Comrade Ashraf Dehghani was born into a poor-working family in Azerbaijan. At the time of her birth, her father was a mirab, and before that, lacking steady employment, had undertaken many other menial jobs, working in a cotton mill, digging wells for water or cesspools, working in a grocery shop, or as a building labourer. His earnings from all of these jobs were not enough for his family of eight. Therefore, her mother and those of the children old enough to be able to work, shared the burden of bread winning. The elder brothers did what they could, and sometimes the mother and elder sister would help by spinning yarn. Being a mirab, the father was constantly exposed to dampness, often sleeping all night near water. He had continual pain in the legs, which finally incapacitated him. He had known poverty and deprivation all his life, but he was not one to blame his destitution and miserable life on ‘faith and destiny’. He knew very well the cause of his misery, and that of the millions of other workers like him. He knew that his class enemy lives here on Earth. To him, endless adversity and poverty was a true teacher, which helped him to unveil the realities of class society, exploitation and injustice. He was illiterate, yet enjoyed political awareness, and played a part in the struggle against the enemy. In the developments of 1945-46 in Azerbaijan and the establishment of Democratic Rule, he was in the people’s front. During the barbaric invasion of Azerbaijan by the Shah’s forces, and the mass murder of the heroes of the people, his home was a refuge for many from the regime’s savagery.
The family discussed political issues, often memories of oppression, suffering and exploitation were told, and the character of the enemy – the exploiting, parasite class. Despite their political awareness, class-enmity and hatred, her parents and others like them failed to rise up openly against their rich adversaries. Humiliation, over many years had robbed them of self-confidence. They felt feeble and helpless and imagined the rich as unassailable. The social conditions of the time and the defeat of the movements no doubt contributed to this lack of confidence.
Comrade Ashraf was born in 1949 into such an environment. As a child, she got little attention and was able to grow up self-reliant, not expecting protection and patronisation. She learned to stand on her own feet and to survive, to overcome her problems and difficulties herself. She soon came into contact with the cold and hard realities of her life. By the time she was born, her father was permanently bed-ridden and poverty was closer and uglier than ever. Among the members of her family, Comrade Behrouz inspired most love and confidence in Ashraf. To her, Behrouz stood high, far above all others; his world was much larger than that of the ordinary people. Behrouz encouraged her to read. She read, discussed, listened and increasingly developed political and social awareness. Gradually she knew what caused the sufferings of the masses. Gradually she learned to know the class enemy.
Ashraf found the propaganda environment of the school shallow and distasteful, and she did not hide her feelings toward it. The problems, and questions in her mind, were far removed from the petit-bourgeois trivialities that preoccupied many girls of her age. Everyday, Ashraf asked more questions regarding political and social relations, and Behrouz would deal with them with patience and in detail.
Comrade Samad Behrangi* and Kazem Saadati were close friends of Behrouz, and Ashraf felt great respect and admiration for them. While at the time revolution was still a vague notion to her, Ashraf was increasingly determined to devote her life to her people, and their revolution. While in school she endeavoured to raise the level of consciousness of her classmates, she seized on an opportunity to explain the facts of Iranian history and life to them. Once, she wrote in the classroom a detailed account for a friend, describing the character of the Shah’s regime and how the Shah and before him, Reza, his father, had come to power in Iran. The teacher, who was a SAVAK informer, took the letter and delivered it to SAVA.K. Later, Ashraf and her friend were taken to SAVAK and forced to sign a letter, undertaking not to get involved in politics again! She did not respect that ‘undertaking’.
Ashraf graduated from high school. This is what she had been longing for, but there was no sign of the revolution. Behrouz, Samad and Kazem seemed to be leading normal lives. This was not what she expected to find. Soon, Comrade Samad was murdered by the Shah’s mercenaries. Then she understood. Revolution was no longer a vague, distant notion.
At the time of Samad’s murder, Comrade Ashraf was teaching in a village in Azerbaijan. There she saw before her eyes all the poverty, suffering and oppression she had always felt around her. She could see the miserable, bleak future of the children she taught. So she made a vow, to fight for, and with the people she belonged to, to dedicate her life to the cause of the deprived masses.
Now Ashraf and Behrouz became comrades, and when, together with many others, they faced the enemy in the forefront of the armed struggle, their comradeship was sealed forever. A comradeship sealed in the front against the enemy is not one to wither away with distance or death. For a revolutionary, a comrade lives as long as he remains faithful to the cause, and dies when he turns away from the people. Behrouz died under torture but he remains alive in the hearts of his comrades. His love for the masses, like the love of others martyred in the struggle for freedom, and like the love of those who continue the struggle, lives forever. His hatred for the enemy, like the hatred of all others remains to haunt the enemies of the people until the class society is no more.
In February 1971, the Organization of Iranian People’s Fedaee Guerrillas (O.I.P.F.G.) initiated the armed struggle in Iran by attacking the gendarmery at Siahkal in Northern Iran. This battle, although militarily a defeat, was an important political victory. Ever since, many revolutionary groups and elements have joined the armed struggle movement and hundreds of revolutionaries have been brutally executed or killed in armed clashes with the regime. Frightened by their heroic struggle, the regime utilized all of its forces to suppress the movement. Imprisonment, torture, and execution were furiously used. But in spite of all the SAVAK raids and arrests, the O.I.P.F.G. survived and the struggle went on. In 1975, the O.I.P.F.G. suffered heavy losses in several raids on the organization’s bases and many comrades were killed. This severe blow practically destroyed the organization’s leadership completely. Thus, a new leadership was formed, which managed to get through some difficulties. These new leaders were not from the prominent membership, and thus, because of their position and period of membership in the organization, they could not understand the theory of armed struggle as deeply as the martyred prominent comrades had. Also, later, the new atmosphere and relative ease of the conditions of struggle made it possible for opportunists to appear on the scene again and claim the proletariat leadership.
Comrade Ashraf Dehghani, a prominent member of the O.I.P.F.G., was arrested in 1971 and savagely tortured. She succeeded in breaking out of the maximum-security prison and later rejoined the organization. During this time, she wrote her memoirs, which have been translated into English under the title, Torture and Resistance in Iran. During the 1975 raids, Comrade Dehghani and Comrade Hormatipour, both members of the High Council of the O.I.P.F.G., lost contact with the organization while on assignment outside the country. They had been put in charge of coordinating the organization’s relations with the revolutionary and progressive organizations in the region and throughout the world, and also of providing any possible needs the organization might have within the country. Later, when they regained contact with the organization, they found, to their surprise, that the new leadership had rejected the past policies and methods of the O.I.P.F.G., although it would not reveal this to the O.I.P.F.G supporters or publicly announce it. The comrades also discovered that in spite of all the propaganda propounded by the new leaders about the imprisoned comrades, recently freed from jail by the people, they would only accept into the organization those who either somehow rejected the theory of armed struggle, or failed to realize the deviant tendencies within the organization toward this theory.
Comrade Ashraf Dehghani at first decided to stay in the organization as a regular member and start an ideological struggle with the new leadership. Later, however, because of certain actions of the leaders, and in the best interests of the O.I.P.F.G., she, along with other comrades, severed ties with this organization. With the support of the people’s revolutionary forces, they formed an organization based on the armed struggle theory, and retained the name I.P.F.G. At the beginning, both of these organizations use the same emblem and name (O.I.P.F.G.). However, since the new leaders, who rejected the theory of armed struggle, always referred to themselves in their publications, as “People’s Fadaiyan” and disbanded the term “guerrilla”, consequently, a demarcation line was drawn between the two by which one could distinguish this organization and its publications from the other.
To be continued…