NO WAR - NO SANCTIONS
A STUDY GROUP CURRICULUM TO SUPPORT ACTION TO STOP WAR ON IRAN
These materials are designed to help educate people in the US about the history and current relations between the U.S. and Iran in order to support people taking action against US war and aggression including sanctions.
As in countries all around the world, progressive social movements in Iran are organizing against austerity, privatization, and state repression, as well as against war and sanctions. First and foremost, standing in solidarity with those movements means holding our own government accountable. It is not up to people in the US to determine what happens in Iran. However, the complexity of the situation should not stand in the way of us taking action. Our focus needs to be on holding our government accountable so that everyday Iranians can take care of their business without US interference and aggression.
The curriculum is broken up into 4 sessions for study. The first session includes an article about the history and culture of Iran because it is important to understand that Iran is a country with thousands of years of diverse cultural history that extends beyond the current political moment. The second session looks at the long and nefarious role that the US has played in internal Iranian politics from overthrowing a popular leader to arming both sides in a bloody war. The third session looks at different elements of the current political situation: sanctions, different regional actors, and general analysis. The final session is designed to move towards taking action by looking at key campaigns and organizations.
Each session includes questions for discussion. This resource also includes key organizations and resources for learning more. This is designed as a 4 session study, but please adjust it to fit your needs.
A note about the readings: some of the articles we included are older, and while US-Iranian relations are volatile and some individual actors have changed, the dynamics and policies discussed in the articles still contribute to building a strong understanding of the key issues.
Each of the four sessions in this study comes with readings. We encourage participants to come to each session with a bulleted list or two short paragraphs summarizing some of the key ideas in the materials. This will help to enrich the conversation.
We encourage you to open each session by giving people an opportunity to share any insight or news they have gained about Iran or other issues relevant to the content of the study since the previous session. We also encourage you to start discussing the readings by asking people if there was anything that jumped out at them and what questions they have.
Support participants to feel, and not just think about the content. Talking about racism and the kind of history this study covers can be extremely emotional. White people especially will often talk about these things while blocking out the emotional content, or if they do connect with it emotionally, try to move on quickly and/or stay in their heads. If these things come up, try to help participants actually feel what they are talking about. Simply naming the emotion and pausing are often effective. Bear in mind that participants' understanding or experiences with the content will vary. Anticipate that disagreement may arise and understand that participating in the study group is a starting point, rather than an end point, to learning and mobilizing.
Make your study group as accessible as possible. Catalyst Project has been mentored extensively by Sins Invalid, a disability justice organization, and we try to have all our events be as accessible as possible. Here’s an accessibility planning document we use. Note that the best planning for accessibility starts a few months before an event -- get started thinking about this early!
Please reach out to us if you would like help thinking through how to use this curriculum:
Lee Gargagliano - firstname.lastname@example.org
Donna Willmott - email@example.com
Clare Bayard - firstname.lastname@example.org
We want to extend a special thanks to the Iranian and Arab organizers who provided crucial feedback to shape this curriculum, including Nina Farnia, Lara Kiswani of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, and other Iranian comrades.
ABOUT CATALYST PROJECT
Catalyst Project organizes, trains and mentors white activists and majority-white organizations to take action to end racism, war and empire, and to support efforts to build power in working-class communities of color. To learn more about our work or request a training, go to www.collectiveliberation.org.
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It is important to start a study on Iran by understanding that Iran is a large and diverse country with 82 million people. Civilization in the region has a rich and complex history stretching back over 6,000 years. For much of this time, a hallmark of Iranian culture has been its diversity. Today, there are over 15 officially recognized ethnic groups and 7 recognized religious groups in Iran. Iran is also notable for the cultural value placed on scholarship and poetry. Iranian poets, scientists, and mathematicians are considered to be some of the most significant contributors to the Islamic Golden Age in the 1300s, and their legacy continues. There are over 15 officially recognized languages in Iran today, with media and schooling available in many of those.
While the US has had a huge impact on Iran’s modern history, and that is the focus of this study, we have to be careful to avoid reducing Iranian history and society to its interactions with the US. As you do the readings in this section, think about what you know already about Iran and think about what you don’t know. Think about how the media talks about Iran and what’s missing. Think about what it would mean or what it would take to really understand Iranian history on its own terms.
Academic articles, music and podcasts that “challenge simplistic representations of the region in the Western media and bring the complex debates happening in academia to a wider audience.”
A common narrative in the US media (not only regarding Iran) is, “Why do they hate us?” Beyond the implicit racism of reducing an entire country’s population to a single opinion, this question erases history. In order to understand US-Iranian relations in today’s era, we need to ground ourselves in the long and brutal history of US intervention in Iran. The US, through the CIA, overthrew a popular Iranian government in 1953, re-installing a hated authoritarian in order to maintain British and US control over Iranian oil reserves. The consequences of that have continued, along with unrelenting US intervention, ever since. This section looks at the coup and some of the ways that the US has continued to intervene in Iran.
[Abrahamian is one of the primary scholars of the CIA coup in Iran. For an extended history, see his book The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the Roots of Modern US-Iranian Relations].
As you dive into looking at the current situation, carry forward the work that you’ve done on the history to find connections and implications for the present. Understanding the news about Iran requires holding many different angles on the story. It requires trying to understand the material interests of US individuals and corporations underneath the outrageous provocations and wild pendulum swings of Trump; it requires understanding the role of key US allies including Saudi Arabia and Israel who are interested in pushing for US intervention in Iran for their own reasons; it requires understanding that sanctions, which can also be called economic warfare, are violent and that their impacts land most heavily on the ordinary people of Iran, particularly working class people, women and children. The external pressure also makes it harder for the Iranian people to have the space to shape their social conditions.
We hope that this study has provided you with a background in understanding what is happening in Iran and between the US and Iran. We hope that in that history you have found a commitment to standing with the people of Iran by opposing US intervention. We hope you recognize both a responsibility to Iranian people and an understanding of how the impacts of war with Iran would have negative impacts on people around the world, including in the US. We ask you to think about accountability and how to take leadership from those most impacted by the US’s actions, but most of all we ask you to act to stop US war, sanctions and intervention in Iran and act in solidarity with Iranian people and movements fighting for liberation, as well as elsewhere around the world.
[This action guide from May of 2019 is outdated now that Bolton is gone, but it still offer valuable information and ideas for action.]