Fidel Castro in Iran: 'The shah of imperialism will fall too'
Cuban president Fidel Castro made a state visit to Iran May 6–10 on
the invitation of President Mohammad Khatemi. He was welcomed to the country
by the president and had well-publicized meetings with Ayatollah Seyed
Ali Khamenei, head of state; the former president Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani;
and other high-level officials of the Iranian government. While in Iran
he also spoke at two universities in Tehran.
The Cuban president told an enthusiastic student audience at the University of Tehran that "imperialism was the greatest danger and the enemy of the world," according to the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA).
In the speech, Castro saluted the Iranian people for their courage and heroic self-sacrifice during the 1979 revolution that overthrew the U.S.-backed shah (king) of Iran. He said, "You were able to overthrow the biggest gendarme in the region not with guns, but with your ideas, culture, and patriotism," ISNA reported.
"One shah still remains in the world," Castro told the students. "That is the shah of imperialism which is entrenched near my homeland. It is an exploiting shah that wants to impose its system on the entire world and drag it into oppression," he said, as reported in the Tehran daily Kayhan, May 10. "But as the shah of Iran was overthrown, this shah too will fall!" Castro said.
"We are confronting a great power that despite having all the mass media under its control and having superior economic and military power, has nevertheless been defeated in the ideological and moral fight with our people," Castro said. He also emphasized, "We should differentiate between the American people and their government."
Seven hundred students listened to Castro's speech at the University of Tehran auditorium while many more who could not get in stood outside watching on closed-circuit television. The speech, centered on explaining imperialist exploitation of Third World countries, was interrupted by standing ovations and shouts of "Fidel!, Fidel!"
Before coming to speak at the university Castro was awarded an honorary
doctorate at the Tarbiate-Modarres (Teacher Education) University in acknowledgment
of his contributions over more than four decades to struggles in defense
of the oppressed countries of the world. Saeed Samnanian, president of
the university, pointed to the accomplishments of the Cuban Revolution
in eradicating illiteracy and its ability to produce internationalist doctors,
ISNA reported. "At this time several thousand Cuban doctors are serving
in African countries," Samnanian said.
Impact of Cuban Revolution
Introducing Castro, Mostafa Moeen, the minister of science, research and technology, spoke of the impact of the Cuban Revolution on national liberation movements around the world.
Moeen referred to a 1962 meeting in Cuba held to commemorate the anniversary of the 1957 student attack on the palace of dictator Batista. At the meeting, a student acting as the master of ceremonies read the testament of José Antonio Echevarría, a student leader killed by the regime's military forces during events surrounding the assault, but left out three sentences that referred to Echevarría's religious beliefs.
Castro spoke later in the meeting after talking to the student, who said he had been instructed not to read the three lines. After reading the three lines to the audience, Castro used the incident to explain why the Cuban Revolution, Marxism, and socialism have nothing in common with attempts to falsify history. (Castro's speech to the 1962 meeting is available in Selected Works of Fidel Castro, by Pathfinder Press, under the title, "The Revolution Must Be a School of Unfettered Thought.")
In introducing Castro, Moeen said, "By criticizing that kind of behavior Castro was stressing an approach that not only sees history as it is, but also does not imprison truth in narrow bounds."
When the Cuban president entered the auditorium for the awards ceremony at Tarbiate-Modarres University he received an overwhelming welcome by hundreds of students in the hall and many more outside who were watching in the closed-circuit television. Students clapped and shouted "Guerrilla!, Guerrilla!" Although he was not scheduled to speak, the international edition of Tehran daily Ettelaat reported that the response "pushed Castro to the speakers' tribune."
"If we don't know what imperialism and colonialism and their origins are, then we will never understand genocide in the Americas," the Cuban leader told the students, as reported in Ettelaat. "If we do not understand the means by which the oppressed countries are being plundered, if we do not understand the consequences of foreign debt, unequal exchange, and the causes of crises, then conditions will always be ripe for others to plunder us," he said.
Ayatollah Khamenei, who is also the spiritual head of state, told the Cuban president in a meeting that in accordance with Islamic belief, the Islamic Republic of Iran considers "resistance to and struggle against oppression in this world as righteous," reported Tehran morning daily Hamshahri. He added that people of Iran like Cuba because the country stands up to bullying from Washington and "according to our Islamic beliefs this is valuable." Castro responded that the U.S. imperialism "is very weak. We can witness this from nearby. After 40 years of revolution Cuba is stronger than ever."
In a joint statement the two countries condemned acts of terrorism as well as sanctions imposed by the imperialists, as those against Cuba, Iran, and Iraq. They also expressed their support to the "continuing struggles of the Palestinian people to gain their rights and, above all, the right of self-determination and the right of return for all Palestinian refugees." The two countries also condemned the massacres carried out by the Israeli regime.
Before leaving the country the Cuban president laid a wreath at the
grave of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic