Revolution in Egypt: Interview with an Egyptian anarcho-syndicalist

In the following conversation, Jano Charbel, a labor journalist in Cairo who defines himself as anarcho-syndicalist, talks about the character of the revolution in Egypt, the recent history of workers’ struggles, the role of Islamists and unions, gender relations and the perspectives of struggles. The interview was conducted by two friends of the classless society in Cairo in spring 2011.


Cyrus Bina’s “Oil: A Time Machine”

‘Too precious to have people’s rights snatched away’: Michael Perelman

Modern civilization began in the Middle East. Modern imperialism has blotted out much of what is valuable in a civilized society. Rather than being encumbered by the expense and responsibility of ruling such societies, the imperial powers have relied on corrupt and brutal dictators to enforce the needs of capital.

The people want to bring down the regime

Bleeding the country to maintain the lavish lifestyles of their families and friends, these dictators left ordinary people to languish. A few months ago, the expectation of revolutionary activity in the Middle East would seem highly unlikely, yet the people rose up with great courage. The numbers of protesters were great enough that violent measures would be unacceptable around the world.

“Revolution, People, Revolution”

The danger is that their revolutionary courage will pave the way for a dictatorship with a more human face; not the direct dictatorship of a brutal and corrupt individual, but rather the more insidious dictatorship of capital managed by obedient bureaucrats.

“This is the end of justice”

The present opportunity is too precious to have people’s rights snatched away under the pretense of democracy. The courageous people in the streets today deserve whatever support we can offer.

Michael Perelman’s latest book: The Invisible Handcuffs of Capitalism: How Market Tyranny Stifles the Economy by Stunting Workers, Monthly Review, 2011

‘If power is not seized, counter-revolution will rise’: Vijay Prashad on the Arab revolt (Part I)

Vijay Prashad is a prominent Marxist scholar from South Asia. He is George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies at Trinity College, Connecticut. He has written extensively on international affairs for both academic and popular journals. His most recent book The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (2007) has been widely acclaimed as the most authentic rewriting of the world history of the postcolonial Global South and the idea of the “Third World”.

Vijay Prashad


Pothik Ghosh (PG): In what sense can the recent events in the Arab World be called revolutions? How are they different from the colour revolutions of the past two decades?

Vijay Prashad (VP): All revolutions are not identical. The colour revolutions in Eastern Europe had a different tempo. They were also of a different class character. They were also along the grain of US imperialism, even though the people were acting not for US but for their own specific class and national interests. I have in mind the Rose Revolution in Georgia and the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine. Otpor in the Ukraine, among others, was well lubricated by George Soros’s Open Society and the US government’s National Democratic Institute. Russian money also swept in on both sides of the ledger. These Eastern European revolutions were mainly political battles in regions of the world still unsettled by the traumatic transition from state socialism to predatory capitalism.

The Arab revolt that we now witness is something akin to a “1968” for the Arab World. Sixty per cent of the Arab population is under 30 (70 per cent in Egypt). Their slogans are about dignity and employment. The resource curse brought wealth to a small population of their societies, but little economic development. Social development came to some parts of the Arab world: Tunisia’s literacy rate is 75 per cent, Egypt’s is just over 70 per cent, Libya almost 90 per cent. The educated lower-middle-class and middle-class youth have not been able to find jobs. The concatenation of humiliations revolts these young people: no job, no respect from an authoritarian state, and then to top it off the general malaise of being a second-class citizen on the world stage – second to the US-Israel and so on – was overwhelming. The chants on the streets are about this combination of dignity, justice and jobs.

PG: Does the so-called Jasmine Revolution have in it to transform the preponderant character of the politico-ideological topography of oppositional politics – from Islamist identitarianism to an organic variant of working-class politics – in West Asia and the Maghreb? Under what circumstances can this series of general strikes, which seem to be spreading like a brushfire through the region, morph into a constellation of counter-power? Or, would that in your eyes merely be a vicarious desire of Leftists from outside the region?

