”Whose centre? – our centre!”, ” Kick out the terrorists from the community centre” and ”Down with the Islamic terror regime in Iran”, were the cries of around 100 protestors (many of whom endured grievous suffering at the hands of the Iranian regime), who gathered outside the Backa community centre in Gothenburg, Sweden, for two whole days. Between 7am and 7pm, they protested continuously against the Iranian embassy’s leasing of a community centre as a temporary consulate, through a front company. Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden) had two speakers at both days of protest.
The situation was far from calm when the second day of protests began. Approximately 100 protestors gathered once again from early morning, with many arriving by 7am . Banners hung from the rails leading into the community centre, with the text, “down with the Islamic terror regime in Iran” and “Freedom, equality”. Shortly afterwards, the area was cordoned off and the police lined up with a wall of riot buses, indicating to the protestors that the ambassador and his staff were on their way. Eggs flew through the air, as the regime’s representatives climbed out of their cars. There was without doubt a collective hatred towards the diplomats.
This is not difficult to understand, since the majority of the protestors have themselves fled from the repressive regime that these men represent. “They murdered my sister”, “My brother was killed before my own eyes”, “I was only 16 when they tortured me, several of my friends were executed”, testified the protestors. And with tears in their eyes, they threw objects at the diplomats, with a hatred that is easy to sympathise with. Many had taken the day off work to be able to attend the protest and many exiled communist parties and organisations were there, with the support of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna.
For several hours, chants of “down with the terror regime”, “Long live equality, long live freedom” were to be heard. The protesters respected the cordon for a long time, just like they had the previous day, but after the regime’s apologists were allowed to come forward to jeer and provoke the crowd, united they pushed forward, showing that they were prepared to defy the cordon. An attempt was made to move in and 40 protesters rushed towards the entrance. The police responded by forming a wall but the protesters climbed over the fence and towards the entrance. The attempt to storm the community centre was stopped and the protestors retreated to the barricades and continued their protest for several hours.
Kristofer Lundberg from Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna/CWI was invited to hold a speech where he described the increased militancy of workers in Iran; how students, workers and women time after time defy the regime to engage in strikes and to participate in mass protests, which is the reason they want to scare the exiled opposition. (See youtube videos of Krisofer part 1 and part 2.
One of the protestors succeeded in discretely joining the queue into the consulate and pretended to be a passport applicant. When inside, he sat opposite the diplomatic personnel and reminded them of reality of the murderers they represent and his total opposition to the Islamic regime. He was led away by the police, with his arms bent behind his back, when a second push was made by the crowd and he was freed by the protesters with commotion ensuing between the police and the crowd.
Loyalists to the regime, who were standing in the queue to the consulate began to provoke the crowd and the two groups stood either side of the police, screaming. The protestors tried once again to move forward, but were stopped by the police. A woman who is standing face to face with a policeman who has drawn his baton says, ”I have been tortured by the Iranian authorities, do you think I am scared of you?”
Tofigh Mohammadi, from the National organisation of Iranian refugees, succeeded in coming right up to the front door, where he was overpowered by four policemen and during the commotion banged his head against the glass door and landed on the ground, where he was held down by the police, with a knee in his back and then lost consciousness due to lack of air. He was out cold for several minutes and the protesters moved in and try to revive him. An ambulance was called and Tofigh was carried off on a stretcher.
The protest went on for several more hours when suddenly two loyalists to the Iranian regime attacked the crowd, throwing eggs and breaking a camera. The retaliation came quickly and the police again stood in between the groups. The same two men were allowed time and time again to go to and fro between the consulate and the crowd outside to provoke the protesters. This clearly irritated the now-growing crowd, which many local residents had now joined.
Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (RS - CWI in Sweden), who were present for the entire 12 hour long protest, can confirm the support given by neighbours to the protest against the consulate’s presence in the community centre. The police had called for re-enforcements and once again they parked riot buses in a row against the side entrances. It was unclear which of the exits the diplomats were going to use. A group of around 20 protesters went around to block the car as it left the community centre. Others held their ground and waited near the two exits. Time passed and the police seemed to try to tire out the protesters, who showed no sign of wanting to go home. A local public bus was driven in and it appears as if they were planning a mass arrest. But the police are urged to hold off. They were told, ”if a mass arrest is planned, we would like to make the police aware that Persian new year is currently being celebrated and if a mass arrest is made, there is no doubt that we could see 10,000 Iranians out on the streets.” No action was taken.
After a while, the police made a decoy manoeuvre and a riot van left the community centre with flashing blue lights at high speed, but the protesters recognised the tactic and gathered round the second exit, where the diplomats were once again greeted with eggs and mud. ”You are scum”, and ”Death to the Islamic republic” are among the cries in Persian. Chains formed by the police were met with human chains formed by the protesters. A riot bus left the area with the embassy personnel on board, but was hit by eggs further down the road, where those who had left earlier were waiting.
It is not difficult to understand the hatred directed towards the Iranian regime by those who have fled it, especially when they are face to face with executioners’ representatives. RS gives its full support to Iranians’ opposition to the regime. The protesters later regrouped and thanked each other for their co-operation and decided to hand over a protest letter to Gothenburg city council the next day. ”If there is one thing the consulate has succeeded in doing, it is uniting the exiled Iranian organisations”, according to Kristofer Lundberg of the CWI at the end of the day.
The following day, 30 people gathered in central Gothenburg to hand over the protest declaration to the council leaders. Kristofer Lundberg (RS/CWI) was one of those chosen to represent the protesters. A letter signed by 10 workers’ organisations was handed over. The only response the council could manage was that “as long as Sweden has good relations with Iran, the council cannot do anything, since it is the Department of Foreign Affairs that decides”, to which the representatives replied ” as long as Sweden has good relations with Iran we will continue to protest”.