killed; Ahmad Batebi was given a death sentence for holding up a bloody t-shirt; an opposition activist in Kurdistan, Showaneh Qaderi, was shot and his body dragged through the streets; Arezoo Siabi Shahrivar was arrested along with up to 14 other women, at a ceremony commemorating the 1988 “prison massacre” in Evin prison, Tehran, in which thousands of political prisoners were executed. In detention she was suspended from the ceiling, beaten with a wire cable and sexually abused. Journalists and webloggers were detained; papers were shut down; the Canadian journalist, Zahra Kazemi was tortured and murdered in prison; the murders of two political activists and three writers – a case known in Iran as the “Serial Murders” took place; hundreds of labour activists were arrested and tortured and on and on.

Only in a topsy turvy world can a president who oversaw such murder and mayhem not be deemed accountable...

And it was not only his eight years as president that Khatami is accountable for. In the 1980s in the Majlis, Khatami was known as an active member of the Line of the Imam, the dominant grouping within a party set up via Khomeini’s decree and most closely identified with Khomeini’s policies, including his theory of velayat-e faqih, or absolute clerical supremacy in government. Mr Khatami was appointed the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and was the chief censor in film, media, arts and culture. As a member of the Supreme Council on Cultural Revolution, Khatami played an important role in purging dissidents from universities and educational centres. Moreover, he was the director of cultural affairs in the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces and the head of the War Propaganda Headquarters for years. Today, too, he remains a member of several organs of the Islamic regime.

Absurdly, though, whilst being declared powerless, Khatami is also always lauded as a reformer; the St Andrews Students’ Association's statement asserts that he "strove for moderation and liberalisation whilst in office". This is a contradiction in terms.

One cannot have minimal influence and be a reformer at the same time. Moreover, reforms have a specific meaning in our world – changes, particularly in law, which improve the lot of the population at large. Again, this was never the case. In fact, Khatami and his ‘reformist’ faction were merely attempts by the regime to put forward a more palatable face in order to prolong its life given the explosive situation in Iran.


In the face of escalating protests and opposition to Khatami’s visit, the university persists in its decision to confer an honorary degree upon him and in its rewriting of contemporary history. A spokesperson for the university has said the decision to invite Khatami was based on his “vision and willingness to change”. At least Chancellor Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democratic leader, has pulled out from presenting the degree before it turns into a scandal for him.

But this is not enough.

Far from honouring him with a degree, Khatami should be arrested for his crimes against the people of Iran.

On Tuesday, we will be there at St Andrews to remind the world that we will not allow it to forget what has taken and is taking place in Iran. We ask students and professors alike, along with concerned and outraged people everywhere to join us in preventing a centre of science from being transformed into a bastion of reaction.

And on this note, it is apt to end with Khatami’s own words at Harvard University this past September when questioned about the execution of gays in Iran:

We’re at a university, the cradle of science, so we can speak of it scientifically...In all schools of thought and in all religions there is punishment and punishment is not a form of violence...Punishment is seen as a response to violence or deviance in society and if there is no punishment in a society a society cannot run effectively…’

And that is Khatami’s unchanged vision pure and simple..Maryam Namazie

Renegade Eye Addendum: In addition see Protest against Mohammad Khatami's visit to Britain!


mullet said...

nothing could be more offensive.
if we are all talking about human rights, then we cannot be selective. being selective is a misguided walk into 'fuck us' ! very devisive. and also, what we must address is the fact that semantics and perception get in the way - we get so personal

Anonymous said...

I wrote to the WCC in Geneva two years ago when they, too, feted this international thug masquerading as a champion of interfaith dialogue.

How Orwellian! He is an enemy of diverse faith and his reign of terror proved the point.

Let's not sanitize his bigoted agenda and persona.

LeftyHenry said...

thanks for posting that Ren, I personally knew nothing about Ahmajehmajad's predecessor. good post.

mullet said...

neither did i left henry - it's never ending!

roman said...

For once we agree.
During Khatami's visit to Harvard, Governor Romney refused to issue the customary state police security for him as a sign of protest. This man is not the innocent bystander the revisionists would like us to believe. Instead, he was the calmative PR symbol used by the fascist theocratic regime while committing crimes against their own people. If he was a true reformer, he, in good conscience, would not allow himself to be used to further the regime's ruthlessly dictatorial aims.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Good facts, keep 'em coming.

MarxistFromLebanon said...

You also have to consider the role of Khatami going to the places where he is most hated.

Remember, Khatami and Ahmadinejad (like all Iranian Presidents) are pro-Hezbollah and anti-Israel from twisted angles.

In any case, Ahmadinejad (a civilian) represents the extremists, while Khatami ( ironically a clerk) represents the revisionists. In any case, Khatami is giving his faction a push (as Khatami the diplomat) in case Ahmadinejad's journey causes him an oust of power.

Iran, believe it or not, as extensive revolutionary communists who were slaughtered by the Khomeini (with Green light from Stalinist Moscow) after the ousting of the US puppy the Shah.

Time will tell where this will lead to...


jams o donnell said...

I honestly thought Khatami did represent a step in the right direction for Iran. How wrong I was.

REJ GOCH said...

Well done! No platform for murderers!

beatroot said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
beatroot said...

I just love this thing about 'No Platform' that the left has reduced itself to screaming. "No platform for Racists' they cry. But why not? Best way to show everyone what fools they are.

There is two ways to deal with Iran. Either you follow what seems to be popular on this blog (and I bet the Bushies are delighted they got the lefties on board here) and 'give them no platform', or, more sensible, deal with them as adults. Isolating Iran is doing Iranians a disservice. Dialogue is what all Iranians want. No sanctions, no cutting off diplomacy, no 'axis of evil' shit. Don't reduce yourself to the Bushies level.

Platform for Iran! Deal with it!

Shamik Das said...

Nice to see the far-Left have finally woken up.

It's a shame you were all sleepwalking in Galloway's wake with your support for Saddam - a man much, much worse than Khatami - back in 2003.

You should've backed the liberation! Oh well, better late than never ...

jams o donnell said...

Hmm Sham, Galloway is the last person in whose wake I would sleepwalk.. I wouldn't give the man the steam off my piss!

Frank Partisan said...

Welcome Sham: You are woefully wrong about this blog. I opposed Saddam, probably from before you were born. I'm no fan of Gallaway either.

beatroot: Maryam's position isn't the conventional leftist position. You are closer, than Maryam.

Graeme said...

I always wonder why some people can't grasp that you can be against US military aggression and also against religious extremism. It should go without saying.

being a US citizen, I find it much more constructive to focus my time on crimes perpetrated by my country. That of course doesn't mean we shouldn't call attention to extremists like Khatami. Nice post

steven rix said...

Sorry I am not inspired by this post in the name of socialism or even against the name of freedom in its own ignorance because this post is running the religious brain of mankind for salvation.

troutsky said...

Remember, they gave Henry Kissinger the Nobel peace prize.They could give an honorary doctorate to Pinochet! There are behind the scenes political reasons for this detente and you do well to expose it.

Beatroot, I think there is a crucial difference between giving a man a platform and bestowing honors. The people need a platform ,not some functionary.

Sham is hallucinating about all the left support of Sadaam but then he sees a "liberation" going on.Blinders, perhaps?

Anonymous said...

I'm a student at st Andrews and i was scandalised by the decision to allow khatami to speak at st Andrews. However, i was more sickened by the prinicipals high and mighhty e-mail to students and staff that justified it.

Anonymous said...