Open Letter to the Anti-War Movement

by Members of RAHA Iranian Feminist Collective and Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions and State Repression on September 19, 2012

The upcoming anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan is a crucial time for activists to reflect on the urgent need for an anti-war movement that is committed to opposing systematic oppression, domination and violence. In the spirit of moving us towards this goal, we feel compelled to respond when individuals and organizations within the movement are harassing and maligning other members of the movement. We need to ask how this reflects on the political and ethical commitments underlying our activism. We need to ask when enough is enough and some kind of collective action is necessary to address an untenable situation.

There is a campaign of hostility and intimidation underway against Iranian activists in the U.S. who oppose war, sanctions, and state repression in Iran. The Iranian-American Friendship Committee (AIFC) has taken the lead in a series of physical and verbal attacks on Iranian activists and their allies.

Enough is enough.

This letter is an appeal to those who consider themselves part of the anti-war movement: stop condoning, excusing or dismissing these attacks by continuing to include AIFC in your coalitions, demonstrations, forums, and other organizing events. We call on those of you who want to build an effective anti-war movement that includes the participation of those whose families are directly targeted by U.S. imperialism, and that is committed to social justice for all, to oppose the abuse AIFC has been heaping on members of various Iranian American organizations.

On June 29, 2012, Ardeshir Ommani of the AIFC circulated a public missive attacking members of Raha Iranian Feminist Collective, Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions, and State Repression, Where Is My Vote, and United For Iran. This so-called AIFC “Factsheet” accused individual members of each group of harboring covert imperialist, Zionist, and pro-war agendas.

Such a smear campaign should be transparent to all who know and work with us and to all those who recognize in these charges a familiar script.

Ommani and AIFC are uncritical apologists for the Iranian government, proudly organizing dinners for President Ahmadinejad in New York each fall and inviting anti-war and pro-Palestinian activists to come pay their respects. They are not alone but work with the Workers World Party and the International Action Center to give left cover to the Iranian government and to infuse the anti-war movement with pro-Islamic Republic politics. They repeat the Iranian state’s position that the pro-democracy protesters in Iran are agents of Western imperialism and Zionism.

And now AIFC mimics the regime by lodging such false charges against us, activists who dare to challenge their orthodoxy and who oppose the Iranian state’s oppressive actions.

Unfortunately, it is not enough to simply dismiss AIFC’s charges as spurious and move on with the serious and necessary work of opposing U.S. intervention around the world. Ommani’s accusations of Zionist loyalties carry serious prison sentences in Iran as a crime of moharebeh (crimes against Islam or against the state). This means that Iranians who refuse to become apologists for the Iranian state cannot participate in the anti-war movement without having their reputations attacked and their names publicly identified with charges that can land them in prison, or worse, if they go to Iran.

The continued acceptance of AIFC as a legitimate presence in the anti-war movement virtually ensures that the majority of Iranians in the U.S. will see the entire movement as pro-Islamic Republic and, therefore, unsafe and hostile. Forcing Iranians to have to choose between visiting their family members in Iran and joining the anti-war movement produces another form of discrimination and oppression of Iranians in the U.S.

To be clear, Ommani’s accusations in print are just the latest in an ongoing campaign of harassment and abuse going back to 2010. The brief history that follows illustrates tactics that are unacceptable to us, and that should be unacceptable to the anti-war movement. At a June 24, 2010 workshop at the U.S. Social Forum hosted by Raha and Where Is My Vote, Ommani was disruptive, insulting young women organizers and questioning their legitimacy in speaking at the conference at all. At a February 4, 2012 anti-war rally in Manhattan, Ommani attempted to physically knock an Iranian woman off of the speakers’ platform while she expressed her views against war and sanctions and in solidarity with those resisting state repression in Iran. At a March 24, 2012 panel called “Iran: Solidarity Not Intervention” that was part of the United National Anti-War Committee conference, Ommani had to be asked repeatedly by conference security to stop calling members of Raha “C.I.A. agents” and “State Department propagandists” and even to allow us to speak at all.

