Friday, March 4, 2011

Yanar Mohammed Reports on the Protests and Revolutions for Freedom

image is from here

All that follows is from MADRE News website, *here*.

The Day of Iraqi Rage

Posted on: Thursday, March 3, 2011
KeywordsIraqMiddle East
We just received the following update from Yanar Mohammed, the director of our partner organization in Iraq, the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI). She writes about the spread of demonstrations from the wider region into Iraqi cities and about the violent tactics that Iraqi security forces are using against protestors.

Last Friday, February 25, was a historic day in Iraq. The revolution earthquakes in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya sent shockwaves in our direction.

(Photo at left: Yanar Mohammed, OWFI Director)The main squares of most Iraqi cities were filled with protestors raising the same demands of providing electricity, employment, an end to governmental corruption, and a plea for general freedoms.

Although the government announced a curfew and closed all streets from vehicular movement, and the highest religious clerics discouraged the people from protesting, almost 70,000 people gathered in the main squares in all of Iraq, united around their main demands.

For the first time in eight years, the demonstration united people of different religions, ethnicities, sects, and political affiliations to denounce the extreme and continuous corruption and demand a share for the people in the countries resources from oil.

OWFI plays a role in the political participation of women within movements for national freedoms and liberties in Iraq. Although our numbers are small when compared to the huge demonstrating masses, the purpose was to help organize some of the freedom-loving youth groups which had started from facebook, but grew and multiplied in February. OWFI was one of the organizers of the demonstrations in Baghdad and Samarra raising slogans of change, right to work, and of course, equality.


Al Tahrir Demonstration in Baghdad

Although the demo was announced as a peaceful one, the security forces ended it at 5pm by throwing sound bombs, splashing hot water, shooting plastic bullets, and live bullets at the demonstrators.

When we would not move, but chant slogans of relentless struggle, the security trucks began to drive down the square to chase and shoot us with live bullets, and beat up many of the demonstrators who fled into the alleys surrounding Al Tahrir square. One of our male supporters was shot in the knee, while two others were beaten by the US-trained anti-riot police and the Iraqi army. Almost 20 people were shot in that day around the square, although the announced numbers were much less. Some died while the wounded were detained.

For those of us who ran to safety, we had to walk 5 hours in order to reach our homes in streets where cars were not allowed to drive.


In the western city of Samarra, OWFI women and men were leading the demonstrators, and raising banners demanding support for the widows who are a majority among the women of Samarra. It was a precedent for a tribal community protest to be led by women.

At the same time in most Iraqi cities, the army shot the demonstrators in the evening, attempting to disperse the demonstrators. 7 were killed in this city, while 15 were wounded.


Demonstrations happened in parallel in the Kurdish North and the South, making it clear that nobody cared for the artificially created division lines of sunni, shia, Arab, Kurd, Turkmen, etc… It was a day of a unified struggle against corruption, oppression, basic rights and freedoms.


While most demonstrating groups carried banners demanding reform of the government, the shooting and harassment of the demonstrators by anti-riot police and by the army shifted the slogans toward ones which rejected the oppressive measures.


OWFI had carried the banner of "change" since the beginning of the demonstration, and advised groups of cooperating youth demonstrators to do the same. The opposition media picked up the slogan and announced it on local TVs:"…that OWFI activist Yanar Mohammed will demand (Change) in the coming demonstration next Friday."


We are organizing for the coming Friday, hoping that the streets will be open, and that the army will let us into Al Tahrir square after 30 hours from now.

Wish us good luck,
Yanar Mohammed


[Yanar also sent the videos below with this note: "please take a look at the short video clips we took of the demonstration before the shooting. We were still smiling as the shooting had not begun."]

You Can't Inspire, Sustain, or Spell Revolution Without LOVE

photo of James Baldwin is from here

photo of Audre Lorde is from here

photo of Andrea Dworkin is from here

What follows is written with gratitude and love to James Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987), Audre Lorde (February 18, 1934 – November 17, 1992), Andrea Dworkin (September 26, 1946 – April 9, 2005), and Chrystos (born November 7, 1946), whose photo appears below.

And to She who speaks wisdom, whether I listen to Her or not.

