You are not the government

The show-trials begin. Don’t these people know what the status of such trials is? How much experience we all have of tyranny? What we think of torture-extracted confessions? Do they, indeed, have a clue about justice itself?

Prisoners in pyjamas

The Fars News Agency has published photos of this, the first day (1 August 2009). These are pictures of some of those arrested, sitting interspersed with their shaven and uncomfortable-looking guards. Pyjamas have been given to the important prisoners. The rest have handcuffs. Apart from the regime’s own TV and newspaper reporters, there do not seem to be others there. How clean their pyjamas are! You can see the folds of the packaging on them! Who believes that this is what they have been wearing in their cells? (One remembers the ill fitting suits Ahmadinejad bought for the British sailor-hostages.)

Former vice-president Mohammed Ali Abtahi’s wife reports that her husband says he has been given tablets daily that knock him out completely. Hence his drugged and dazed look. See the before and after photos on this page.

It is striking that Kayhan, the prominent national newspaper, has taken a conspicuous lead in orchestrating the lies and vilification in the most shameful way. Long live Islam!Kimura-Toshiro-Japan

A Japanese cartoonist, Kimura-Toshiro, has been very quick off the mark with this response (see the cartoon below).

In the Iranian national consciousness, the resonance is with the trial, in 1974 under the Shah, of the Marxist[1] poet Khosro Golsorkhi. The military court was televised live, mainly because at the time of the trial, the Shah was hosting a conference for human rights in Tehran, and created a sensation. Beginning with a recitation of poetry, he mounted a stout, eloquent and scathing defence and won a place in the legends of resistance (see this video). He was of course executed (live on state television). After the February 1979 revolution, the footage was shown in full and he was reckoned a hero. But, because of his Marxism (the Islamic revolution would scarcely have happened but for the organisational capacity of the Communists), his rôle was suppressed in November of the same year. In this second clip, an American who has learned Farsi is reading in a gathering a poem of Golsorkhi which he has come across in a student street market in Shiraz.

I am sure that Golsorkhi, today, would be one of those in the dock, on trial not for attempting to kidnap the Shah’s son, but for wearing a green velvet armband or being a sordid cheesecake (a capital offence under Sharia law). But his defence today would be very different:

You just don’t get it, do you? You are no longer the government. From now you will be held to account for every word and action, for the brutality, corpse-smuggling, torture, murder of defenceless prisoners, sodomy of students, atrocious rapes and pervasive lies, your every word and action preserved on video and in the mouths of witnesses. Soon – in one week? one month? ─ you will be stopped on the way to the airport. We are already the new government, neither Marxist, nor Islamic, nor mujahedeen from Camp Ashraf, and we shall be holding a South African-style Truth and Reconciliation inquiry.

It is I who am now judging you. You are on trial for bestial callousness and stupidity, for being ridiculous and anachronistic, for bringing disgrace to an intelligent nation, for turning the country into a garbage heap through economic mismanagement, and as a result of state-sponsored poverty ushering thousands, including your own Basiji, into prostitution and drug-addiction. You have expressed the instincts of thieves as high national policy. You have hastened the demise of a once-great religion. We have live pictures of you slapping yourselves with chains. We know that you weep publicly at the martyrdom of scarecrows. In the mosques and avenues you have insisted on teaching yourselves only lessons that you should have learned centuries ago. You seem to have no understanding that you are in a large living room surrounded by educated people and that the cameras are on you and running.

Mr Abtahi - before

Opposition gathering momentum

It is extraordinary to discover that CNN thinks that the reform protest movement is “gaining momentum”, the opposition is “more united” than the government, and that the BBC’s John Leyne, expelled from Iran, describes how the brutal repression in the streets is “having less and less effect.”

We may expect more and greater protests outside the military court where the show trials are taking place and in the streets on the night of the Rat’s inauguration this week. In the summer heat, the flames of the burning city will rise high.


A warm message of support has been made public by Desmond Tutu, who correctly isolates ‘human rights’ as the core, central issue at present in Iran.

Beards and taxis

In a book, Mirrors of the Unseen, published in 2006, well before the present Wave, Jason Elliot, praised by Martin Amis here, makes many perfectly ordinary observations during his journeys through Iran which, precisely because they were not written for effect (the book is a feast of almost Ruskinian prose), are extraordinarily revealing. In Isfahan, his friend, Ramin, tries to get him to shave because

only fanatics and people who work for the government have beards.[2]

Moreover, in Tehran none of the taxis will stop forMr Abtahi - after a mullah. It is hard for a Westerner to grasp the long-settled and quite openly expressed hostility that this entire population has for the regime. In addition to his personal distaste for the Muslim clerics who restrict his freedoms and pour his oil-money into Hamas and Hezbollah, the taxi-driver has to take account of the general distaste of his passengers. In Tehran taxis are shared and you pile in, if the driver’s route coincides with your own, alongside everybody else and pay only a share of the fare. If there is a mullah inside, no-one else will get in.

[1] i.e. socialist. None of these people had any sort of reading acquaintance with Marxist dogma; such publications were unobtainable in Iran in the 1970s.

[2] Picador, 2006, p. 64.