I have been on holiday in the States until recently and was made aware of the ongoing slug fest on this blog upon my return. Today I attended a session at the CPGB’s Communist University on Iran where George Binette from Permanent Revolution and Yassamine Mather from the WLU Iran spoke. I thought the discussion that followed was informative, thoughtful and useful to everyone there but also for the left in general. The question of how best to oppose both imperialism and the Iranian regime was discussed with George arguing much along the same lines as Yassamine – that it was imperative that the Iranian working class allied to movements like the students movement in Iran not only oppose imperialism but actually move directly to taking power in Iran and create a socialist society. Yassamine made the very astute observation that any attempt to support a halfway house regime would surely mean the defeat of the Iranian working class.
After the meeting I read a copy of a leaflet that the AWL were handing out beforehand and was astonished, though not altogether surprised, at its level of incoherence, vitriol and plain lies. Luckily they have printed it on their website so I will simply link to it here rather than have to plod through transcribing the thing. Here’s the link:
There are so many falsehoods in this statement that it is nigh impossible to know where to begin. Let me start by attempting to tease out what the AWL is trying to do here. It was clear to me upon having had a chance to sit down and have a look at the various articles being published that something like the following happened. The AWL made a comment to the effect that it would not condemn a military strike against Iran to take out its nuclear facilities or to stop it from obtaining nuclear capability. Members of the CPGB who are in HOPI wrote in their paper that the only conceivable way to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities would be for Israel to use a nuclear weapon. Was this intended to be sensationalist? Yes I think it was. Is it a lie that conventional weaponry does not have the ability to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities? No it is not a lie. Did the AWL follow thier original statement to its logical conclusion and realise that they were de-facto supporting a nuclear strike on Iran? Probably not until the CPGB pointed it out.
Publishing this with a front page headline in the Weekly Worker and a picture of an H-Bomb was intended to provoke the AWL into responding and it worked. What the AWL is attempting to do is similarly sieze on statements in HOPI’s founding document and supposedly take it to its logical conclusion just as the CPGB has done with its statement on an Israeli military strike and I’m afraid the AWL has failed miserably.
They claim that the statement which says “The tasks of the anti-war movement in Britain and HOPI is threefold. One to fight against any imperialist attack on Iran and support the Iranian peoples right to defend themselves by any means necessary.” This is enough, say the AWL, to prove that members of HOPI “disguise their political capitulation to the clerical fascist regime” and are also by extension “vicarious Iranian or Islamic chauvinists”.
How do they make such a fantastic leap? They claim that the statement “by any means necessary” as applied to the Iranian masses is in actuality a smokescreen for HOPI defending not only the Iranian regime but its supposed “right” to have nuclear weapons. They claim what we really mean – as opposed to what HOPI actually says – is that we want the Iranian regime to acquire nuclear weapons. This is a complete and utter lie. In fact, anyone is free to look at the reports and even videos from HOPI’s founding conference where this specific question was debated rather vigorously. Those who were there will recall that Stuart King from Permanent Revolution actually retracted his remarks after the meeting when he put forward a line which his organisation disagreed with that came close to defending Iran’s so-called right to have nuclear weapons. This was explicitly rejected by those at the founding conference.
In addition, Moshe Machover wanted to make it undeniably our position and pushed for the adoption of the second part of HOPI’s founding statement that the AWL claim is also not what we really mean. Moshe’s proposal was to adopt the following: “Opposition to Israeli, British and American nuclear weapons. For a Middle East free of nuclear weapons as a step towards world-wide nuclear disarmament”.
The AWL claims that what HOPI really means is that we support the Iranian government having nuclear weapons. How this very clear statement is transformed into its exact opposite by those writing the AWL statement is anyone’s guess and why the HOPI founding conference is being accused of adopting the opposite of what it actually did – but on the sly – is again a mystery. They attempt to play the CPGB’s game of following a statement to its logical conclusion but blow it badly. There is absolutely nothing in either of the supposed “gotcha!” statements that would lead any rational thinker to believe that HOPI was supporting the Iranian regime nor calling for Iran to have nuclear weapons.
