- Posted by Maryam Namazie
- On September 27, 2004
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International TV interview with Fariborz Pooya and Bahram Soroush
September 27, 2004
Maryam Namazie: I want to start with the latest hostages that have been taken by Islamists. They have already killed the two Americans – Jack Hensley and Eugene Armstrong. There is a Briton who is still being held – Kenneth Bigley. We have just seen a really heart-wrenching video of him; sobbing and begging for his life and calling on Tony Blair to intervene and release women prisoners in Iraq, because that’s one of the demands of the Islamic terrorists holding him. My first question to you is when you see a situation like this, don’t you feel that Tony Blair should put pressure to release the women prisoners in Iraq, since anything needs to be done in order to save a human life and we are talking about Kenneth Bigley’s here.
Fariborz Pooya: Everything needs to be done to release the hostages, but the fundamental question is that the political Islamic movement, be it in Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan or Palestine, uses terror as a means for its objectives. The Islamic government in Iran abducts its opposition. They use the same methods when they are in power as well. In opposition, if they are strong enough, they use these means too. We need to resolve the fundamental situation in Iraq. If one of the hostages is freed, this issue will not be resolved. The hostage taking will not be resolved. There should be a lot more pressure on Islamic groups to actually stop taking hostages. Unfortunately, the occupation of Iraq by American military forces has blocked any means for Iraqi people to resist the Islamic movement. The only force that can stop the Islamic movement is the progressive movement to pressurise the Islamic movement, and for the international community and international public opinion to condemn terrorism and terrorist activities and the abduction of civilians. That’s the only way of stopping the repetition of such horrific acts.
Maryam Namazie: Bahram Soroush, does nationality come into play? Because you see the two American hostages have already been killed and the Briton still alive? Do you think there’s any question of nationality here?
Bahram Soroush: I’m not sure. There might be. But going back to your earlier question, every effort should be made to gain the release of Kenneth Bigley. That should go beyond the politics which Tony Blair and the Western governments are following. We know that by attacking Iraq they have created the environment for those terrorists to have a free play. So they are responsible for creating this nightmare that has happened in Iraq. And the least they can do is to do everything possible to gain the release of any single individual caught up in that situation. The question then is how to deal with those armed religious mafia and gangs. We know it won’t be achieved by continuing the policies of the US and UK governments. So again it will be left to us, as Fariborz Pooya was saying, to deal with that.
On the question of nationality, of course they will try to get hostages that they can use as a leverage to gain concessions as much as they can. But the concessions they want in fact have nothing to do with the interests of the people of Iraq. They want to say that they are part of a ‘popular resistance’ against the US occupation, in defence of the Iraqi people; like the demand for the release of the Iraqi women prisoners being held by the British or US forces. But this is just a pretext to give legitimacy to their acts of violence against the people. We have to see the links that these people are trying to invent between themselves and the actual lives of the people in Iraq and the war. Such links do not exist. For them Iraq is a pretext, just as the Palestinian issue is a pretext.
Maryam Namazie: How can it be a pretext; because when you look at the demands of the hostage-takers, they are political demands, from the withdrawal of let’s say Italian troops from Iraq, when they took the Italian hostages, to, for example, the release of women prisoners which is their latest demand, to, for example, an end to the ban on religious symbols in France, when they took the two French journalists. So there are obviously political demands at the base of their hostage-taking, however despicable these acts might be?
Fariborz Pooya: Absolutely. This is a political movement. And, according to the situation, they very cleverly and shrewdly use the divisions between the policies of the Western governments and the fact that the majority of the people in the West do not support military activity in Iraq as leverage against the governments of the West to withdraw their troops. It uses these means to achieve its aim of gaining power in the Middle East. These are different areas, so to say, on the chess board of the Islamic movement to gain power in the Middle East. And in Western Europe too – as you can see from the pressure that they have put on the French government. They want to impose their rule as far as they can. They are a political movement and aiming for power.
Bahram Soroush: I agree totally. They will try to say that their actions are out of their faith; that this is a war against Islam and all that nonsense whereas they are a clearly-defined political movement with a political agenda. They are now at war with the US. Historically, this was not the case. They were helped to be created by the Western powers. But now there is a confrontation between them. After the waning of Arab nationalism in the Middle East, these people are trying to fill in the vacuum. They have been trying that for two or three decades now, i.e. to give a political expression to the demands of the local bourgeoisie in the Middle East. Their fight with the USA is a fight to gain as much share of the power as they can and to impose themselves through violence and brute force like any other regional bourgeois force. They have succeeded to some extent. They succeeded in Iran and Afghanistan and they are trying to do that in Iraq. But for the past decade or so, they have been on the wane because of the people’s struggle against them, especially in Iran. They have no legitimacy whatsoever amongst the population at large. They know that. So like any other armed gang and sect and religious mafia, they are relying on brute force. They also rely on the financial and military backing that they received, especially during the war in Afghanistan, as Mojehedin, as well as the backing now of states like Iran and Saudi Arabia to impose themselves on the people. For them it is an attempt to get as big a share of power as possible in the Middle East; to become the political governmental form in the Middle East. But these attempts are running against hard realities.