One my deepest frustrations about white and male people--including myself--is our inability or unwillingness to ground our political actions in radical love. Radical politics must have a root spiritual base, because the struggles will always been more challenging than we can endure. And so we need forces beyond our individual selves to access when we are feeling or are beaten down.

photo of Malalai Joya is from here
photo of Yanar Mohammed is from here
photo of Vandana Shiva is from here
I've seen revolutionary activists who act with love. Malalai Joya and Yanar Mohammed are among them. So too is Vandana Shiva. I call upon the love found in the work of James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, and Audrea Dworkin; I keep their spirits and their work in my heart. They transformed rage into a deep loving regard for humanity. It was still rageful, at times, but not without love as its base. I'm not saying they didn't hurt, exploit, or abuse anyone. I know better. But in their life-long radical political practice, they made sure to keep a profound respect and deep regard for humanity as a foundational revolutionary value.

Sometimes I wonder if part of the pact whites and men make in order to maintain their whiteness and manhood (or whatever I, as intergender, hold in myself) is that we give up our capacity to love, deeply, radically, and in ways that will support and sustain revolutionary action. Because what I see is that we whites, for example, too often use disagreement as a way to disconnect. And there's too little love to be found in the oppressive institutions we passively and actively support.

There will always be compelling reasons to part company. And we will always have reasons to turn away from one another, in hurt, in anger, while triggered, when too tired to speak what needs to be said to move forward towards healing. But we cannot afford to not move forward, more deeply into ourselves, in community, if we are to create a movement that can resist the forces of the white Master. When we are using  and holding tight to all the most anti-humane tools of the white Master, we can be sure he will continue to rule our lives and destroy the lives of those of us with fewer privileges and dominant social visibility.

In North and Central America, African American, Caribbean, Latina, Asian, and Indigenous women are systematically disappearing without regard or notice from whites and men. This gross human destruction is due, often enough, to men's and whites' violence and our refusal to join forces with Black and Brown women globally to intervene and stop the atrocities which appear in many forms.

Girls and women across ethnicity are incested, battered, raped, trafficked, and enslaved by men--of all races. Why do men, collectively, care so little about this? Is it really because men need some women to be tortured and terrorised, exploited and violated, in order to have a good life as men define it?

This is not to say that people of color have some God/dess-given ability to love. To survive being oppressed and abused, we often absorb society's messages about us, too often open- or close-hand delivered by our alleged loved ones--family members and people in our communities. This lack of love may be delivered with looks and tones of voice that lack compassion, care, regard, and respect. And internalised oppression and self-hatred are viciously successful means through which the oppressor maintains his rule.

But class and race privileged do make disconnection into a kind of sign of righteousness, I find. I see that in the white blogosphere, and offline also. If you're REALLY radical, you'll shut up, shut down, or shut out those who disagree with you. You'll cut people out of your life so swiftly because, well, you can afford to do so.

I know from some of the women of color in my life that this "deleting" of people is a luxury many women of color cannot afford. To cut people out is, often enough, to be entirely without support--however uneven that support is. And with no friends there is also no institutional support. In a society that is founded on your invisibility or that requires your slavery, imprisonment, destruction, or death, without human contact there isn't much else. There's no summer home with a room of one's own in which to write and gaze out at the sea. There's no police force that isn't terroristic. There's no court system that wants to see you and justice meet. Every white-man-made institution is designed to make women of color do the hardest work of all people for the benefit of the very few who do not ever have to work so hard, collectively. Exhaustion and exasperation doesn't make love easy.

So why is it that whites and men are so versed in uncompassionate action when we are disproportionately cared for and about by other people? When we have more social resources with which to take care of ourselves? When we make all kinds of pacts to stick together when challenged by women of color but not so much when we challenge each other?

Watching the news, seeing the revolutionary struggles that have been occurring with amazing bravery and compassion for one's citizens being oppressed, I am reminded of how much love is missing from the more privileged classes of people who might join forces with the most disenfranchised among us.

I'll pray to the Goddess that somehow, She will lead us to each other across difference, across disagreement, and across the divides that become chasms and mass graves most often for those of us who are neither white nor male.
photo of Chrystos is from here

Chrystos once said to me, after an embrace, "Make beautiful things."

Disrespect and disharmony aren't all that beautiful, are they? While honesty requires telling truths that can be unintentionally hurtful, it ought not require any willfully harmful action. Goddess help me understand the difference, with what I do and what I receive that others do.

Goddess be with me and help me through my triggered states of being. Goddess bless me, and those working for a better, more beautiful world. Goddess inform my choices about how to act towards my enemies, my friends, and all our relations.