National News

Iran, Africa and the global Black experience

By Brian E. Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Jan 14, 2020 - 12:08:13 PM

What's your opinion on this article?

Blacks should be concerned about tensions between the United States and Iran because if all out warfare happens, it’s young Black lives who would be called into action for another U.S. misadventure in the Middle East.


That view was one of many reasons offered about why Blacks need to pay attention to the latest conflict in the Middle East.

“How many Black soldiers are in the 82nd Airborne at the center of 4,000 to 5,000 soldiers just deployed to the region?” asked Abdul Akbar Muhammad, the international representative of the Nation of Islam. “It’s our vested interest not to see their lives wasted on a battlefield in this madness from Trump,” he added.

Mr. Muhammad was referring to the Trump administration ordering a surge of troops to the Middle East in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. government assassination of top Iranian General Qaseem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force in early January.

Mr. Muhammad told The Final Call the connection between Iran and Blacks is significant. It was Iran calling out America on the global stage for its extrajudicial killings of Black people by police and organizing the 2014 Horizon Conference that brought Black activists and victims’ families to Tehran to further expose the issue. Iran has a track record of concern for the plight of oppressed peoples, he added.

During the American hostage crisis in 1979 when the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic and leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, released Black and female hostages, said Min. Muhammad.

Black woman joins recent anti-war with Iran protest in Chicago.
The Ayatollah Khomeini justified his clemency on grounds that “Islam reserves special rights for women” and that “Blacks for a long time have lived under oppression and pressure in America and may have been sent [to Iran under duress],” he added.

“Of the 52 hostages held, all of the Blacks ... he released,” Mr. Muhammad said.

The world community is debating whether the U.S. acted over-aggressively, even illegally, or was justified in eliminating an “imminent threat” from Mr. Soleimani or did the American president lie once again?

Trump administration officials insist the threats were imminent but give no specifics. Others point to the Iraq War, when the George W. Bush administration lies that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction. They say it’s right to be skeptical.

“Those who oppose Iran will try to make countries pick sides and it’s not about picking sides. It’s about truth,” said Mr. Muhammad.

“So, African nations are also standing by, because many of them are expecting certain things from America,” said Mr. Muhammad. “So, whatever they’re feeling they may not want to say fearing it may interfere with American foreign aid.”

He has travelled to Iran on several occasions and said Iran has contributed to Africa in education and health care, which has to remain strong despite Western pressure to back away from Iran.

“The Iranians made input in certain African countries with their universities … businesses (and) health clinics,” he said.

Iran suffered under 40 years of political isolation and economic sanctions and looked to strengthen ties within the global South and seemingly understood the importance of Africa. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is on record lauding the African Union. In meetings as recent as June 2019, Mr. Zarif highlighted Africa’s significant position in Iran’s foreign policy, saying Tehran seeks to enhance economic relations with African nations.

Another reason for solidarity with Africa was an effort to garner their support at international bodies like the UN and regional platforms.

Iran has consistently sought influence in Africa over the past decade. Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made significant efforts to expand Tehran’s relations with African nations to offset Iran’s increasing isolation by the West.

A major example of Iran-African solidarity is its relationship with South Africa, which condemned the U.S. assassination of Mr. Soleimani. The ruling African National Congress called the assassination an “attack on the sovereignty and self-determination” of the Iranian people.

“The ANC rejects this raw aggression against the people and government of Iran, which has the potential to plunge the Middle East and the World into a full-scale war,” said ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule in a Jan. 4 statement.

When the Trump administration reinstituted crippling sanctions on the Islamic Republic after stepping away from the 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, South Africa maintained its close ties with Iran.

A February 2018 report issued by Aljazeera Centre for Studies described the relationship as one that extends decades when Iran stood with the South African people in the anti-apartheid struggle opposing White minority rule. The solidarity continued when the African National Congress came to power under Nelson Mandela.

The report said the ANC maintained a healthy relationship with revolutionary forces in Iran before the declaration of an Islamic Republic and was among the first to congratulate Ayatollah Khomeini after the victory of the revolution in February 1979. Africa watchers stated it should be noted there is a long history of global solidarity between African nations, Blacks in the Diaspora as well as non-African nations supporting liberation struggles of Black people.

Dr. Conrad Worrill, longtime activist and former chairman of the National Black United Front, told The Final Call that Black people are a global people who should always be concerned about world affairs.

“African people are an international people … in terms of the U.S. potential involvement in facilitating a war, we have a definite interest in being opposed,” said Dr. Worrill.

The longtime activist said opposition to war with Iran can be justified on several levels. “Number one, there is an African population in Iran … that region of the world is actually a geographic extension of Africa,” he said.

“We have to pay attention … being in the belly of the beast to actions by this country, that many times engages in actions that are counter the interest of Black people— not only in this country, but in the world,” Dr. Worrill said.