VP: I fear that we are being vicarious. The youth, the working class, the middle class have opened up the tempo of struggle. The direction it will take is not clear. I am given over to analogies when I see revolutions, largely because the events of change are so contingent.

It is in the melee that spontaneity and structure jostle. The organised working class is weaker than the organised theocratic bloc, at least in Egypt. Social change of a progressive type has come to the Arab lands largely through the Colonels. Workers’ struggles have not reached fruition in any country. In Iraq, where the workers movement was advanced in the 1950s, it was preempted by the military – and then they made a tacit alliance.

One cannot say what is going to happen with certainty. The Mexican Revolution opened up in 1911, but didn’t settle into the PRI regime till the writing of the 1917 constitution and the elevation of Carranza to the presidency in 1920 or perhaps Cardenas in 1934. I find many parallels between Mexico and Egypt. In both, the Left was not sufficiently developed. Perils of the Right always lingered. If the Pharonic state withers, as Porfirio Diaz’s state did, the peasants and the working class might move beyond spontaneity and come forward with some more structure. Spontaneity is fine, but if power is not seized effectively, counter-revolution will rise forth effectively and securely.

PG: What are, in your opinion, the perils if such a transformation fails to occur? Will not such a failure lead to an inevitable consolidation of the global neoliberal conjuncture, which manifests itself in West Asia as fascistic Islamism on one hand and authoritarianism on the other?

VP: If such a transformation fails, which god willing it won’t, then we are in for at least three options: (1) the military, under Egyptian ruling class and US pressure, will take control. This is off the cards in Tunisia for now, mainly because the second option presented itself; (2) elements of the ruling coalition are able to dissipate the crowds through a series of hasty concessions, notably the removal of the face of the autocracy (Ben Ali to Saudi Arabia). If Mubarak leaves and the reins of the Mubarakian state are handed over to the safe-keeping of one of his many bloodsoaked henchman such as Omar Suleiman…. Mubarak tried this with Ahmed Shafik, but he could as well have gone to Tantawi….all generals who are close to Mubarak and seen as safe by the ruling bloc. We shall wait to see who all among the elite will start to distance themselves from Mubarak, and try to reach out to the streets for credibility. As a last-ditch effort, the Shah of Iran put Shapour Bakhtiar as PM. That didn’t work. Then the revolt spread further. If that does not work, then, (3) the US embassy will send a message to Mohamed El-Baradei, giving him their green light. El-Baradei is seen by the Muslim Brotherhood as a credible candidate. Speaking to the crowds on January 30 he said that in a few days the matter will be settled. Does this mean that he will be the new state leader, with the backing of the Muslim Brotherhood, and certainly with sections of Mubarak’s clique? Will this be sufficient for the crowds? They might have to live with it. El-Baradei is a maverick, having irritated Washington at the IAEA over Iran. He will not be a pushover. On the other hand, he will probably carry on the economic policy of Mubarak. His entire agenda was for political reforms. This is along the grain of the IMF-World Bank Structural Adjustment part 2, viz., the same old privatisation agenda alongside “good governance”. El-Baradei wanted good governance in Egypt. The streets want more. It will be a truce for the moment, or as Chavez said, “por ahora“.

PG: The Radical Islamists, their near-complete domination of the oppositional/dissident politico-ideological space in the region notwithstanding, have failed to rise up to the occasion as an effective organisational force – one especially has the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt in mind. What do you think is the reason?

VP: The Muslim Brotherhood is on the streets. It has set its own ideology to mute. That is very clear. Its spokesperson Gamel Nasser has said that they are only a small part of the protests, and that the protest is about Egypt not Islam. This is very clever. It is similar to what the mullahs said in Iran during the protests of 1978 and 1979. They waited in the wings for the “multitude” to overthrow the Shah, and then they descended. Would the MB do that? If one says this is simply the people’s revolt and not that of any organised force, it’s, of course, true. But it is inadequate. The ‘people’ can be mobilised, can act; but can the ‘people’ govern without mediation, without some structure. This is where the structured elements come into play. If there is no alternative that forms, then the Muslim Brotherhood will take power. That the Muslim Brotherhood wants to stand behind El-Baradei means they don’t want to immediately antagonise the US. That will come later.

