GoOff.com-Dankof-Is the Hour Approaching? MPG and Quest for HR in Iran
(Interview of Mark Dankof with MPG)
Is the Hour Approaching?: The Marze Por Gohar Party and the Quest for Human Rights in Iran http://www.marzeporgohar.org
by Mark Dankof for News and Views at GoOff.com
I came to the realization that their purpose (IRI caretakers of Towhid Prison on Sepah Avenue in Tehran) was to make us fear life without having the opportunity to die. . . . The nights that I do manage to sleep, I wake in anxiety in the middle of the night, thinking they’re coming for me. Towhid is an ugliness that hides in the dark corners of your mind, and just when you think you’ve forgotten for a moment, it whispers, “I’m still here.”
Borzou Daragahi’s Washington Times National Weekly Edition article of November 18-24 entitled, “Tension Boils in Iran as Iraq is Pressured,” encapsulates the boiling cauldron that is Iran. As reported by Daragahi, tensions within the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) regime and its competing factions of reformers and hard-liners have again surfaced for international public purview in the wake of heightened anxieties over George Bush’s impending showdown with Saddam Hussein and Iraq.
As reported by The Times, the struggle over who shall lead Iran’s 65 million people is presently seen as a contest between “moderate” IRI President Mohammed Khatami and hard-line rivals in control of the judiciary, armed forces, broadcast media, and veto-power over laws passed in the Iranian majlis, or parliament. This contest serves as the backdrop for Iranian student unrest against the IRI regime, which crystallized earlier this month with demonstrations at Tehran University by approximately 5,000 students against the death sentence pronounced by the government against scholar Hashem Aghajari, for questioning the role and legitimacy of theocratic, clerical rule in the Islamic Republic. The Daragahi report for The Washington Times chronicles constantly larger crowds of protestors in Tehran, with spreading activity in the provincial cities of Tabriz, Isfahan, Urumiyeh, and Hamedan. The end game is yet to be seen.
American and European observers interested in this unfolding story and all of the derivative implications for both the Middle East and the world will be especially advised to focus on the four year old political and social movement known as Marze Por Gohar, or the Glorious Frontiers Party. Its story is not simply one of clinical interest to journalists and policy wonks following geopolitical developments and strategies. The testimony and witness of its adherents and followers to a desire for the reestablishment of civil, economic, religious, and cultural freedom in Iran is a poignant, moving odyssey interwoven with intense personal sacrifice, suffering, and sometimes death itself.
Marze Por Gohar’s mission statement states that its long term goal is “to establish a democratic and secular government in Iran, based on full restoration of civil and human rights for all of Iran’s citizens regardless of their ethnicity and creed.” Its envisioned foreign policy for Iran is rooted in the former’s “complete sovereignty” accompanied by “total respect of other nations who respect our national borders and accept our self-determination.” Founded on July 8, 1998 in Tehran, Marze Por Gohar’s foundations are rooted in the vision of a group of nationalistic, but secular writers and journalists. It is noteworthy to the Western observer that this vision found its earlier foundational expression in the creation of the Mehr Society, whose purpose was to “propagate and promote the pre-Islamic culture of Iran.” Here, one again encounters what Sandra Mackey has brilliantly explained to American and European observers in her magnum opus, The Iranians--that pre-Islamic and Islamic Iran present a kaleidoscope of ideas and ideologies often packaged and expressed as competing identities in locating the heart and soul of the Iranian national psyche, a quest often elusive for Iranian and Westerner alike.
Marze Por Gohar’s evaluation of the nature of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) is unequivocal. Its web site states that:
We believe the Islamic Republic of Iran to be a religious Apartheid, which can never be inclusive for all Iranians. The clerical regime of Iran is one of the most persistent offenders of Human Rights and one of the most brutal regimes in the region, which constantly undermines peace and stability. To topple this regime, we believe in building a strong and dedicated organization with an extensive network throughout Iran capable of leading and channeling the growing resentment and dissatisfaction of the Iranian youth.