They claim this is possible because the “Iranian people” and the Iranian regime are seen by them as one and the same. Given this belief of theirs – which is blatantly not the case, they think that when HOPI says the “Iranian people” HOPI really means the “Iranian regime”. The fact that the AWL finds it inconceivable that you could separate the Iranian people from their government beggars belief and flies in the face of historical fact and political experience.
What the AWL statement is arguing, however, is support for Israel “to ensure that an Iranian H-bomb was not used to trigger Armageddon”. This statement along with numerous comparisons to Nazi Germany is patently absurd and incredibly shallow. HOPI is very clear on its position on nuclear weapons in the middle east. It is not for the “Mullah’s Bomb” as the leaflet claims and never has been. Every statement, action, meeting and act of solidarity with those inside of Iran that we have taken has proven the opposite.
But not only this. HOPI’s straight forward rejection of both imperialism’s war drive against Iran and steadfast opposition to the oppressive regime in Iran has won the group many adherents and supporters. You would think the AWL was not involved in the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) – an organisation on whose National Committee I sit along with AWL members and John McDonnell MP – with the way it goes about condemning HOPI’s supporters and members as it does. John is an outspoken supporter of HOPI and the positions it has adopted. It will be useful for AWL members to remind themselves of this by visiting the link to John’s speech on the HOPI website and perhaps reconsider their position within the LRC if they think the MP they are supporting is a “vicarious Iranian or Islamic chauvinist” in disguise.
In addition, HOPI now has two trade union affiliations and it is hoped the LRC will soon be affiliated. The AWL ignores the broad reach of HOPI (and I am the first to admit it could be broader) and repeats the lies from the some in the SWP that HOPI is a “WWG (Weekly Worker Group) front organisation”. This is simply false.
Finally, I will now take the opportunity to bow out for good from Shiraz Socialist as a blog. I have contributed here for some time but refuse to be a part of something as vicious and vitriolic as the language that Jim has used against people I work with. I have too much respect, particularly for the Iranian comrades that we work like Torab and Yassamine, to continue to participate in a forum which supports statements that imply that these brave socialists somehow support the regime in Iran that they have spent their live exposing. Readers will remember when Jim called me and other HOPI members “scabs” for not keeping quiet about the fact that the British government was sponsoring the March 6th rallies. At that time I left the blog and came back only on his apology. I see now that this was a mistake and that the trajectory of this blog is to support lies against activists and far from being a forum for discussion has spiralled into a place where a particular person feels obliged to vent his spleen on a nightly basis with no seeming notion of what it means to have a comradely debate. As such I no longer wish to be associated with it in any way and would ask the administrator to please remove me from the blog.
After an at times heated discussion on the Left Women’s Network list, the majority of sisters and comrades decided to go ahead with the proposal put forward as amended slightly by one of the members. The result is that the following was printed on the LWN website this afternoon:
Statement on The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill
*The Left Women’s Network understands that 3 of 9 LRC affiliated MPs did not vote in favour of maintaining the 24 week time limit to ensure safe and legal abortions for women
* The Left Women’s Network understands that 1 LRC affiliated MP voted in support of a reduction to 12 weeks – something that would in effect make abortion illegal for many women
*The Left Women’s Network understands that, in addition, the 3 aforementioned MPs also voted against the right of lesbian and single women to have IVF treatment by supporting the amendment calling for “a father” to substitute “supportive parenting”
* LeftWN believes women’s rights and LGBT rights are not secondary to other political positions such as racism or war
* LeftWN believes that as the women’s affiliate to the LRC we must address that this has occurred
* LeftWN resolves to post our disappointment in the 3 LRC MPs on the LWN website
* LeftWN resolves to submit this to the LRC NC for immediate discussion at its next meeting for the LRC NC to agree to;
* LeftWN resolves to write to the 3 MPs concerned expressing our disappointment in the way they voted and clearly setting out our opposition to lowering the time limits
* LeftWN resolves to write to request that there is link put on the LRC website to the LWN statement on the positions of these LRC MPs
This is re-posted from my blog Unknown Conscience at Volty’s request:
As my good blog readers will know, I have been out of blog land for the last few months due to a very heavy workload at university. I came back to discover that Andy Newman at Socialist Unity Blog – a blog I refuse to link to because of the behaviour of its moderator and a blog that I refuse to read – had launched an attack on me and the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) for my continued and principled oppsosition to George Galloway’s horrible position and record on abortion rights. He attacked me claiming that a conversation that I had in the comments section with people on Liam MacUaid’s blog meant that I was being a hypocrite for criticising Galloway because David Drew, an LRC affiliated MP, had a rubbish record on abortion rights as well. These were comments that I made months ago as anyone who knows me will know that I haven’t written anything on the abortion issue for some time. I had not known who David Drew was previously but Andy pointed out that he had a horrible record on abortion rights and LGBT rights.