PG: What does the emergence of characters like El-Baradei signify? Are they really the “political face” of the resistance as the global media seems to be projecting?

VP: El-Baradei comes with credibility. He served in the Nasserite ministry of external affairs in the 1960s. He then served in the foreign ministry under Ismail Fahmi. One forgets how impressive Fahmi was. He resigned from Sadat’s cabinet when the Egyptian leader went to Jerusalem. Fahmi was a Nasserite. For one year, El-Baradei served with Boutros Boutros Ghali at the foreign ministry. That was the start of this relationship. Both fled for the UN bureaucracy. Boutros Ghali was more pliant than Fahmi. I think El-Baradei is more along Fahmi’s lines. At the IAEA he did not bend to the US pressure. Given that he spent the worst years of Mubarak’s rule outside Cairo gives him credibility. A man of his class would have been coopted into the Mubarak rule. Only an outsider like him can be both of the ruling bloc (in terms of class position and instinct) and outside the ruling apparatus (i. e. of Mubarak’s cabinet circle). It is a point of great privilege.

With the MB careful not to act in its own face, and the ‘people’ without easy ways to spot leaders, and with Ayman Nour not in the best of health, it is credible that El-Baradei takes on the mantle.

PG: Is the disappearance of working-class and other avowedly Left-democratic political organisations, which had a very strong presence in that part of the world till a few decades ago, merely the result of their brutal suppression by various authoritarian regimes (such as Saddam Hussein’s in Iraq, Hafez Assad’s in Syria and Nasser’s and Mubarak’s in Egypt) and/or their systematic physical decimation by Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood? Or, does it also have to do with certain inherent politico-theoretical weaknesses of those groups? Has not the fatal flaw of left/ communist/ socialist forces in the Islamic, particularly the Arab, world been their unwillingness, or inability, to grasp and pose the universal question of the “self-emancipation of the working class” in the determinateness of their specific culture and historicity?

VP: Don’t underestimate the repression. In Egypt, the 2006 budget for internal security was $1.5 billion. There are 1.5 million police officers, four times more than army personnel. I am told that there is now about 1 police officer per 37 people. This is extreme. The subvention that comes from the US  of $1.3 billion helps fund this monstrosity.

The high point of the Egyptian working class was in 1977. This was the bread uprising. It was trounced. Sadat then went to the IMF with a cat’s smile. He inaugurated the infitah. He covered the books by three means: the infitah allowed for some export-oriented production, the religious cover (al-rais al-mou’min) allowed him to try and undercut the Brotherhood, and seek some funds from the Saudis, and the bursary from the US for the deal he cut with Israel. This provided the means to enhance the security apparatus and further crush the workers’ movements.

Was there even space or time to think about creative ways to pose the self-emancipation question? Were there intellectuals who were doing this? Are we in Ajami’s Dream Palace of the Arabs, worrying about the decline of the questions? Recall that in March 1954 the major Wafd and Communist unions made a pact with the Nasserite regime; for concessions it would support the new dispensation. That struck down its independence. The unions put themselves in the service of the Nation over their Class. In the long run, this was a fatal error. But the organised working class was small (as Workers on the Nile shows, most workers were in the “informal” sector). The best that the CP and the Wafd could do in the new circumstances was to argue that the working class plays a central role in the national movement. Nasser and his Revolutionary Command Council, on the other hand, heard this but did not buy it. They saw the military as the agent of history. It was their prejudice.

Arab Uproar

Ron Ridenour

Long time in the making! Long time suffering poverty, inequality, official murder-torture-imprisonment, despotism, fundamentalism, and governments lackeyed to US/Western powers.

