Funeral Oration For Pouran Bazargan

پنجشنبه ، ۱۰ خرداد ۱۳۸۶؛ ۳۱ مه ۲۰۰۷

چاپ

This piece was recited in the memorial held for Pouran Bazargan on March 17 2007 in Paris.

My life of seventy years came to an end and in the blink of an eye my exhausted body was turned into ashes, but my life, my activities and my ideals will continue in the lives and in struggles of millions of toilers across the planet. I will tell you briefly how I lived my life, and why I'm leaving the stage with confidence and without regrets or remorse. As was my wish, I remained present on the scene to the last moment. I lived my share of life as I wished. I lived well. In fact, it was no sacrifice. If I had lived in any other way it would have not been proper and I would have considered it a crime. I am happy because my fellow fighters for freedom and justice are numerous.

I was born a girl. For historical and cultural reasons, patriarchal social relations made women inferior to men and holy discourse was used to justify this. I had to stand up to such brutal patriarchal relations; I did it instinctively. I was forced to discontinue school before grade nine. After suffering a few years within the walls of my home, I continued my education out of school, completed high school and even achieved a university degree. My report card was very successful. My time at the University of Mash-had in Iran coincided with the rise of social and political activism in 1960-63. I became a political activist. I was one of the few girls who did so. Being persecuted by SAVAK, the brutal Iranian security agency of the time, made me even more conscious of the importance of my activities and position. I had joined the struggle for freedom and democracy without being aware of it. I thought that the struggle I was involved in was in line with emancipation of women from patriarchy and for human dignity. I joined the wave of struggle against censorship and oppression by the government. My companions were numerous. We could not remain indifferent about our lives and other people's lives.

If we didn't pay attention to politics, it would undoubtedly impose itself on us and come to rule our destinies. For us, the question was not why but how to participate in political activism. Under the influence of my surroundings, dominated by a culture of religious reformism, we established "The Islamic Association of Women in Mash-had". My colleagues were young women from politically active families, some of whose relatives were killed by the government; some of them were even communists. Five members of my family lost their lives in these struggles.

Later on, in Tehran, while I was studying for a master’ s degree and once I became a high school teacher, I met the friends who afterwards became the founders of the Organization of Peoples' Mojahedin. My brother, Mansour, had affiliations with this organization and facilitated my relations with them. I learned a lot from them, but I was never an unquestioning follower. I even questioned and doubted the obvious dogmas of Islam, my practiced religion. I remember that I asked the comrade in charge of the ideology classes, "What does it mean that in sura 23 of Koran (al-momenun, verse 6) a Muslim man does not have to marry a slave woman in order to enter in sexual intercourse with her?" His justifications did not convince me. Of course the Mojahedin did not care about these details; they only picked parts of the Koran that were useful for their struggle. Indeed, that is the general practice! The Islamic Government uses religious scripture in its own interests. But I had to act independently when it came to the fate of women. My independent attitude was not tolerated by comrades and at times I had to bear the consequences of my approach.

At that time, every member of the Organization had a job and I was a high school teacher in Tehran. I was approached by a group of bourgeois religious merchants and clergy, who were supposedly progressive, to become the principal of a newly established girls' private high school named Refah. I accepted the offer and gradually this private educational institution became an organization of support for the Mojahedin. This role continued until 1973: I have described this elsewhere.

In 1969, while I was the principal of Refah, I married Mohammad Hanif Nejad, one of the founders of the Mojahedin. The necessities of the struggle at the time required all the revolutionary organizations to consider their private lives secondary to the political struggle. We could not, at the same time, have a regular or traditional private life and wage the fight against a monstrous dictatorial regime. The logic of struggle required us "to be as free handed as possible and not under the burden of wealth, fame and comfort". The struggle was our priority; we had a gigantic goal ahead of us.

