Posted tagged ‘Francisco Franco’

Effective passive resistance to dictatorship: Spain and Iran

26 June 2009

In Spain, after 1939, when their Basque ethnic identity was viciously repressed by dictator Francisco Franco, following the disastrous Spanish Civil War, Basque patriots had the presence of mind to offer passive resistance by cultivating geraniums on the balconies of their houses and flats. The red and green of the plants (plus an imaginary white) were an easily identifiable silent symbol of the Basque ‘national’ colours. Decades later, after the death of the dictator in 1975, their ethnic ambitions were rewarded with a comforting semi-autonomy. (The lengthy and murderous rebellion of the ETA terrorist organisation was the result of activism by a tiny unsupported minority.) Spanish Catalans (in the broad Barcelona region) were similarly rewarded for their passive resistance to similar ethnic humiliations and repression – by keeping their proscribed Catalan language alive in the home. For more than three decades, Catalans have thrived in a semi-autonomous and very productive region of Spain.

Many decades later, the free world now welcomes an equivalent, though more risky, expression of defiance to dictatorship and tyranny: the spontaneous response of the people of Iran to the recent disputed elections. The following report from TheTimes of London describes the current precarious – and volatile – situation:

June 25, 2009
‘Wailing of wolves’ in Iran as cries of Allahu akbar ring from roofs
Martin Fletcher
At about 9pm each day Nushin, a young housewife, performs the same curious ritual. She climbs up the stairs to the roof of her Tehran home and begins shouting into the night. Allahu akbar,” she cries, and sometimes “Death to the dictator”.
She is not alone. Across the darkened city, from rooftops and through open windows, thousands of others do the same to form one great chorus of protest — a collective wail of anger against a reviled regime that no amount of riot police and Basiji militia can stop. “It sounds like the wailing of wolves,” said one Tehrani.
And each night, as the street demonstrations are crushed with overwhelming force and the regime cracks down on all other forms of dissent, it grows steadily louder and more insistent, not just in Tehran but in other densely populated cities of the Islamic Republic.
“It’s the way we reassure ourselves that we are still here and we are still together,” says Nushin, a woman who has never dared to rebel before.
“This is what people did before the revolution and I hope it warns the regime about what could happen if it doesn’t change its way.
“And because I’m a religious person the sound resonating in the neighbourhood makes me feel better. Even my little daughter joins me, and I can see how she feels that she is part of something bigger. It is our unique way of civil disobedience and what’s interesting is that it increases every time they do something that makes people angrier.”
Ever resourceful, the opposition has developed other ways of showing dissent short of wearing green or taking to the streets. They honk their horns, and they drive their cars and motorbikes with their headlights on. But the hour of chanting is anonymous, safe and almost impossible for the security forces to stop. Who could arrest someone for shouting their praise of God? Hossein, a young engineer, is another nightly participant. “The first time I did it, it was in protest to the theft of my vote, the insult that the President had made towards us,” he told The Times. But after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, ruled out any compromise in his sermon last Friday, “it has become much more than that. It is the people’s way of saying that they are still together and will stay that way until they reach their goal. It has become a way of getting out our anger when we can’t protest and to keep it going . . . It makes me happy to hear others, it reminds me that I’m not alone.”
In many ways this has been a high-tech rebellion, with the opposition using video clips shot with mobile phones, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and the internet to generate outrage around the world. But the rooftop protests are the precise opposite and a deliberate and resonant throwback to an earlier age.
It is what Iranians did before the revolution of 1979. From their roofs, they would shout Allahu akbar” to support Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei in his battle against the tyranny of the former Shah. That a later generation should now be using the very same weapon against the regime that Khomeini helped to establish is an irony lost on no one.

The European Union’s verdict on the Franco Régime in Spain (1939-1975)

12 May 2009

An enlightening insight into the workings of the complex European Union government is on display in the following record of recent debates stemming from simmering European controversies over the distant but not forgotten Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the ensuing Franco Dictatorship (1939-1975).

1. On 11 February 2004, in the Parliamentary Assembly of the EU, a Motion for a Resolution on the Need for International Condemnation of the Franco Regime was signed by 39 (mainly Socialist) Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). As a result, a European Union Political Affairs Committee was set up, with the prominent Maltese Socialist politician Leo Brincat as Rapporteur, to consider this question.

2. Of the 83 EU members appointed to the Committee, 36 were present at the final meeting on 4 October 2005 to adopt (unanimously) the Draft Recommendations (in English and French, but not Spanish) to the Parliamentary Assembly. (

The Brincat Report consists of eight strongly worded recommendations and 100 paragraphs of background information.

