In 2017 and again even more powerfully in 2019, masses of Iranian people justly rose up against their hated theocratic rulers—the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). This vicious, medieval regime responded with clubs, tear gas and live ammunition, killing hundreds. In October 2020, as the anniversary of the 2019 uprising approached, and rage continued to boil throughout Iran, the regime unleashed a brutal campaign of arbitrary arrests, torture and executions, sweeping up labor, women's, and human rights activists; dissident intellectuals and artists; protesters and revolutionaries; and members of religious and oppressed minorities.
Many have been and continue to be tortured, held in solitary confinement, and denied legal rights, assistance or medical aid, as the IRI attempts to force "confessions,” conducts sham “trials,” and carries out brutal floggings. By arresting Iran’s most committed, passionate and revolutionary voices, the regime is attempting to stomp out the hopes and aspirations of the Iranian people, and any chance they have for a better world.
This barbaric repression has been met with extraordinary heroism by the masses of Iranians. They have continued to rise up, with outbreaks of protest this summer in Khuzestan and more recently in Isfahan, and in over 450 protests in November involving people from all walks of life. And, courageous political prisoners have held firm, spoken out, and exposed the horrors they’ve been subjected to—people like Narges Mohammadi, Nahid Taghavi, Sepideh Golian, Mehran Raouf, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Rasoul Bodaghi, Baktash Abtin, and human rights lawyers including Nasrin Sotoudeh, Mehdi Mahmoudian, Arash Kaykhosravin and Mostafa Nili.
Internationalism and Bringing Forward Another Way
These arrests and the heroism of Iran’s political prisoners has sparked a global struggle on their behalf.
As Raymond Lotta argued in a September forum at Revolution Books New York, the battle to free Iran’s political prisoners embodies the spirit of internationalism and is a crucial front right now for all who stand for justice and for bringing forward another way for humanity in today's world. This struggle opens up new vistas, so that people will not be trapped by one or the other of these two outmodeds—imperialism, or Iran’s theocratic, reactionary, fanatical fundamentalism. And this battle can powerfully contribute to opening up more favorable conditions, to make the revolution that humanity needs to put an end to all forms of exploitation and oppression.
In December 2020, the International Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners NOW (IEC) was launched in response to a call for solidarity from the “Burn the Cage, Free the Birds” prisoner support movement in Europe. Over the past year, the IEC forged an international community of people from all walks of life, including relatives and former political prisoners, fighting for Iran’s political prisoners, united with and supported other efforts on their behalf, and projected this battle into the public square. Most significantly, they issued an Emergency Appeal, signed by over 3,100-plus people from 40 countries, including prominent voices such as Cornel West, Noam Chomsky, Gloria Steinem, Ariel Dorfman, Jody Williams, Daniel Ellsberg, Judith Butler, Raymond Lotta and others, and published it as a full-page ad in the summer issue of the New York Review of Books.
Critically and uniquely, the IEC has called on people in the U.S. and globally to stand against the Islamic Republic of Iran’s brutal repression, while also opposing U.S. threats or aggression on Iran.
Thousands around the world have responded and many more are needed to win. Go to the IEC website—www.FreeIransPoliticalPrisonersNow.org, sign and circulate the Emergency Appeal, and actively join its activities to bring these brothers and sisters home to us. As it says, “All those who stand for justice and yearn for a better world must rally to the cause of freeing Iran’s political prisoners NOW.”