Against Apartheid and Tyranny


For the Liberation of Palestine and All the Peoples of the Middle East—A Statement from Iranian Exiles


In the following statement, Iranian feminists explain why it is both possible and necessary to support the Palestinian struggle for liberation without endorsing the Iranian government.

While we are situated far from Iran, we believe that in order to understand the dynamics in any situation, it is necessary to consult committed anti-authoritarians from the region. Likewise, it is important not to make the mistake of imagining that the best way to support oppressed people in one context is to support oppressors in another. All struggles for freedom and dignity are fundamentally interconnected.

“Against Israeli occupation, apartheid, and colonialism—from Israel to Iran, fight the tyrants!”

The collective Roja originally published this statement here in Farsi, and subsequently in French. By their own account,

Roja is an independent leftist-feminist collective based in Paris, comprised of comrades from Iran. Roja formed in response to the state femicide of Jina (Mahsa) Amini and the rise of the Women, Life, Freedom movement in September 2022. In addition to addressing social struggles in Iran and the Middle East, Roja actively participates in local and internationalist movements in Paris, including solidarity efforts with Palestine. The name “Roja” draws inspiration from various languages: in Spanish, it means “red”; in Kurdish, روژ signifies “daylight” or “lightness”; and in Mazandarani, روجا translates to “morning star.”

We invite readers to understand this statement in the context of our previous coverage of anti-authoritarian movements in Iran, including the revolt sparked by the murder of Jina Mahsa Amini, under the slogan “Jin, Jiyan, Azadi.” Likewise, we should always center the voices of Palestinians in regards to anything concerning their liberation.

Tahya Falestine: For the Liberation of Palestine and All the Peoples of the Middle East

On the morning of April 14, 2024, the unprecedented attack by the Islamic Republic of Iran on Israel captured the attention of media outlets worldwide. Although the Iron Dome defense system erected by Imperialist powers protected the settler-colonial state of Israel, some seeking to avenge Palestinians lauded the Iranian government’s “courage” and expressed admiration for the “sole power” in the region willing to confront imperialist powers.

In this war, in which Israel and Iran are baring their teeth at each other, some have adopted a fascist position and unashamedly sided with the genocidal state of Israel. Others, assuming a campist position, have sided with Iran, turning a blind eye to the Iranian government’s brutal repression of its opponents and others inside the country. Here we are not addressing the first position, but the second one, those who accept the logic that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” This mode of reasoning oversimplifies the intricate relationship between the Islamic Republic and Israel, reducing it to a binary struggle of good versus evil and implying that anyone opposing the state of Israel automatically falls into the “good” camp.

For us, defending the Palestinian cause and international solidarity can know no other path than opposition to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran is not really opposed to the state of Israel but rather to the peoples of Iran and the entire region, to anyone who believes that the task of liberation depends on the peoples themselves, not states. Defending the Palestinian cause necessarily involves distancing ourselves from everything that reinforces Israel’s domination over Palestinian lands. Since its creation in 1979, despite all the noise it produces, the Islamic Republic of Iran has done nothing but pour water into the mills of the Israel state, as we will outline below.

1.) Those who evoke the Islamic Republic of Iran’s right to “self-defense” are simply echoing the arguments that the state of Israel uses to justify the annihilation of Gaza and the genocide it is perpetuating there. They reason within a framework according to which the lives of millions of people in the Middle East are deemed worthless. What is the value of the Iranian government’s “right to defend itself,” even according to the standards of international law, if this “right” translates to two weeks of fear in Iran and from Iraq to Lebanon in the face of the prospect of all-out war? Why should the impoverished peoples of the region pay the price of the scorned “honor” of a power that warns its enemy in advance about when its missiles will arrive?

2.) Despite their opposition, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the state of Israel and its Western backers are all cogs in the same machine of global capitalism, pushing the Middle East towards the precipice at every turn. For those who overlook the role of the Iranian government in the bloody suppression of the Syrian revolution against the Assad dictatorship, we recall Iran’s clandestine bartering during the war with Iraq. Amid the war, the Islamic Republic chanted that “the road to Al-Quds passes through Karbala” while simultaneously buying weapons from the state of Israel to fight Iraq—a bitter irony that cost the lives of thousands of Iranians and Iraqis. The Iranian government’s double game is evident: while it claims to exclude all commercial exchanges with Israel, it does not even respect the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign.

