Iranian women in exile ask for international support: “If no one helps us, they will kill us before the silence of the world” | International

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“If no one helps us, they will kill us in the silence of the world.” Jina’s voice rings with a hint of desperation on the other end of the phone. She is Iranian, although she lives in Turkey, where she went into exile two years ago due to the sexist pressures she suffered. She apprehensively follows the protests that are rocking Iran, as well as news of internet outages and increased repression.

This Friday marks a week since the start of the protests over the death of the young Mahsa Amini when she was in the custody of the Tehran Moral Police, who arrested her for wearing the wrong veil. Authorities have alleged that she died of a heart attack, describing her death as an “unfortunate incident”. And although they have assured that her death will be investigated, it has not been enough to calm the protesters, who denounce that the woman died after receiving blows to the head. According to a count by Iran Human Rights, an NGO based in Oslo, the number of civilians killed during the repression of the protests amounts to 31. The state television IRIB lowers this figure to 17, while other semi-official channels also speak of dozens of wounded. in the security forces and at least five deceased. The last of the dead would be a member of the Basij paramilitary militia ―subordinate to the Revolutionary Guard―, who would have been stabbed.

Jina, who asks to withhold her real name, admits that Amini’s death was a “shock” for her, despite being used to “the Islamic regime killing innocents”. “Women suffer a lot of pressure in Iran, they force us not to be ourselves, since childhood, since we started going to school. But there comes a time when you have to say enough is enough,” she says.

The protests began after Amini’s funeral, in his native Saqqez, in the province of Iranian Kurdistan. But they have spread to fifty cities in the country and have been gaining intensity as the repression has increased, in turn fueling the anger of the protesters. During the night from Wednesday to Thursday, several police stations were attacked; police cars were burned; portraits of prominent personalities of the regime were also burned; and criticism against Ali Khamenei, the Iranian supreme leader, intensified.

Images published on social networks have shown women in Iran demonstrating without the mandatory veil with which the authorities force them to cover their hair; setting fire to this garment; and even cutting locks of their hair. The same thing has happened in the solidarity demonstrations that have been called in several cities where the Iranian exile has a presence, such as in Turkey.

Protest in New York, in front of the UN headquarters, this Wednesday for the death of Mahsa Amini. STEPHANIE KEITH (AFP)

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“Liberation from oppression”

On Wednesday, Iranian activist Nasibe Shamshaei cut off a chunk of her hair outside the gates of the Consulate of the Islamic Republic in Istanbul. “I cut my hair in anger, as a protest against the Government of the tyrants. We destroy a part of our body – the part for which the government oppresses us – with our bare hands. It is a gesture of rage, of liberation from oppression, of solidarity with my compatriots: the men and women who are protesting in the streets and those who are shooting”, she explains.

Amnesty International has denounced the “brutal repression” and the use of “buckshot, steel pellets, tear gas and water cannons” to suppress the protests. Some Iranian activists have also denounced the use of firearms. For its part, the powerful Revolutionary Guard has branded the protest movement as “sedition” and acts “organized by the enemy.” In addition, he has demanded that the judiciary prosecute those who “spread rumors and lies” on social networks and in the streets, according to the Efe news agency. In addition, the authorities have called on the population to demonstrate this Friday, a Muslim holy day and holiday in Iran, to show their rejection of those who protest and their support for the strict policies of the Ayatollah regime regarding women’s clothing.

“For 43 years, our women have resisted the darkness, exploitation, and oppression of this misogynistic system. As women, we must be able to make the voices of the oppressed heard by the world and support them”, asks the activist Shamshaei, in an allegation for the need for the protests against the Iranian Government to spread throughout the world. world to make the struggle visible. Iranian activists abroad have shared similar messages calling for support. Meanwhile, the Iranian regime has slowed down internet speed and restricted access to social networks and messaging systems, such as WhatsApp and Instagram, both of which are widely used because others such as YouTube, Facebook, Telegram, etc., have been blocked in recent years. Twitter and TikTok.

Although the situation in Iran is much more complicated, the protests in Turkey are not without danger: “We are afraid”, says Jina, “they can kill us or kidnap us here in Turkey or anywhere in the world. It has already happened to other Iranians.” Shamshaei herself, who fled a 12-year prison sentence in Iran for having participated in protests by removing her veil, was arrested in 2020 in Turkey and interned in an immigrant return center, as there was an Iranian extradition request. Finally, after the intervention of a UN committee and the mediation of expert human rights lawyers, she was released and allowed to stay in Turkey. “It is something that can happen. and i know that [si me deportan] this time they will not be content with imprisoning me, but they will execute me because of my fight against the dictatorial regime. Even so, they will not silence me: I will continue fighting for the freedom of my land”, he affirms.

The demonstrations in recent days are among the most important in Iran since the country experienced between 2018 and 2019, caused by the rise in the price of gasoline in the midst of the economic crisis. Then, the protests, which spread to a hundred cities, were severely repressed, leaving between 200 and 300 dead, according to various counts.

“This time it is different. It all started with the protest of an innocent young woman who has become a symbol”, says Iranian journalist Ashkan Shabani. “On other occasions, people were not so united: the fear has been lost. That’s why they fight, with their hands or whatever they find. I don’t know if it will be enough to topple the regime, but it is certainly the beginning of something bigger”, he continues. However, another Iranian consulted by this newspaper and who went into exile in Istanbul after the 2009 mobilizations against the alleged electoral rigging, believes that the mobilization is doomed to failure due to “the regime’s draconian tactics and the absence of an organized civil movement and coordinated.

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