I am no expert on Arabic/Middle East history or politics, other than knowing that US/Israel-led imperialism has had a grip on the entire area for decades, and before that there were other foreign oppressors. I know that in part of the Arab world—not currently involved in this uproar—the US-led “humanitarian” operation has cost upwards to two million Iraqi lives, millions of migrants fled and fleeing, tens of thousands tortured, and the destruction and thievery of much cultural wealth and history. European allies assist in this butchery. Something similar is occurring in Afghanistan, and extending into Pakistan.

Wikileaks’ dispersal of US Embassy cables from Tunisia—posted in the British Guardian, December 7, 2010 and January 28, 2011—show how duplicitous and corrupted all US governments are with the Ben Ali family government for the past two decades.

US ambassador to Tunisia, Robert F. Godec, wrote, on July 17, 2009, that the Ben Ali regime is: “sclerotic;” and that “Tunisia is a police state, with little freedom of expression or association, and serious human rights problems.”

On the other hand, Godec expressed the need to continue supporting this regime because, “The government is like-minded on Iran, is an ally in the fight against terrorism…the US Mission has, for the past three years, [responded] by offering greater cooperation…notably in the commercial and military assistance areas.”

The US government supports Egypt with $1.3 billion in military aid annually, second only to Israel.

Most shamefully, a number of Arabic governments aid and abet the US in its “war against terrorism”. Egypt, and Tunisia—where the courageous uproar began a month ago—are among them. In others—Yemen, Algeria, Lebanon—many thousands of people act supportively with the Tunisian people, and with their own similar demands.

Will this lead to revolution, to socialism, as a rejection of misery under capitalism? Marxist analysis of what is takes before a socialist revolution can break out and grow entails two aspects. First, objective conditions must be present: too much poverty, exploitation and oppression to ignore; plus sufficiently high level of technology (industrial or?), and acutely antagonistic productive relations.

The second condition is subjective, in which a significant number (majority or?) of the most productive and exploited of industrial workers (perhaps also or either a significant number of land proletariat and small peasants) are conscious enough of their position as exploited, and are angry enough to take up the call for revolt. Overthrowing oppressors—as is occurring now, or is in the process of occurring, in some Arabic nations—is a good indication that a huge percentage of folk (in many places the large majority) are ready subjectively. Many have been murdered, thousands more arrested, yet they persist, especially in Tunisia and Egypt.

(Iraq, also an Arabic nation, has not moved into supportive action. Most of its people are too brutalized by the US+ invasion and their accomplice national governments, supported by the Persian neighbor, Iran, to come into the streets. But, I suggest that many have their hearts beside their Arabic brothers and sisters in uproar, and time may bring them to fore. But this will probably not occur shortly in Saudi Arabia where the US-backed multi-billionaire government leaders rule with a fascist fist.)

The objective material factors for Tunisia and Egypt are, in large part, present as well. Does the high level of production relations necessary exist? I do not know. Are the workers antagonistic enough with the bosses and do they know that (condition two)? I’d say yes to both.

I do not seek to become an oracle. I wish merely to shed us of illusions. It takes more than what is occurring now to win over not only the national oligarchies and their armies and police forces well-equipped with US-French-British armaments, but also the very Empire itself awaiting in nearby skies and waters for the signal to move in if all else fails. The people are not armed well enough.

Nevertheless, I am encouraged by a sense of pan-Arabic unity, a sense that they are all one brethren no matter the name of the State. I do not see, however, in many of these areas, that the people are well organized, that they have their own parties or unions that lead with sagaciousness, or that they lead at all. There is great spontaneity and determination. All to the good! But people never win over the oppressors unless they have organizations that formulate policy and direction.

In Tunisia, however, I see a positive development with the January 14th Front, forces involved in the revolt. The eight organizations and political parties forming it, several illegal and operating underground, gathered into a united front on the day that the dictator fled the country. They propose 14 points to move forward, to form a people’s government and change the economic foundations.