3.) This is not say that the Islamic Republic of Iran and the state of Israel are equal powers or receive the same level of international-geopolitical support. But they are useful enemies to each other. Wherever emancipatory struggles are waged, both respond with repression. They both rely on the existence of the other to obscure their internal contradictions and justify their own crimes. The current state of “neither peace nor war” enables them to guarantee their own survival.

4.) There is another reason why some people are excited about the attack that the Islamic Republic of Iran carried out: the Iranian state is hemmed in by sanctions imposed by imperialist states, purportedly standing in solitary opposition against them. But for Iran’s working classes, the only consequence of this attack is a fall in the value of the national currency and further impoverishment. While prices rise with the value of the dollar—except, of course, for those who draw directly on oil revenues—the minimum daily wage has fallen to $3. Do those who are seduced by the power of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the face of dominant powers know anything about the lives of those in Iran—from ethnic minorities—who survive only by transporting contraband (like the Kulbars in Kurdistan) or fuel (like the Sukhtbars in Baluchistan)? Do they know that while the Islamic Republic sent over 300 drones and missiles that didn’t even graze the butchers of Gaza, it was incapable of sending the slightest aid to save dozens of Baluch people from flooding?

5.) The most concrete achievement of the Islamic Republic of Iran from this attack is immediately visible on the streets of Iran’s major cities. The dramatic spectacle of the highly controlled military attack on the state of Israel has strengthened the foundations of another war, the war that the Islamic Republic has waged on women since its inception. The streets of Tehran and other cities have witnessed the unfolding of this terrible war—a war that targets women’s bodies and their rebellious souls, a war that serves the domestication and stifling of women. How could such a regime emancipate the oppressed peoples of Palestine and the region? Does not the logic that rightly demands fighting the apartheid imposed by the state of Israel also demand standing up to sexual and gender apartheid in Iran?

6.) The Islamic Republic’s attack on the state of Israel also achieved something else: in addition to wounding an Arab child, it succeeded, for at least a few days and all over the world, in diverting public attention from Gaza, which facilitated the Israeli operation against Rafah. In the background during these events, the United States once again vetoed UN recognition of Palestine as a state. In reality, it is Israel’s supporters who should be thanking the Islamic Republic of Iran.

7.) Another significant “achievement” of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the course of its history has been the marginalization of the Palestinian cause within Iranian society. Although the cause of Palestine was once genuinely popular, 45 years of those in power instrumentalizing it have led to a certain indifference within Iranian society, and at times even a rejection of the Palestinian cause. Meanwhile, the state of Israel has chosen to support the fascist, monarchist right within the Iranian opposition, presenting it as the only possible successor to the Islamic Republic. This binary and exclusive opposition—the Islamic Republic or a puppet regime installed by the imperialist powers—is the same narrative the Iranian authorities use to repress popular mobilizations within the borders of Iran.

8.) In order to increase its own international popularity, the Islamic Republic of Iran has stubbornly sought to exploit the rise of Islamophobia—one of the forms that racism assumes today—in Europe and North America in order to present itself as the “supporter” of the rights of Muslims in the West. Those who view the Islamic Republic of Iran as a shield against Islamophobia and support it for this reason should ask themselves: why, in Iran’s most populous administrative region, Tehran, which has nearly 20 million inhabitants, are Sunnis not allowed a single mosque to worship in? Why are Iran’s Sunnis, whether Baluch, Kurd, or Arab, among the most impoverished populations? Why are their lives the least valuable in Iran? Why are Afghan immigrants, particularly Hazaras, deprived of the most basic rights? They must also ask how a state whose official and unofficial media disseminate anti-Semitic ideas can genuinely support anti-racism throughout the world.

For us, members of Roja, the Islamic Republic of Iran does not weaken the apartheid imposed by the colonial state of Israel but reinforces the conditions that reproduce it. The path to the liberation of all the peoples of the region requires a dual struggle: one against the Israeli apartheid regime and its supporters, and another against states like the Islamic Republic of Iran.