Updated: Oct 20, 2022
Two quick disclaimers before we start this blog post:
1) Here at Solidaritee, we support religious tolerance and freedom. We support you if you CHOOSE to wear a hijab, just as much as we support you if you CHOOSE not to. We are not a religious organization, but we respect all faiths and those who choose not to believe in any faith.
2) This is an ongoing story and we will do our best to update it should new facts come to light.
What is going on in Iran?
This current round of protests by Iranian citizens started on September 16th after the death of Mahsa Amini, (also known as Jina), while in the custody of Iran’s morality police, also known as the Gasht-e Ershad. The protests have now spanned almost four weeks and are taking place in at least 19 different cities in Iran. These protests are being called “one of the greatest challenges to Iran’s theocracy since the country’s 2009 Green Movement” and “one of the boldest challenges to the clerical leadership since the 1979 revolution.” Almost all of these protests are peaceful, but unfortunately the Iranian government has reacted with violence at every turn. As of 12.10, an Oslo-based charity Iran Human Rights has “confirmed the deaths of 201 people since Sept. 16,” “while a charity inside the country said at least 28 children had been killed in the unrest.” There has also been a devastating fire at Evin prison, with numbers of confirmed deaths ranging from 8 to 11. Evin prison is where Iran houses most of their political prisoners and where many of the protestors who have been arrested in this latest round of protests are being detained. The cause of the fire is still under speculation the BBC is reporting that “State TV said it was a "premeditated" escape plan, which the head of prisons in Tehran said was foiled by the security forces. However, a witness inside the prison told BBC Persian that prisoners had not set fire to the site.”
How did it start?
Mahsa was arrested on Sept. 13th in Tehran by the morality police after being accused of “wearing unsuitable attire,” according to Reuters her crime was “wearing tight trousers.” She “was reportedly beaten after her arrest and transferred to the Vozara Detention Center in Tehran.” On Sept. 16th after three days in a coma at the hospital, Mahsa died. Iranian authorities claimed she had a heart attack, but both her family and UN experts don’t believe the authorities version of events. UN experts “cite some reports that say she died as a result of torture and ill-treatment by the authorities” and Reuters reported “women who were arrested along with Mahsa told her father that she was beaten inside a van that was transporting them.”
Who is leading the protests in Iran?
Young Iranian women are at the forefront of these protests, but are being supported by men as well; something that can be seen as unusual in a country dominated by men. Many of these young women and men are university students who have been fighting on their campuses for change. Some young Iranian women have been seen tearing off their hijabs in public; as well as cutting their hair, “flipping off photos of the country’s leader” Ayatollah Khamenei, and marching in large groups chanting various slogans. One retired teacher, Somayyeh, is quoted by Reuters saying “Her death broke the camel's back. This is the result of years of repression of Iranian women…We are tired of discriminatory laws, of being seen as second-class citizens ... Now, we want political change… I cannot live with the fear that my daughter too can fall foul with the morality police and be killed by them ... Mahsa's death showed we have to fight against this establishment.”
How can you help?
Here are four things you can do to help protestors in Iran, as well as your Iranian neighbors:
One: of the biggest ways you can support protestors in Iran is to pressure your government representatives into holding the Iranian government accountable* for their human rights violations. The Canadian government, for example, has imposed new sanctions on “three entities and 17 people including longtime Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif… [and] Hatami, an army general and former defense minister and Saeed Mortazavi, an Iranian prosecutor” who is accused of ordering the torture and ultimately death of a Canadian-Iranian journalist.
Two: Another thing you can pressure your governments about is to make the asylum-seeking process easier to navigate. Our Solidaritee partners in Greece confirm that the complicated asylum seeking and citizenship processes for UK, EU, and non-EU countries alike is one of the biggest hurdles for refugees and asylum seekers to tackle on their way to a safe and better life.
A third way is to help the Iranian community is by retelling their stories on social media. Two notes of caution here:
Make sure you get permission to share someone’s story. While you may have nothing but good intentions, telling someone’s story without their permission could get them in trouble with governmental authorities, or even their families. You may need to take precautions like blurring their face or only using a first name/surname; so, it’s always good to make sure you have permission, or know that this particular story has already been shared publicly by that person.