“Fair enough” was my reply and I then said that I would raise it and speak with the LRC about it – and I did. I had informal conversations with a number of members over the last few months about what we should do about the issue and am now making a public appeal through the LRC women’s organisation, the Left Women’s Network (LWN), to release a statement about the 3 of 9 LRC affiliated MPs who voted to reduce the time limit and also voted in favour of a proposal which would make it impossible for single women and lesbians to have IVF treatment.
This is something that would have come about regardless but for Andy Newman scoring cheap shots by brow beating me for not knowing who David Drew was all those months ago, calling me a “liar” for pointing out that he did not include my original response in his attack on me and now attacking me once again for an article I wrote defending the Hands off the People of Iran (HOPI) organisation from the Stop the War Coalition last year are more important than having a civil discussion and work rather well to deflect attention from the record of his own MP over which he and his orgainsation have full control, George Galloway.
I have been consistent in my call for MPs to be held to account. Andy Newman has been all over the place on his blog about women’s rights, sexism and LGBT rights. Far from creating “left unity” his blog does nothing but divide the ranks of those who should be working together. Hold your MP to account Respect Renewal – don’t allow an opt out for women’s rights!
Here is a letter I wrote yesterday to members of the Left Women’s Network:
Hello Sisters and Comrades,
Many thanks to all of you who worked so very had to ensure that the right wing was not able to push women’s rights further backward with the recent prosposed amendments on to the Human Fertalisation and Embryology Bill. However sisters, I am afraid that there is an elephant in the room with the results that we need to address urgently. Of the 9 affiliated LRC MPs 3 voted to oppose keeping the 24 week time limit. These were Bob Wareing, David Hamilton and David Drew. The first two voted for a reduction to 22 weeks with David Drew voting for a reduction to 12 weeks. Further, the 3 aformentioned MPs voted in favour of a proposed amendment to deny IVF treatment to lesbian couples and single women.
While it may be difficult to do, we must be openly critical of these MPs. The Left Women’s Network is seen as the women’s section of the LRC. We would be completely remiss to not say a word about the votes of MPs who we are affiliated with. In light of this, I propose the Left Women’s Network adopt the following as a matter of urgency and print it as a matter of public record on our website:
*The Left Women’s Network understands that 3 of 9 LRC affiliated MPs did not vote in favour of maintaining the 24 week time limit to ensure safe and legal abortions for women
*That 1 LRC affiliated MP voted in support of a reduction to 12 weeks – something that would in effect make abortion illegal for many women
*That, in addition, the 3 aforementioned MPs also voted against the right of lesbian and single women to have IVF treatment by supporting the amendment calling for “a father” to subsitute “supportive parenting”
*That given that the LWN believes women’s rights and LGBT rights are not secondary to other political positions such as racism or war
*That as the women’s affiliate to the LRC we must address that this has occurred
*That the Left Women’s Network will post our opposition to these votes publicly on our website
*That we call on the LRC as an organisation to publicly state its opposition to the positions of these LRC affiliated MPs
*That we submit this to the LRC NC for immediate discussion at its next meeting
I hope that LWN is going to be the kind of organisation that not only fights for women’s rights, but is able to be critical of our allies when they have taken the wrong position. Too often abortion rights and LGBT rights are seen as simply “matters of conscience” but the reality is sisters, that war, racism and discrimination are all “matters of conscience” and we do not allow our political allies “opt out” clauses on these issues. This is an extension of the false belief in the distinction between the “private” and “public” sphere and we must reject the Victorian notion that these issues are somehow outside of the realm of “real politics”. Our sisters in the 1970s taught us that “the personal is the political” and I believe that this is in fact still the case. We must ensure that we address these issues both inside and outside of our movement in order to have a strong socialist feminist organisation in the coming months and years.
