Title media by
Paige Gurstein

Image designed by Paige Gurstein.

Disclaimer: The writer of the article will be anonymous because of safety concerns.

“SAY HER NAME!” a voice cries out, breaking with pain, compassion and outrage. It echoes over an audience of thousands of people, gathered in the rain, bracing themselves against harsh winds. 

“MAHSA! AMINI!” they chant back, the collection of voices harmonizing and rising in the air – loud and powerful. Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old visiting Iran’s capital, was the first of now hundreds of people murdered in Iran over the course of the past several weeks. Thousands more have been arrested for protesting her death by “The Morality Police”. The “Morality Police," created by the Islamic Republic, is an authority adjacent to the police whose sole function is to arrest women for expressions of freedom, such as wearing tight clothes that hug the body, revealing any skin or letting their hair loose. Another such infraction is wearing the hijab improperly, which is the crime Mahsa Amini was arrested for on September 13, three days before she died. She was taken to a detention center with no record of how she was treated there, before turning up beaten to near death in Tehran’s hospital. Three days later she died, and years of unrest under the Islamic Republic in Iran burst into uproar.

Protests started in the streets on September 16, with Iranian citizens attacking the Morality Police patrolling the streets. Footage of these protests taken by pedestrians, people in their homes and security cameras were quickly shared to the internet, sparking global outrage.

Three days later, on September 19, the Iranian government shut off access to the internet in an attempt to isolate its citizens and leave them virtually powerless. This didn’t deter the force of the protests in Iran, nor did it stop video leaks coming from within the country. Hundreds of students of Iran’s top university, Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, stormed their campus, shouting from inside out to the Iranian people “not to be afraid,” and that “[they] are all together!” Since the first day of their protest, videos from Iran have circulated, documenting the violent capture of students with cloth bags over their heads, the sound of gunfire ringing throughout their schools and thick tear gas in the air. This senseless violence against protestors is all in an attempt to drive the students off the campus and disperse the crowds. The students, most of them younger than Mahsa was when she was murdered, say that they had to take the mentality of preparing for warfare. 

The Islamic Regime continues to refuse any resolution or peace, as the Morality Police continues to arrest, beat and kill protestors. Nika Shakarami was one of these people killed in her cry for justice for Iranian women. She was only 16 years old when she was chased by police after calling for “death to the dictator” and publicly burning her headscarf. She went missing and was found dead several days later. Her family, including her 4-year-old nephew, were all threatened by the police. Hadis Najafi was another young woman shot dead while protesting, Sarina Esmailzadeh was beaten to death by police and at least 402 others have been killed since the protests began, at least 58 of them being minors.

Despite facing human rights abuses and death at the hands of the regime, Iranians have continued gathering in large groups, united in their vision of Iran’s return to a democracy. They march forward with the chant “women, life, freedom,” which has become the rallying cry of all protests across the globe to free Iran from the Islamic Republic’s regime.

With the theocratic government of Iran silencing its citizens, it falls on the rest of the world to speak up for them and encourage the intervention of greater international powers to stop the abuse of the Iranian people. “It is a very critical time in Iran,” says one anonymous protest organizer from California. This organizer, their work and school affiliation, and fellow leaders must remain anonymous, they say, “because of the dangers faced from the regime: they don’t like when Iranian citizens living abroad speak against them, and have a record of separating families and banning us from ever returning home.” And yet, there have been protests happening in hundreds of major cities around the world, with certain dates designated globally as days of protest and solidarity with Iran. These protests worldwide have the potential to free the country. “Iranians have little to no communication with the rest of the world, we need to be their voice to call attention to their battle for human rights,” the organizer said. 

This particular leader’s organization took action, with their first rally taking place a week after Mahsa Amini’s death and yielding a turnout of over 4,000 people. “The Iranian diaspora is enduring an extreme mental toll from the current situation. We are unable to talk to our relatives back home and are constantly on edge. We can’t check on our friends and family to see if they are even alive. There is a dark, heavy cloud constantly over our heads that will remain until we see peace in our country.”

The Iranian government’s goal has been to slow any coverage or discussion and eliminate anecdotes from Iranians that would fuel more protests and indignation around the world. Without any wifi or phone coverage in Iran, there is no way to reach Iranians, and there’s no way to send them money, provisions or help. There are several organizations surfacing online claiming to be fundraising for Iranian citizens trapped within the country, but it’s best to be wary of their intentions. It is unlikely — almost impossible — that Iranians will see or feel the benefit from any of that money directly. The account @MiddleEastMatters on Instagram offers reliable information about what’s going on in Iran and provides action steps to support such as protests and petitions and has a secondary account, @Middleeastmatters.info, which shares information about ongoing protests around the world and where to join them. The best way to help is to continue to bring awareness to the events occurring inside Iran right now, and to ensure more people around the world are refusing to accept these injustices.