Make sure you’re letting that person tell their story. Using your platform to help other people be heard is great, but sometimes we get so wrapped up in helping we forget that it’s a real person’s story. This can look like summarizing their story and not allowing the nuances of the whole picture, or accidentally highlighting a really interesting part of their story but forgetting to give the context behind it.
The fourth way: you can support Iranians is in your own town. This could be as simple as lending an ear to an Iranian friend who needs support, patronizing Iranian-owned businesses, or making an effort to welcome a new Iranian work colleague or schoolmate. It can be a daunting experience to uproot your life in one country and move to a new one where you know very few, if any, people. We always encourage inclusivity, but in cases like this making people feel welcome in your home country can go a long way to help people feel less isolated, and encourage both you and your potential new friend!
*We want to stress here that, at all times, the international response to events in Iran should be led by the wishes and values of Iranian people themselves. Sanctions can do more harm than good in some contexts, exacerbating or tipping the scales towards humanitarian crises in some contexts, so deferring to experts with lived experience when advocating for any type of international political response is crucial. In this case, sanctions were directed at specific individuals as opposed to national systems as a whole.
 (Fassihi)  (Protests Reach 19 Cities in Iran despite Internet Disruption | AP News)  (Protests Reach 19 Cities in Iran despite Internet Disruption | AP News)  (Hafezi, “Iranians Keep up Protests over Mahsa Amini Death despite Mounting Fatalities”)  (“Iran Rights Groups Report Rising Child Death Toll in Protests”)  (“Iran Rights Groups Report Rising Child Death Toll in Protests”)  (Iran Evin Prison Death Toll Jumps, State Says - BBC News)  (Dutton)  (Hafezi, “Iranian Woman Whose Death Led to Mass Protests Was Shy and Avoided Politics”)  (Dutton)  (Dutton)  (Hafezi, “Iranian Woman Whose Death Led to Mass Protests Was Shy and Avoided Politics”)  (Nast)  (Hafezi, “Many Iranian Women Demand Political Change amid Decades-Long Grievances”)  (Reuters)
Dutton, Jack. “Iran Protests Timeline: How Death of Mahsa Amini Rocked the Middle East.” Newsweek, 23 Sept. 2022, https://www.newsweek.com/death-mahsa-amini-rocked-iran-1745815
Fassihi, Farnaz. “In Iran, Woman’s Death After Arrest by the Morality Police Triggers Outrage.” The New York Times, 17 Sept. 2022. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/16/world/middleeast/iran-death-woman-protests.html
Hafezi, Parisa. “Iranian Woman Whose Death Led to Mass Protests Was Shy and Avoided Politics.” Reuters, 28 Sept. 2022. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/iranian-woman-whose-death-led-mass-protests-was-shy-avoided-politics-2022-09-28/
---. “Iranians Keep up Protests over Mahsa Amini Death despite Mounting Fatalities.” Reuters, 12 Oct. 2022. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/iranians-keep-up-protests-over-mahsa-amini-death-despite-growing-death-toll-2022-10-12/
---. “Many Iranian Women Demand Political Change amid Decades-Long Grievances.” Reuters, 12 Oct. 2022. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/many-iranian-women-demand-political-change-amid-decades-long-grievances-2022-10-12/
Iran Evin Prison Death Toll Jumps, State Says - BBC News. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-63282931. Accessed 19 Oct. 2022.
“Iran Rights Groups Report Rising Child Death Toll in Protests.” Bloomberg.Com, 12 Oct. 2022. www.bloomberg.com, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-10-12/iran-rights-groups-report-rising-child-death-toll-in-protests
Nast, Condé. “The Suspicious Death of Mahsa Amini Has Given Rise to Ongoing Protest in Iran and Beyond.” Vogue, 21 Sept. 2022, https://www.vogue.com/article/mahsa-amini-death-iran-protests
Protests Reach 19 Cities in Iran despite Internet Disruption | AP News. https://apnews.com/article/iran-middle-east-riots-dubai-united-arab-emirates-b84859076acd4c5ebfadea40d5580a12. Accessed 13 Oct. 2022.
Reuters. “Canada Imposes New Iran Sanctions over Human Rights.” Reuters, 13 Oct. 2022. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/world/canada-imposes-new-iran-sanctions-over-human-rights-2022-10-13/.