In August of 1971, SAVAK arrested most of the cadres and activists of the Mojahedin. We had to undertake a new responsibility, which was very precious to me: mobilization of the families of the political prisoners in order to prevent their execution. We were gathering in front of the Ghezel Ghaleh Prison in Tehran where the families of the prisoners were used to meet each other. If I am right, this was the first time since the mass arrests following the coup d'état in August 1953 and mass demonstrations of June 1963, that such a large number of families were organizing for a popular and democratic goal. For 20 days, more than a hundred women began a sit-down protest in the city of Ghom, inside the house of Ayatollah Shariatmadari, who had considerable influence on the monarchist government. This action had different aspects: logistical, agitational and juridical. The Organization did not have lead the struggle directly. Everything was in the women's hands. The Mojahedin wanted to corner the clergy and force them to take a position on the prisoners. If they helped the cause of the prisoners, it would be a victory. If the clergy remained silent and continued collaborating with the Shah's regime, they would lose their prestige. The practice of collective social work for us, women of the middle and lower classes, was of not a little importance.

We learnt the different means of communication with prisoners: coded writing, hiding documents in order to get them in and out of prison etc. It was also a chance to be in contact with families of prisoners of different ideologies. Our solidarity was, for us, a good experience of tolerance! Our relationship with the families of the leftist prisoners was an achievement that I cherished for my whole life, even though some of them did not treat me the same way. I continued this solidarity later on when I was a member of the Marxist organization Peykar and then when I was in exile. Some of the mothers and other family members of the leftist prisoners remain close friends to this day.

The Shah's regime continued to arrest, torture, execute and massacre the activists. My husband, Mohammad Hanif Nejad, was executed too. In May of 1973, I had to begin an underground life that lasted for more than a year. In the new situation, my duties were radically different from what I had experienced previously, but I was able to assume them. Didn't we have as goal to preserve the militant armed organization that was fighting against the regime and its imperialist supporters so as to prepare for popular revolution and the regime's overthrow? Our task was extremely difficult, but our noble goal drove us forward. I repeat that there was no question of sacrifice. Our prosperity and human essence depended on our persistence in the struggle, and we did this wholeheartedly for the sake of our own dignity. This logic is shared by all revolutionaries.

In August of 1974, a few comrades and I were to move abroad, after which I continued my activities in the foreign branch of the Mojahedin (I settled in Iraq). We had different tasks than before and confronted new problems. During this era while, among other activities, I worked on revolutionary radio channels transmitted from abroad (Radio Mihan Parastan and Radio Soroush). In 1974 I married Torab Haghshenas, a comrade I had known for a long time. In this marriage, as in my previous marriage, we had no priorities higher than the political struggle. Our involvement with the Palestine movement started during this time. I served in the Palestinian Red Crescent Hospital in Damascus. As such, during the 1970s civil war in Lebanon I moved to the palestinian hospital in Sabra refugee camp near Beirut. One of the best times of my life was living with the oppressed but resisting people of these regions.

Later on, I was assigned to move to Turkey where our organization had established a communication and logistic base. I lived underground and worked in clothing sweat-shops and as a hotel worker in order to earn my living; meanwhile I participated in carrying arms from one country to another towards Iran. These life experiences provided us with education and preparation for our future tasks. I learned about the lives of toilers of other nations, and it opened my eyes to the international, rather than national, dimensions of class oppression.

With the growth of our political and military experience and the evolution in the Organization and our society, we came to question our ideological foundations and eventually renounced our religious ideology (which was different from, and often in contradiction with, the traditional conceptions of the clergy, especially those of Khomeiny) and shifted towards Marxism. We were all practically ready to accept the new ideology, but it was the leadership of the organization that had officially declared the change. Of course, I was not at the forefront of this development, but I could understand it and I went along with it. In this process wrong doings happened that can never be compensated, but they cannot camouflage the revolutionary essence of liberation from religious ideology. The methods of the change to Marxism would not have been endorsed by many of the activists of the Organization, if they knew the facts at the time. But in a guerilla organization which the reigning relations strictly limit the exchange of information and ideas, there is no possibility of participation in collective decision-making. At the root of this limitation were the oppressive conditions and the necessity of struggle against the regime which had already harassed everybody. As Brecht wrote:
You who will emerge from the flood
In which we have gone under
Remember
When you speak of our failings
The dark time too
Which you have escaped (1)

The errors in this process were challenged and three years later, the methods by which the ideology had been transformed were heavily criticized by the whole membership. In September 1978, the criticisms were openly published. How amusing it is today, thirty years late, that we are reminded that we should criticize ourselves.

