Women in Iran
There is so much history and complexity involved that writing about what is happening in Iran right now only scratches the surface of 43 years of oppression, human rights abuses and deaths at the hands of the Islamic Republic of Iran. I must start somewhere, and it is only right that I begin with a young woman named Mahsa Jina Amini who has become the rallying cry and symbol of what is being called the first female led counter-revolution of our time.
On 16 September 2022, Mahsa Jina Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman died in a hospital in Tehran following her detention by the Iranian Regime’s ‘morality police.’ Her crime? Wearing an ‘improper’ hijab in violation of Iran’s mandatory hijab law. Eyewitnesses, including women who were detained with Amini, said she was severely beaten, and that she died as a result of police brutality, which was denied by the Regime.
Hours after Amini’s death women-led peaceful protests began, starting in Tehran and quickly spreading to other parts of the country. Women have removed their hijabs, children have been protesting at their schools and men have joined them in support of the stand against the Regime. It is important to understand these protests are not just about the enforced hijab. These protests also represent the wider stand against subjugation; corruption; unjustifiable imprisonment (for instance from confessions obtained following torture); acid attacks; and disappearances and deaths at the hands of the Regime. This is about basic and fundamental human rights. The right to life and liberty. Freedom from torture. Freedom of opinion and expression. This is about women’s rights. This about the children of Iran and their safety. This is about the protection of the LGBTQIA+ community. This about freedom of religion. This is about the people of Iran standing against the oppressive and totalitarian government of Iran.
In response to these demonstrations, from 19 September 2022, the Iranian government implemented regional shutdowns of Internet access. As protests grew, a widespread Internet blackout was imposed along with nationwide restrictions on social media. Thousands have been imprisoned. Iran’s Education Minister, Yousef Nouri, confirmed that some of the school students, who had been protesting, have been detained and referred to what he called ‘psychological institutions’ to reform and re-educate the students to prevent ‘anti-social’ behaviour. By 12 October 2022, less than a month into the protests, reports indicated at least 201 people have been killed as a result of the government’s intervention, involving tear gas and live rounds. At least 23 of those killed were children. Many anticipate the numbers are higher.
Iranians are fully versed regarding the Regime’s pattern of behaviour in response to protestors as we have lived under their shadow for 43 years. We knew it would inevitably involve a media and internet shut down and deaths. We were also still mourning the bloodshed from the 2019/2020 protests (known as Bloody Aban). These civil protests occurred as part of the wider Iranian Democracy Movement. To block the sharing of information regarding the protests and the deaths of hundreds of protesters on social media platforms, the government shut down the Internet nationwide, resulting in a near-total internet blackout of around six days. To crush the protests, the Iranian government shot protesters dead from rooftops, helicopters, and at close range with machine guns. To mask the scale of and casualty count from the protests, it hauled away large numbers of bodies of the dead protesters, and threatened families of slain protesters not to speak to the media or hold funerals. As many as 1,500 Iranian protesters were killed. The Regime also employed a week-long nationwide internet shutdown becoming the longest total Internet shutdown in a large country. It was also the first blackout that effectively isolated a whole nation.
As soon as we heard about Mahsa Jina Amini’s death and the ensuing protests, we, the Iranian community living outside of Iran have been frantically sharing as much information about the events not just in solidarity but to help protect the protesters by disseminating information through mobile and internet networks.
Our collective voices are helping as it has allowed a disruption to the clampdown on internet service by the Regime. It has allowed the people of Iran to see we stand with them and that they are not isolated. The propaganda, gaslighting and the brutal actions of the Regime is being seen across the world and weakening their hold. International condemnation is gathering pace and also strengthening the cause of the Iranian people. The sharing of information has assisted journalists to report on matters as the BBC and other independent media are banned from reporting from inside Iran. All the information being shared is preventing the normalisation of the Regime’s actions and that is a powerful tool against any oppressive government – collective voices calling them out, shinning a spotlight on the atrocities and giving the people hope to carry on their stand against the oppression.
We are not asking for money as it is complicated due to sanctions and the Regime itself. All we are asking is for you to raise awareness and amplify the voices of the Iranian people to help defend them and counteract against the Regime’s attempt to isolate and extinguish their voices and their lives. Every time we post or share we legitimatise their voices and their chances of survival increases. The hashtag #mahsaamini has been used over 100 million times and the power that is bringing for the Iranian people is extraordinary. So many in Iran have contacted those sharing messages of solidarity saying how grateful they are for their voices to be heard after 43 years of isolation so please be their voice.
How you can help
Speak to Iranians you know and ask them to explain the situation to you and how you can help.
Post or share about the protests in Iran using hashtags #mahsaamini #opiran #jinaamini.
Speak about Iran and raise awareness amongst family, friends and colleagues.
Write to your MP to ask them to give visibility to this issue.
Amnesty International has created a petition to end the bloodshed currently taking place in Iran. This petition is a call for states to “set up an independent UN mechanism now to investigate and ensure accountability for the most serious crimes under international law in Iran.” You can sign the petition here.
- Rage against the regime: how Iran erupted after the death of Mahsa Amini | Global development | The Guardian
- Iran: At least 23 children killed with impunity during brutal crackdown on youthful protests – Amnesty International
- More than a thousand protesters have been arrested in Iran. Here are three of their stories (msn.com)
- EU warns Iran of more sanctions over alleged weapon supplies to Russia | Financial Times (ft.com)
- Iran: How we are uncovering the protests and crackdowns – BBC News
WORDS: Mersedeh Prewer
IMAGE CREDIT: Sara Emami