Solidarity with Peoples' Struggles in the Mid-East/Arab World: How to Join the Resistance in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan
Note: For my historical analysis of the Islamic 'Threat,' the War on Terror and the 'Clash of Fundamentalisms' please go to:
How to promote a peaceful, democratic solution to the ongoing crisis in the Mid-East/Arab world? We can begin ‘thinking globally and acting locally’ by forging people-to-people links of solidarity with the democratic forces – mostly invisible in the media – struggling to emerge in the nominally Moslem world. Our place is along side of the civilians like ourselves: teachers, students, health-care professionals, office and factory workers, trade-unionists, civil servants, and homemakers, women and men, gay and straight, struggling for their rights against the double terrorism of G.I.’s breaking down their doors and Islamicists blowing up their markets.
There can be no peaceful, democratic solutions to the Middle East crisis under capitalist imperialism with its unquenchable thirst for oil – only continuously escalating wars, more barbaric depredations, and erosion of democracy in the U.S. But this does not mean that we should stand aside paralyzed or support, out of desperation, the Islamic ‘resistance’ to Western imperialism as some wayward Leftists have done, forgetting that the ‘Enemy of our Enemy’ is not necessarily your Friend. Nor is it useful to declare 'a plague on both your houses' while waiting for capitalism's collapse and the hypothetical world revolution — which we many of us devoutly desire.
Meanwhile how better to begin building planetary movements than by joining in solidarity with the democratic forces among our designated ‘enemies’ in the Middle-East/Arab world? In any case, it is our simple moral duty as fellow humans and (dare I say?) ‘fellow working people’ (employees, home-makers, professionals, students, builders, as opposed to bankers) to hold out our hands in solidarity with our counter-parts in countries suffering under the double oppression of Islamic Fundamentalists and heavily-armed NATO occupiers. Here’s how to join them in struggle, country by country:
The 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was supposed to bring ‘democracy,’ particularly women's rights, to what was depicted as a totally backward land. The tragic irony is that the Western occupation, by replacing the Taliban with Hamid Karsai’s corrupt Islamic regime of violent, reactionary warlords under a Shariah Constitution, made the situation of Afghani women even worse. Far from being totally backward, Afghanistan abolished purdah (the banning of women from public life) as early as 1959, when women began attending co-educational universities and joining the workforce. Women made more progress after the popular 1978 Peoples Democratic Party coup abolished feudal privilege and confiscated royal land and even after the Russian invasion of 1989. All these democratic advances were abolished after 1992 when U.S.-backed Islamist warlords and militias overthrew the Communist puppet government. So oppressive was warlord misrule – now once again restored by the Western coalition – that in 1996 much of the population felt relieved when the Taliban took Kabul. But not for long.
By 2001, Afghani women and democrats were ready to welcome the U.S. invaders as liberators. Popular participation in the 2002 loya jurga (the traditional gathering delegated to create a new government) was enthusiastic. According to participants, ‘Women played a leading role at these meetings . . . The one issue that untied the delegates above all others was the urgency of reducing the power of warlords and establishing a truly representative government’. Of course the U.S. occupiers ignored the loya jurgaand set up a powerless reactionary puppet, while the country slid into violent chaos. Today, according to Zoya, spokeswoman for RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan which has been organizing and struggling among Afghani women since 1977, ‘Afghanistan is now a free country: free for the rapists of women and children, free for the warlords, for drug lords, terrorists and occupation forces. It is not free for the people of Afghanistan.’ To find out more about RAWA and support the Afghani women’s struggle go to www.rawa.org/
Finally, since Obama’s ‘surge’ in Afghanistan, Iraq has slid largely under the media’s radar, but huge U.S. bases remain and the bloody occupation/civil war continues. Meanwhile, women and trade unionists are fighting desperately for their rights – and sometimes their survival – caught in the cross-fire between Islamist militias on the on hand and on the other the U.S. Occupation and its Iraqi client government, which is still enforcing Saddam Hussein era anti-labor laws. Despite persecution, Iraqi workers and unemployed have organized, held national conferences, and successfully sought international support from trade-unionists in Japan, Europe and the U.S. To find out more, get involved and contribute money, contact U.S. Labor Against the War athttp://www.uslaboragainstwar.org/
