Not a sitting President. Not a single Presidential candidate. Not a single Member of Congress. Not a single elected official. Uttered her name. After twenty-five years of harassment by the United States government, certain individuals who are finally ready to drop bombs on the people of Iran decided to kidnap Marzieh Hashemi and entomb her inside the US prison gulag.
And so, on a trip home to the US to visit her children and grandchildren, Marzieh was snatched at a US airport and rendered to a prison in Washington, D.C. and placed in solitary confinement. At this point, I’m sure you want to know what was her crime?
Marzieh is a child of the US South and all that that means. She is a direct inheritor of the US Civil Rights Movement. After 250 years of slavery in the Southern part of the US—the Old Confederacy that once tried to break away from the US in order to continue the practice of owning trafficked Africans as slave labour for the agriculture-based South; 90 years of Jim Crow apartheid segregation which was a virulent and ugly against those trafficked, enslaved Africans and their descendants as anything South Africa could muster; 60 years of “Separate But Equal” jurisprudence which meant that no Black person could ever expect “justice” in the US “Justice” system; 35 years of racist housing laws and practices that kept the pristine neighborhoods of the US free of those darker-hued people—except of course, as the household help; the struggle for truth and justice is in Marzieh’s DNA.
In the eyes of the European-descended men and their wives who control the US Deep State, Marzieh’s untiring spirit for justice is unacceptable, threatening, to them and their “way of life,” and should be considered a strike against her. And so, it was. But that’s not all! Black women endured the above-mentioned trials with dignity and grace.
As they were taken forcibly and raped by slave drivers and slave owners in the “Peculiar Institution,” as slavery was known euphemistically since the very founding of the United States, itself. Black men had to watch (or risk murder) if they tried to defend their young girls and wives or female family members from the ravages of these “close encounters” of a third kind. Neither Black men nor Black women had the advantage of a #MeToo Movement back then—or even now, as Black women try to “Stand [Their] Ground” in abusive relationships and yet are prosecuted and incarcerated while European-descended men can kill Black men and women and claim that they were afraid and because of selective application of the law, are allowed to go free.
Thus, as a Black woman in the US, Marzieh unwittingly earned for herself a badge of powerlessness–as sexual prey to be ridiculed and abused in one step yet wrapped inside a reality of strength, determination, and an incredible will to survive. These are the very traits that would enrage her US adversaries who would rather keep their women compliant, submissive, and deferential. Unfortunately, for Marzieh, this combination adds up to another strike against Marzieh’s Parrhesia (that is, her speaking truth to power).
Marzieh’s love life as a mature, young woman was bound to be seen as problematic by the presiders over the US Deep State, who also believe that they should control every aspect of every woman’s body. But, again, Marzieh broke the mold when she met and married a man from Iran and had three wonderful children with him.
Unfortunately, her young husband died in a freak motor vehicle accident in the US, leaving Marzieh a widow with three children to raise. Thank goodness Marzieh is surrounded in Iran with loving family and friends who did their best to love her as a daughter, and wrap loving Iranian arms around her. As a trained journalist, it would be Iran that would give her the job/profession/avocation/opportunity of a lifetime: news anchor on an English-language global media platform. This, by the way, was an opportunity that Marzieh could never have enjoyed in the US 25 years ago, when being a Black woman anchor on international US television just was not in the cards for Marzieh. But Marzieh found love, acceptance, and respect in Iran. But that’s not all Marzieh found in Iran.
The Southern part of the US is known as the “Bible Belt,” for its strong Christian values and faith—and, ironically, the most virulent hatred and racism practiced against Blacks. Which is why that was the locus of the Civil Rights Movement; it’s why the leader of the Movement at that time came from the segregated Christian churches of the South. The contradictions are amazing. And, are also for another article. Suffice it to say that Marzieh was raised in a strong Christian family. Faith and belief in God is as integral to Marzieh as her warm smile. And so, in 1979, when people of faith were making a revolution in Iran, Marzieh wondered what it was about such a religion that would force people to topple a government and create a religious state! So she studied Islam and delved into deep philosophical questions around her own faith and practices. She accepted that Islam is entirely logical and makes such good common sense. Like Malcolm X found, I’m sure Marzieh saw in Islam a true community and brotherhood that transcended the racism and prejudices and narrow-mindedness with which she was forced to accustom herself growing up in Louisiana. (Now, I know Marzieh’s Islam is probably not YOUR perception of Islam if you’re in the US and especially if your only perceptions of Muslims come from the proliferating FAKE newsrooms of US and Western media outlets.
To be sure, however, too many Muslims, in my opinion, have been manipulated by Western propaganda. My point is that Marzieh is an expert on Islam and Christianity. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for Marzieh’s brains to be utilized as a well-built bridge between the Christian and Muslim worlds. Instead, those desperate for war between the US and Iran saw in Marzieh a powerless Black woman, who was setting a bad example for others in the US Kidnapping
Marzieh, for them, was a two-for: they could punish and humiliate her and “bring her to heel” I believe is the way the failed 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton put it when speaking of Black youth, labeling them as “super predators,” and saying that leaders like her need to “bring them to heel.” (Like obedient animals.) And yes, she really did say that in the midst of her 2016 campaign that she was sure that she’d win—with the help of the votes from those same young Black voters and their parents. (Now, you know why Trump is the President!)
