Summary: Women-led demonstration expresses solidarity with Afghan people vs. both Taliban and US empire, underlining resistance — Editors
On August 28, a march for the Afghan people took place in Los Angeles. It was remarkable in character no doubt because it was organized by young SWANA women and avoided affiliation with traditional left groups. There was a good attendance of at least several hundred, which was mostly composed of the Afghan diaspora and allies, with many youths and families present. We took a major street in front of the LA Federal Building in Westwood and blocked traffic for at least an hour. There were no counter-protestors, and the police paid the demonstration little mind – both very rare for SWANA demonstrations – perhaps a sign of the overwhelming blow to humanity the US’s disastrous invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has imparted.
The demands centered on providing Afghan refugees safe resettlement, but also against further actions that would hurt the Afghan people such as sanctions. They were explicitly both anti-imperialist and anti-Taliban. They did not say anything about the rebel forces in Panjshir. They did not point to any current resistance as a way toward freedom and instead called out for new, multiethnic forces from below. One of the chants challenged Biden and Harris, saying that the Afghan people will flourish despite their dehumanization and abandonment. The defiance against the US empire was bold even as they defied the Taliban.
The speakers were powerful and highlighted a variety of voices. It began with a Native American speaker from the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe that lived on LA land before it was colonized. She connected the struggles of the Indigenous against US colonization inside the empire to the Afghan people who struggle with the same on their own land, sharing that her people also know what it’s like to be betrayed in two languages, two cultures. Next was a Pakistani-American who called for the Pakistani diaspora to show solidarity for the Afghan people against Pakistan state interests. Then came an Afghan-American youth from the mainly Shia Hazara ethnic group who spoke about solidarity across all ethnicities in Afghanistan including Jews, Sikhs, Shias, Kurds and more. She read a message from a Hazara artist who is currently exiled in Iran and who fears for his life once he gets deported back to Afghanistan where the Taliban outlaws free expression, especially revolutionary expression. Following her was an Afghan-American organizer who spoke vocally about how this crisis is not a mistake but the intentional outcome of 45 years of imperialism devaluing Afghan lives, and defiantly calling capitalist to account saying:
And for those who say this is failed policy, I assure it is not. This is successful US policy. This is what empire is about. The Afghan people lost, you know who won? Raytheon, Boeing, shareholders. The Afghan people suffered.
And if the character of the demonstration was not clear enough, he went on to uplift the women protesting in Afghanistan as the guiding stars for their movement:
Last week, people took the streets right after the Taliban took Kabul. … Eight women joined them. So when you are feeling despair, when you are feeling hopeless and you feel like you don’t have any power and you can’t act, think of Crystal Bayat. Who was on a megaphone on the streets of Kabul while the Taliban is ruling them and said give me my freedom? … That is who is guiding us.
Finally, there was a Kurdish Muslim woman whose family was from Afrin — the Syrian province invaded and occupied by Turkey in 2018. She spoke forcefully about pan-SWANA solidarity for the Afghan people and the need to resist an “oppression Olympics” where each diaspora tries to put their struggle first. This connection was made to the US betrayal of Rojava the same as Afghanistan and how Turkey labeled the Kurds terrorists in order to isolate them and now the same is being said by Pakistan of Afghan refugees. A resounding call to rise above these antagonisms began the march.
It cannot be understated that all speakers and indeed the crowd expressed a resounding amount of pain, grief, anger, empathy and solidarity. I tried to cover the main messages I heard but this was a rally by Afghan people for Afghan people and their processing of trauma was a bedrock of the action.
This isn’t the first rally of this kind that has occurred in LA. The youth of the local SWANA community is organized by women and eschews all traditional left anchors. They put an emphasis on being multiethnic, multilingual, trauma-informed and practices like land recognition are a part of every major action. Here they give voice and recognition to the Native Americans who were colonized wherever the action takes place. Women’s voices are prioritized. Most of the speakers were women and all of the visible organizers, including those on the megaphone, were women. These demonstrations are not explicitly socialist and capital is often not mentioned – in its place is the US empire and its many arms – but it can be felt just below the surface. It is unclear if this will develop more fully, but what is clear is that a new kind of socialism that is built of this humanist foundation is required if it is to ever have a chance to take hold.