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Editors’ Note: We received this statement from OSYAN (Osyan means "rebellion“ in the Farsi language). Osyan/Revolt is a group of Iranian and Afghan women who are the voice of women’s rebellion to express the determination, and to serve the struggle against the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Taliban. This was a speech given in a Zoom meeting on August 17, an online forum on the liberation of women hosted by a group of people and organizations from Iran and Afghanistan. This took place just after the first anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and after a year of Taliban rule, which has removed women from public life, secondary education and any travel without the accompaniment of a male chaperone under theocratic Sharia law. Speakers at this online forum came from different perspectives on how to see the problem of women’s oppression and the possible solutions, exchanged views and expressed their desire for ways for this international struggle to be connected. See the speech from Toni RedTree from this forum here.

The English translation and some minor edits were done by volunteers.

Hello everyone and thank you for your invitation. I am from Osyan magazine and group. Let me tell you how we see the universality of women's issues.

It is a fact that we live under a system of capitalism-imperialism. "What does this mean?" Capitalism is an economic and political system based on exploitation and oppression, and imperialism is the global nature of this system.

This system is dominated by companies, banks and other capitalist financial institutions that control huge amounts of money, and America has been at the top of this or the top pyramid of this imperialist system for years.

The capitalists are stuck in a relentless and destructive competition with each other, which leads them to penetrate the world, especially the poorer countries, in order to more brutally exploit the people.

It is this system that constantly creates conditions that make life very hopeless or even dangerous for an increasing number of people, including in Afghanistan.

Such conditions force people to migrate to other countries and even different continents, and then when they migrate in search of asylum or escape from unbearable conditions, they are treated like criminals.

It is this system and the necessities of this system that lead to wars: wars to conquer nations and peoples, wars to control key parts of the world such as the Middle East, and even wars between capitalist-imperialist countries armed with nuclear weapons to determine which one of them is the most powerful tyrant in the world. Of course, it is not clear that after such a war, there is anything left of this world...

Although the oppression of women is not only the product of imperialism-capitalism, it has taken other dimensions of its own and has introduced new forms as well as integrating previous forms of oppression of women. This is why we say that all women all over the world are oppressed. 

One year after the Taliban ruled girls could not attend school, Afghan girls attend a class in an underground school, in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 30, 2022.


One year after the Taliban ruled girls could not attend school, Afghan girls attend a class in an underground school, in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 30, 2022.    Photo: AP

In the countries of Iran and Afghanistan, this oppression is heightened by an added dimension of compulsory hijab and discriminatory, oppressive Islamic Sharia laws. In a country like America, it is the denial of the right to abortion, etc. All this is the oppression of women, only in different forms and in different parts of the world.

So I emphasize that we live under a huge system called imperialism-capitalism, but the countries of the world are generally divided into two: imperialist categories, such as America, Russia, and China; or dominated, oppressed nations such as Iran and Afghanistan.

It is the function of this imperialist-capitalist system that has brought forth the two historically outmodeds systems. These two outmodeds mean two structures whose usability is over, like a rotten food. For them to survive and thrive means the suffering of humanity, especially women.

One of these two rottens (or outmodeds) is imperialism, and the other is Islamic fundamentalism. This theory was not formulated by Osyan, but belongs to Bob Avakian, the author of the new synthesis of communism.1



But let me briefly point out that the situation in the world system is such that almost all political forces and movements eventually align and unite with one of these two obsoletes/outmodeds. That is, they either become allies of imperialism or take the side of Islamic fundamentalism under the banner of being against imperialism.

It is true that the Islamists had the support of the United States during the formation period of the Islamic Republic of Iran, but this support does not mean that it is the creation of the United States, and it does not even mean that Islamic fundamentalism and imperialism, especially American imperialism, are not at odds with each other or do not wage wars against each other.

Political Islam has mainly been a problem for the United States, especially in the form of anti-Western jihad. In reality, the interests and approach of these two outmoded systems are different regarding the management of the society. But at the same time, siding with each of these outmodeds helps to strengthen both of these outmoded forces. Favoring and siding with the Islamic fundamentalists cause the imperialists to further their agenda and interests by using the people's fear of the people of the Islamist forces.

In the same way, the supporting, siding with and strengthening imperialism leads to more interventions and wars by the imperialists, and the Islamic fundamentalists can mobilize the people against the imperialists with their line and thinking, and ideologies.

What exactly happened during the 20 years of occupation of Afghanistan by the U.S. led to the Taliban coming to power again, and this time with much more popular support than the first time they came to power.

Let me show the manifestation of this orientation and division between these two outmoded ones with examples in Iran, Afghanistan, and America.

In Iran, there was a wide range of reformist ideas that tried to achieve changes within the structure of the system of the Islamic Republic through various reforms that legitimized the Islamic Republic.  

One aspect of this view was the thinking that in order to be in opposition against the imperialists, especially the western imperialists, you needed to support the rotten Islamism in power, i.e., the Islamic Republic of Iran. This reformist thinking in the women's movement showed itself in the form of a ONE MILLION SIGNATURE campaign, a campaign whose intellectual foundations were formed by secular women and sometimes former leftists, and later, in addition to this spectrum, it was supported by a section of women in government. This movement aimed to amend some laws regarding women, like the equality of dowry between men and women, or the amendment of the law of inheritance and the like.

They never looked for the root causes of the oppression of women and always recognized and respected the red lines that the Islamic Republic had drawn on the issue of women.

Obviously, talking about the mandatory hijab was one of the main red lines of the one million signature campaign. The formulators and supporters and main activists of the campaign included various people whose names are now familiar to many today, unlike those days.

What happened with the failure of the reforms, even though the illusion of reforming the Islamic Republic disappeared amongst some of these women, the thinking and outlook of reformism did not go away and forced them to align themselves now with American imperialism. Letting go of one of the two outmodeds has led to pursuing and getting attracted to another rotten power. The media face of this example amongst the women's movement can be seen in the likes of Masih Alinejad.

Naturally, due to the successive failures of American imperialism in Iraq and Afghanistan, this trend could not have been predicted or clearly seen 20 years ago, but this thinking and desire to side with America can be seen in the policy of focusing on the work of women in Iran and Afghanistan. And the silence about what is happening to women in America, especially after the abolition of the right to abortion, is a clear example of the pro-America tendency.

In Afghanistan, two rotten and outmoded systems can be seen in different political and intellectual currents including the women's movement.

Afghani people witness stoning of a woman


A 19-year-old woman named Rokhshana was barbarically stoned to death in a Taliban-controlled village in 2016 for refusing a forced marriage and fleeing with another man. The U.S.’s imperialist war fueled the resurgence of the Taliban and its reactionary, patriarchal Islamic fundamentalism.   

The line that defended America's attack on Afghanistan, and even after 20 years of futile presence today, or more correctly, America's destructive presence in Afghanistan, that line still defends this attack and occupation.

Hospital in Afghanistan destroyed by U.S. airstrike


October 16, 2015: Doctors Without Borders’ hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, after U.S. airstrike killed 42 staff and patients. “The attack was conducted with a purpose to kill and destroy. We don’t know why.”     Photo: AP

This political perspective, whose operational activity in Afghanistan was generally concentrated in NGOs and organizations and institutions close to power, not only did not help women's liberation, but turned the issue of women‘s oppression mainly into occupations and getting jobs for women within this government and businesses. It turned a blind eye to opposing the crimes by the jihadist government of Ashraf Ghani and the like. They kept silent to opposing American imperialist crimes under the banner of fighting the Taliban which played an important role in driving the desperate masses towards the Taliban. Today, many of these people long for the “brilliant era” of the presence of the United States facing off against the Taliban government.

At the same time, there is another wrong view out there, which is after seeing what Afghanistan and its women have gone through under the invasion and occupation of U.S. imperialism in the last 20 years. The wrong view is to line up with another rotten/outmoded and support the activities of one kind of Islamic fundamentalists or the other, such as supporting the activities of forces like the Quds Forces (i.e., branches of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, that operates outside Iran in other countries of the region). It supports the intervention and killing by the Islamic Republic of Iran and even supports some of the remnants of Afghan jihadists.

While it should be clear that oppression of women is one of the intellectual pillars of these Islamist forces, the occurrence of these two outmodeds is not only in the Middle East. Rather, in America itself, some of the “left” social movements that justified U.S. and NATO military aggression in Afghanistan, whether the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, remain silent [today] against the abolition of the right to abortion or approves it.

As you can see in the examples, these two rotten and outmoded systems are like two whirlpools of different forces and currents of thought, from Iran and Afghanistan to America and many other parts of the world. The lack of understanding of the functioning of this system in which we live means that imperialism-capitalism does not allow a large part of the intellectual currents to have a horizon beyond reforming this system and leads them to see the choice as between this or the other outmoded system.

Despite all their differences, both these two outmoded rotten systems share the oppression of women at their roots. Oppression of women is global because imperialism-capitalism is global, and therefore the fight against oppression of women must also be global, and by identifying the real roots of the oppression of women through a scientific and comprehensive understanding, we can go to work.



1. Bob Avakian, BAsics 1:28: 

What we see in contention here with Jihad [Islamic fundamentalism] on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade [increasingly globalized western imperialism] on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these "outmodeds," you end up strengthening both. 

While this is a very important formulation and is crucial to understanding much of the dynamics driving things in the world in this period, at the same time we do have to be clear about which of these "historically outmodeds" has done the greater damage and poses the greater threat to humanity: It is the historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system, and in particular the U.S. imperialists. [back]