Sat, 29 Feb 2020

As a scholar of international relations, one was quite disappointed to read the response of Shayan Arya to the piece by Khalid Sayed MPL from the ANC.

Yet just because I am an upcoming expert of international relations does not disqualify Arya nor even Sayed from commenting on matters of international relations.

There exists this fallacy in our post-contemporary society, dare we suggest the "fake news" era, when one disqualifies one's interlocutor by disqualifying them based on identity.

"You cannot speak on South Africa if you are not South African," this logic goes.

But being a South African does not make me an "expert" on South Africa either.

"I am a greater authority to speak on issues of Iran and what happens in Iran," states Arya subtly as he introduces his response "as an Iranian".

On the other hand, we cannot dismiss the fact that he is Iranian. But in this regard it is useful to state two further facts.

Firstly, Arya identifies himself as a "human rights activist" and "a member of the Constitutionalist Party of Iran".

A better contradiction in history could not exist.

The Constitutionalist Party of Iran advocates and awaits the return of the monarchy under the Pahlavi dynasty.

After fleeing to the United States and the United Kingdom, Reza Pahlavi, the Shah at the time, staged a coup in 1953 and had Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh arrested.

Backed by these supporters in the West, the Shah suppressed opponents with the help of Iran's security and intelligence police, SAVAK, and targeted in the main progressives and so-called Islamists.

SAVAK alone was said to keep surveillance on the media, vetting public servants, and use torture to capture dissidents.

Eventually, the situation became so horrific that it led to the 1961 assassination of General Teymur Bakhtiar given that he too had become a dissident after witnessing the horrors at the hands of the Shah.

After 1971, the SAVAK, under the Shah, continued to employ methods such as , sleep deprivation, extensive solitary confinement, glaring searchlights, nail extractions, use of snakes on women, electrical shocks with cattle prods, often in the rectum, among many others.

One only has to read SAVAK's article on Wikipedia to understand the brutality and that the Shah himself was anything but a respecter of human rights.

We know too that the Constitutionalist Party of Iran opposed the 1979 Revolution and therefore they would grab any opportunity to bad-mouth the present rulers of Iran; bad mouth even the dead.

Secondly, when one reads the article by Sayed one understands that he was sketching the unjust and entirely unacceptable situation within which the Middle East region finds itself.

Appropriately titled "The ANC must remain as a bulwark in the era of anti-imperialism", he points out the unlawful and illegitimate actions of the United States within the region but especially given the presence of foreign armed forces.

Yet as we have seen with the Shah, some rulers in the Middle East can only count on western imperialism and these western armed forces to stay in power because their own people, as was the case in 1979, outright rejected them.

Little wonder, the Constitutionalist Party of Iran would object to any fight against imperialism.

Even if Qassem Soleimani is guilty of the atrocities attributed to him by the likes of Arya and his backers, there exists other means to have brought him to justice. Surely this is what an activist of human rights would demand?

In the wake of Soleimani's death, a group of 60 American ethicists, including some notable Catholic theologians, released a statement stating that "the drone killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani on January 3rd by the United States was not morally justified..."

These ethicists, comprising members of the Society of Christian Ethics, Society of Jewish Ethics and the Society for the Study of Muslim Ethics, further underscored the point that " ...although Gen. Soleimani responsible for the deaths of others previously, ... we remain unconvinced that there was no other reasonable way to restrain his activities." (My emphasis).

We may well understand that Arya has a particular political role to play as a member of the Constitutionalist Party of Iran which opposes the 1979 Revolution and everything and everyone associated with it.

But what we can never accept as the international community is the flagrant disregard for facts. As we know, the first casualty in any war is the truth.

If anything, Sayed's article was truthful while Arya's may have been a bit less so. Yet this battle is not as important as the one which will ensure that we work together, as the international community, for a free, independent and peaceful Middle East.

The people of the Middle East deserve it but even more so they deserve the truth to be told about them without political expediency.

- Wesley Seale is completing his PhD in international relations in Beijing.

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