The Obvious Lessons of Berlin
The sham Berlin conference trials and long-term prison and exile verdicts imposed on some of the most lenient critics of the Islamic Republic of Iran have, more than anything else, politically vindicated those opponents of the Islamic Regime who disrupted German-2nd Khordad plans to promote Islam and the Islamic state.
Even before any 'court' summonses had been issued, Berlin conference organisers and speakers made known the philosophy behind the conference - the rapprochement between Iran and the West. They revealed that the conference was a German government proposal, which aimed to prepare public opinion for Khatami's impending visit to Germany and to test and silence the opposition. The conference intended to present a more palatable image of the regime, bring the notion of 'critical dialogue' to fruition, and expand finances and arms for pistachio deals. The speakers stated that the Ministry of Intelligence and state officials were fully informed of the conference and authorised and facilitated their participation. They said they attended the Berlin conference to serve the Islamic state and insisted that they had done this admirably.
At the Berlin conference, the 2nd Khordad aimed to present an image of a different Iran and a different Islamic Republic, to be backed by the West vis-ā-vis its opponents. They aimed to present an Islamic Republic full of smiles and chirping birds, where harmless mullahs with radiant faces and sheer robes frolic, hand in hand in meadows chasing butterflies, collecting stamps and learning the Internet. It aimed to present a place where the Pasdars [repressive Revolutionary Guards] had washed their bloody hands and were now making films for European festivals and studying philosophy, and where women, while tightly holding on to their black chadors (veils) with their teeth (its 'their culture' you know), were exercising cycling and feminism with their husbands' permission. It aimed to present a 'civil' Iran wallowing in toleration and moderation and 'due procedure.'
The speakers at the conference were there to announce that the brave armies of Islamic Reformism had already seized the executive power and had now laid siege to the legislative fortress. Victory was at hand. They had gone to Berlin to sell Khatami's smile and the publication of magazines by a few ex-Pasdars as evidence of freedom of expression, political liberalisation and 'civil society' in Iran. They had gone to present the sham Islamic Majlis as a lawful parliament. They had gone to Berlin to blame the slaughter of opponents on 'rogue' elements and miscellaneous gangs in order to absolve the Islamic Republic, its leader, its president, legislature, judiciary, cabinet, intelligence ministry and all those on its payroll of any culpability. They were there to conceal - behind a cardboard image of a reactionary mullah and worthless utterances about 'modern Islam' - the mass executions and stonings, the unmarked graves, the unpaid workers, right-less women, hopeless youth, ruined children, suppressed beliefs and silenced voices. They wanted to cover up the complete lack of rights for people in society and in law and the constant deadly hovering of the sword of Islamic retribution and barbarity over every aspect of citizens' lives and minds. They had gone to Berlin to defend the Islamic Republic, to promote it and push back its opponents. They tried but failed.
On the contrary, the Berlin conference was transformed into a scene of immense opposition against the entirety of the Islamic regime, the German government and the reactionary pro-government 'opposition.' Survivors of the slaughtered generation, progressives and primarily Communists shut the farce down. They held up the realities of the rule of Islamic reaction and its bloody repression for all to see. They cried for the overthrow of the regime - a demand of the vast majority of people in Iran. They foiled the German and Iranian governments' several million Mark publicity stunt.
Officials of the German government, the Heinrich Böll Institute and company expressed shock at the sentences passed. Yet wasn't this the very truth they were attempting to silence with brute force [the German police beat protesters and attempted to arrest them] - the truth that in the Islamic Republic there is no freedom of expression and thought. Under its rule, people are killed for their opinions and flogged for attending parties. Were they unaware of twenty years of executions, tortures, stonings, and clandestine murders by the Leader's death squads and the President's ministries? Were there not hundreds at that conference who cried out that the prerequisite to freedom is an end to this regime and that 2nd Khordad (the Islamic Reform movement) is the other side of the same coin?
Verdicts imposed by the Islamic 'court' on the Berlin case have nothing to do with participation in and speeches given at the Berlin conference. (Some given long-term prison sentences like Sadr and Rostam-Khani did not even take part in the conference.) Moreover, the convictions have nothing to do with the protestations of the regime's opposition at the conference and the allegedly 'soft' reaction of speakers to them. Videos of the conference verify that most of those convicted defended their Islamic state in Iran wholeheartedly. Even before they were to be prosecuted, Sahabi, Rais-Dana, Jalaie-pour, Eshkevari and some others carried out virulent attacks and character assassinations on those demanding the overthrow of the regime, including the WPI and its leaders. They did not hesitate to label us 'foreign agents' and effectively demand a 'fatwa' for our execution and assassination. If anything, the Berlin conference showed the right wing that the 2nd Khordad spokespersons are ever loyal to the Islamic state.
The irony is that the Berlin conference speakers received such heavy sentences precisely because of this fact. They are the victims of the policy of 'active calm,' and the impasse of 2nd Khordad and Islamic Reformism. They are the victims of idiotic attempts to moderate the regime and at the same time to prevent change. Somewhere between the Berlin conference and the final convictions, 2nd Khordad reached an impasse; Islamic Reformism's bubble burst. The convicted are in fact prisoners of war. Their leaders have kneeled, their strategists are stumped and their forces have taken flight. The Islamic Student Association in Ilam is right when it says: 'If anyone, anywhere had stood firm on anything, Afshari and Sahabi would not be in prison today.'
Even the German officials and their shocked Iranian friends know very well that state terrorism, summary trials, Islamic retribution, execution and torture have not stopped for even one day during the last twenty years. The Islamic state set up the Berlin show trials in part to cover up a recent series of state-sponsored murders. Even while the trials were in progress, 800 people have been sentenced to death by execution and stoning and the killings have already started. Hundreds have been arrested, flogged and battered for celebrating New Year. These are the realities of the Islamic Iran of Khamanei, Khatami and Rafsanjani.
Those condemned by the 'Berlin' trials must be freed immediately. For us, this is part of the unceasing struggle to overthrow the vile Islamic regime and liberate all its victims. This struggle is gaining force at an unprecedented pace. Those who on that day at the Berlin conference spoke the truth will find their place at the head of the imminent historical political developments in Iran.
The above is a translation of an article by Mansoor Hekmat on the convictions of individuals involved in a conference in Berlin organised by the Heinrich Böll Institute in April 2000. The conference was a joint initiative of the German government and 2nd Khordad. (2nd Khordad is the date that Khatami was 'elected' president; they are also known as 'reformists.') Political opponents, led by the WPI, exposed the Islamic regime and prevented the conference from taking place as planned. The article was first published in Persian in International Weekly No. 37, dated January 19, 2001. The English version is a reprint from WPI Briefing.
Translators: Maryam Namazie and Fariborz Pooya