3. In its turn, on 17 March 2006, the Standing Committee of the EU Parliamentary Assembly / Assemblée Parlementaire approved the Draft Recommendations for submission to the Council of Ministers. (

Recommendation 1736 (2006)
Need for international condemnation of the Franco regime

1. The Parliamentary Assembly strongly condemns the extensive and wide-ranging human rights abuses committed by the Franco regime in Spain from 1939 to 1975.

2. Public debate in Spain on the question of drawing up a full account of the Franco dictatorship’s crimes was launched in the 1980s and continues to this very day. The debate has further intensified under the present administration.

3. Initiatives started in the early 1980s, aimed at removing symbols of the dictatorship, such as statues, from public places and at renaming streets and schools named after Franco and his generals, have been quite successful.

4. The Assembly hopes that the present debate in Spain will result in a thorough and in-depth examination and assessment of the Franco regime’s actions and crimes. In particular, the Assembly looks forward to the results of the work of the Interministerial Commission for the Examination of the Situation of Victims of Civil War and the Franco Regime, established in October 2004.

5. At the same time, the Assembly underlines that the violation of human rights is not an internal matter of a single country and therefore the international community is as much concerned as the Spaniards themselves.

6. The awareness of history is one of the preconditions for avoiding similar mistakes in the future. Furthermore, moral assessment and condemnation of committed crimes plays an important role in the education of young generations.

7. The Assembly stresses that the Council of Europe is well placed for a serious discussion on the subject. In accordance with its fundamental principles it should condemn the crimes and violation of human rights under the Franco regime at international level.

8. The Assembly therefore calls on the Committee of Ministers to:

8.1. adopt an official declaration for the international condemnation of the Franco regime and to mark 18 July 2006 as the official day of condemnation of the Franco regime as it marks the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Spanish civil war and Franco’s overthrow of the government;

8.2. urge the Spanish Government to:

8.2.1. set up a national committee to investigate violations of human rights committed under the Franco regime which will submit its report to the Council of Europe;

8.2.2. continue to make available to all historians and researchers all civilian and military archives which may contain documents that can contribute to establishing the truth regarding repression;

8.2.3. set up a permanent exhibition in the underground basilica at the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen) outside Madrid – where Franco is buried – explaining how it was built by the republican prisoners;

8.2.4. encourage local authorities to erect memorials as a tribute to the victims of the Franco regime in the capital of Spain and in other major Spanish cities.

4. Two months later, the European Union Committee of Ministers met to consider the issue. The result of their deliberations was the following brief official condemnation of the human rights violations committed by the Franco régime, accompanied by diplomatic glosses on Spain’s subsequent achievement of democracy and on the need to condemn all totalitarian régimes.

Ministers’ Deputies
CM Documents
CM/AS(2006)Rec1736 final 5 May 2006

Need for international condemnation of the Franco regime
Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1736 (2006)

(Reply adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 3 May 2006 at the 963rd meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)

1. Like the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers condemns the repeated serious human rights violations by the Franco regime and agrees that it is important to remember the crimes by all totalitarian regimes so as to avoid repeating the errors of the past. In this connection, the Committee of Ministers acknowledges the courageous steps taken in this respect in Spain itself.

2. At the same time, the Committee of Ministers notes that Spain’s transition to democracy shortly after the end of the Franco regime is an example to all other countries undergoing the same process. It welcomes the fact that the year 2007 will be the 30th anniversary of Spain’s accession to the Council of Europe, which was made possible by that successful transition.

3. As regards the specific recommendations addressed by the Assembly, the Committee of Ministers believes that all totalitarian regimes without distinction, including the Franco regime, should be made the object of a declaration or official day of the kind which the Assembly suggests. Singling out one regime rather than another might create the mistaken impression that some totalitarian regimes are worthier of condemnation than others, whereas all of them collectively merit our reprobation. (

Although the lengthier and stronger Parliamentary Assembly Recommendations (Section 3 above) were reported in the Spanish Press and are referred to in Wikipedia (English), in the articles Francisco Franco and Spain under Franco), this final official European Union condemnation of Franco’s régime (however brief) has not been publicised (possibly because of its brevity and diplomatic patina) and is (so far) missing from Wikipedia (in English and French, but is present in one of the relevant Spanish Wikipedia articles: Dictadura de Franco).