Comradely and in Sisterhood,
You will see no such letter from Andy, Liam or anyone else in Respect Renewal about George Galloway – that’s because although they have the power to hold him to account, they prefer to allow him the ability to opt out on women’s rights. Some of us are consistent with our principles and if that is something that others want to continue to attack me for then that must mean I am doing something right. I will continue to fight until women’s rights are not seen as “optional” or “secondary”. It’s a fight worth undertaking – both inside and outside the left and one that I hope we will eventually win.
This is a bit long but a very good overview of both the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and the current situation given by Critique Editorial Board member Torab Saleth who is also on the Steering Committee of Hands Off the People of Iran (HOPI).
Part 1: Presentation
Part 2: Questions and Discussion
h/t Liam & Communist Students
Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the funeral and wake for Comrade Tucker. It was a very inspiring event which was attended by around 250 trade unionists and political activists. I thought Bob Crow’s speech was very good indeed and am posting it here. Further videos, photos and tributes can be found on the Socialist Resistance website.
h/t Liam MacUaid
Feminist Fightback presents…a Teach-In for Reproductive Freedoms
Discussing ideas and planning action for a woman’s right to choose
12 April, 12-5pm, Clement House Building, London School of
Economics, Holborn (Holborn tube)
Opening speech by Sofie Buckland (NUS National Executive)
a) Imperialism and Motherhood
Speaker: Anna Davin (founding editor of History Workshop Journal)
Facilitator: Gwyneth Lonergan
b) From Abortion Rights to Reproductive Freedoms
A panel discussion with Charlotte Gage (Abortion Rights), Cathy Nugent
(Workers’ Liberty), Rosie Woods (NHS worker)
Facilitator: Anna Longman
a) Getting your message across
Jill Mountford (former organiser of the Welfare State Network) and
James House (TV documentaries producer)
Workshop facilitator: Rachael Ferguson
b) How to campaign
Workshop Facilitator: Anne-Marie O’Reilly (trade union organiser)
Planning for a National Day of Action
Facilitators: Laura Schwartz and Rebecca Galbraith
* Food: cheap vegetarian food will be served from 12 noon
* Free creche: Please register with email@example.com for
a free creche place
* Social with X-talk: 7pm @ The Ivy House, Southampton Row, Holborn
* The teach-in is free to attend but a suggested donation of £1.50
unwaged and £3+ waged is encouraged.
I just received the news that comrade Greg Tucker passed away this morning after months of battling throat cancer. Greg was one of the first political activists that I worked with in Britain as a member of Socialist Resistance. In 2002 he fought against victimisation by the rail bosses and won his job back after being witch-hunted while a train driver for South West Trains and was one of a number of militant RMT activists who participated in the founding of the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN).
It is always sad when we lose one of our own and Greg was certainly one of the most active members of the trade unions and far left in Britain. Needless to say he will be missed. Here is the communication from the NSSN this morning on Greg’s passing:
Greg Tucker died at 8am this morning, Sunday 6th April.
Greg had been very ill for some months with throat cancer.
Greg supported the NSSN from its origins as part of the debate on working-class political representation within the RMT. He was a key member of the initial steering committee, and its acting organiser. Had it not been for his tragic illness, Greg would, I am sure, have remained a key officer of the NSSN during its first year.
