by Anna Violante
A week before the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, in the pan-Arab online edition of the New Arab, Moroccan women’s rights activist Yasmina Benslimane launches a joint appeal by feminists from North Africa and the Near East in support of Palestinians. “We, young feminists from Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and (SWANA), unite in solidarity with Palestinians during Israel’s onslaught on Gaza and attacks on the West Bank.” Writes its incipit.
The open letter from a group of Iranian expats belonging to ‘Jin Jiyan Azadi’ is certainly more focused on Palestinian women and their liberation, not only from Israeli subjugation but also from the influence of machismo within the Palestinian community. In encouraging women in Iran to join them, Iranian activists abroad recall the messages of solidarity they received last year from Palestinian women and stress the need for unity in the struggle of all women in the Near East.
“The purpose of our statement,” the letter writes “is to extend an invitation to our comrades in the ‘Jin Jiyan Azadî’ uprising to recognise and connect our struggle to that of the Palestinian resistance in its fight for the right to land, life, and belonging, and as such, a fight for self-determination.” They then make it clear that their “feminist solidarity and resistance with Palestine does not mean aligning with the constructed narratives of the Islamic Republic, but a rightful and necessary contemplation on the ideals of ‘freedom’ and the fundamental right to life.” Nor do they doubt that Palestinian women are aware of “the Islamic Republic’s hand in exploiting the Palestinian people’s struggle for freedom.”
When considering which side to take and whom to trust, the letter emphasises the need for complete independence of women. “We know that the path to collective liberation is not through choosing between false dichotomies such as ‘global imperialism/Islamic Republic government’ or ‘Israeli colonial rule/Hamas reactionary force.’ Equally, we recognise the need to avoid pro-Palestine/anti-Semitism. Instead, it is about dismantling these binaries and oversimplifications altogether. For years, we have been made to believe that our only option is to choose between the ‘bad and worse.’ Today, we say a loud and clear ‘no’ to the false binaries presented to us, and stand against oppression and repression in all its forms.” They conclude.
“Since the letter was issued by activists of ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’, it is representative of the whole movement, inside and outside Iran,” an Iranian activist nicknamed ‘the cheeky’ by her own choice, tells Atlas of Wars, “‘Jin Jiyan Azadi’ has no leaders or affiliations, as one can see from the lack of images of political figures or parties. Our struggle is inspired by that of Kurdish women.”
Indeed The Kurdistan Women’s Community (KJK) expresses no reservations or doubts about the rights of women living in the conflict areas of the Near East, including the Palestinians, and what to blame on male power. In a statement reported by Firat News Agency, they wrote “We celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in the shadow of conflicts and wars triggered by male-dominated understanding. The male-dominated system and dictatorial regimes around the world have made violence a goal of protection and the exercise of power. The patriarchal system is driving our world towards destruction in a spiral of violence, femicide, ecocide, genocide, sexism, racism, war and conflict. In essence and in practice it is a war against women. In Palestine, Nagorno-Karabakh and Kurdistan, especially in Rojava, society is exposed to massacres, displacement and migration. Habitats are destroyed as well as cultural and social memory. We condemn this policy of massacres and genocide carried out for the benefit of male power and we declare that we will fight against it anywhere and at any time.”
As for Palestinian activists, their main organisation, ‘Women of the Sun’, has been temporarily silenced due to the war on Gaza and attacks on Palestinians in both Israel and the West Bank. For the past two years, they’ve been accustomed to protesting alongside their Jewish counterparts in the ‘Women Waging Peace’ movement, calling for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and standing in solidarity against the obscurantism of their respective male-dominated religious communities. Vivian Silver, the Israeli-Canadian activist murdered by Hamas on 7 October, was part of the joint struggle.
To learn more, read our Iran conflict factsheet
On the cover photo, Iranian woman wearing traditional abaya – Maharlu pink lake at sunset – (Shiraz, Iran) © muratart/Shutterstock.com