On Saturday December 25th 2010 I attended a protest in Toronto which was organized by the Committee for Defence of Political Prisoners in Iran, to protest against the death sentence of a Kurdish student activist Habibollah Latifi who was scheduled to be executed on Sunday December 26th by the Islamic Regime in Iran.
After about 10 minutes of listening to slogans that were being chanted by a woman who had taken upon herself to lead the slogan chanting, I left the protest in disgust. Given that we are dealing with a Regime that has systematically arrested, tortured, raped and executed its opponents for the past 31 years it seemed absurd to use such slogans as “We ask the Islamic Regime to free political prisoners, or to stop the execution of Habibollah Latifi.” There were no slogans what so ever advocating a change of government or change of system, it almost seemed like they were staying away from these types of slogans on purpose.
This protest got me thinking about an important issue, what should our slogans be during demonstrations against the Islamic Regime?
On December 10th 2010 a number of activists gathered in front of the Islamic Regime Embassy in Germany and protested against the violations of the human rights committed by the Islamic Regime. The protestors carried many banners with various slogans, including the slogan “ Sarnegun bad Jomhuriye Islami” roughly translated to “Islamic Regime must be overthrown”. Embassy workers complained to the police about this specific slogan which they had found offensive and asked the police to force the protestors to remove this slogans. The police intervened and tried to forcefully remove the banner, and a struggle ensued between the protestors and the police which can be seen in this video. What was most interesting about this was the fact that the ONLY slogan the Regime agents were concerned about and afraid of was the one related to the overthrow of the Islamic Regime!
After the June 2009 [s]election millions of Iranians took to the streets and the most prominent and wide spread slogan used by the Iranians became “Independence, freedom, IRANIAN Republic.” This was a clear message to the Regime that Iranians no longer wanted an Islamic Regime and an Islamic Republic. The Regime felt so threatened by this slogan that even the so called opposition leader Mousavi came out and said people’s slogan must be “Islamic Republic, not one word more and not one word less.”
These are just two examples of effectiveness of clear anti-Regime slogans. Most of us have experienced at one time or another Regime lobbyists and reformists, disguised as activists trying to prevent activists from chanting anti-regime slogans during protests and instead encouraging either “silent protests” or protests with neutral slogans which do not attack the Regime directly.
On Tuesday morning Ali Saremi, an Iranian activist was executed by the Regime. Mr. Saremi was a long term activist who had spent more than 20 years of his life in Islamic Regime prisons before being executed. He was not fighting for reform, he was not fighting for human rights alone, he was fighting to change the Regime.
Habibollah Latifi, the young Kurdish student activist has been in prison for three years, way before the 2009 [s]elections and way before the concept of Mousavi’s reform became an issue in Iran. Again these are only two examples among thousands in Iran.
Is it not our job and duty as activists living in free countries, to at the very least follow in the path of these individuals and promote and demand total and absolute change of government, which is the only way to help stop arbitrary arrests, torture, rape and executions in Iran? What is the point of organizing a protest in honour of Mr. Saberi for example, but not shouting the slogans he lived and died for?
In the past year we’ve seen the increase in arrests, torture and execution of activists in Iran. This is the time of rape, torture and execution in Iran. This is NOT the time to be politically correct or a time to appease Regime lobbyists and reformists disguised as activists.
This is the time to be firm, to know where we have to stand in order to be effective and make a difference, and to stand firm on that path. This is the time for slogans that demand total and complete change of government. Nothing less is acceptable.
Down with the Islamic Regime
Long Live Freedom in Iran