He had recently become well enough to help to organise a national RMT Grades Conference, so, fittingly for a life-long trades unionist, was active until the very end.
I am asking Martin Wicks and Pete Firmin, the two NSSN activists who I believe will have known Greg longest politically, as well as Unjum Mirza, Glen Burrows and Andy Littlechild, RMT members of our national committee, to consider penning tributes which I can then circulate.
National Chair Shop Stewards Network”
Victories for those of us who are supporters of social justice are so rare these days that I wanted to share with the readers of Shiraz the excellent news about the Sukula Family. This is reprinted from the Permanent Revolution website by Jason Travis who was an active and central member of the campaign:
Sukula Family- Massive Trade Union and Community Campaign Wins Right to Stay
On 27th March almost three years after the start of the campaign the Sukulas, a Bolton family of asylum seekers who fled the civil war in the Congo, finally received the news that they’d been given indefinite leave to remain.
Over 3000 people have supported the campaign that has also had the support of Unison, the NUT, the NUJ and other unions.
The Sukulas were one of the first families to have all benefits withdrawn under the notorious Section 9 that the government had hoped would drive families out of Britain by taking away their homes, their benefits and even their children who would be placed into the care of social services with the adults made destitute and homeless.
The campaign declared that if any attempts were made to evict the Sukulas we would form a physical blockade around the house to prevent either eviction or deportation. We gained support of local unions and Bolton Unison backed social workers who refused to initiate care proceedings purely because of government imposed destitution. This stance was backed by the British Association of Social Workers and later Unison nationally.
As a result of this defiance by workers and the massive community support, taken up by the local paper the Bolton News, the council refused to evict the Sukulas. Following this another ten Greater Manchester councils and then councils in Yorkshire made a similar commitment to refuse to evict families of failed asylum seekers. The Sukulas themselves lived 17 months without benefits living only on community support and proceeds from the campaign (which is therefore several hundred pounds in debt). Hundreds demonstrated against the Act and led by the Sukula campaign Section 9 was smashed!
In addition we successfully campaigned against Flores Sukula being expelled from Bolton Soxth Form College- purely on grounds of being a failed asylum seeker- with Bolton NUT and the NUS threatening a campaign of massive publicity and protest of the college authorities didn’t back down. We also, through trade union support, demonstration and threatened pickets prevented the forced dispersal of the Sukulas to Liverpool.
We feel that as a consequence of the Sukula campaign, together with a growing number of similar campaigns around the country, the government had to back down and settle thousands of asylum cases, the so-called legacy cases. If we had not assembled a range of trade union and community activists prepared to take militant action up to and including physical blockades then the government would not have its policy on families left in tatters.
There is however still a lot to do. We have always from day one campaigned against all deportations- of men, women, children of anyone. This is why we have supported the No One is Illegal trade union conferences, the second of which met 29th March 2008 with some hundred trade unionists planning action to oppose immigration controls and organise migrant workers.
We demand the right to work and have continually pushed for a national network of trade unionists and community campaigns prepared to take physical action and strike action to defend migrants and refuse to implement immigration controls. We need a network of parents, teachers, other education workers and students to declare schools are no deportation zones. But we also need community campaigns with the ability to mount emergency defence pickets and we need trade unions to recruit all workers- documented or otherwise- to demand the right to work and organise at trade union agreed rates and to turn the success of exemplary campaigns like the Sukulas into a national movement of defiance to smash all immigration controls.
The family and campaign thanks everyone who has supported us and will continue to fight against all deportations.
Peter Tatchell at the Mehdi Kazemi protest
March 26, 2008 10:30 AM
George Galloway, the Leftwing Respect MP, has been accused of making allegations that border on paedophile smears and play to homophobic prejudice. He claims that the boyfriend of gay Iranian asylum seeker Mehdi Kazemi was executed for “committing sex crimes against young men”.
