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Saturday, March 2, 2024

The Editorial Board stands with Iranian protestors in the fight for women’s rights

By listening to and sharing the stories of Iranian people, we can encourage international governments to take a stand against injustice



Content Warning: This article contains discussion of violence which some readers might find disturbing. 

On Sept. 13, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was visiting the Iranian capital with her family when she was arrested by the morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab incorrectly. She died three days later after eyewitnesses reported seeing her being beaten in custody, despite the Tehran Police’s claims that she had suddenly succumbed to heart failure.

Since Amini’s death, Iranians, and especially Iranian women, have taken to the streets to protest the morality police and fight for women’s rights, with many even burning their hijabs to make a statement. Several of these women have faced consequences for their acts of social protest, including 16-year-olds Nika Shakarami and Sarina Esmailzadeh, who were beaten to death during protests, according to eyewitnesses. Official government statements claim that Shakarami died after falling from a building and that Esmailzadeh took her own life.

These are just a few of the stories coming out of Iran right now — and while these tragedies might feel a world away, there are students and faculty in our community who grew up impacted by restrictive laws and police violence in Iran. Some even have friends and family members still living there.

The Editorial Board stands in solidarity with protestors both in Iran and locally as they fight for women’s rights. We commend the courage of Iranians at UC Davis who have spoken out against injustices in their home country, and encourage others to listen to their stories and  take advantage of their right to freedom of speech to talk about what’s happening in the Middle East, if it is safe for them to do so.

The ability of people in Iran to share information, photos and video evidence of what is happening in their country has been restricted by Iranian officials shutting down access to Instagram and WhatsApp and interrupting mobile internet connections. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been banned in Iran for years, leaving citizens with very limited options for sharing what’s going on, especially in a way that reaches an international audience.

With such limited information, it is important for those outside of Iran to amplify what does make it through the cracks in order to help the Iranian people tell the world about the human rights violations committed by their dictatorial government.

Other ways to support Iranian communities include joining local protests, like the one held on campus by the UC Davis Afghan Student Association on Oct. 17, signing petitions, such as Amnesty International’s, which calls for states involved in the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council to “investigate and ensure accountability for the most serious crimes under international law in Iran,” and donating to relevant organizations.

Two nonprofit organizations that are accepting donations are the Center for Human Rights in Iran, which researches and documents human rights violations across the country and shares them with the public in an attempt to bring about change, and the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center, which similarly uses research and documentation in an effort to help the victims of human rights violations.

It often feels like fighting for change from across the world has no hope of making a difference — and it is true that we are limited in both our ability and our responsibility to reform the Iranian government. But as the stories of protest and government violence in Iran, shared on social media and by word of mouth, have caught the attention of international governments, some change on the world-scale is taking place.

On Oct. 18, the European Union announced sanctions against morality police officials and the Islamic Republic’s Information Minister, freezing their assets in response to their role in the security crackdown against anti-government protests. While this is only a small act of international resistance against the Iranian government, it is an example of how speaking out against injustice can put pressure on world leaders to enact meaningful change. 


Written by: The Editorial Board