Revolution#124, March 23,2008

Standing with Women of Iran and Afghanistan:

Internationalism Flowers on the Streets in Los Angeles

International Women’s Day, Los Angeles, March 8.  [Photo: F. Rios]

In Los Angeles on March 8, many people took the day off work,  drove across the city, put off studying for exams, or in one way or another changed their daily routine to stand with the women of Iran and Afghanistan in a joyous celebration of International Women’s Day, of bringing forward an alternative to both Islamic fundamentalism and U.S. imperialism, and in solidarity with the IWD march in Brussels.

In a flowering of internationalism in the streets of Westwood, university and high school students, groups of people from the Iranian community in Los Angeles, feminists, garment workers, revolutionaries, Aztec dancers, and many others chanted in English, Farsi, and Spanish and proudly set their sights on a different future for women and for all of humanity.

In the weeks before IWD, Iranian women with the March 8 Women’s Organization (Iran, Afghanistan), shared their stories of spending numerous years in prison, being tortured and sentenced to death for refusing to obey the Sharia laws and for their political involvement. The women’s revolutionary defiance and refusal to choose between two outmoded systems, as well their inspiring vision of a different future and an alternative to Islamic fundamentalism and U.S. imperialism, struck a deep chord with students in elite university campuses and high schools in neighborhoods like Watts. It was a breath of fresh air and bold challenge that many people answered consciously.

Carol Downer, the originator of self-health and co-founder of the Feminist Women’s Health Center, wrote a letter explaining the history of what the U.S. has done in Iran, why she is supporting the Iranian women in this struggle and why other feminists should too. Eve Ensler, the playwright and performer who wrote The Vagina Monologues, sent a solidarity statement to the women of Iran. Poet Suheir Hammad, a poet who appeared on “Def Poetry Jam on Broadway” and is one of the first Palestinians on Broadway, sent a powerful poem to be read at the rally. Internationally known poet Sonia Sanchez sent a beautiful recorded message to be played from the stage. Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan flew down from the Bay Area so she could give her statement of support to the march. Other speakers included a student from Cal State L.A. and member of the International Women’s Day Coalition, Los Angeles, Jodie Evans, who co-founded Code Pink, Dolly Veale of the Revolutionary Communist Party, UCLA law professor Frances Olsen, performance poet and KPFK radio host Jerry Quickley, and folk singer Dennis Davis.

A speaker with the March 8 Women’s Organization (Iran, Afghanistan) said, “Even though the forms of women’s oppression may be different in different countries, the reality of the women’s oppression is the same whether it is the enforced wearing of the hijab in Islamic countries or having no reproductive rights in imperialist countries. That’s why I’m here today with you—in solidarity as Iranian and Afghani women struggling against the anti-women Islamic fundamentalism and U.S. imperialism. The solidarity of Iranian and Afghani women in our struggle against the patriarchal system of Islamic fundamentalist regimes and against U.S. imperialism is strengthened by having American women standing shoulder to shoulder with us.... Today we are here to bring the voices of Iranian women to all of you to announce that we are for a world independent of reactionary regimes, including the patriarchal government of the United States. We are here to say that Iranian women believe that another world is possible. I am here today to say that we are not afraid of the power of U.S. imperialism—we believe in and need the power of the people all over the world.”

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