The insinuation of such a claim is that Mehdi’s boyfriend was a rapist or a child sex abuser. It also stigmatises Mehdi with the shame that he was the partner of someone who committed sexual assaults on male youths. He will suffer with this stigma when he is returned to the UK and could face considerable personal hostility from people who have heard and believe these allegations against his boyfriend.
Mr Galloway made his astonishing allegation on Channel Five’s The Wright Stuff. You can watch his interview here.
He has been asked to explain the source of his claim, but has so far failed to do so.
I am not aware of any paedophile-style sex abuse claims against Mehdi’s partner. Moreover, no human rights group has mentioned any evidence that Mehdi’s boyfriend was a rapist or a child molester.
Although the regime in Tehran frequently defames political, religious, ethnic and sexual dissidents with false claims of kidnapping, rape, alcoholism, sodomy, adultery, drug-taking and hooliganism, even the most extreme ayatollahs have not made allegations that Mehdi Kazemi’s boyfriend was involved in sex abuse.
Nevertheless, Galloway has broadcast this very serious, potentially defamatory, allegation to the British public, and has then failed to back it up with evidence.
To some people, Galloway’s claims look like propaganda in defence of the totalitarian, homophobic Islamic Republic of Iran. His passionate opposition to a war against Iran, which I share, seems to have clouded his judgement; leading him to downplay the regime’s persecution of lesbians and gays, which includes state-sanctioned executions.
In the same interview for The Wright Stuff, Galloway went on to state: “All the [British] papers seem to imply that you get executed in Iran for being gay. That’s not true.”
His claim that lesbian and gay people are not at risk of execution in Iran is refuted by every reputable human rights organisation, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and the International Lesbian and Gay Association. None of these esteemed bodies are anti-Iran warmongers, as Galloway has subsequently seemed to imply.
The leftwing US journalist, Doug Ireland, has documented cases of the flogging and execution of men who have sex with men in Iran. These are just the cases we know about. It is likely that some similar executions never get media coverage in Iran and are therefore unknown to the outside world.
The Iranian Queer Rights Organisation also confirms that homosexuality is a capital offence and that gay Iranians are subjected to brutal punishments, including torture and hanging.
The government of Iran admits that it has the death penalty for homosexuality. Gay people are sometimes tortured to make confessions – even false confessions. Iranian law makes no distinction between consensual and non-consensual same-sex relations. Both are punishable by execution.
If Iran doesn’t execute queers, why does it need to retain the death penalty for same-sex relations? Why doesn’t it repeal a law it supposedly never enforces? Why doesn’t it announce a moratorium on hangings for homosexuality?
As with other dissidents, gay men are usually hanged in public by the barbaric slow strangulation method which is deliberately designed to maximise and prolong the suffering of the victim. These gruesome public barbarisms are also designed to terrorise the gay population.
To discredit the gay people it hangs, and to stir up public homophobia in support of its medieval religious-inspired punishments, the regime sometimes frames gay people with false charges of rape and child sex abuse. It wants to create the impression that homosexuals are monsters, in order to deter men from seeking same-sex relations.
This is what happened in the case of 21-year-old Makwan Moloudzadeh, who was executed in Iran last December. He was hanged for alleged sex offences against male teenagers, when he himself was a mere 13 years old. Amnesty International condemned his trial as “grossly flawed” and a “mockery of justice.”
Human Rights Watch reports that Moloudzadeh was coerced and tortured into making a confession. According to Amnesty International, his accusers retracted their sex assault allegations and admitted that they had been pressured into making false claims against him.
Even if Moloudzadeh had been guilty as charged, he should never have been hanged because the alleged offence was committed while he was a minor.
Strong evidence for Moloudzadeh’s innocence is the fact that hundreds of villagers turned out for his funeral; which would not have happened if the official Iranian account that he was a child sex abuser was true.
In a second interview on The Wright Stuff, Galloway launched into a scurrilous attack on Medhi’s friends and supporters, and the defenders of lesbian, gay and bisexual human rights in Iran, including myself:
“This (Mehdi Kazemi’s case) is a useful story for the war propaganda machine, the khaki machine now taking on a tinge of pink….what I will not accept is people being used, as Tatchell is, as the pink end of the war machine. That’s what Peter Tatchell has become by attacking Iran in the way that he does.”
