Woman, Life, Freedom has become the rallying cry and symbol of what is being called the first female led counter-revolution of our time…
Image: Yael Hofri
It has been a very difficult 7 weeks for many Iranians. Those living in Iran have had their lives thrown into a tumultuous existence. For us, who are members of the Iranian diaspora, we have been watching the events unfold with sadness, anger and horror at what the people of Iran have endured at the hands of the Regime.
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 been the catalyst for uniting the Iranian people in their stand against oppression.
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 and University students have been protesting at their schools and Universities, 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. More than 14,000 have been imprisoned and over 300 people killed by Iran’s Security Forces – reports indicate a number in the region of 50 children have been killed. School girls demonstrating have reportedly been taken to psychiatric institutions who will be returned to class after they have been “reformed.” Those arrested for protesting are facing trials in front of a judiciary who are not impartial. These trials are expected to last 10 minutes with the accused being unrepresented by lawyers, and execution being a possible punishment.
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. However, as soon as we heard about 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 with protests taking place in solidarity across many cities in the world from Toronto to Tokyo. The propaganda, gaslighting and the brutal actions of the Regime is being seen across the world and weakening their hold. 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. Celebrities across the world have used their social media platforms to spread the message. International condemnation is gathering pace, with further sanctions being imposed and some countries considering designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. Global women leaders and advocates are urging UN Member States to heed the call of Iranian women and remove the Islamic Republic of Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women. All these initiatives and support is strengthening the cause of the Iranian people. 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, shining a spotlight on the atrocities and giving the people hope to carry on in their stand against the oppression.
For us in the diaspora, we intend to keep supporting the people in Iran by amplifying their voices and continuing to raise awareness of the events in Iran. We intend to keep writing to our MPs and Representatives to take meaningful action and to ensure transparency of the events in Iran. We intend to keep fighting for the recognition of human rights and self-determination of the Iranian people. What is abundantly clear is that we are powerful together, and we can effect change together.
How you can help
There are a number of ways you can help Iranians and here are few to get started.
- Speak to Iranians you know and ask them to explain the situation to you and how you can help.
- Join a peaceful protest (usually in Trafalgar Square in London on Saturdays from 2 pm to 5pm).
- 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 (UK) Representative (US) to ask them to give visibility to this issue.
- Sign the Open Letter urging UN Member States to heed the call of Iranian women and remove the Islamic Republic of Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women here.
COOK FOR IRAN INITIATIVE
Cook for Iran started as an idea to keep the conversation about the events unfolding in Iran alive.
Through the medium of the incredible food that originates from the country, this initiative aims to increase awareness of the humanitarian crisis in Iran. The cook for Iran team believes that food is a powerful way to bring people together and keep the situation in the front of our minds.
Since the beginning of the process people from different backgrounds, nationalities, including top chefs, award-winning food writers, restaurant owners and home cooks have reached out in solidarity with the people of Iran.
This has been through cooking, baking and sharing Iranian dishes or inspired dishes at their restaurants, with their guests at home, with their friends and family and across social media platforms.
Follow @cookforiran on Instagram for more information about how you can help raise awareness of Iranian culture and to make a stand for human rights through food.
- You can join the movement by hosting your own Cook For Iran supper club or bake sale, inviting your friends to join and encourage everyone to sign the Amnesty petition at dinner! Post your pictures on social media with the hashtag #CookForIran.
- Restaurant, Hotel, Café and Bar Owners and Operators can add an Iranian-inspired twist to an existing dish or add an Iranian menu item with the words: Women, Life, Freedom – we stand with the people of Iran!
- Contact your local stakeholders – call local press / radio and ask for coverage; write to you representative (US) / MP (UK) asking them to support the Iranian people.
I will be developing recipes going forward to assist with the Cook For Iran initiative and hope to get a Supper Club sorted early 2023 – I will keep you posted! But for now check out my catalogue of recipes by clicking the ‘Recipes’ tab above for your own Supper Club menus!
- Iran’s Protests Are the First Counter-Revolution Led by Women | The New Yorker
- Rage against the regime: how Iran erupted after the death of Mahsa Amini | Global development | The Guardian
- Death of Nika Shakarami – Wikipedia
- Mother of dead Iranian schoolgirl accuses authorities of murder | Iran | The Guardian
- Iran protests: Students are being taken to psychiatric institutions | CNN
- Mapping Iran’s unrest: how Mahsa Amini’s death led to nationwide protests | Iran | The Guardian
- Protest strikes in Iran reported as solidarity rallies held around world | Iran | The Guardian
- Iran’s security forces reportedly open fire as thousands mourn Mahsa Amini | Iran | The Guardian
- As unrest grips Iran’s schools, the government is going after children – The Washington Post
- Iran to hold public trials for up to 2,000 detained in protests | Iran | The Guardian
- Coldplay perform Iranian protest song by arrested artist during gig | Culture | Independent TV