So, all wrapped up in one body was the next patsy in the U.S. Deep State’s “gotcha” game. She was to go the way of Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray, Sirhan Sirhan, and all of the 1960s freedom fighters who struggled for justice and got enmeshed in the illegal and un-American US government acts in its Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) run against US activists who merely wanted to end the war in Vietnam and to live in justice and peace at home. One important aspect of COINTELPRO was called “bad jacketing,” where the government would secretly label a target as a collaborator and spread the rumor and behave as if that person is on the side of the government against his or her fellow activists. And then, make sure that that activist didn’t live to see another day. That is what happened to Ana Mae Aquash, an activist with the American Indian Movement. Imprisonment on false charges was another favorite tactic of the US government to get bothersome activists out of the way. Geronimo Ji Jaga (Pratt) is an example of this type of harassment and persecution. Fast forwarding to today, the Black Lives Matter movement and the bizarre deaths of some of its activists is an important story that US journalists should tell. But, given the racial history and unresolved today of the US, who is going to tell that story—except Marzieh. And so Marzieh became a true journalist, practicing her craft where few dared to tread.
But they messed with the wrong girl! They thought they had it all figured out—and then it fizzled. They would kickstart their war with Iran by seizing Marzieh and her children and, at the same time, they would eliminate a pesky Black woman who didn’t know her “place” and who was high-profile enough to send a strong message to Iran: We’re coming for you!
First of all, Marzieh has a community of trust inside the US that has been built with a foundation of integrity. Secondly, she is clearly loved in Iran and the Iranian people took it personally that one of them—one of their own—had been snatched in a most cowardly and ignominious way, when Marzieh was traveling alone—with only her youngest son who just happens to be an excellent photographer, to boot!
But, what impressed me most of all is how the global Muslim community rallied to rescue Marzieh. No one with a name or fame inside the US—not a single “mover and shaker” dared to move and shake for Marzieh. But the people moved. The people said “NO!” (Now, I contrast this with what happened to me when I was attacked repeatedly by the Capitol Hill Police, and when I was kidnapped by the Israelis and spent seven days in an Israeli prison. Yes, there was an outcry and I appreciate every one whose voice was lifted in my defense.) However, the earth was rumbling in Marzieh’s case; the outcry was global in Marzieh’s case; and the defiance of the Muslim community was growing. Unlike those African slaves who, humiliated, could only witness their women being raped and worse, I saw Muslim men and women rise from everywhere to say in essence, “Let Our Sister Go!”
It is exactly this Muslim man that these interminable US wars for Israel are trying to tame. To eliminate any independence of thought and action and to force submission or…get “bombed back to the Stone Ages”– a favorite saying of US generals and politicians starting with Curtis LeMay about the US war against Vietnam—which the US lost—and the George W. Bush Administration said about the US war against Afghanistan and Pakistan in which Pakistan was threatened if it pursued its own security interests instead of what the US instructed Pakistan to do. The US, geo-strategically speaking, is losing Pakistan and Afghanistan also, despite routinely bombing both countries and filling them with “contractors” (mercenaries paid for by U.S. taxpayers).
I want to thank the men and women of all faiths, colors, and races who rallied for Marzieh. I teach my students that “No!” Is the most powerful word in politics. Perhaps, it was Frantz Fanon who put the power of “No” to the test first in Black Skin, White Masks when he noticed the transmogrification of persons as a result of colonial contacts. And then, the liberating and restorative value of fighting back against all of the slights of colonialism in Wretched of the Earth: of the necessity of the decolonization process. They really do want our minds, because they know that our bodies will follow. If the warmongers can subdue our minds, then they will subdue our spirits; there will be no fight back.
However, when enough of us say that word, it changes things. Look at the Yellow Vests right now. They are attempting to wash away old habits and practices that are correctly recognized as, as Paolo Freire calls them, “Mechanisms of Oppression”; and he also tells us that with his “Tools for Liberation,” that is, with cooperation, organization, and unity for liberation, our collective “No!” to injustice, lies, and propaganda can also usher in a new cultural synthesis, or as Jacques Rançiere calls it, a new “common sense.”
Finally, saying “No!” to the latest iteration of warmongers, warprofiteers, ZioCons, globalists, or whatever you want to call them is necessary. It’s also necessary for us to learn how to protect our own. Many of the victims of COINTELPRO, targeted by the US government for the same reasons that others who value freedom and dignity are targeted by governments were killed—like too many members of the Black Panther Party to even mention. Tragically, more are still in prison: like Jamil Al Amin (formerly H. “Rap” Brown); Mutulu Shakur; and Leonard Peltier are the most famous ones. We failed with Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a brilliant Pakistan-born, MIT-trained neuroscientist stashed away on COINTELPRO-like false charges in a US prison. She needs to be home with her loving family. We are also failing with Julian Assange, a journalist who told their secrets of torture, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, yet who has been stuck in the Ecuador Embassy in London for longer than John F. Kennedy was
President of the US And that’s exactly what they were trying to do with Marzieh and all three of her children (who weren’t incarcerated like Marzieh, but were intimidated and probably threatened by the US government because that’s what they do). But this time, this Deep State gambit failed. However, please don’t fool yourself into thinking that they’re done with Marzieh and her family. They’re not. They will continue to persecute Marzieh and her children and worse if we aren’t vigilant. Because everything that Marzieh is a threat to them. She is love and light; they are death and destruction.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that the U.S. was the greatest purveyor of violence on this Earth. And 50+ years later, it’s still true. But, I am thankful to everyone who lifted their voice physically or electronically to protect and defend my sister, Marzieh Hashemi. Because I know that she and her son are the journalists who will document the truth and tell it in the way it needs to be told.
Welcome Home, Marzieh!
(McKinney is an American politician and activist currently teaching at North South University, Bangladesh. As a member of the Democratic Party, she served six terms in the United States House of Representatives. She was the first black woman elected to represent Georgia in the House.)