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When I saw photos of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for the first time, I felt like I was looking at someone who was a part of my family; someone I know without a doubt I would have loved had I known her. It’s a feeling every member of the Iranian diaspora is familiar with. And because the people of Iran desperately need our support and solidarity right now, it’s vital that we talk about how to help the protests in Iran.
Iranians rarely agree on everything. They often disagree on who’s to blame for the oppression that has gripped Iran like a disease for the past 40 years. They tend to have different opinions about what led to the 1979 revolution that overthrew the Pahlavi dynasty and subsequently replaced it with a regressive and oppressive dictatorship known as the Islamic Republic of Iran. And although there have been several protests in Iran since then, none have taken the world by a storm quite like this. Because of Mahsa Amini, Iranians all over world are united in their fierce determination to bring this brutal regime to an end. Their rallying cry—Women. Life. Freedom (zan, zendegi, azadi).
On October 1, a global call for anti-regime protests was answered. 20,000 people showed up to protest at Pershing Square in Los Angeles, proving that “Tehrangeles” is alive and well. Canadian police estimate that over 50,000 people showed up to march on Redmond Hill in Toronto. Even the brave women of Kabul, Afghanistan have taken to the streets to voice their support for the movement. Thousands have gathered for protests all over Europe and Asia. French actresses Marion Cotillard and Juliette Binoche have cut their hair in solidarity with the women of Iran.
Although I was born in the United States, my mother was born in Kermanshah. She is Kurdish, just like Mahsa Jina Amini was, and she’s been living with survivor’s guilt ever since she escaped to this country as a teenager. Let it be known—I don’t know one Iranian person who’s life hasn’t been impacted by this regime on some level. We’ve lost loved ones to this regime. We have loved ones who are still there, living under the hammer of theocracy and dictatorship. Above all, we have had our country, culture and way of life stolen from us.
As a member of the Iranian-American diaspora, I am used to feeling like no one cares about our people. To see this many people mobilizing in support of my mother’s people gives me a feeling of hope that I’ve never experienced before. No matter what happens, please don’t stop caring. By and large, Iranians feel immense gratitude when you share their stories and show them solidarity. They need to know that we’re with them; that we’re watching, listening and standing with them as this courageous grassroots movement continues to grow.
What Are The Iran Protests About?
On September 12, 2022, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman named Mahsa Jina Amini left her home in the Saqqez province, a region of Iran known as Kurdistan. She was on her way to visit her brother in Tehran, the capital city of Iran. By the time she reunited with her brother on September 13, she had been arrested by what is known as the “morality police” due to a few strands of hair peeking through her headscarf. They took her to a station to be “educated” on the law that requires all women in Iran to keep their hair covered. By September 16, she had fallen into a coma and was eventually pronounced dead. Although the Islamic Republic alleges that she died of a heart attack, Amini’s family claim she had no pre-existing heart problems. However, post-mortem CT scans show signs of skull fractures, hemorrhage and brain injury, painting a very different picture of what happened to her.
By September 17, the first protest erupted during Mahsa Amini’s funeral. Protests have since swept every corner of the country, launching a revolution that has been largely led by protestors born after 2000 (Iran’s Generation Z). Women—some as young as pre-teens—have been burning their headscarves, cutting their hair and chanting “death to the dictator”, uniting them in their shared fury. Images have been circulating of young schoolgirls flipping the bird at the portrait of the Ayatollah Khamenei that hangs in every classroom in Iran. Men have also been at the forefront of these protests, because the demand for regime change did not just happen overnight. It’s the result of a dictatorship that regularly persecutes its own people and denies them the basic human right to self-expression. In Iran, singing and dancing can get you killed. So can being a member of the LGBTQ community. These protests are also taking place in a country with rapidly rising poverty levels and limited opportunities, as US-led economic sanctions against Iran have contributed to a pressure cooker of problems in Iranian society.
These protests have been met with violence at the hands of the Islamic Republic. As of November 29, 488 people have been killed by security forces in Iran, according to Iran Human Rights (IHR NGO). This also includes 60 children and 29 women. These numbers are likely higher, as these are the only deaths that are confirmed. 15,000 protestors have also been arrested in severe crackdowns and are at risk for imminent execution by the Supreme Leader of Iran for “waging a war against God” (as if Khamenei is on the same level as God). Kurdish regions of Iran are under heavy military siege by the Islamic republic of Iran, as Kurdish civilians are being systematically targeted, kidnapped, arrested and murdered. When an Iranian person attends a protest, they know there’s a chance they won’t make it back home.
As of November 29, 488 people have been killed by security forces in Iran.
Take 16-year-old Nika Shakarami, for example. On September 20, she left home to attend a protest in Tehran and disappeared for 10 days before her parents finally found her body at a morgue. “When we went to identify her, they didn’t allow us to see her body, only her face for a few seconds,” Atash Shakarami—Nika’s aunt—told BBC Persian. Government officials threatened her family and told them not to host a funeral. They later stole Nika’s body, making sure that she was quickly buried in secret and laid to rest far away from home, presumably to prevent her from becoming a martyr. She was supposed to turn seventeen on October 2, the same day her family was finally able to transfer her body back to her father’s hometown of Khorramabad.
