Thursday, February 11, 2010

Break the silence on Iran


By Lamis Andoni

"Three decades ago, the Iranian revolution inspired generations of Arabs and infused in them a spirit of resistance to foreign intervention. It came at a time when many Arabs had been disheartened by the 1979 Camp David agreement between Israel and Egypt, and sparked hope in a regional power that could stand up to Israel.

Egypt's exit from the equation of the Israeli-Arab conflict was a blow to the Palestinian and Arab struggle to end Israeli occupation and achieve self-determination for the dispossessed Palestinian people.

But 'the Islamic Revolution' transformed Iran from a gendarme for US interests in the region into an ally of Arab causes, thereby dramatically altering the Middle East landscape.....

Three decades later, Iran is still viewed as the only serious deterrent to Israeli power, but its image as an expression of people power has been marred by its backing of sectarian Iraqi Shia political parties and ruthless repression of Iranian opposition.

Its silence and inaction during the 2003 invasion of Iraq was tantamount to complicity that facilitated the US-led occupation of the country. It was a position dictated more by its regional interests - asserting influence in Iraq - and vengeance for an eight-year war that was started by Baghdad in 1980.

But its backing of Hezbollah during its liberation of South Lebanon from Israeli occupation and during the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon reinstated its status as a real and effective supporter of Arab resistance.

A majority of Arabs also admire Iran's refusal to compromise or negotiate on its right to develop nuclear power - in sharp contrast with weak and impotent Arab governments......

The dilemma of many Arab intellectuals, and political activists, is that while many, especially secular writers, may be critical or even resent Iran's increasing theocracy, they are wary of being used - wittingly or unwittingly - to justify Israeli and American agendas against Iran.

This dilemma is not new. Most writers refrained from taking the government of Saddam Hussein, the late Iraqi president, to task over repression of the Iraqi people in the years leading up to the 1991 and 2003 wars......

But the fact remains that the opposition has legitimate grievances and that some of the best sons and daughters of the Iranian revolution - that inspired millions of Arabs - are being persecuted......

With few exceptions, most Arab and leftist columnists in the West have been exclusively focused on debunking Western and Israeli arguments for war against Iran - ignoring reports of the arrests, torture and execution of dissidents or critics in the Islamic Republic.

This has left the reporting and commentary wide open for pro-Western government columnists and news outlets to control the spin and expropriate the agenda of the reformists in the service of the gathering campaign for war against Iran.

On the anniversary of the Iranian revolution it is time for Arab and progressive writers as they rightly oppose the calls for war on Iran to break the silence on the state's abuse of human rights and harassment and repression of the opposition.

Just as the Western governments cannot cynically exploit the opposition to justify their aggressive measures against Iran we cannot allow our commitment to Palestine, and what we view as just causes to silence us against abuse of the Iranian people."

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