I also spent time in Libya, where our organization (the Mujahedin) had an office, as well as in Aden in cooperation with the revolutionary movement of Oman (Dzofar). Our cooperation with movements of other nations showed the international dimension of our struggle. Our small organization had sent a physician and a nurse to Dzofar. Mahbubeh Afraz, a physician, and her sister Rafat Afraz, a nurse, both served in Dzofar, along with the revolutionaries in the region. Rafat had been my colleague at the Refah school in Tehran; she was head of the elementary school. I spent some time in Dzofar as well. The political and social changes in Iran brought us closer to the threshold of the fall of the monarchist regime, and I returned to Iran after the uprising in 1979.

The Peykar organization already had been emerged out of the Marxist branch of Mojahedin and was active as a communist force. During this era, I had a good occasion to get involved in the activities I enjoyed most: those directly in contact with the masses. I was a teacher in a literacy program, using a false identity. In this relation, how precious it was to me being in direct contact with peasants in Varamin (an area south of Tehran) and women workers in Karaj Highway (West of Tehran). At the same time, I was also active in organizing the families of the martyrs and political prisoners and organizing for them the political courses in simple language. This time, I did not have to work to support myself. Of course, I was not allowed to go back to my work as principal under the new regime.

For two and a half years, I struggled inside Iran, working with the women's committee of the Peykar organization. As I had already escaped arrest by SAVAK, I was now able to escape from the new butchers who had just come to power.

In 1981, due to extensive aggression by the new government and the massacre of activists, we were forced to leave our country once again. For me it was the start of 25 years of exile. This time, we did not have an active organization to be involved with. Not only did we have to preserve our goals and ideals, we also had to analyze and assess our past activities. And the most urgent matter was to earn our living. From the first months of my arrival in France, I began to work as a manual worker, which lasted for 20 years until I retired. I was no longer able to continue working because of extreme weakness. Our dignity as revolutionaries required us not to depend on others materially and I respected this principle to the end, living a modest life. During this time, I continued my political activities with a small number of friends. I spoke out in any possible occasion against the class, cultural and gender oppressions that were being perpetuated in Iran. As always, I stood along with the Palestinian people's struggle and I'm happy that in the last weeks of my illness, I was able to send some money for the education of my two adopted children in Palestine. I was relieved when I knew the funds had been received.

I stood with the workers of Iran in their struggle for their rights. In any demonstration in exile, I marched as long as my feet could stand it. I organized and participated in May Day demonstrations. I organized memorials for writers and activists killed by the government of Iran, and I again defended political prisoners. I did not succumb to the compromising tendencies of reformist allies of the government, or to the government of the United States. In my years of exile, I helped to commemorate the Islamic Republic of Iran's massacres of political prisoners in 1981 and 1988. I did not want the victims of these crimes to be forgotten.

At times we devoted our energy to the celebration of March 8, International Women's Day, on defense of the women of Afghanistan, Palestine or Iraq. I fought against the deep rooted patriarchal culture among the exile community, which made me a target of hatred, isolation and insult - yet I stood unshaken throughout. As part of my communist principles, I persistently defended all efforts in resisting the aggression of imperialism against the peoples of the Middle East and the rest of the world.

I loved all revolutionary human beings: from the struggle of the toiling people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Iran to Latin America and the Zapatista movement. I longed for the day that humanity can go beyond the frame of capitalism and establish a world free of every form of exploitation and oppression.

Translated by: Freinds of Andeesheh va Peykar


(This piece was recited in the memorial held for Pouran Bazargan on March 17 2007 in Paris.)

(1) Bertolt Brecht, Poetry and Prose, edited by Reinhold Grimm, 2003, The Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.