Mahsa Amini and Nika Shakarami deserved a future. Their lives were—and continue to be—sacred. And because they can no longer use their voice, we must be their voice for them. There is no other option, as the fight for women, life and freedom affect us all, regardless of where we are located. Here are a few ways you can support Iranians during this historic moment, because one thing is for sure—Iranians need us to keep talking about this. Their lives depend on it.
How To Help Protestors In Iran
1. Be their voice
Due to massive internet blackouts in Iran and the Islamic Republic severely limiting social media access, international awareness of these protests has been slow to spread. These internet crackdowns have robbed Iranians of their voice, which means they need the rest of the world to be their voice for them. If you do one thing to provide help to the protests in Iran, let it be this—talk about it. Ask questions and educate yourself. Don’t be afraid to speak up or participate in this movement. Sharing information about these protests online and staying informed has a much more positive impact than you might think. As global scrutiny of the protests intensifies, so does the mounting pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran.
2. Follow Iranian activists
The best way to receive up-to-date information about the Iran protests is by following Iranian activists and journalists on social media. Here are a few Instagram accounts to follow:
Elica Lebon—a Iranian U.S. criminal defense lawyer (@elicalebon)
Golshifteh Farahani—an Iranian actress (@golfarahani)
Style Shah—an Iranian social media influencer & activist—(@styleshah)
1500tasvir—an Iranian activist (@1500tasvir)
Chelsea Hart—an LGBTQ+ and human rights activist (@chelseahart)
Masih Alinejad—an Iranian journalist (@masih.alinejad)
Sepideh Moaji—an Iranian actress & activist (@sepidehmoaji)
Nazanin Boniadi—an Iranian actress & a member of the CHRI board (@nazaninboniadi)
from: Iran—a feminist coalition of unheard Iranian voices (@from____iran)
Middle East Matters—a community organization (@middleeastmatters)
3. Call your representatives
So far, the Biden administration has released statements of support for the women and anti-government protestors of Iran. They have also given tech companies permission to provide internet support and social media messaging to the people of Iran. However, some of these apps require paid subscriptions, which can be unaffordable for the many Iranians currently living under the strain of U.S.-imposed sanctions.
Right now, Iranian activists are calling on President Biden to halt negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA).This deal would pump money directly into the pockets of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which absolutely sends the wrong message at the moment. This dictatorship needs to know that there are consequences to their violence. Therefore, it’s imperative that we call our government representatives and demand that the United States put nuclear talks with Iran on hiatus. As long as the Islamic Republic continues to use violence as a means of controlling and punishing peaceful protestors, a nuclear deal with Iran should not be signed.
Of the 47 countries to vote on a United Nations resolution to investigate the human rights crimes of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 25 voted in favor. However, 16 countries chose to abstain and 6 voted “no,” including Armenia, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Pakistan and Venezuela. And on December 16, the United Nations will officially vote on whether to expel Iran from a U.N. women’s equality and empowerment body. The Islamic Regime has chosen not to participate in this investigation, choosing instead to demand that FIFA issue a “serious warning” to the United States men’s soccer team for removing the Islamic Regime’s emblem on the Iranian flag in a show of solidarity to the people fighting for freedom in Iran.
4. Attend a protest
October 1, 2022 was a day of global anti-Iranian government protests all around the world. This is a powerful time to organize, rally and show support by attending a protest in or near your city. Whether you’re simply driving by the protest and honking your horn in solidarity or you’re designing your own poster and chanting with other Iranians, your presence at a protest is always welcomed and appreciated. Although it’s impossible for everyone at a protest to share the same views, rallying together for a uniting cause is incredibly symbolic (and ultimately healing). Together, we can focus on the task at hand—to support the people of Iran and show them that we have their back.
5. Make a donation
Due to U.S. sanctions against Iran, we can’t send money directly to the protestors in Iran. However, here are some notable and reputable organizations that you can donate to:
The Iranian Diaspora Collective—Because mainstream media coverage has been lacking, this coalition of writers, artists, journalists and professionals of the Iranian diaspora seek to invest 100% of the funds into “purchasing advertising (billboards, print media, and digital media) in high-visibility locations.” This will enable them to “accelerate and extend the momentum related to the women-led protests in Iran.” Help create global visibility for what’s going on in Iran by sending donations to this GoFundMe.
The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI)—The whole purpose of this organization is to protect and fight for human rights in Iran. They will use funds to document and research all incidences of human rights violations that take place in Iran. You can make a donation here.
The Abdorrahman Boroumand Center—is a non-profit non-governmental non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of human rights and democracy in Iran. They monitor human rights violations in Iran and make them public knowledge by through research, documentation, publishing and public outreach. You can make a donation here.
6. Sign a petition