Among the key points are anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist demands, coupled with democratic and social demands to raise the people out of poverty and exploitation.

  • Eliminate all temporary governments that have any relations with the Ben Ali government and party (the RCD).
  • Dissolve the existing state apparatus and create an assembly of peoples’ organizations for a new constitutional foundation.
  • Eliminate the secret service and the political police.
  • Jobs, health care, civil and social rights for all.
  • Solidarity with all forces for liberation, especially with Palestinians in opposition to Zionism.
  • Most of you who read this commentary are not in the Arabic region. To you I say: we are all brothers and sisters in our common struggle! Take up what arm you can and support these people today, and hope that, one day, we will all support one another to build a universe where we are all one free people living with essential needs!

    For other articles by the author visit his website.

    Paramilitarisation of Universities in Iran

    Open letter to academic colleagues
    and the academic community at large

    Cyrus Bina and Hamid Zangeneh

    The sixteenth of Azar (December 7) marked the commemoration of the 56th anniversary of student protest against Richard M. Nixon, the then Vice-President of the United States, who visited the Shah’s government of the post-CIA coup d’état in the late 1953 in Tehran. This was also an occasion for the continuation of protests against June 2009 post-election bloody crack downs against the Ahmadinejad administration and its benefactor, Ayatollah Ali Khameni, which in large measure would have also brought to light the 30-year unpardonable conduct of the regime to the court of the public opinion again. The Islamic Republic has now turned into a paramilitary regime beyond the imagination of both the Shah’s regime and the founding fathers of the so-called Islamic Revolution. The irony of recent history that had positioned the Iranians between a premeditated tragedy and an impulsive comedy: the former — the CIA intervention that brought the Shah back; the latter — the pathetic post-election coup that metamorphosed the regime toward an all-encompassing paramilitary state. The context below is more pertinent to this year’s Student Day anniversary than ever.

    As the universities in Iran have turned into the bastion of paramilitary “Revolutionary Guards” and “Basijis”, the present-day post-revolutionary Sha’abaan bi Mokhs (literally, Sha’abaan the Brainless), like Mr Kamran Daneshjoo and Mr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, portray themselves as learned individuals worthy of respect. These individuals, whose numbers are skyrocketing and whose purpose has nothing to do with learning and scholarship, have been able to get phony degrees and titles that presumably give them respect and thus prop up their stature to sugarcoat their thuggish and unbecoming mission as the agents of repression in Iran. Mr. Ahmadinejad, of course, is a talented man who wore many hats in the past; he was a one-time assistant executioner in the notorious Evin Prison in which he was reportedly putting the final bullet (tir-e khalas) in a political prisoner’s head. Ahmadinejad and his cohorts in the “Revolutionary Guard” and Basij are thus desperately seeking such titles in order to do their dirty work in disguise — as a “respectable” make-belief academic authority. And this is but a horrifying parallel for some of us who know one or two things about Iran’s recent history that the senior interrogators under the Shah’s regime too used to call themselves “Doctor”, when they engaged in interrogation by means of torture leveled routinely against the tied-up political prisoners in the same prison in Tehran.

    For instance, Mr Ahmadinejad, a formerly Pasdar (i.e., Revolutionary Guardsman), who was the Governor of Province of Ardebil (1372-1376 H.S. [1993-1997 A.D.]), and who himself once boasted that he had worked 18 hours a day during the entire four years of Governorship in that province, amazingly “earned” a doctorate degree, perhaps granted to him by “Mahdi” (Emam-e Zaman) himself during the same period. Someone should ask Ahmadinejad where he had found time in the same period to complete a doctorate degree. This is only the tip of the blunder, a telling story of almost all the Pasdar and Basij candidates who were planted as the watchful spies and agent provocateurs in the classroom and then rewarded with bogus degrees in universities in Iran. Yet the genuine students who were often incarcerated and abused for political activity are being marked as “starred” and routinely barred from further study for life.

