November 22, 2021
Our most important political tool/guide to achieve our immediate goal of freeing the prisoners continues to be the Emergency Appeal (EA). Its shelf-life has not been exhausted. It is still as timely as ever. What is urgently needed now is to intensify reaching out to a wide range of people in the US as well as worldwide, including prominent voices of conscience, to sign the Appeal and support the work of the IEC overall.
The EA sets the correct moral and political terms for actually freeing the prisoners in its powerful and unique content/demands, as well as its impressive breadth, and prominence, of its many signers. Some of the most significant voices of conscience of our time were moved to endorse this Appeal. While it calls on, and rallies, people in the “belly of the beast” to stand against brutal repression by the Islamic Republic of Iran, it also opposes U.S. imperialist attacks on Iran. This is inspiring and gives people a way to act in a meaningful and impactful way. It is both lofty and concrete and needs to be spread far and wide to many more justice-loving people in many more countries.
The EA has crossed borders and formed an international community of people, from all walks of life, to stand together as one against both these oppressive forces in calling attention to and demanding the release of Iran’s political prisoners. It has been signed by people from 40 countries and on every continent except Antarctica.
In the words of world-renowned Argentine-Chilean-American novelist, playwright, and human rights activist Ariel Dorfman:
“Good-hearted people are constantly being bombarded with so many requests to sign petitions about important issues, that it is natural that they should feel overwhelmed, asking themselves what good will it do, wondering how one signature can possibly make a difference. If I have signed on to the Emergency Campaign to Free Political Prisoners in Iran, it is because I know that this initiative will effectively call attention to the situation of men and women in that country who, if enough pressure is brought to bear on its leaders, could tomorrow be liberated from terrible conditions and extraordinary injustice. And even if those leaders do not listen, I am convinced – from personal experience – that the prisoners themselves are given strength to survive and persevere, they are listening. They know others, faraway, care what happens to them, and we should not let them down.”
And this impact was confirmed by a letter that the IEC received from an ex-political prisoner upon hearing the program we held on September 25 in New York.
It is critical for us to collectively and continually focus on key fronts of work for the next few months on one hand, and on the other hand being attuned to key objective developments (e.g., Richard Ratcliffe’s hunger strike, renewed nuclear talks, new attacks on dissidents by the IRI, changes in the conditions or health of the prisoners, etc.) Objective developments can sometimes create openings to advance key aspects of the campaign.
The IEC needs to enlist more involvement from the signers of the EA, and others. For example, many more people can issue solidarity statements; provide quotes for press releases or updates; volunteer to be part of a speaker bureau; donate and help raise funds from family, friends and colleagues over the holidays; and share their thoughts about the questions and issues we face in going forward. Importantly, people can put the EA in front of others to endorse and circulate in continuing to get new and prominent signatures and prepare for the next round of publication.
This will build on what we have accomplished so far in struggling to achieve our goal. There has been participation by notable persons and social forces in the February and September programs held at Revolution Books New York that was co-sponsored by our campaign. Shortly after issuing the Emergency Appeal, we developed a beautifully designed and resource-filled website in English with a Farsi page. Many people donated, raised money from others to raise the $14,000 for The NYRB ad in just two weeks’ time last July. We published the Appeal as online ads in The Nation and Ms. magazines. Besides almost weekly updates and timely press releases, there have been important articles published in Ms. by Mariam Claren, in CounterPunch and CounterCurrent by Larry Everest. There have been several radio interviews on Pacific stations. Some IEC signers and supporters have been posting the EA on their social media. Others have spoken in support of the campaign in Farsi Clubhouses calling for people to sign and donate. All this has put the EA in front of hundreds of thousands, including in a high-profile public square through The New York Review of Books ad. But now this needs to be taken to a whole new level, and with more ways for many people to participate actively and consistently.
One key breakthrough to make in the coming months is to make inroads into different/broader spheres of society. There is the need as well as the potential to get to progressive voices in the cultural arena on board – musicians, filmmakers, actors, etc. This should be one focus for all who are part of the IEC in different parts of the world in getting new signers to the EA.
In the coming months, the IEC will host monthly English language Clubhouses to facilitate cohering segments of our movement globally. We aim to make this platform an avenue for discussion to draw in and activate many more people, including from the Iranian Diaspora. Stay tuned to future announcements.
