Sun, 25 February 2024

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Leaders must step up solidarity for the Iranian people in their quest for ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’


4 min read

Zhina Mahsa Amini’s death at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s morality police has sparked an unprecedented female-led movement embodied in the slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom”.

Iranians have come together in the largest display of unity against the Islamic Republic the regime has ever seen in its brutal 43-year history. The protesters’ message is clear: end the gender apartheid, end the dictatorship, human rights for all. 

As a British-Iranian woman, I’ve been following the heart-breaking and courageous efforts of Iranians intensely for the last few weeks. Like many others, I have a large family living in Iran. The internet is unstable and even when I can make contact I fear anything I ask them related to the protests could put them in danger. Writing this article under anonymity is a way to ensure I don’t hurt the very people I am trying to empower. 

We look to our political leaders to make our case, determinedly writing letters, demonstrating from Newcastle to Exeter, asking for support

But even just sharing Iranian voices on social media and actively supporting the cause means so much. It was a family member in Iran who shared with me the video of Coldplay singing the incredibly moving song of the revolution called Baraye meaning For [freedom] by Iranian singer Shervin Hajipour, accompanied by Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani. They see that the world is watching, joining in, and it keeps the momentum for change going. 

The British government should unequivocally support Iranians in their fight for freedom. So far sanctions have been imposed, diplomats warned, but it is clear leaders must go further. Alarmingly, the government is keeping the option of reviving the nuclear deal on the table. This would be a grave mistake in legitimising the regime’s rule and emboldening its cruel crackdown against its citizens. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has rightly declared the United Kingdom’s “resolute support for Ukraine in its fight for freedom and democracy,” but it appears a serious misstep to stay quiet on the human rights struggle in Iran. This is more pressing than ever as revolutionary courts have begun charging protesters with death penalty offences.

What is more, two British Iranian journalists working at Iran International, a UK-based independent Persian-language news channel, were notified by the Metropolitan Police of “imminent and significant risk” to their lives and their families by threats from the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). This brings the crisis to the UK government’s doorstep as British citizens on British soil are being targeted.

Support must go beyond the UK and be a coordinated international effort. So far a million people worldwide have signed an Amnesty International petition calling for a United Nations independent mechanism to investigate the Islamic Republic’s crimes. Every weekend thousands of people attend freedom rallies around the world. It is inspiring, and the pressure on the international community to act is growing. 

The Canadian parliament was the first in the world to adopt a motion demanding Iran is removed from the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women due to Amini’s brutal death and the oppression of women’s rights. United States vice president Kamala Harris also declared the USA’s intent to remove Iran from the UN body, as its UN mission, jointly with Albania, hosted an informal UN Security Council session on the Islamic Republic’s human rights abuses. 

Britain’s political leaders must not drag their heels and join the international community boldly in standing up to Iran’s totalitarian aggressor. We look to our political leaders to make our case, determinedly writing letters, demonstrating from Newcastle to Exeter, asking for support. 

As British-Iranian actress and activist Nazanin Boniadi told the UN Security Council session: “I firmly believe the future of Iran can only be written by its own people on its own streets. But no country can go it alone in its pursuit of freedom and self-determination.”

The UK must stand on the right side of history and recognise the aspirations of the Iranian people for the future of Iran are aligned with our own. As one protest banner reads: “To world leaders: Iranian women do not need you to save them, they only need you to stop saving their murderers.” 



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