As for the fate of Iraqi women, one recalls that before the U.S.-led invasion, Iraq was a modern society with women occupying more than half the civil service jobs and working as doctors, lawyers and professors (even under Saddam's horrid Baathist dictatorship). Since the beginning of the U.S.-led occupation, Iraqi women have been courageously organizing OFWI, the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq in defiance of rapes and attacks on militant or unveiled women committed by both occupiers and local reactionaries. OWFI has been building battered-women’s shelters, fighting honor killings, rapes and sex-trafficking that flourish under U.S.-imposed regime. These women – not the bearded killers – represent the true ‘Iraqi resistance’ which decent people ought to support. To find out more about Iraqi women’s struggles and join them in solidarity, go to www.equalityiniraq.com
In Pakistan, the civilian long-suffering population is currently under simultaneous attack from the Taliban, U.S. drones, and the armed forces of the brutal, corrupt Pakistani regime. Recent government sweeps in Swat and South Waziristan have killed hundred and created an estimated five million (!) refugees. Yet less than two years ago, protests by courageous Pakistani judges and lawyers followed by mass demonstrations drove out the U.S.-backed military government of Gen. Musharraf and restored formal democracy — such as it is in that vast impoverished country where the political parties are dominated by a small number of rich families. Even today, the struggle continues, with peasant women confronting police attacks and peasants in Hari who occupied the Karachi Press Club to protest land seizures.
Last June in Iran, after far-right President Ahmadinejad apparently stole his re-election, masses of courageous women and men took to the streets day after day in defense of democracy and defiance of the Ayatollahs and of brutal attacks by police and Islamic militias. Although the Western media were flooded with spectacular images and bla-bla about ‘democracy,’ the reaction of heads of state, from Obama to Chavez, was curiously cold and reserved. These spontaneous, self-organized demonstrators – women and men of all ages and social classes are still continuing their protests in less spectacular forms. They have creatively appropriated modern technologies like cellphones and Twitter to mobile street tactics, revealing the high degree of political maturity of the Iranian people, who, as we have seen, have a long revolutionary past.
In any case, what the media didn’t publicize was last Spring’s wave Iranian workers' strikes (naturally illegal) in transport, auto, construction, even in oil, which set the stage for the big democracy demonstrations. The slogan of the workers, parodying Marx, was 'we have nothing to lose but our unpaid wages.' Many workers participated as individuals in the 2009 year’s democracy demonstrations, which were reinforced by daily work stoppages in sympathy with the big crowds. The Iranian working class, with its long memory of betrayal by middle-class movements, had no illusions about the 'moderate' candidates from whom Ahmadinejad stole the election or the 'Green' leaders, mostly former officials of the Islamic Republic whose hands are bloody with earlier massacres. The world economic crisis has hurt Iran badly, and struggles are bound to become sharper. Iran is a modern, developed country with a large educated population, mostly young but wise in experience. Future developments there promise to be interesting. To find out more about the Iranian labor movement and show your solidarity with Hands Off the People of Iran click on http://hopoi.org/
By joining in solidarity with these non-violent civilian women and men, we Westerners can at least help them to make concrete gains, like building a union hall or a battered women’s center. We thus become ‘part of the solution’ — rather than ‘part of the problem.’ Together with our civilian counterparts in the ME/A lands, we can begin to build bridges of international solidarity and weave networks uniting the freedom struggles of the oppressed ‘colonial’ world with the anti-capitalist resistance in the dominant imperialist world. By these simple, useful, concrete actions, we can begin to incarnate, today, the image of a future planetary social movement which alone can conceivably bring humane solutions to the crises created by capitalism.