September 2012, Week 4


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Thu, 27 Sep 2012 21:09:28 -0400
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No Attack on Iran - Open Letter to the Anti-War Movement -
from Iranian Women's and Peace Organizations

Open Letter to the Anti-War Movement
By Raha: Iranian Feminist Collective and Havaar
Introduction by Bill Fletcher, Jr., BC Editorial Board

The Black Commentator
Sept 27, 2012- Issue 487



By Bill Fletcher, Jr., BC Editorial Board

In the context of repeated threats by Israel to attack Iran
and discussions in the USA - particularly within the Israeli
lobby - about the need for US involvement in such an attack,
it may at first glance seem odd to pay any attention to the
internal situation in Iran. After all, an attack on Iran would
be blatant aggression under the pretext of stopping a
signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (Note: Iran)
from developing nuclear power that could, under certain
circumstances, be used to produce the sorts of nuclear weapons
possessed by a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty (Note: Israel).

Yet politics is never linear. At each moment an actual
situation is layered and so it is in the case of Iran. A
regime that frequently uses anti-imperialist rhetoric also
crushes internal opponents, be they ethnic minorities or
political dissidents. The Iranian regime will preach against
the threats to Iran's sovereignty, but undermines the right of
workers to form and join labor unions. This same regime will
denounce Western imperialism, but go forward enthusiastically
in embracing neo-liberal economics and attempting to cut the
best deals that it can with Western corporations.

Politics is always complicated.

We are reminded of this in reading the open-letter from the
Raha Iranian Feminist Collective to the anti-war movement in
the USA. All too often those in the USA who will speak out
against aggression by US imperialism and the tyranny of many
of the allies of Western imperialism, will remain strangely
silent about injustice, inequality and tyranny when
perpetrated by countries that utilize anti-imperialist
rhetoric. Instead of examining the content of policies, many
US progressives remain satisfied that if, as in this case,
Iranian President Ahmadinejad denounces Western imperialism
that this means that he is a supporter of social justice and
freedom. The story does not stop with Ahmadinejad. There are
various leaders, countries and movements that sing a certain
political tune, and many US progressives are ready to embrace
them without stopping to examine the all-round dimensions of
the situation.

The Raha Iranian Feminist Collective, then, poses a challenge
to US progressives. On the one hand, and without
qualification, they implore us to actively oppose any
aggression against Iran. They want to ensure that people of
good will are not tricked into believing that attacks on Iran
will somehow advance the cause of democracy and liberation. If
anything, attacks will harden the stance and position of the
Iranian theocracy.

At the same time, the Collective wishes that we in the USA
better understand that the internal situation, with high
levels of repression and injustice, necessitates attention and
global solidarity. In other words, the movements for justice
in Iran need the support of people - not governments - as they
fight to transform Iran. In that sense it is no different than
one offering solidarity to workers in Mexico fighting neo-
liberal governments, popular movements in Algeria fighting
corruption and tyranny, or movements in Greece against
austerity and growing authoritarianism. The movements in each
of these places - and many more - need to settle accounts with
their own elites, but in so doing they need global attention
and global solidarity in their struggle. Such solidarity,
however, does not include military strikes by duplicitous

There are those who believe that the position taken by
organizations such as the Raha Iranian Feminist Collective are
off-base and naive, somehow providing excuses for external
aggression. Those who believe that are themselves naive and
are falling prey to the simplicity of rhetoric when what is
called for is independent judgment and analysis, looking at
the concrete conditions, and doing what we can to support our
friends in other countries who all too often engage in uphill
struggles feeling very much alone.

Reading the statement by the Collective, then, is sobering and
leads one to move to real discussions about political action,
rather than knee-jerk anti-imperialism. We are compelled to
think about how, on the one hand, to stop the threat of war
being waged against Iran while at the same time paying close
attention to those who seek to transform Iran as part of a
larger struggle for global justice.


The upcoming anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan is a
crucial time for activists to reflect on the urgent need for
an anti-war movement that is committed to opposing systematic
oppression, domination and violence. In the spirit of moving
us towards this goal, we feel compelled to respond when
individuals and organizations within the movement are
harassing and maligning other members of the movement. We need
to ask how this reflects on the political and ethical
commitments underlying our activism. We need to ask when
enough is enough and some kind of collective action is
necessary to address an untenable situation.

There is a campaign of hostility and intimidation underway
against Iranian activists in the U.S. who oppose war,
sanctions and state repression in Iran. The Iranian American
Friendship Committee (AIFC) has taken the lead in a series of
physical and verbal attacks on Iranian activists and their
allies. Enough is enough. This letter is an appeal to those
who consider themselves part of the anti-war movement: stop
condoning, excusing or dismissing these attacks by continuing
to include AIFC in your coalitions, demonstrations, forums and
other organizing events. We call on those of you who want to
build an effective anti-war movement that includes the
participation of those whose families are directly targeted by
U.S. imperialism, and that is committed to social justice for
all, to oppose the abuse AIFC has been heaping on members of
various Iranian American organizations.

