Mehdi must stay

Ben Lewis reports on the recent protest

On Saturday, around 15 members and supporters of Hands Off the People of Iran joined in the protest against the threat to deport to Iran Mehdi Kazemi, the 19-year-old gay man whose partner was executed by the regime for “sexual crimes” (ie, being gay).

Around 100 turned out, with the majority of them coming from the National Union of Students LGBT contingent. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the British left, most notably the Socialist Workers Party, were not present. This should not come as much of a surprise, considering that the SWP’s position on Iran is a (slightly less consistent) version of Galloway’s apologia (See ‘George Galloway alibis IranWeekly Worker March 20).

The demo was called by the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty-sponsored Middle East Workers’ Solidarity and, despite fundamental disagreements with the AWL on Iraq and the nature of imperialism, Hopi was more than happy to support such an action and build support against Kazemi’s deportation, whilst at the same time not blunting our unequivocal opposition to imperialist wars and sanctions.

Moreover, Hopi’s leaflet warned that “… sections of the establishment and the media have seized upon this case to win support for their threats against Iran. Only a year ago the British media couldn’t care less about cases such as that of the persecuted Iranian lesbian, Pegah Emambakhsh. This propaganda effort is as inexorably linked to the war drive as the sanctions that are currently strangling Iran”.

The leaflet prompted some interesting discussions with the demonstrators, including with an AWL member who was trying to argue the case for economic sanctions against Iran. Indeed, he was also of the opinion that an imperialist-promoted ‘velvet revolution’, were it to incite some activity amongst the masses, would also not necessarily be a bad thing! This is obviously not a majority position, but it says a lot about the AWL that such shameless social-imperialists are able to find a natural home in this outfit.

Speakers included Hopi steering committee member Peter Tatchell, Communist Students candidate for the NUS executive Chris Strafford, and Sofie Buckland and David Broder from the AWL.