Middle Eastern Women Need Peace

Valentine Moghadam at Cambridge/Boston Women's March 2018: The People Persist
Valentine Moghadam at Cambridge/Boston Women's March 2018: The People Persist

Remarks delivered at the Cambridge/Boston Women’s March: The People Persist, January 20, 2018

Greetings to all! I am here speaking on behalf of Massachusetts Peace Action and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Boston branch.

As a woman born in Iran, who has researched women and their organizations in the Middle East and has worked with many feminist organizations, I want to speak about the very real needs of women in the Middle East – for peace, security, freedom of travel, and economic prosperity – and how the Trump Administration is doing absolutely nothing in that regard.

Neither, by the way, is the Trump regime doing anything meaningful for the women of America. For that matter, he has reneged utterly on what passed for meaningful promises during his presidential campaign, especially the promise to improve America’s crumbling infrastructure and to get us out of wars. All we have gotten in the past year is more of the same – more bombs, more Wall Street advisors, more tax cuts for the rich. On top of that, insults and crude language.

The women of the Middle East do not need Trump’s pitiful tweets and ignorant statements. They demand respect and concrete measures toward peace, stability, and international cooperation.

Instead of tweets about how brutal the Iranian regime is, and opportunistic endorsement of the Iranian protests, Trump should support the Iran nuclear deal, end the sanctions, lift the travel ban, and normalize relations – which is precisely what the young people of Iran want, and especially the country’s young women.

Instead of encouraging Netanyahu’s Palestinian land grabs, Trump should seek an end to settlements, the isolation of Gaza, and the misery of the Palestinian people, and help bring about a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Instead of turning a blind eye to the destruction of Yemen by Saudi aerial bombardments, Trump should end the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, help find a political resolution to the conflict, and finance the construction of schools and hospitals for the many children who have been displaced and deprived.

Instead of rewarding aggressive states in the region by sending them more American weapons and military grants, Trump should offer generous development assistance to the government of Tunisia, which is committed to peace and democracy as well as being a regional leader in women’s equality and rights.

And instead of the dreadful military budget and tax bill, the Trump regime ought to be upgrading America’s failing physical and social infrastructure, providing affordable health and housing to all citizens, and making sure that every woman in America has paid family leave, reproductive health and rights, and a decent job.

Is this all a pipe dream, one that is likely never to be realized by either of the two major political parties, let alone the Trump regime? Perhaps, but it is worth imagining, repeating, and mobilizing around.

Let me end by stating unequivocally that our feminist solidarity will not be undermined by those opportunistic bloggers favorably comparing Muslim Iranian women who defiantly remove their obligatory headscarves – against Muslim women in America and elsewhere who are veiled. A feminist is not defined by whether or not she covers her hair. A feminist is defined by where she stands on women’s rights to healthcare and reproductive choice, on peace, on social equality and the redistribution of wealth. This definition should rule out self-declared feminists who have no quarrel with war and the destabilization of states, or with the injustices of neoliberal capitalism, such as gross economic inequality and poverty among women and children.

So let’s all work together – through our global feminist solidarity and with our allies in and outside government – to end these injustices once and for all. ?

Val Moghadam is a member of Massachusetts Peace Action’s board and of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – Boston Branch. She is a professor of sociology at Northeastern University.