Unable to engage in any respectful dialogue with the ideas Raha members and their allies were advocating, he simply stormed out of the panel. At a conference plenary, security had to be called after Ommani poked a woman who was there to support Raha and who was waiting in line to speak. Ommani eventually had to be moved by conference security to a different part of the hall in order to prevent him from harassing members of Raha on the speakers’ line.

This conflict cannot be reduced to a matter of political differences about the nature of the Iranian state. There are certain behaviors that should be quite obviously beyond the scope of what is acceptable in the anti-war movement. These include the physical and verbal harassment of activists, particularly intimidation tactics lodged by men against women. Shoving, insulting, and bullying women in an effort to silence us is outright sexism.

Furthermore, the leveling of false charges that could make us targets of state repression has haunting historical precedents in the spy operations of SAVAK, the Shah’s secret police force, which hounded the Iranian student opposition abroad throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The same way that American progressives defended Iranian students from persecution by the Iranian and U.S. states in those days, we call on activists today to oppose these efforts to silence us. AIFC has consistently demonstrated an inability to follow basic rules of civility and engagement and should have no place in our movement.

Raha and Havaar oppose all military intervention in Iran (click here for a more on Raha’s analysis). Further, we oppose all U.S., U.N., and European sanctions against Iran, and have been active in trying to build an anti-sanctions/anti-war movement. In our view, the Iranian state, the Israeli state, and the U.S. state each are guilty of repressing popular democratic movements. Standing in solidarity with others engaged in similar struggles, we will organize against the vicious and autocratic measures of these governments until we are free–from the U.S. to Iran to Palestine and beyond.

Yours in struggle and solidarity,
The Members of RAHA Iranian Feminist Collective

The Members of Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions and State Repression

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Arthur September 19, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Interesting article! Please fix the broken link for “(click here for a more on Raha’s analysis)”.


Arthur September 19, 2012 at 7:45 pm
Bob September 25, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Wow. So every organization who does not condemn the Iranian government alongside anti-war demands should be purged from the anti-war movement? Great idea.

Maybe y’all are having a hard time fitting in with the anti-war movement because the goals are vastly different. Our issue is preventing any acts of aggression (economic or military) against Iran. You all piggy-back off of the hard work activists are doing against potential war with Iran, and using it as a platform to promote your issue: regime change in Iran (the same goal as the U.S. government.)

Take, for example, the stupid sign at the bottom of your article. As threats of war were increasing and sanctions/assassinations being ratcheted up, dozens of progressive organizations came together to form a UNITED FRONT around the 4 most urgent demands: No War, No Sanctions, No Assassinations, No Intervention on Iran. A united front means you put aside all political differences to rally around points of unity. organizations with a variety of world views united under this banner.

As seen in the sign above, YOUR involvement in that united front was one of opposition: to refuse to adopt the points of unity, and literally change the message of the entire day of action to be about the Iranian government instead of the issue everyone came together to rally around. And not only that, the demand you tried to force on these protests (and are in this article) was the EXACT SLOGAN the US government uses to justify all the other things being protested against! (And, your basic argument is that by NOT denouncing the Iranian government, that by default means we’re supporting the Iranian government, which is completely ridiculous. It reminds me of the insane argument that if you denounced the Iraq war you supported Saddam Hussein.)

So, basically, maybe you’re mad about the conduct of the anti-war movement because we’re not a good fit for each other. It’s great if you come to the many anti-war protests coming up on Oct. 6, if you keep in mind that protests are built around points of UNITY. If you want to protest against the Iranian government, great, go organize one yourself.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp September 27, 2012 at 4:47 pm

“No to war, yes to bullying women” is hardly the basis for a united front.