    On the top of this, many individuals — who were decidedly appointed as spies and sent abroad in order to identify the Iranian dissidents within the university circles in major western countries, have falsely claimed to have completed a degree programme or two in these universities, upon accomplishing their job and returning to the country. In this manner, Mr Daneshjoo — comrade-in-arms of Mr Ahmadinejad and his recently appointed “Minister of Sciences”— is a quintessential example. He does not only lie rather outrageously about a “doctorate degree” he has never earned but also continuously photocopies the work of others in broad daylight and publicises it as his own.

    Mr Daneshjoo (and his alleged co-author) had literally carbon-copied the original paper (by Lee, Lee and Shin 2002) and in full public view turned it rather magically into a “brand new” paper under his name (Daneshjoo and Shahrawi 2009). Mr Daneshjoo also alleges (which upon ample investigation turned out to be a baseless, and perhaps, shameless claim) that he has earned a doctorate degree from an institution of higher learning in London, England. However, upon ample investigation by our colleagues it turned out that his claim is baseless. As the saying goes, we have seen this movie before in our beloved birthplace and elsewhere, but not in such an outrageous manner and in such a mass quantity that puts the original Ford assembly line to shame. This is only expected of the government of Munchhausen (1) and the community of con-artists under Ahmadinejad. And, aside from their real role as the agents of repression in the Islamic Republic of Iran, we are (in consultation with many of our distinguished academic colleagues) convinced that this tiny gesture — i.e., a formal academic sanction that follows in this piece — is necessary.

    The academic community has no border. And the institutions of higher learning in Iran are no exception. We all have a standard to go by, and these outright cheatings and egregious acts of dishonesty have no place in the academic community at large. This also speaks both to one’s character and one’s qualification as a learned person, yet — in the case of Iran under the Islamic Republic — it has become an art form and a class by itself to paramilitarise the universities in order (1) to contain nearly all administrative and faculty functions that lend themselves to education of the most promising intellectual stratum of the population and (2) to control and reverse the atmosphere of tolerance for (universal) academic freedoms, critical thinking, and authentic curricula and genuine acquisition of knowledge, particularly in social and political sciences in Iran.

    We need to watch the Iranian universities at the commencement of current academic year, particularly in the aftermath of the post-Election bloodshed that laid bare the paramilitarisation of the economy, polity, and the public space and that had metamorphosed the Islamic Republic since the election of Ahmadinejad in 2005. There are unconfirmed reports to the effect that the Ahmadinejad government is now planning to do away with all “western” social science disciplines in major universities. This is a cause for concern, as it is a reminder of the so-called earlier “cultural revolution” that made all the institutions of higher learning in Iran a target of “purification” and that led to a summary dismissal of “subversive” professors — under the authorisation by Abdolkarim Soroush and Mohammad Khatami (both of whom are now in the opposition) — in the early 1980s. And if this turns out to be true, it undoubtedly would be the largest attempt at obliteration of higher education in Iran, which is a major step toward wholesale Talibanisation of university education under Ahmadinejad. The cruel irony is that (since the 1906-1911 Constitutional Revolution) Iran without a doubt possesses the longest record of democratic movement, scientific endeavour, and advance toward modernisation than any other nation in the region.

