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Peace delegation to Iran says: Stop U.S. war plans

Published Oct 24, 2010 10:35 PM

A people-to-people delegation that included two members of the International Action Center arrived in Tehran, Iran, Oct. 9 to increase solidarity with the people of Iran, defend Iran’s sovereignty and stop the accelerated U.S. push for war against Iran.

An independent, Iranian nongovernmental organization made up of the largest student organizations in Iran had invited these delegates. This NGO aims to build anti-imperialist solidarity with Latin American countries. It is aptly named House of Latin America or HOLA, which is Spanish for “hello.” Some of HOLA’s activities have been to organize solidarity trips to Nicaragua and Venezuela and hosting a visit to Iran by the Young Communist League of Cuba. It has also set up the organization Solidarity with Iran or SI, which is promoting an appeal.

HOLA coordinators Amir Tareshi and Hamid Shahrabi spoke about the challenges to building solidarity with the progressive movement in the U.S. By standing the truth on its head, they said, the U.S. has given the impression that the Iranian government is dedicated to terrorism and corruption. The great desire of, not only the government, but every person, is for peace, he said.

After a powerful revolutionary upsurge led by Islamic forces overthrew the U.S.-installed shah in 1979, the new regime nationalized its oil and, with the use of this revenue, was able to counter the many years of corruption fed primarily by U.S. and British hegemony in Iran. The imperialists stole Iran’s wealth while the puppet shah and his hangers-on siphoned off enough to allow for their luxurious lifestyle. Once freed of imperialist control, Iran was able to dramatically increase health and education nationally using this revenue.

More than 65 percent of Iran’s university students are women, as are more than a third of the doctors. At the time of the 1979 Revolution, 90 percent of rural women were illiterate; even in towns the figure was 45 percent.

Now large numbers of increasingly well-educated women have been entering the work force.

Iran’s comprehensive social protection system is equally impressive. The resources allocated towards domestic necessities do not end at the Iranian border. More than $8 billion went to aid Lebanon in rebuilding efforts following its defeat of an Israeli invasion.

Iran’s international solidarity efforts

The funds went directly to grassroots organizations like Hezbollah that, in spite of government inability, built homes and repaired infrastructure destroyed by U.S.-supplied bombs during Israeli bombing raids in the 2006 Israeli war against Lebanon. That effort contributed to the overwhelming response given to President Ahmadinejad by the Lebanese people last week.

In fact, solidarity delegates witnessed live on TV the many hundreds of thousands of well-wishers in Lebanon — not just the “thousands” reported in the Western media.

With regard to the flooding in Pakistan, the Iranian news agency Fars reports that early in October $100 million was allocated for the reconstruction of the flood-hit areas in Pakistan, and, adding to that was the construction of medical centers by Iran’s Red Crescent Society. Iran was among the first three countries which rushed to Pakistan’s aid after floods devastated large parts of the country, while at the same time the U.S. was busy spending taxpayer money to kill Pakistani soldiers and civilians from the air with expensive, high-tech drones and helicopters.

Because Iran combines this type of solidarity in the region with the increasingly mutually beneficial cooperation with the socialist government in Cuba and progressive governments like Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua, Washington sees Iran as a threat against the imperialist aims of U.S. banks, the military-industrial complex and big oil and calls it “terrorist.”

Criticisms of social inequality, religion in government and any other contradictions internal to Iran cannot be ignored. But ignoring facts omitted by the U.S. government narrative distorts the understanding of the overall U.S. aims in Iran.

The central point driven home very effectively by HOLA members was that Iran has become Western imperialism’s primary target. They stressed that the primary work of the anti-war movements, especially those in the U.S., should be to build solidarity with the defense of Iran and its right to self-determination, defending Iran from a U.S. or U.S.-sponsored attack. This same movement should allow the Iranian people to work out the internal contradictions within Iran themselves.

They pointed out how the program for using nuclear power for peaceful energy was started under the shah with U.S. support after reports that Iran’s oil would be depleted in 10 years. But after the 1979 revolution, Washington began opposing everything Iran did.

Imperialism’s attacks against Iran have already begun. HOLA activist Shahrabi told the delegation that over the decades of hostility, the U.S., Israel and the MKO organization have been responsible for the death of 16,300 Iranian civilians.

At the meeting’s end participants decided to begin an international effort based on the demands and focus of no intervention or war, and respecting the sovereignty and self-determination of Iran. This effort will immediately begin to build solidarity internationally and especially in the U.S. with a factual campaign to dispel the lies. HOLA drafted a statement to that effect, which the organizations present endorsed.

A note about Iranian society

The delegation got a great chance to interact with many people at the Fourth International Digital Media Festival, which is a convention showcasing the latest advances in Internet and consumer software communications. This included the latest cell phones and video games, with booths showcasing how communication technology can promote anti-imperialist ideas. Tehran itself is a modern city of 15 million people filled with high-rise apartment houses and well-maintained freeways and infrastructure.

The solidarity delegation was allowed to take advantage of the well-publicized and well-trafficked event with booths displaying each visiting organization’s anti-war and social justice messages. None of the delegates’ materials or displays were censored or challenged by government authorities at the festival.

The many students, women and men of Iran and visitors from other countries at the festival spoke freely with members of the delegation at the booths, expressing both criticisms and praise for the Iranian government. Many young students even showed they believed the romanticized, rosy and luxurious picture of the U.S. presented in the Hollywood movies prevalent in Iran. But no one, especially the students, wanted U.S. war against Iran, nor did they want their nation’s sovereignty taken away.

At the International Action Center and Bail Out the People booths, videos of police repression in the U.S. and protests against racism on Sept. 11 helped to show a more balanced view of life in the U.S.

This free interchange and the wide-ranging questions contradicted the Western media’s false image of a tightly controlled society in Iran.

Some U.S. delegates asked how many Iranian films were available in the U.S. A prominent Iranian director told the delegation that he was repeatedly denied a visa to visit the U.S., even for the purpose of filming President Ahmadinejad’s latest visit to the U.N.

During the exchanges at the booths, the Iranian sisters and brothers, activists in HOLA and ordinary participants at the event, even the look in a child’s eyes, challenged the solidarity delegation to stop U.S. war against Iran and make that a major component of the struggle to stop all U.S. wars abroad and at home.

The IAC has put on its website the appeal asking people to sign on to SI — Solidarity with Iran — which demands that the U.S. (1) Lift economic sanctions against Iran, (2) Recognize the right of Iran to develop and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and (3) Stop military threats against Iran. See iacenter.org/iran/iran-signon101610/ to sign on.

John Parker and Sara Flounders were the International Action Center delegates to Iran.