Fariborz Pooya: To add to that, naked military force cannot stop this movement. The only way to combat and confront this movement is for the popular, progressive movement in the Middle East, particularly in Iran as its core, to actually give it the final blow; a fundamental blow. In Iran the majority of the population are waiting for the final moment to overthrow the Islamic regime, and by overthrowing the Islamic regime, they would give a fatal blow to the political Islamic movement. That’s the way to combat the political Islamic movement. The military action of the United States, Britain and the Coalition forces actually creates a situation for this movement to flourish. Look at the cities of Iraq. In Iraq the scope for popular protests against the Islamic movement actually has been limited as a result of the occupation. So it’s important for the popular and progressive movement, which has the ability to deal with the political Islamic movement, to come out and fight this dark force which is taking humanity to the Middle Ages.
Maryam Namazie: Following on that reasoning and rationale, some people would say it is the so-called ‘war on terror’ that has created this; the USA that has created this situation. And the Islamists who are taking hostages are really people who have their backs to the wall and are trying to ‘resist’ and fight back. In a sense that sort of rationale seems to give legitimacy to what political Islamic groups are doing. What would you say to that?
Bahram Soroush: I have heard similar arguments; that, for example, these are acts of people in despair. But this is not at all a popular movement resisting an attack on them. This is not ‘people’s resistance against imperialism and an occupation’. I remember leaflets we used to give out prior to the war against Iraq. We said this is what is going to happen; that if you attack Iraq, the most reactionary forces, which are now subterranean and dormant, would re-emerge; all this political dirt and scum would come to the surface. And that is exactly what has happened. The USA is the most powerful terrorist state in the world which has terrorised humanity for decades, but that doesn’t give legitimacy to an equally or even worse reactionary force which now happens to be at war with it. We have to be very clear about the nature of this force. This is a political Islamic mafia. They have no relation whatsoever with the suffering of the Iraqi people or the suffering of the Palestinian people. We don’t have to choose between the two.
Maryam Namazie: But if Iraq is a pretext and their demands are political demands that are the demands of many people, such as the release of women prisoners, the withdrawal of troops, etc., how can you reconcile the two? They seem contradictory.
Bahram Soroush: They need to put forward demands, which widen their scope of action. For example, the withdrawal of the occupying forces may let power fall into their hands, given the present balance of forces and the backing that they have from some regional states and forces. The demand of the people is not just that. People are scared of both the US forces and these Islamic gangs; of the latter maybe even more so. If you ask the average Iraqi what they want, I don’t think they would just say they want the troops to leave and that’s it. They are against both evils. People are scared of the Islamists because they have seen how where they have come to power – like in Iran and Afghanistan and now even in some neighbourhoods in the cities of Iraq – what nightmare has resulted. If power falls into their hands in Iraq, we will be witnessing another holocaust, as in Iran, with hundreds of thousands of people being slaughtered and society being pushed back to the religious barbarity of the Middle Ages. People realise that, so their opposition to the US forces, their demands, are qualified. That’s one reason why people have become depoliticised somewhat. We don’t see large demonstrations at this moment, because roaming on the streets at present are, on the one side, the US and British military forces, and, on the other, these armed gangs.
Fariborz Pooya: And despite these pressures of these two poles of terrorism that are functioning powerfully in Iraq, people are still protesting, for example, in support for the two Italian hostages. Already there have been two demonstrations by the people in Baghdad for their release. That’s brilliant. This is a force that could save Iraq; the popular movement in Iraq which is for civil society, wants separation of religion from the state, and wants demilitarisation of all the forces. And if there is going to be a demilitarisation of Iraq, it has to be the demilitarisation of all the military forces. All the Islamic militias must leave the cities of Iraq too.
Maryam Namazie: But there haven’t been protests for Kenneth Bigley, for example, or for Nick Berg. I mean it was for the two Italians, in a sense, because they were aid workers. The point is that distinctions are made between different types of hostages.
Fariborz Pooya: Of course. It is difficult to criticise the people on the ground. People knew these two Italian hostages; they had worked with them, day in and day out. The taking of those hostages was a blow to the whole neighbourhoods that they were serving. So people reacted immediately. I’m sure the majority of people in Iraq are against abduction and hostage-taking, and if the opportunity exists, they would condemn it. I think many people have done that. From the press releases that I have seen, many professional groups, many trade union groups, unemployed workers’ centres have condemned the hostage-taking. And that’s what we need to do: condemn hostage-taking and help the popular, progressive movement in Iraq to come out. This movement represents the majority of the people in Iraq, not the US or US-appointed government or the Islamic groups. Neither of these two represents the Iraqi people.
The above is an International TV (http://www.anternasional.tv/english) interview dated September 27, 2004.