On June 29, 2012, Ardeshir Ommani of the AIFC circulated a
public missive attacking members of Raha Iranian Feminist
Collective, Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions,
and State Repression, Where Is My Vote, and United For Iran.
This so-called AIFC "Factsheet" accused individual members of
each group of harboring covert imperialist, Zionist, and pro-
war agendas. Such a smear campaign should be transparent to
all who know and work with us and to all those who recognize
in these charges a familiar script. Ommani and AIFC are
uncritical apologists for the Iranian government, proudly
organizing dinners for President Ahmadinejad in New York each
fall and inviting anti-war and pro-Palestinian activists to
come pay their respects. They are not alone but work with the
Workers World Party and the International Action Center to
give left cover to the Iranian government and to infuse the
anti-war movement with pro-Islamic Republic politics. They
repeat the Iranian state's position that the pro-democracy
protesters in Iran are agents of Western imperialism and
Zionism.  And now AIFC mimics the regime by lodging such false
charges against us, activists who dare to challenge their
orthodoxy and who oppose the Iranian state's oppressive

Unfortunately, it is not enough to simply dismiss AIFC's
charges as spurious and move on with the serious and necessary
work of opposing U.S. intervention around the world. Ommani's
accusations of Zionist loyalties carry serious prison
sentences in Iran as a crime of moharebeh (crimes against
Islam or against the state). This means that Iranians who
refuse to become apologists for the Iranian state cannot
participate in the anti-war movement without having their
reputations attacked and their names publicly identified with
charges that can land them in prison, or worse, if they go to
Iran. The continued acceptance of AIFC as a legitimate
presence in the anti-war movement virtually ensures that the
majority of Iranians in the U.S. will see the entire movement
as pro-Islamic Republic and, therefore, unsafe and hostile.
Forcing Iranians to have to choose between visiting their
family members in Iran and joining the anti-war movement
produces another form of discrimination and oppression of
Iranians in the U.S.

To be clear, Ommani's accusations in print are just the latest
in an ongoing campaign of harassment and abuse going back to
2010. The brief history that follows illustrates tactics that
are unacceptable to us, and that should be unacceptable to the
anti-war movement. At a June 24, 2010 workshop at the US
Social Forum hosted by Raha and Where Is My Vote, Ommani was
disruptive, insulting young women organizers and questioning
their legitimacy in speaking at the conference at all. At a
February 4th, 2012 anti-war rally in Manhattan, Ommani
attempted to physically knock an Iranian woman off of the
speakers' platform while she expressed her views against war
and sanctions and in solidarity with those resisting state
repression in Iran. At a March 24th, 2012 panel called "Iran:
Solidarity Not Intervention" that was part of the United
National Anti-War Committee conference, Ommani had to be asked
repeatedly by conference security to stop calling members of
Raha "C.I.A. agents" and "State Department propagandists" and
even to allow us to speak at all. Unable to engage in any
respectful dialogue with the ideas Raha members and their
allies were advocating, he simply stormed out of the panel. At
a conference plenary, security had to be called after Ommani
poked a woman who was there to support Raha and who was
waiting in line to speak. Ommani eventually had to be moved by
conference security to a different part of the hall in order
to prevent him from harassing members of Raha on the speakers'

This conflict cannot be reduced to a matter of political
differences about the nature of the Iranian state. There are
certain behaviors that should be quite obviously beyond the
scope of what is acceptable in the anti-war movement. These
include the physical and verbal harassment of activists,
particularly intimidation tactics lodged by men against women.
Shoving, insulting and bullying women in an effort to silence
us is outright sexism. Furthermore, the leveling of false
charges that could make us targets of state repression has
haunting historical precedents in the spy operations of SAVAK,
the Shah's secret police force, which hounded the Iranian
student opposition abroad throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The
same way that American progressives defended Iranian students
from persecution by the Iranian and U.S. states in those days,
we call on activists today to oppose these efforts to silence
us. AIFC has consistently demonstrated an inability to follow
basic rules of civility and engagement and should have no
place in our movement.

Raha and Havaar oppose all military intervention in Iran (For
a more on Raha's analysis see
discontents). Further, we oppose all U.S., U.N., and European
sanctions against Iran, and have been active in trying to
build an anti-sanctions/anti-war movement. In our view, the
Iranian state, the Israeli state, and the U.S. state each are
guilty of repressing popular democratic movements. Standing in
solidarity with others engaged in similar struggles, we will
organize against the vicious and autocratic measures of these
governments until we are free--from the U.S. to Iran to
Palestine and beyond.

Yours in struggle and solidarity,

The Members of RAHA Iranian Feminist Collective

The Members of Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War,
Sanctions and State Repression



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