There are some key fronts to advance the campaign in the coming weeks/months:
a) Further publication of the EA – we aim to have it further published in the US in 2022. We also want to explore having it published in other countries in the next few months (Germany, Turkey, France, UK, etc.) as concrete conditions permit, with groups of people taking responsibility to seeing the process through with the IEC playing an advisory and supportive role. To encourage new signers, the IEC website will regularly publicize an updated list of signers to make clear this effort is ongoing. Part of this will require closer working relationships between the IEC, BTC, family members of prisoners, as well as supporters of this campaign globally for the EA to appear in international publications (big or small, online or in print). Ever broader worldwide public opinion will help isolate the IRI politically among progressive peoples in the world exposing the reactionary nature of the regime – all this could limit their freedom to act with impunity towards the political prisoners.
b) A zoom program with panel of speakers in the Social Forum of the United Universalist Church in San Francisco (UUSF) is now set for January 9, 2022, at 1PM Pacific Time. This will be a 90-minute program co-sponsored by the UUSF and the IEC. The panel will have 3 short speeches by Larry Everest of the IEC, Mariam Claren for #freeNahid, and Dr. Azam Niroomand-Rad, an emeritus professor and EA signer. It will be along the similar theme as the September 25 program. We may begin the program with the song by Shekib Mosadeq. There may be a brief solidarity statement from an EA signer such as an author. Besides the church, IEC and BTC building for it, it can also draw in other religious denominations and political forces and individuals as something to involve many people.
c) Press work – Programs on PBS did extensive and sympathetic interview with Richard Ratcliffe which is part of the objective opening right now on the dual-national question that his 21-day hunger strike put before hundreds of millions worldwide through the case of his wife, Nazanin. What if Mariam Claren was able to get such an interview for International Human Rights Day (December 10)? What about the possibility of an op-ed with Mariam Claren and other family members in the UK Guardian on dual nationals? We need to search out other avenues – big and small (including the Farsi press/media, or “community” publications such as those in Texas and California that published the EA in Farsi last summer. Any suggestions or actual press contacts to get the EA into media are welcomed.
d) Human Rights Groups (e.g., PEN) – there has been receptivity to working together with the IEC on this campaign. There is the basis to forge a closer relationship in collaborative efforts that could have a big societal impact, such as a jointly sponsored/hosted evening of conscience with culture/poetry/music to include a focus the Iranian Writers Association or on Narges Mohammadi’s currently dangerous situation (e.g., an evening of solidarity with a screening of the powerful film Nasrin)?
e) Iranian Diaspora – English Clubhouses will be one means to organize and spread the IEC among many more people, including this key grouping. The work on campuses may also reach some of these forces (e.g., academics at the many University of California campuses with significant Iranian students, programs, and departments?) What about possibilities at the liberal/influential University of Toronto in Canada? The campuses generally can be one avenue to enlist people to sign and spread the EA. We can aim for classroom film showings and presentations, and ask professors to sign and circulate the EA. What if numerous people attending the Hamid Nouri trial, or a group of students at UC Berkeley’s International House, or immigrant youth at a climate change protest – what if they collectively signed an enlarged poster of the EA and take up spreading it?
Again, many more people worldwide now need to sign and spread the Emergency Appeal as our most powerful tool to shine the global spotlight on the situation of, and the fight to free, Iran’s political prisoners.
The IEC was formed in the U.S. in late 2020 in solidarity with a call from supporters, friends, and families of Iran’s political prisoners and the “Burn the Cage, Free the Birds” movement in Europe. Their call was sparked by a new wave of repression and arrests targeting wide swaths of Iranian society launched by the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) in October 2020. The Campaign was co-initiated by feminist activist Carol Downer and revcom.us supporter Dolly Veale. It was put on an emergency footing in March 2021. Its mission and goals are spelled out in its Emergency Appeal: The Lives of Iran’s Political Prisoners Hang in the Balance—We Must ACT Now. People from a broad range of viewpoints have endorsed this call. They include former Iranian political prisoners and relatives of current prisoners such as Mariam Claren, Elika Ashoori, and Taghi Rahmani; prominent voices of conscience Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, Gloria Steinem, and Daniel Ellsberg; writer Ariel Dorfman; 1997 Nobel Laureate Jody Williams; Jeff Kaufman and Marcia Ross, producers of the documentary film NASRIN; Raymond Lotta, NY Revolution Books and advocate for the new communism developed by Bob Avakian; as well as academics, activists, people of faith and over 3,000 others. (See full list of signers.)