Bob September 28, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Hey brah make a name for yourself by calling for the imperialist bombing of sovereign nations and people. Oh yeah you already did that. Must be so proud.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp October 5, 2012 at 11:27 am

Sadly, no one has been able to produce a quote from me to substantiate your charge. It must be fun living in a fact-free world.


Diana Barahona September 27, 2012 at 11:58 pm

RAHA IRANIAN FEMINIST COLLECTIVE AND HAVAAR: IRANIAN INITIATIVE AGAINST WAR, SANCTIONS AND STATE REPRESSION. This is yet another of the many front groups created by the CIA/State Department in order to get the antiwar movement on board with U.S./NATO imperialism in the Middle East. I was wondering how long it would take the The North Star to start the propaganda machine for war on Iran. It seems that the U.S. and NATO are pretty sure of a victory in their war against the Syrian people and have decided it’s time to begin calling for war on Iran.

Meanwhile, let’s look at the yet-unfinished terror war on Syria:
“Syria has been under attack for the past 18 months by mercenaries, funded by Qatar and overseen by NATO. They are intent on dismantling the secular institutions, undermining the defense system of a country partly occupied since 1967, and imposing a religious dictatorship in which Christian and Muslim minorities would not have their place. The conflict has already claimed more than 30,000 Syrian victims (civilian and military) and more than 6000 deaths among the foreign jihadists.” (PressTV journalist Maya Nasser murdered in cold blood,

Ed Herman explains the political context of the imperialist war on Syria in his article, “Manufacturing Failed States”: “These manufactured failures have often had common features that show them to be a product of imperial policy and the projection of imperial power. One frequent feature is the rise and/or recognition of ethnic group rebels who claim victimhood, fight their government with terroristic acts, sometimes designed to provoke a violent government response, and who regularly appeal to the imperial powers to come to their aid. Sometimes foreign mercenaries are imported to aid the rebels, and both the indigenous rebels and mercenaries are often armed, trained and given logistical support by the imperial powers. The imperial powers encourage these rebel efforts as they find them useful to justify destabilizing, bombing, and eventually overthrowing the target regime.”


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp September 28, 2012 at 5:53 am

“This is yet another of the many front groups created by the CIA/State Department in order to get the antiwar movement on board with U.S./NATO imperialism in the Middle East.”

So you’re saying the CIA and the State Department back groups that oppose war and sanctions on Iran. That makes a lot of sense.


Diana Barahona September 30, 2012 at 6:13 pm

No, Mr. Binh. I am saying that these are not real groups. They are fictitious fronts created by the USG. But in order to appeal to your target, progressives and occupiers and some really clueless leftists, they have to pretend to be against war and sanctions. Their (your) tactic is to confuse and divide.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp October 5, 2012 at 11:30 am

You want to talk about clueless? Get a mirror. Government agents in our movements are far more likely to toe the radical line on imperialism than they are to challenge it. Look at Richard Aoki. He was a diehard “anti-imperialist.”

As for front groups, PSL is especially good at creating ineffective issue-based front groups because they (like the ISO and others) fear control from below by the rank and file.


arrow September 28, 2012 at 2:47 pm

{So you’re saying the CIA and the State Department back groups that oppose …}

Why don’t you shut up CIA agent. Do you really think people are as dumb as you not to know that this
site is a fuckiing US gov front? idiot


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp September 28, 2012 at 4:33 pm

If only. We wouldn’t have to e-beg to finance improvements.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp October 5, 2012 at 11:38 am

Breaking news: Pro-Syrian revolution/anti-Ahmadinejad demonstrations have broken out in Iran itself:

Slogans include: “Stop supporting Assad, Do something to help us!” and “No to Syria No to Lebanon, My life only for Iran.”

These slogans are simultaneously nationalist (“Iran first”) and internationalist (“hands off Syria, stop interfering, cease funding slaughter in foreign lands”), a kind of “money for jobs/fuel subsidies, not for counter-revolution” thing.


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