This belief became channeled into action in the internationally publicized pro-Democracy uprising in Iran conducted by university students in July of 1999 as a precursor to this month’s spate of activity in Tehran and provincial cities. On the fifth day of the July 1999 uprising, July 13, 1999, Marze Por Gohar activists and leaders were arrested and sent to the notorious Towhid detention center in Tehran. In the aftermath of these arrests by the IRI regime, an unspecified number of party members were forced to flee Iran, “to rebuild the organization’s networks” from outside the country. At the same time, the chronicled experiences of IRI-directed incarceration and torture in Towhid prison in the summer of 1999 give the American and Western reader a glimpse of a Kafkaesque house of horrors located on Sepah Avenue, or Imam Khomeini Avenue, behind the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Tehran. In translated notes posted on the Marze Por Gohar web site, the reader is told that this prison has a long, sordid history. Dating back to the time of Reza Shah and initially a prison for women, it was later utilized by the infamous “Office of Information and National Security” or SAVAK, of the Pahlavi regime as an anti-terrorism center or Komiteh Moshtarak Zed-e-Kharaabkaari. Later the facility was adapted by the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) for purposes of incarceration and interrogation under the auspices of the Ministry of Information and Internal Security, or VEVAK. The Marze Por Gohar web site informs the reader that this last acronym and organization have a motto, in Arabic–“Salvation Through Verity.”
The Western web browser, researcher, human rights advocate, political scientist, or journalist looking for specific accounts of Orwellian thought control and sadistic physical torture by the institutions and organs of the IRI regime directed specifically against Iranian opponents of political repression and ecclesiastical theocracy will not be disappointed. The translated notes of Marze Por Gohar activist Roozbeh Farahanipour on his tenure in Towhid prison in July of 1999 subsequent to arrest by IRI authorities, chronicle the barbarism characteristic of the instruments of the Central State in all totalitarian political structures historically. In these translated notes, strains of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago permeate the Farahanipour testimony, both in the cruelty of the State’s self appointed quest to exterminate the conscience, will, and soul of the dissenter, as well as in the courage and tenacity of those most moved to resist its tentacles. The web browser is treated to accounts of unspeakable sanitary conditions; the employment of prolonged sun exposure of prisoners in cages on the roof of the prison at 113 degree Fahrenheit temperatures; hanging prisoners from the ceiling of individual cells (in one case with weights attached to a man’s testicles); and such ritualistic acts of sadism in Farahanipour’s account as:
Chicken-Kabob, which is a method where they cuff your ankles together, tie your hands, put your wrists over your ankles, pass a thick metal bar between the elbows and the back of the knees, lift the bar, rest the two ends on something and hang you upside down in an almost fetal position. Then they begin to strike. Merry-Go-Round is a method where they tie you up to a Y-shaped bed, facing up. This bed, however, is a rotating bed. They begin spinning you and striking you with lashes from all sides, not caring where the blows land. They used to sing a song while doing this. It was something like, “Go round and round, faster and faster, Merry-Go-Round, spin faster and faster,” and they increased the speed of the rotations as they sang. Because of all that spinning, sometimes I had to taste that disgusting prison food again. Choking on my own vomit was not the way I wanted to die. . . . Another method is to pull one arm from the front, above your shoulder and the other arm from the back, above the waist, tie them together and hang in that position. I think it was during this method that my left shoulder blade broke and the muscles in my shoulder tore. . . .
The Marze Por Gohar web site is mandatory reading for anyone interested in the intricacies of the Iranian political and cultural scene past or present. In the maze of comprehensive information it presents, the Western and American reader will be well advised to consult and browse all of the Internet links offered which present a moving overview of the rich history of political, religious, and cultural minorities in Iran; the fascinating material on pre-Islamic Iran generally unknown today in the West outside scholarly circles; and the poignant testimonies of Iranian activists interested in a legitimate Constitutional Republic, while avoiding the tragic excesses of both Monarchial regimes past and Islamic theocratic ideologies present. These struggles and personal sacrifices, often conducted in the past outside the awareness and understanding of the West, may be about to take center stage in the midst of larger Middle Eastern conflicts and competitions yet to come in determining the future of that region and the rest of the world in what remains of linear history. Marze Por Gohar, as an organization and a movement dedicated to the reestablishment of human rights in Iran, the revival of the best contributions of pre-Islamic Iran, and the implementation of a foreign policy rooted in both Iranian national sovereignty and friendship with the outside world, may find its hour and time on the stage of world history fast approaching.
(Mark Dankof is a correspondent for the Internet news service News and Views at GoOff.com. An ordained Lutheran pastor and past United States Senate candidate in Delaware with the Constitution Party in 2000, his web site Mark Dankof’s America may be accessed at http://www.MarkDankof.com
Contact Information for Marze Por Gohar:
Marze Por Gohar Party
P. O. Box 111
1351 Westwood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90024, U. S. A.
Telephone: (510) 217-3982
FAX: (510) 217-3982
Web Site: http://www.marzeporgohar.org