Given this horrible situation, what can independent socialists, feminists and anti-war activists do? Frieda Afari’s article was originally published in Iranian Progressives.
August 21, 2021
My heart goes out to the Afghan people and especially Afghan women who are being subjected to the nationwide rule of the Taliban after 20 years of U.S. imperialist occupation and over 40 years of civil war.
The U.S. withdrawal while long overdue, marks a truly ominous moment not only for the Afghan people in particular but the world in general.
After years of occupying Afghanistan in the name of “the war on terror”, bombing innocent civilians, polluting Afghan soil/air/water, and setting up a corrupt and patriarchal government with 2 trillion dollars in arms and other funds, the U.S. government has in effect made a deal with the barbaric, racist, Jihadist and misogynist Taliban. The U.S. promised to leave by September 2021 if the Taliban promised to not harbor Al Qaeda nor attack U.S. forces and interests. *
Instead of allowing the Afghan people to have free and fair elections to determine an alternative both to their corrupt U.S. appointed government and the Taliban, the U.S. agreement with the Taliban and the Afghan government’s corruption and years of collusion with the Taliban and other religious fundamentalist forces, created the condition for the Taliban’s swift takeover of the country. Furthermore, the Taliban now have access to a massive collection of advanced U.S. arms left behind.
Rule by the Taliban is not the wish of the majority of Afghan people. The tens of thousands of people who are desperately trying to flee Afghanistan represent the concerns of a majority of both the urban and the rural population who deeply hate the Taliban. In fact we are now witnessing demonstrations against the Taliban around the country, mostly organized by women and youth. Women especially, are not able to come into the streets en masse because of the degree of the brutality of the Taliban. We have already seen reports of their attacks against the protesters, their campaign to deface posters of unveiled women, and their house to house searches to arrest progressive opponents, many of whom have gone underground. (Yam, Marcus and Tracy Wilkinson, 2021 ; Gall, Carlotta, et al., 2021)
The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan marks an ominous moment for Afghans and the world, also because it is a clear demonstration that the U.S. aims to concentrate its military power in the Pacific to confront China in a potentially much larger and far more destructive capitalist war. (Buckley, Chris and Myers, Steven, 2021) Indeed the U.S. hopes that China and Russia which support Taliban rule would get bogged down in Afghanistan and the Middle East region and become weaker in their joint competition to gain capitalist single world domination.
China has also clearly stated in an earlier meeting with the Taliban leadership that while it aims to build infrastructure for Afghanistan as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, it has no interest in reducing the Taliban’s brutal rule as long as the Taliban stay away from Chinese government interests and keep silent about the over one million Uighur Muslims in Chinese concentration camps in Xinjiang or the one million Rohingya Muslims driven out of Myanmar by the Burmese military government and languishing in refugee camps in Bangladesh. (Chaguan, 2021, Zhou, 2021)
Pakistan, is the birthplace of the Taliban and its main supporter. Iran has been supporting religious fundamentalist militia groups in Afghanistan and hosting friendly negotiations with the Taliban. These regional powers are also trying to take advantage of the current situation to promote their own authoritarian and misogynist rule.
All of these developments are taking place in the midst of a deadly Covid-19 pandemic which is taking thousands of lives every day due to poverty, lack of sanitary conditions, and lack of personal protective equipment and safe vaccines.
Given this horrible situation, what can independent socialists, feminists and anti-war activists do?
1.Any language that normalizes the Taliban should be challenged. Thus, we need to confront leftists who claim that the Taliban are the wish of the Afghan people (Lindisfarne, Nancy and Neal, Jonathan, 2021) and those who claim that the Taliban’s deal with Chinese imperialism will be good for ordinary people. (Prashad, Vijay, 2021)
2.We need to support the current protests of youth, women and human rights activists inside Afghanistan against the Taliban, give voice to their views and discuss their ideas about how to free Afghanistan. These include Afghan feminist leader Malalai Joya https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/malalai-joya-we-need-aid-not-war-machines and women from the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan http://www.afghanwomensmission.org/2021/08/rawa-responds-to-the-taliban-takeover/
- We need to support the plight of Afghan refugees and confront racist forces in other countries who use refugees as scapegoats for the problems caused by capitalism and imperialism.
