No woman should be murdered or detained for what she wears, yet this is the harsh reality for many women living in Iran under the country’s authoritative government.
For decades, women living in Iran have been targets of abuse, silenced, and had their rights taken through the enforcement of strict laws. Women in the country have routinely been subjected to dress code-related violence after losing their choice to decide if they want to wear a hijab or not in 1979 under sharia law (Islam’s legal system).
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 beneath her hijab on Sept. 16. Her tragic death sparked an outpouring of anger over women’s lack of freedom in Iran, mass protests across the country, and global solidarity. Amini’s case highlighted the continuous oppression and injustices women face in Iran and incited the mobilization of Iranians who are also dissatisfied with the country’s current economic situation that has left many without enough to eat.
For more than two weeks, Iranian women have taken to the streets, burned their hijabs, cut their hair, and demanded an end to the curtailing of their rights. At least 133 people have died since the unrest began, including many protesters but also members of the security force. With internet blackouts in the country, the death toll could be even higher.
Thousands around the globe in major cities including Paris, Los Angeles, and Toronto gathered together last weekend in support of Iran’s protests, condemning the country’s crackdown on demonstrations in the aftermath of Amini’s death.
Many celebrities are also taking a stand against the injustices women are facing in the country through social media posts and by speaking out during live concerts and award shows. Actress and advocate Angelina Jolie demanded freedom for Iranian women and Iranian-British journalist Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe shared a viral video of cutting her hair in support of Iranian protests. British singer Yungblud took time during his set at Firefly Music Festival to speak about Amini’s death and said,”The right to express yourself is your right, and your right alone.”
“It is the great act of an unexpected and at the same time so hope-giving revolution when the women in Iran let their headscarves burn. Because when the expression of coercion burns, it is freedom that 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 always hits women first. Namely with everything they are. On their bodies, patriarchal claims to sovereignty are discharged. It has already been decided in advance for these women, qua gender, according to which they should direct their lives in the future and choose their clothes — a clerically dictated immaturity, placed in the cradle of the woman. This cradle burns in the same fire as the cloths, and from this fire blazes a fighting spirit that the women in Eastern Kurdistan, Iran, and Afghanistan carry almost alone.”
Here’s a list of nine things you can do to join the effort to support Iranian women wherever you are.
1. Write to your MP asking them to support Iranian women’s rights publicly.
It is up to us to support Iran’s people in their current fight against the regime’s human rights violations. One measure you can take is to write to your member of Parliament or Congress to show that this issue is important to you and to demand that your government is taking a stand as well. If more and more countries around the globe condemn Iran’s dictatorship and take decisive action, the political nature can be changed.
Go to your government’s official website to find more about who is your representative or member of Parliament, roll those sleeves up, and get to typing.
2. Donate to or support human rights organizations.
Prior to Mahsa Jina Amini’s death, there have been plenty of organizations and clubs around the world supporting the rights of Iranian women, Kurds, and minorities oppressed by the regime. Here are some of the organizations where you can either donate to, or if budget is tight, offer your help:
- 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 as well as disclosing them to the public to bring about change.
- The Abdorrahman Boroumand Center is a non-governmental organization that commits itself to the rights of all victims of human rights violations, and uses research, documentation, publications, and outreach to restore dignity to Iran’s population.
- IKWRO is a registered charity in the UK providing advice and support to Middle Eastern, North African, and Afghan women and girls. It also offers training for them to understand their rights.
- As a global movement, Amnesty International did not hesitate to take action and has created a petition for you to sign.
- Flamingo e.V. is a non-profit association in Germany that supports refugee women and children irrespective of their origin and residence status to start a self-determined life.
- HÁWAR.help is a registered non-governmental organization in Germany and Iraq, working to protect human rights for everyone, regardless of their ethnic background, gender, faith, or lifestyle through international awareness-raising and political advocacy campaigns.
3. Join protests.
The public outcry over Mahsa Jina Amini’s death worldwide shows unprecedented support for the people in Iran. Crowds are chanting, “Jin Jiyan Azadî” — or “Women, Life, Liberty” — cutting their hair in solidarity and demanding 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 advocates and organizations who are supporting women in Iran and help amplify their messages, including Nazanin Boniadi, actor and Amnesty UK Ambassador; Masih Alinejad, activist and journalist; Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran, a nonprofit organization; Middle East Matters, a youth-run organization; Naaz, a Kurdish singer and artist; Human Rights Watch, an organization; and Gissou Nia, Director of Atlantic Council Strategic Litigation Project.
5. Share information and posts on protests.
If you do not feel comfortable or are not able to go out onto the streets yourself, you can also use your social media to share information and posts of protests from Iran and around the world. Search social media by using the 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 Prodigal Daughter by Azar Nafisi.
7. Attend events where you learn more about oppressed communities.
There is no better way to learn about an issue than to talk to those concerned by human rights violations. Organizations are creating panels, workshops, meet-ups, and more to give a stage to people oppressed by the Iranian government and to mobilize the public to stand up and demand change. You can check your social media for events in your vicinity or search online.
8. Take action.
As a Global Citizen, you can show solidarity by sharing a message on why you stand with the women of Iran.
9. Keep raising your voice.
At the moment, the death of Mahsa Jina Amini is all over the news, but soon enough, there will be another tragic crisis demanding our attention. However, we should not forget the people in Iran and their fight for human rights.
“What my compatriots are feeling more than anything right now is an overwhelming sense of unity, support and solidarity. I feel that we can keep fighting; be it in London, Paris, all over the world,” said Naza Alakija, founder of NGO Sage Foundation and senior adviser to UNICEF. “If we truly continue supporting Iranian women and we stand in solidarity, there can be change. I just hope it doesn’t come at the cost of thousands of lives, which may already be the case. And I am also not advocating for chaos, but I am asking for women, men, individuals, to come out and share the message wide and far.
“Stand with us! Thank you for hearing 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 keep this public support around the world, then something will hopefully change for the better.”