Monday, September 24, 2007

Queering Freedom House

Arsham Parsi, Executive Director of the IRanian Queer Organization (IRQO, formerly Persian Gay & Lesbian Organization [PGLO]), thanks Gozaar: "To begin with, I would like to thank Gozaar -- A Journal on Democracy and Human Rights in Iran -- and its editor Sasan Ghahreman for inviting the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO) here today so we could be with you" ("Arsham Parsi Speaks at Gozar Panel, Silenced Voices, Toronto,", 16 September 2007).

Scrawl down to the bottom of Gozaar's homepage, and you'll see that it unabashedly features the logo of its sponsor Freedom House.1 Getting associated with Freedom House, an organization that is among the best known elements of Washington's regime change campaign in Iran, is the surest way to turn all thinking Iranians against your organization and set back your cause.2 Evidently, for Parsi and IRQO, welfare of the constituency he claims to represent, GLBTQ individuals in Iran, is far less important than serving the empire.

Funding for this project of Freedom House is "provided mainly by The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, under its Human Rights and Democracy programs," says Gozaar. As the empire is multinational, so is its regime change campaign, but this is an aspect of imperialism that leftists have yet to investigate in depth.

1 What is Freedom House?
While touting itself as having a "bipartisan character," Freedom House is often associated with hawkish and neoconservative factions within both major U.S. parties, a fact made clear by many of its current and past supporters and board members, which have included former CIA Director James Woolsey, ex-Reagan administration official Kenneth Adelman, the late UN Amb. Jeane Kirkpatrick, and former member of the Committee on the Present Danger, Max Kampelman. Other board members have included the conservative Rolling Stone writer P.J. O'Rourke; Samuel Huntington, a Harvard professor who says the post-Cold War period will be dominated by a "clash of civilizations" between the Muslim and Christian worlds; Ruth Wedgwood, a right-leaning human rights lawyer; and Arthur Waldron, a longtime foreign policy hawk who has been a leading advocate for a hardline China policy. Many of these individuals have also supported the work of a number of other conservative organizations, including the Project for the New American Century, the Center for Security Policy, and the American Enterprise Institute. Other Freedom House supporters and scholars have included Mark Falcoff, the late Penn Kemble, Nina Shea, and Daniel Pipes. ("Freedom House," Right Web, 26 July 2007)
What is it doing in Iran?
In choosing Freedom House as the venue for a foreign policy address this week, President George W. Bush has stepped into an intense debate among democracy activists in the US and Iran on how US dollars should be used to carry out the administration's policy of promoting freedom in the Islamic republic.

Few in the Washington audience on Wednesday realised that Freedom House, an independent institution founded more than 60 years ago by Eleanor Roosevelt, the former first lady, is one of several organisations selected by the State Department to receive funding for clandestine activities inside Iran.

Peter Ackerman, chairman of the board of trustees, who introduced Mr Bush, is also the founder of a separate organisation that promotes non-violent civic disobedience as a form of resistance to repressive regimes. His International Center on Non-Violent Conflict has organised discreet "workshops" in the Gulf emirate of Dubai to teach Iranians the lessons learned from east European movements.

A separate organisation, the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre based in New Haven, Connecticut, has also received US funding and organised a Dubai "workshop" for Iranians last year that was not made public.

Mr Ackerman, who is very wealthy from an earlier career as a financier, says he does not accept government money. Questioned by the FT, Freedom House confirmed it had received funding from the State Department for activities in Iran. It declined to give details but said it was not involved in Mr Ackerman's work in Dubai.

Freedom House also disclosed that it received $100,000 (€83,873, £57,500) from Mr Ackerman last year and a further $100,000 from his organisation.

In a research study, with Mr Ackerman acting as chief adviser, Freedom House sets out its conclusions: "Far more often than is generally understood, the change agent is broad-based, non-violent civic resistance - which employs tactics such as boycotts, mass protests, blockades, strikes and civil disobedience to de-legitimate authoritarian rulers and erode their sources of support, including the loyalty of their armed defenders." (Guy Dinmore, "Bush Enters Iran 'Freedom' Debate," Financial Times, 31 March 2006)
2 On a related issue of how Gozaar damaged the "One Million Signatures" campaign, see Hossein Derakhshan, "Beware Gozaar," Editor: Myself, 26 January 2007.


Jack DuVall said...

The above entry contains serious errors about the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. It does not promote nonviolent action solely as "resistance to repressive regimes." As an educational foundation, its work is restricted to transferring knowledge about nonviolent action to any people which request it; these have included Palestinians opposing Israeli occupation, West Papuans struggling against Indonesian occupation, Egyptians campaigning for democracy in that country, and Guatemalans campaigning against violence and corruption in their country. Its workshop in Dubai was not based solely on "lessons learned from east European movements," but on the entire historical heritage of nonviolent action, including Gandhi's movements in India, the nonviolent overthrow of Pinochet in Chile, and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Contrary to the above entry's implication, the Center receives absolutely no money from any government and conducts no operations coordinated with any government, including the U.S. government. People should judge for themselves what its mission is, by reading the speeches, statements and books of its founders, staff and academic advisors:

Yoshie said...

Dear Mr. Jack Duvall,

You ought to quarrel with the Financial Times, not with me, since you are taking issue with the FT article I cited.

In the meantime, legitimate questions have been raised by others who have also taken note of the work of International Center on Nonviolent Conflict: e.g.,

Tom Barry, "The New Politics of Political Aid in Venezuela," Americas Program Report (Washington, DC: Center for International Policy, 24 July 2007); and Michael Barker, "An Accurate and Fair Critique of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict," Green Left Weekly, 22 September 2007

Ó Murchadha said...

Hello comrade,

I was pointed out towards your article on Freedom House and I definitely agree with you 100%!

That said, I'm sure you'll appreciate this article that I had written up last night.

It's on Iran and the Mousavi connections to the NED and ICNC: