Oct 13, 2007

When a Lesbian Says: We Are all Hezb' Allah Now!

The following essay by Azar Majedi previously appeared on the websites Iranian.com (http://www.iranian.com/main/2007/whats-gone-wrong) and Secularism is a Women's Issue (http://www.siawi.org/spip.php?article166).

Azar Majedi is a member of the central committee of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran and the founder of the Organization for Women's Liberation - Iran.

(A dialog between Three Way Fight contributors sparked by this essay was posted shortly after this essay.)

by Azar Majedi

When my daughter’s friend told me a couple of weeks a go, that her socialist lesbian friend has a poster on her wall saying: "we are all Hezb' Allah Now!" I said: "my God! (And I am an atheist) something has gone fundamentally wrong."

I asked myself, what are they trying to do, mocking socialists? Or, are they simply brainwashed? What is this world coming to?

This young woman has all the necessary ingredients for fighting against political Islam and Hezb' Allah. First of all she is a woman. Just the fact of being a female, is enough to make you a staunch enemy of a radically misogynist movement, unless you are brainwashed to do the opposite.

To add to the irony, she is a lesbian. Homosexuality is a crime punishable by death according to Islam and in countries under its rule. To be homosexual makes you want to flee from any place that the Islamists have any power. Dozens of homosexuals have been hanged in recent months by the Islamic Republic of Iran. She, a lesbian, born in Iran, or in a region under Hezb' Allah, would have to seek refuge in Britain. But she is lucky enough to be born here and does not have to live in the fear of her life, like poor Pegah who fled Iran to seek refuge in Britain, and who now British government wants to deport back to Iran*. Is this socialist-lesbian supporter of Hezb' Allah aware that her support of political Islam makes Pegah’s case even more difficult? Home Office does seek legitimization for such deports by these quasi left Islamist propaganda. And finally she claims to be a socialist. Wherever one stands in political spectrum, it is a well-known and accepted fact that socialism is about equality, fairness and aspirations for a more egalitarian and fairer society. If one chooses socialism, that should mean, one cares for fellow human beings, aspires equality and freedom, all those values that are despised by the Islamic movement. Many thousands socialists have been imprisoned, tortured and executed by the Islamic Republic alone.

Then, what has gone wrong? Why is she so passionate about the Hezb' Allah?

An ideological falsification is responsible for this turn of events. Pragmatism has helped the course of events, as well. Let’s start with the latter. This most probably good-hearted young woman is rightfully sick and tired of American and British aggression and crimes committed in Iraq and the Middle East. She is sick and tired of the injustices imposed on the Palestinian people. She rightfully condemns American and British states for all these crimes and atrocities and for their full fledged support for the state of Israel and last year’s war on Lebanon. She is just to do so. However, on the other side, since George Bush has defined the enemy as Islamists, she automatically turns into full support for the Islamists.

The American and British aggression and military actions against the people in the Middle East has helped to draw a wrong image of the Islamic movement. Islamic movement and ideology have been falsified as the liberators of the people in the Middle East or the Palestinians. This is false. Islamists are one the most brutal movements in the history of mankind. They are no liberators. They are a force of reaction and darkness. This message must be spread.

Islamists are not the spokesperson for the Palestinians or Iraqi people. They do not represent the pain and grief these people suffer by these wars. They are not people’s representatives; they are as brutal and as ruthless. What we need to make clear is: in the war between US and Islamists, between the two poles of terrorism, we do not need to support either. We must condemn both. We should form a third pole, a third voice to oppose both.

24 August 2007


= = = = =

* An open letter by Organisation for Women’s Liberation in defence of Pegah Emam Bakhsh, an Iranian Lesbian who is to be deported to Iran is attached. Please do support her.

The Organisation for Women’s Liberation-Iran
- www.azadizan.com
- Address: PO Box 42300
- London N12 0WY
- England
- Chairperson: Azar Majedi
- azarmajedi@yahoo.com
- Tel: +44-7886973423
- Fax: +44-8701358385

Open letter to the Home Office,
- The Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner
- 5th Floor, Counting House, 53 Tooley Street, London, SE1 2QN England
- Telephone: 020 7211 1500
- Fax: 020 7211 1553


- Copies to the UK media and Mr Richard Caborn,
- MP for Sheffield Central

Re: Pegah Emam Bakhsh
- 21 August 2007

Pegah is a young Iranian woman who faces deportation from the UK. She applied for asylum in the UK fearing her life in Iran as a lesbian. She was refused asylum by the British authorities. Last week she was detained without warning and sent to Yarlswood for deportation on 16th August. At the very last minute she was granted stay until August 27th so her MP for Sheffield Central, Mr. Richard Caborn, could look at her case. Another report states that a new removal date has been issued for August 23rd at 9.21.

The Iranian Queer Organization - IRQO (www.irqo.net - info@irqo.net tel: 001-416-548-4171) has been active to stop Pegah’s deportation. We sincerely hope that Mr. Caborn together with the active role of IRQO can save Pegah from being deported to Iran where she will be arrested tortured and most likely executed.

In Iran, homosexuality is a crime and punishable by hanging or stoning. The Islamic Republic of Iran has executed many homosexuals openly and in public. It is a well known fact.

We support Pegah’s application for political refugee status in the UK and urge all to oppose the UK government’s decision to deport her and support her case. Pegah SHOULD NOT be deported. She has, according to international human rights convention the right to be granted refugee status by the British government. If deported to Iran she will be persecuted for her sexual orientation and the British government will be in breach of its agreed human rights convention.

What are the real issues here? Increasing the number of deportees to meet the targets? Or deport her and see what happens? When she is tortured in Iran then she will have a strong case for asylum?! With the publicity she has now, the chances of the latter are more probable. Would that help the British authorities? Will it set the record straight? A battered or dead woman’s body proving the British authorities wrong! What a civilised way to settle the matter. One thing is sure if Pegah is returned to Iran the target has been met! We are talking about human life not statistics. Pegah has to be saved.



Anonymous said...

I'll be anxious to read the ensuing internal debate between the Three Way Fight folks on this subject.

There a few of things going here. For one, Azar Majedi is a leading member of a Maoist vanguard party. I’m not accusing TWF of endorsing the position of this statement, as my conception of TWF is that it’s anti-vanguard party and anti-statist. Maoism, self-evidently, does not jive with this conception and, in fact, represents its opposite.

Secondly, while I would say that the TWF presents an interesting and pragmatic approach to political and class paradigms today, one my critiques lies in subsuming Islam, or even political Islam, into the Right or as inherently backward.

Furthermore, it’s a mistake to lump armed Islamic groups all into the same category, as all have different material bases as well as ideologies. For instance, Hamas has made it clear that they are not jihadists and have repudiated attempts by Al-Qaeda to lend material support. They see their interests as fundamentally opposed and not as mere competing groups. While they are committed to the overthrow and destruction of the state of Israel, they are not on a crusade to convert Jews and Christians to Islam. In fact, during the last Palestinian elections, a portion of Palestine’s Christian population voted in favor of Hamas. They are statist, indeed, and for this reason among others I do not support their political program, but in their politics, Christians and secularists are not antagonistic to the building of an Islamic state.

I believe that a correct approach to Hamas and groups like Hezbollah is in seeing them as a legitimate armed force against Israeli aggression, and in the context of Hamas, as a legitimate anti-colonial force. That’s not to say that we endorse terrorism and violent acts against unarmed civilians whom might otherwise be sympathetic, but we shouldn’t oppose armed struggle. Neither is this to say that Hamas and Hezbollah will not become their opposite, either in containing their revolt by allowing them a seat within the various states, or by turning their guns wholesale against the Palestinian and Lebanese people. After all, all armed struggle is not independently valid, such as that of the Shining Path in Peru or the FARC in Colombia.

But just as we need to be careful in forming dubious alliances with elements in Islam which are reactionary and hostile to the self-management of working people, we need to be just as vigilant in doing so with authoritarian elements on the Left, such as the Maoists who believe the working class lacks the correct consciousness and therefore must be led by “revolutionary” vanguards.

Thirdly, religion and religious expression is and can be a valid ideological form of struggle against colonialism and imperialism. In America, Christianity was an important religious form in the fight against the British colonizers, just as it was in John Brown, the abolitionists’, and the slaves’ struggle against the Southern plantocracy. In the peasant wars in Germany and in Martin Luther’s Reformation of the 14th century, religion played an enormously indispensable role against the Roman Papacy.

Majedi’s statement is a wholesale condemnation of Islam, not only as a valid political force, but also as a religion. In doing so, she condemns the near half of the world who are Muslim, many of whom are working people who stand firm against Islamic reaction.

Religion is merely the form that struggles can assume, the content is always of a class dimension.

Krisna Best
Democracy and Hip-Hop Project

Matthew N Lyons said...

Krisna, thanks for your comments on Majedi's article, particularly regarding the need to differentiate between different forms of political Islam, and between political Islam and Islam as a religion. My dialog with Bromma touches on some of this.

However, I don't think it's accurate to describe the Worker-Communist Party of Iran as "Maoist." I am far from being an expert, but my understanding is that the worker-communist tendency in Iran and elsewhere is actually quite critical of Maoism, charging that it plays into nationalism and advances the interests of local bourgeoisies in the Third World.

Matthew N Lyons said...

Azar Majedi sent us the following press release:


Azar majedi nominated for Emma Humphrey’s memorial prize

We are pleased to announce that Azar Majedi, chair of OWL has been nominated for Emma Humphrey’s memorial prize. As it is stated on the foundation’s website: “Commemorative awards are made annually to women and groups who have done exceptional work to combat violence against women and children, and have raised awareness of this issue, whether through writing, campaigning or activism. The aim of the individual prize and the group award is to recognise and reward outstanding and often unsung contributions to the fight against violence against women and children.”

In most part of the world women and young girls are discriminated against and suffer horrendous violence. OWL is committed to combat discrimination and violence against women and young girls, particularly in societies under the rule of Islam. State violence and domination of misogynist ideologies and values are an important form of violence against women. OWL tries to uproot misogynist ideologies and fights against state violence, domestic violence and honour killings.

This nomination is recognition of the work OWL has done to combat violence and discrimination against women and young girls. We hope this could facilitate more support for our vital work.

Organisation for Women’s Liberation
14 October 2007

Anonymous said...


I stand corrected on the WCPI. I had read an earlier post about the CPI which was labelled Maoist and subsequently confused the two.

My critique is of vanguardism particularly and statism generally and we can safely ascribe a statist position to the CPI.

I enjoyed the conversation with Bromma and hope to see more participate and add dimension to this complex issue.


RX said...

first, thanks for the comradely and critical comments. a couple points:

1) the Majedi piece, I feel does conflate Islam with a reactionary fundamentalism. if she meant otherwise I think she should have taken a more nuanced approach.

2) despite this, the point of the article was to raise the question of how can an anti-imperialist lesbian who should be at odds with the overall program of hez'bollah be a supporter instead. I think this shows two things, a) Hezb'Allah has (is seen as having) a near hegemony as the defense force for the poor and marginalized peoples in the region, b)the program of Hezb'Allah is multi-dimensional and thus on the political stage can accommodate a wide range of supporters. i think Majedi fails to take these into account. Whether or not we agree with the program of Hezb'Allah, their ability to provide aid and defense, coupled with their advocacy of building a constituent democracy in Lebanon is attractive and should itself be defended. in the absence of mass secular and combative movements, is it not understandable for women such as the one Majedi describes to hold up Hezb'Allah as worth supporting? Still, Majedi see's Hezb'Allah and it pro-IRI politic as reactionary and dangerous. The forces that would later comprise the IRI also worked with Left revolutionaries and secularists before and during the revolution only to arrest, execute and jail their opponents later. Majedi's own comrades died at the hands of the IRI. Can we not understand aspects to Majedi's response towards the pro-IRI Hezb'Allah?
3) threewayfight does not support "vanguard" politics. we would define ourselves as libertarian left and reject statecraft or the substitution of one voice within the revolutionary moment as the actual revolutionary moment. although to be honest, there is ongoing differences between us on some of these issues and our main point of reference is participation in the antifascist movement as radical voices.

Participants to the threewayfight site are influenced by a number of political tendencies, from classical anti-state revolutionary anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism to the libertarian Trotskyist group Revolutionary Socialist League to the Settlers/Nightvision tendency to the ideas of STO. Looking at STO, as you know they were a Leninist organization, and while I would say represent the left and libertarian impulses of the new communist groups, it never disavowed the concept of the revolutionary State, the "qualitatively different" State, and organization of the revolutionary movement for its defense. but the general program of STO as articulated in Towards A Revolutionary Party, clearly outlines concepts that revolutionary anti-statists could agree in large part with, especially around self-activity and organization of the working class, and the need to create a revolutionary organization based on a “conscious and critical rank and file membership” as opposed to a “cult of obedience”. As for Settlers/Nightvision, it too remained within a Marxian approach, although that of an anarchist influenced Maoism stressing attacks on the manifestations of the State and patriarchy, decentralism and collective organization.

4) the WCPI is not Maoist. I wonder if you confused this with another party, easy to do I admit. In fact I found them to reject Maoism and Stalinism, express a sympathy for Trotsky, and come close to an embracing of a kinda Marxist humanism perhaps not that far on some points from that of News and Letters. Still, I do not necessarily endorse them fully either. They accept the concept and authority of a State and support State sanctions and regulation of religious practices. Admittedly I know little of them and am trying to research more on them. But from what I have seen they are participants in trade union struggles, women and children education and defense projects and continually promote a radical social democratic program in the here and now while agitating for workers control and revolutionary socialism. For me, the political question is do they represent a politic that libertarians can work with within the framework of a united front. And, within such united front can real and constructive discourse happen the aim of which is to strengthen the independent, autonomous and revolutionary character of people in struggle.

The Majedi piece makes us have to ask what fronts are we willing to cooperate in. in the name of anti-imperialism who do we support, and are we willing to engage over differences or like so much of the rest of the “left” abdicate our responsibility to voice critical perspectives in the name of a false solidarity.

Ok, I’ll close this for now. I have a broken hand and typing is a pain, literally….

Anonymous said...

I have been 'meditating' for a while on this statement by Immanuel Wallerstein, whose work I am currently finding rather enlightening, and which I would reccommend to TWFers. [I am not associated with this blog at all, although have affinity with the general aggregate viewpoints expressed here]

"Personally, I think the basic conflict is that between those who seek to establish or reestablish a hierarchical world-order in which some are privileged and most others not and those who wish to construct a maximally democratic and egalitarian order. I think the goal requires different kinds of value systems to undergrid it and that the historic world religions may have much to teach us about what is crucial in such value systems. [Earlier in the essay, Wallerstein makes clear that he is part of the left who is traditionally skeptical, with good reason, of any and all things religious].

"The real problem is that in the secularist and the fundamentalist camps in all parts of the world there are persons on both sides of what I anticipate will be the great politico-social struggle of the coming fifty years. I think myself that posing the issue as one of secularism versus fundamentalism is distracting us in a very major way form clarity of vision. And clarity, not demons, is what we need most at the present time."


More broadly, what I take from this: In determining who is with us, who is against us (and who is somewhere in between, in conflicting and confused ways), the mainstream 'received' categories may not be of ultimate value. Both because the world has changed in the past 100 years (such that even 100 year old left analysis that was good and right 100 years ago may no longer be) and because these categories--as we understand them--have been in part constructed by the society we live in for pro-status-quo effects.

Surprising to my younger anarchist self (and don't get me wrong, my older self is still anarchist), I have found not only that 'friends' and 'enemies' are not neccesarily delimited by 'religious' and 'secular', but also not by 'anarchist' and 'communist'. I've found some self-proclaimed communists who have more useful analysis to me (toward that clarity of vision Wallerstein talks about) and are taking actions that seem more useful to me than many self-proclaimed anarchists. Of course, it goes without saying that this is not true of many other self-proclaimed communists.