I am a free woman. This is a luxury that women in my home country of Iran cannot afford. As an Australian of Kurdish-Iranian heritage, the past six weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions. A cocktail of fear, sadness, guilt, pride and hope. Fear for the safety of millions of Iranians living under repressive rule. Mourn the hundreds of innocent people who died, the thousands imprisoned and brutally tortured. Guilt for not being a stronger voice for a pain I know all too well. Death is the ultimate price for freedom in Iran. This inequality should not escape anyone living with basic human rights.
Iran is a country of contradictions. It possesses intense natural beauty, deep cultural and historical roots, and an impressive people from a kaleidoscope of ethnic origins. For 43 years, Iran has been under theocratic rule, led by a supreme leader and a power structure that instills fear in the very people he rules and marginalizes the country from the world community. His regime has a damning record of human rights abuses against political dissidents, minorities such as the Kurds, Baloch, Sunni Muslims, Bahá’ís and the LGBTQIA+ community, among others.
The regime has used censorship to stifle the dissenting voices of poets, writers, journalists and freethinkers who dare to criticize it. Most devastating was the regime’s denial of basic human rights and freedoms to half of the country’s population, its women.
Women were denied freedom of dress, freedom of expression, equal rights in court and the opportunity to hold high decision-making powers in government or the judiciary. Despite this, young Iranian women reportedly have the highest literacy rate in the Middle East with a high percentage of university degrees and one of the highest percentages of university degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics compared to other countries.
On September 16, the death of a young Iranian Kurdish woman, Mahsa (Jina) Amini, who was being held by the vice squad for allegedly failing to comply with strict mandatory hijab laws, sparked a movement of Iranian women, mostly high school and senior high school students Female students who are now driving a revolution. This movement has strengthened the resolve of Iranians to stand up and seek the freedom they deserve.
No mistake should be made about what this fight is for. It is not a fight against religion, but a system of government and a fight for freedom that has transcended gender, class and religious divisions. women, veiled and unveiled; men young and old; and religious and secular Iranians stand shoulder to shoulder to demand regime change. In a country where a woman can be persecuted for showing an inch too much hair, young women take to the streets of Tehran and every major city in Iran chanting “zan, zendegi, azadi” (woman, life , Freedom). .
They are arrested, beaten, raped and killed, and yet they come out day after day demanding that their voices be heard. To say that I am proud as a fellow Iranian is an understatement. I am amazed by the bravery and courage of these lionesses. Her iron will to fight tyranny and rise up against hate and darkness is an act of defiance that has drawn the Iranian diaspora and the global community, which is also gathering in major cities around the world including Australia, to show their solidarity and showing solidarity has amazed and humbled the voices of those in Iran amplifying.
The Iranian Women’s Revolution has tapped into a collective struggle for women around the world as we continue to face issues of equality and fairness such as: B. A persistent lack of representation at all levels of government and business; the gender pay gap; and most worrying is the ongoing erosion of women’s rights in countries like Afghanistan, India and even the US. It is a powerful message to all authoritarian and patriarchal societies that a paradigm shift is upon us.
As the insurgency escalates, so does the anger of Iranian women – amplified in response to the regime’s incredible cruelty. There is no price for human life and no death is justified. The determination of the Iranian people and the images on social media of young people lost in this struggle clearly show that they have accepted that their freedom as a nation will come with sacrifice. There is no greater power than collective human determination. This is the realm of hope and the promise of freedom.
Australia’s response to this crisis is important. As members of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, with a strong international standing and a large Iranian diaspora, our response must reflect our commitment to protecting the universality of human rights and promoting and advancing social inclusion by ensuring equal rights for women and young girls. The Australian government’s actions will send a clear message not only to the Iranian regime that we monitor and question their legitimacy to govern Iran, but also to all migrants who lovingly call Australia home that they matter and… that our government will not remain a bystander while people suffer.
The Australian government has sent a message of solidarity and publicly condemned the regime’s barbaric response to innocent protesters, but to date I have seen no announcement of definitive action. The Canadian government, for example, announced a few weeks ago targeted sanctions against officials and their subordinates within the regime’s power structure.
Without action, we are failing in our obligations and the very human rights we claim to protect. We fail to see that inequality and injustice to women and the vulnerable anywhere in the world is injustice to everyone.
Human beings are members of a whole, in the creation of one essence and soul. When pain afflicts one member, the others remain uneasy.” Saadi, 13th-century Persian poet.