Date of publication: May 31, 2016
Introduction by Zamaneh Editors:
There is no communication between Iranian and Syrian societies. The communication between the two countries is through governments, through militaries. Where arms and force become the bridge for communication, something called friendship and solidarity cannot be created, unless an alternative pathway is searched for. That alternative pathway is naturally opposed to the pathway that is opened through state powers. But unfortunately the effort to open an alternative pathway is limited. It is limited because Syrian and Iranian as well as Iraqi and Iranian intellectuals and freedom-seeking activists do not have any tangible communication with each other. They have many common woes however.
Recently a website has been launched which aims to bring leftist Syrian and Iranian intellectuals and activists together. Prior to the launching of the site, the founders of this alliance issued a statement in which they explained their goals. Frieda Afary, researcher and translator, and Joseph Daher, leftist activist and assistant professor of political science are two of the signers of this statement. They answer our questions concerning this site.
- Your site is a link between the Other Syria and the Other Iran. How would you define this “Other?”
In another sense, this “Other” includes socialists who reject the Stalinist systems that existed in the Soviet Union and China and their satellite countries as well as authoritarian regimes and parties in the Middle East that have claimed to be socialist. Instead, we argue that socialism is a concept of human emancipation that has yet to be realized. As part of this “Other,” some of the endorsers of the Alliance are Marxists and some consider themselves socialists in a more general way.
We acknowledge that according to the second definition of the “Other,” we are a minority in our societies, but this is not a reason to remain silent about our vision of a future society or avoid engaging in a struggle to develop a humanist alternative to capitalism.
- The “Other” is usually absent in mainstream media. What plans do you have for introducing it?
Secondly, the structure of our website also pinpoints the topics that we think are the burning issues of the region. We have a separate page devoted to each of the following issues: 1. Women’s Emancipation, Gender and Sexual Minorities. 2. Oppressed Nationalities, Ethnic and Religious Minorities. 3. Labor and Alternatives to Capitalism. In each of these pages our goal is to offer analyses and not simply news. Articles on these topics are also welcome from those who are not directly affiliated with this Alliance.
We will try to use this website as a platform to develop and spread ideas and positions, and will try to organize conferences and other activities if possible. But we are still in the process of building this Alliance and still need to collectively work out our objectives, demands and the ways we can work together.
- Introducing oneself as the “Other” always faces the danger of isolation and intellectual sectarianism. How do you plan to avoid this?
Our site is trilingual (English, Arabic, Persian) because our aim is to create a dialogue between Persian speakers, Arabic speakers and English speakers. Even when an article in one language is not translated into the other two languages, its title and abstract are available in all three languages.
We are contacting anti-Stalinist socialists from other parts of the Middle East. We welcome articles from others and also actively search for, translate, and reprint articles by Middle Eastern socialists as well as Western and other international socialists that might illuminate the questions that this Alliance aims to address.
Some of us are active in labor, feminist and anti-racist struggles in the countries in which we live. We want to speak to and engage in discussions with large sectors of society, and are ready to work and collaborate with other groups based on common objectives to enhance democratic and progressive values in our societies. At the same time, we believe that dogmatism and sectarianism cannot be overcome so long as the logic of capital determines our lives.