Tuesday, August 17, 2010

PS for Raha

The Raha crew (pic from Sarah Maple)

Before getting to this month's post here are a few pieces of interest to zapagringo readers: The stellar Desinformémonos has released another issue of its bi-monthly global street paper in 6 languages, including interviews with Arundhati Roy and Oscar Olivera; Immanuel Wallerstein describes the central debate between Latin American left forces today and suggests it may be "the great debate of the twenty-first century"; The South Asia Solidarity Initiative has released a response to Time Magazine's war propoganda cover story, "What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan"; and Jeff Conant at Foreign Policy in Focus explores "What the Zapatistas Can Teach us About the Climate Crisis." And without further ado...

A 'PS' for the Raha Iranian Women's Collective

The workshop at this year's US Social Forum in Detroit was titled "Solidarity, not Intervention: Engaging the Iranian Protest Movement":
Following last year’s contested Iranian presidential election and the street protests of millions of Iranians, a decentralized “green” movement formed around a platform of democracy, transparency, human rights, and social justice. The government reacted with violence, arrests, torture, show-trails, and executions of protesters and activists. Some in the U.S. left have failed to appreciate this protest movement in the context of Iran's political history and Iranians’ economic, social and political grievances. The Iranian government’s defiance of U.S. imperialism has led some to question the legitimacy of the uprising in Iran. In New York, Where is My Vote - NY works to amplify Iranian demands for civil and human rights, and Raha Iranian Women's Collective seeks to integrate these demands into a political framework that foregrounds gender and sexual equality, anti-militarism and opposition to imperialism. This workshop seeks to engage participants in a discussion about the movement in Iran, beginning with an overview of Iranian liberation movements and proceeding to an open and interactive dialogue on what it means to organize trans-national solidarity.

I joined Raha and Where is My Vote for the second half of the session to discuss what I'd learned from transnational solidarity with the Zapatistas. There were also guest speakers sharing their experiences in support of Congolese, Filipin@, Iraqi, and Palestinian self-determination. Other than a good friend of mine, Ryvka, who co-presented on the boycott, divestment and sanctions for Palestine movement (BDS), the other presenters identified as members of the people with whom they are working in solidarity. For my part I mostly covered reflections that I've written about in pieces such as, "Learning Solidarity in the 4th World War."

The discussion was very rich and could have certainly continued well beyond the time of the session. The Raha crew did a great job of holding and facilitating the space, sometimes in spite of participants who were clearly hostile to the proposal of the workshop -> amplifying Iranian demands for civil and human rights and integrating them "into a political framework that foregrounds gender and sexual equality, anti-militarism and opposition to imperialism."

There were a few interesting facts I wanted to share with Raha and the rest of the room that I didn't get to that day. A few points to highlight connections, or entry points for greater connection, between the Zapatistas and Iranian struggles...

The most direct links come from a group of Iranian Marxists who have translated a number of Zapatista documents into Farsi, the majority of them coming from their past 5 years of activity. Unfortunately I never learned to read Farsi and can't divine much more than that, including what the connection might be between that group, and the group of Iranian workers who participated in the World Festival of Dignified Rage, which the Zapatistas' co-hosted in Mexico City and Chiapas over New Years '08-'09.

Hopefully we all remember that it was this same New Years that Israel brutally bombed Gaza. Although we are now talking about Palestine, and not Iran, the struggle for a free Palestine resonates strongly throughout the region. Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos gave a moving speech at the World Festival in response to the attacks. Protests circulated the globe, including Chiapas, and so did Marcos' words. A dear friend, Bilal, who co-founded Left Turn Magazine and now runs a café in Beirut (Ta-Marbuta), wrote me in the days that followed
...i read the marcos statement on al jazeera after having read it in english and they really did a good job translating, it was really nice to read marcos in arabic for the first time. but what is just as interesting are the many comments that follow from all sorts of arabs (from saudi arabia, gaza, morroco, emirates, you name it) who have nothing but praise. they're amazed how someone in the jungles of mexico can capture it all so well...

Part of the reason was perhaps because solidarity has passed in both directions, between Palestine and Mexico, many times over the years. In November of 2006, when the Mexican military entered Oaxaca City to crush a six month long popular commune, Jamal Jumá of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign spoke up. In a post from August that year I documented several other instances of this relationship... each one a piece of the bridge that links these rebel lands.

Perhaps also relevant here is the emergence of indigenous Chiapaneco converts to Islam, this article even identifying 'Zapatist Muslims.' The thousand or so Zapatista communities of Chiapas are some of the only ones to have constructed enduring peace and solidarity between Catholics and evangelical Christians, so it doesn't surprise me much if some adherents to Islam are now in the mix. They identify as Sunni but even so this is certainly some indicator that the Zapatistas of southern Mexico and the rebellious citizens (religious, secular or otherwise) of the Islamic Republic of Iran are not as far from each other as we might first assume.

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