No woman should be murdered or imprisoned for what she wears, yet this is the harsh reality for many women living in Iran under the country’s authoritarian government.
For decades, women living in Iran have been abused, silenced and their rights confiscated through the enforcement of tough laws. Women in the country have routinely faced dress-code-related violence after losing their decision on whether or not to wear a hijab under Sharia (Islamic legal system) law in 1979.
Mahsa Jina Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, was allegedly brutally beaten to death by the so-called morality police in Tehran for showing her hair under her hijab on September 16. Her tragic death sparked an outburst of anger at the women of bondage in Iran, mass protests across the country and global solidarity. Amini’s case highlighted the ongoing oppression and injustice women face in Iran and stimulated the mobilization of Iranians who are also dissatisfied with the country’s current economic situation, which has left many without enough food.
For more than two weeks, Iranian women have been taking to the streets, burning their hijabs, cutting their hair and demanding an end to the curtailment of their rights. At least 133 people have died since the unrest began, including many demonstrators but also members of the security forces. With internet outages in the country, the death toll could be even higher.
Thousands around the world in major cities like Paris, Los Angeles and Toronto rallied last weekend in support of Iran’s protests and condemned the country’s crackdown on demonstrations following Amini’s death.
Many celebrities are also taking a stand against the injustices faced by women in the country through posts on social media and by speaking out at live concerts and awards ceremonies. Actress and lawyer Angelina Jolie called for freedom for Iranian women and Iranian-British journalist Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe shared a viral video of herself cutting her hair in support of Iranian protests. British singer Yungblud took his time during his set at the Firefly Music Festival to speak about Amini’s death, saying, “The right to express yourself is your right, and your right only.”
“It is the great act of an unexpected and at the same time so hopeful revolution when women in Iran burned their headscarves. For when the expression of compulsion burns, freedom rejoices most. The freedom of thought – that is, of life,” journalist Büşra Delikaya told Global Citizen.
“When the violence of a regressive system takes hold, it is always women who are hit first. Namely with everything they are. Patriarchal claims to sovereignty are discharged on their bodies. For these women, gender has already decided in advance how they will direct their lives in the future and choose their clothing – a clerically prescribed immaturity that is instilled in women from the cradle. This cradle burns in the same fire as the cloths, and from this fire burns a fighting spirit that the women in East Kurdistan, Iran and Afghanistan carry almost alone.”
Here is a list of nine things you can do to join the effort to support Iranian women wherever you are.
1. Write to your MP and ask them to publicly support the rights of Iranian women.
It is up to us to support the Iranian people in their current struggle against the regime’s human rights abuses. One action you can take is to write to your MP or Congressman to show that you care about this issue and to request that your government take a stand as well. As more and more countries around the world condemn the Iranian dictatorship and act decisively, the political nature may change.
Visit your government’s official website to find out more about who your representative or member of parliament is, roll up your sleeves and start typing.
2. Donate or support human rights organizations.
Before Mahsa Jina Amini’s death, there were numerous organizations and associations around the world that supported the rights of Iranian women, Kurds and minorities oppressed by the regime. Here are some of the organizations you can either donate to or offer your help to if you are on a tight budget:
- The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) works to protect human rights in Iran by researching and documenting human rights violations across the country and making them public in order to effect change.
- The Abdorrahman Boroumand Center is a non-governmental organization that advocates for the rights of all victims of human rights abuses and uses research, documentation, publishing and outreach to restore dignity to the Iranian people.
- IKWRO is a UK registered charity providing advice and support to women and girls from the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan. It also offers training so they understand their rights.
- As a global movement, Amnesty International has not hesitated to take action and has created a petition for you to sign.
- Flamingo eV is a non-profit association in Germany that supports women and children who have fled, regardless of their origin and residence status, to start a self-determined life.
- HÁWAR.help is a registered non-governmental organization in Germany and Iraq that uses international awareness-raising and political lobbying campaigns to protect human rights for everyone, regardless of ethnic origin, gender, belief or lifestyle.
3. Join protests.
The public outcry around the world over the death of Mahsa Jina Amini shows unprecedented support for the people of Iran. Crowds chant “Jin Jiyan Azadî” – or “Women, Life, Freedom” – and cut their hair in solidarity and call for an end to the current Iranian regime.
Thousands gather in downtown Los Angeles to protest for women’s rights in Iran pic.twitter.com/GuRcPyAXT1
— Brian Feinzimer (@bfeinzimer) October 1, 2022
If you want to show your support, take to the streets and find a protest near you or start a local demonstration in solidarity with Iranian women.
4. Follow social media accounts.
Social media is not only a source of entertainment, but also great knowledge. You can follow accounts run by lawyers and organizations that support women in Iran and help spread their messages, including Nazanin Boniadi, actress and Amnesty UK Ambassador; Masih Alinejadactivist and journalist; Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran, a non-profit organization; Middle East Matters, a youth organization; Naaz, a Kurdish singer and artist; Human Rights Watch, an organization; and Gissou NiaDirector of the Atlantic Council Strategic Litigation Project.
5. Share information and posts about protests.
If you are not feeling well or are unable to take to the streets yourself, you can also use your social media to share information and posts from protests in Iran and around the world. Search social media with hashtags #mahsaamini, #iranprotests, #iranprotests2022 and #zhinaamini.
6. Read books.
To learn more about the history of women’s rights in Iran, we recommend the following books: The complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi; Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi; Daughters of Smoke and Fire by Ava Homa; and Things I’ve been silent about: Memories of a lost daughter by Azar Nafisi.
7. Attend events where you learn more about oppressed communities.
There is no better way to learn about a problem than to speak to those affected by human rights abuses. Organizations hold panels, workshops, meetings and more to give a stage to the people oppressed by the Iranian government and to mobilize the public to stand up and demand change. You can search your social media for events near you or search online.
8. Take action.
As a global citizen, you can show solidarity by sharing a message about why you stand with women in Iran.
9. Keep raising your voice.
At the moment the death of Mahsa Jina Amini is in the news, but soon there will be another tragic crisis that requires our attention. However, we should not forget the people of Iran and their struggle for human rights.
“What my compatriots are feeling more than anything right now is an overwhelming sense of unity, support and solidarity. I feel like we can keep fighting; be it in London, Paris or around the world,” said Naza Alakija, founder of the NGO Sage Foundation and senior adviser to UNICEF. “If we really continue to support Iranian women and show solidarity, there can be changes. I just hope it doesn’t come at the cost of thousands of lives, which it may already have. And I’m not advocating chaos either, but I’m asking women, men, individuals to come out and spread the message far and wide.
“Rise with us! Thank you for listening to us. Thank you for supporting us. Please don’t stop! So many people have lost their children, their sisters, their wives. If we can now sustain this public support globally, hopefully things will change for the better.”