- We need to create more connections between Afghan, Iranian and Pakistani feminists, labor and human rights activists in the region and with struggles in Myanmar where a labor, feminist and oppressed ethnic minority uprising is ongoing. We also need to reach out to the global Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements.
*In fact the negotiations with the Taliban started under president Obama when the Obama administration supported the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar in 2013. (Tankell, 2018)
The Trump administration took these negotiations to a new level in 2020 when Trump met directly with Taliban representatives and promised the release of 5000 imprisoned Taliban fighters and a May 2021 U.S. withdrawal date. The Biden administration continued Trump’s policy and simply delayed the withdrawal date by a few months.
Buckley, Chris and Myers, Steven, 2021. “To China, Afghan Fall Proves U.S. Hubris. It Also Brings New Dangers”, New York Times, August 18. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/18/world/asia/china-afghanistan-taliban-usa.html?searchResultPosition=1
Chaguan, 2021. “China’s Revealing Afghan Strategy”, Economist. May 29. https://www.economist.com/china/2021/05/27/chinas-revealing-afghan-strategy
Gall, Carlotta, et al. 2021, “Taliban Quash Protests and Seize Enemies”. New York Times, August 19. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/19/world/asia/afghanistan-protests.html
Joya, Malalai, 2021. “We Need Aid, Not War Machines”, Green Left, August 18. https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/malalai-joya-we-need-aid-not-war-machines
Kolhatkar, Sonali, 2021. “RAWA Responds to the Taliban Takeover”, Afghan Women’s Mission. August 20. http://www.afghanwomensmission.org/2021/08/rawa-responds-to-the-taliban-takeover/
Kamangar, Arash, 2021. “Interview with Kobra Soltani”. Akhbar-Rooz, August 20. https://www.akhbar-rooz.com/%d9%85%d9%87%d9%86%d8%af%d8%b3%db%8c-%d9%be%db%8c%d8%b1%d9%88%d8%b2%db%8c-%d8%b7%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%a8%d8%a7%d9%86-%d8%aa%d9%88%d8%b3%d8%b7-%d8%a7%d9%85%d8%b1%db%8c%da%a9%d8%a7%d8%8c-%da%af%d9%81%d8%aa/
Kamangar, Arash, 2021. “Interview with Malalai Joya”. July 29, 2021 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QuC_ig9CZ24&t=669s
Lindisfarne, Nancy and Neal, Jonathan, 2021. “Afghanistan: The End of the Occupation. “ Anne Bonny Pirate, August 17. https://annebonnypirate.org/author/jonathanneale/
Prashad, Vijay, 2021, “Create Two, Three, Many Saigons.” Tricontinental, August 19. https://thetricontinental.org/newsletterissue/33-afghanistan/
Reimann, John, 2021. “The Women of Afghanistan vs. the United States and Taliban.’ Oakland Socialist. August 19. https://oaklandsocialist.com/2021/08/19/the-women-of-afghanistan-vs-the-united-states-and-the-taliban/
Tankel, Stephen, 2018. With Us and Against Us. Columbia University Press. https://books.google.com/books?id=IUtBDwAAQBAJ&pg=PT105&lpg=PT105&dq=obama+taliban+qatar+mullah+baradar&source=bl&ots=5i9psj1F0e&sig=ACfU3U2NCHho8QVxgVCtuWuvAAfEAs15pg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwim1cWxgcHyAhVkCTQIHTH3AeE4WhDoAXoECAIQAw#v=onepage&q=obama%20taliban%20qatar%20mullah%20baradar&f=true
Yam, Marcus and Tracy Wilkinson, 2021. “ Afghans Protest Taliban Rule “. Los Angeles Times, August 19. https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2021-08-19/taliban-mark-afghan-independence-challenges-to-rule-rise
Zhou, Bo, 2021. “China Stands Ready to Fill Kabul’s Needs”, New York Times, August 21. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/20/opinion/china-afghanistan-taliban.html