    The clerical regime is now transformed into a full-fledged paramilitary state. These paramilitary agents of repression are now in the driver’s seat in both the administrative leadership and the faculty committees, and thus set the academic agenda in major universities. Just a few days into the post-election upheaval, the plain cloth Basij picked up Dr Mohammad Maleki — a prominent scholar and former chancellor of Tehran University. These plain cloth Basijis are the member of the same unit that in the immediate aftermath of post-election upheaval suddenly (and unprovoked) stormed through the Tehran University dormitories, destroyed much of the structure, beat and arrested the residents, and tied up several students before throwing them down from the roof on to the concrete pavement below to their eventual death. Dr Maleki has been kept incommunicado in the notorious Evin Prison till the time of this writing. And no amount of appeal to the United Nation Secretary General has so far produced a tangible result. According to his spouse, Maleki — a 76-year old who suffers from advanced cancer of prostate, abnormal heartbeat and diabetes — did not even vote for any of the proposed presidential candidates and certainly had no involvement with Mir Hossein Mousavi’s camp. He is accused of “collaboration with the enemy”, a blanket charge that has been commonly conjured up, and nowadays is rather methodically leveled, against those who defy the arbitrary political arrests by this government and its ruthless and rent-a-cop paramilitary goons. Simply put, barrel of the gun emanates more “reason” than the wisdom of Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Rumi, Hegel, Russell and Whitehead combined in today’s Iranian universities.

    Thus, as Iran specialists and academic persons of international repute — who have approved granting of university degrees and safeguarded the universally recognised standard of qualification for thousands of candidates (American and non-American) for a combined period of nearly 60 years across several institutions of higher learning in the US —

    We hereby revoke Mr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s and Mr Kamran Daneshjoo’s alleged and proclaimed degrees (bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate) by means of this electronic letter and based on the unimpeachable evidence concerning the lack of authenticity in performance, forgery of the academic credentials for political purposes, and simply the integrity of the said persons above on the 16th day of Azar of 1388 (Iranian calendar) equivalent of the 7th of December 2009.

    (On the Seventh Day of December of Two-Thousand and Nine)

    This action is the tip of the iceberg, as it is miniscule in comparison with the courageous student resistance, which involves risking lives (along with scores of silenced and jailed faculty) in the institutions of higher learning in Iran. Yet, we believe, this is a symbolic task that should speak to the wholesale annulment of all fictitious degrees received by all members of “Revolutionary Guard” and Basij paramilitary contingents — who were deliberately exempted from the entrance exams and other essential curricular requirements and who have deliberately obtained fictitious academic degrees from the institutions of higher learning — over the last 30 years under the Government of the Islamic Republic — in Iran. This also pertains, for instance, to Mohammad Reza Rahimi (Ahmadinejad’s first Vice-President appointee), who is reportedly claiming a doctorate degree from abroad and could not produce it, at the request of the inquisitive deputies —led by those who do not even belong to the “reformist camp” — during his very recent confirmation in the Iranian Majlis. It is important to realise that paramilitarisation of universities has already led to the displacement of the bulk of student body by either silencing or incarceration without cause, arbitrary jail sentences, and even plain torture at the hands of authorities in Iran.

    Therefore, the question here — i.e., academic dishonesty and granting of fake degrees that in this case have already led to the destruction of academic environment — is not limited to our professional interest but it also open the Pandora’s box of why the best and brightest Iranian students must be dismissed so arbitrarily from the universities and, more importantly, why, for instance, Tehran University campus (once a Harvard of Iran’s higher education) should become the site the so-called Friday prayers by the government, as if this is the only place to be used as a makeshift freaking mosque in this godforsaken land! We ask our colleagues in Iran and abroad to support this symbolic gesture for it does not only concern our narrow professional responsibility but also our universal duty for unconditional defence and promotion of human rights in Iran and anywhere around the globe.


    (1) Baron Munchausen (1720-1797), a German adventurer known for his compulsive lying.

    Cyrus Bina, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Minnesota (Morris Campus), is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Iranian Research and Analysis, the author of The Economics of the Oil Crisis (1985), and co-editor of Modern Capitalism and Islamic Ideology in Iran (1991).

    Hamid Zangeneh, Professor of Economics at Widener University in Pennsylvania, is the Editor of the Journal of Iranian Research & Analysis, co-editor of Modern Capitalism and Islamic Ideology in Iran (1991), and editor of Islam, Iran and World Stability (1994).