At the antiwar protest in London on March 15, which I supported and attended, Galloway repeated these claims in his keynote speech. He said the “khaki war machine now has its pink contingent”. He went on to imply that people who support gay rights in Iran are “useful idiots” and said their aim is to “bamboozle the public to go along with mass murder in Iran”.
It is untrue and deeply offensive to suggest that those of us who oppose homophobic persecution in Iran are backing the bombing and invasion of Iran. We are not.
I am on record in my writings and speeches as opposing an attack on Iran. When, for example, I exposed Tehran’s racist and neocolonial persecution of its Ahwazi Arab ethnic minority, I stated categorically:
“I am part of a new campaign group, Hands Off the People of Iran (HOPI). HOPI opposes both a US war on Iran and the tyranny of the Iranian regime. My motto is: Neither Washington nor Tehran!
A war against Iran would be another disastrous neo-imperial adventure, which would strengthen the Tehran dictatorship. President Ahmadinejad would play the patriot and manipulate nationalism to rally the population behind him. He would use a US military attack as an excuse to further crack down on dissent in the name of safeguarding national security.
The overthrow of the theocratic police state by the Iranian people – not by US military intervention – is the best way to resolve the nuclear crisis and prevent a needless, unjustified war. With no dictatorship in Tehran, President Bush and the neo cons would lose the rationale for a military strike against Iran.”
Galloway’s insinuation that I am banging the war drum and siding with imperialism is both laughable and dishonourable.
For nearly 40 years I have supported the Iranian people’s struggle against dictatorship, first against the western-backed Shah and, since 1979, against the clerical tyranny of the ayatollahs. I have been totally consistent. I am not suddenly focusing on Iran’s human rights abuses and doing the dirty work of the Washington neocons, as Galloway seems to suggest.
Undeterred by criticisms that his outbursts collude with homophobia and with a viciously anti-gay regime in Tehran, Mr Galloway boasts: “I have an unblemished record of support for lesbian and gay equality.”
Well, not quite. The Public Whip website (which monitors MPs votes) notes that Galloway did not vote on 8 out of 10 of the major parliamentary votes on gay law reform in recent years. His repeat absence is a strange way to express support for gay rights. Most other MPs turned up to vote. Why not George?
Galloway is, of course, a Respect MP. A commitment to gay rights was entirely absent from Respect’s 2005 general election manifesto. Some insiders claim gay equality was originally included but was removed to appease Muslim fundamentalist voters (this apparent assumption by Respect that all Muslims are homophobic fundamentalists is just plain wrong – they are not).
The policy section of the Respect website has included a one-line opposition to discrimination based on sexual orientation but it is hidden away under “other policies”. Not exactly upfront.
One of Respect’s major funders is Dr Mohammed Naseem. He is a one-time member of their executive and was a Respect parliamentary candidate. He is also a leading member of the Islamic Party of Britain (IPB) which appears to advocate the death penalty for consenting adult homosexuality in certain circumstances.
Naseem is a strange bedfellow for a supposedly pro-gay rights MP.
George Galloway was magnificent before the US Senate, exposing the Iraq debacle. Sadly, he now sometimes seems to be exonerating a cruel, unjust regime in Tehran that is responsible for some of the worst state-sanctioned homophobia in the world. This regime is also responsible for the equally heinous persecution of trade unionists, women’s rights campaigners, student leaders, human rights advocates, investigative journalists and activists who defend Iran’s subjugated minority nationalities, such as the Kurds, Arabs and Baluchis.
Misguided, untruthful attacks on Iranian gay people, the queer rights movement and the pink community do not strengthen the antiwar movement and the struggle against US imperialism. On the contrary, they play straight into the hands of the tyrants in Tehran and their mirror opposites in Washington. They betray all Iranians who are yearning and striving for democracy, human rights, social justice and the self-rule of Iran’s oppressed minority nations.