Iranian protestors urgently need our help

The current revolution sweeping across Iran is one of the most significant movements for women’s rights in recent history, says University of Auckland PhD student Maryam Ghasemi, and we all have a part to play.

The slogan for the movement inspired by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

Maryam Ghasemi is a doctoral student in the University's Faculty of Education and Social Work. Her thesis will investigate the effects of adverse childhood experiences on children’s educational outcomes and tragically, she says, many young people, especially women, are living through hell at the moment in her home country of Iran.

“Women, and men, are courageously fighting for their basic rights, and if you look at the Iranian government’s actions over the past four decades, you can see how we reached this crisis point.”

She says officials of the regime have wasted Iran’s national resources by using oil money for their families, as well as supporting terror-related activities by arming militia groups in the Middle East and beyond; including countries like Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

“For example, it was recently proven that the regime has been arming the Russian army against Ukraine. The millions of people currently protesting in cities across Iran want to see this money used to eliminate poverty, build infrastructure, and provide people with the better lives they deserve.”

She says the regime has been suppressing “every small movement” for the past 43 years.

“Journalists and innocent people have been killed. In fact, Iranians are currently being killed by the regime’s army on the streets, in schools, universities, and even hospitals, but this time, people are continuing their protest. They have had enough! Iranians want to get rid of this corrupt, terrorist regime and have a peaceful relationship with the world.”

Maryam Ghasemi:"The regime has been suppressing 'every small movement' for the past 43 years.

Words can’t express the horrors that are currently happening there, she says.

“The regime’s army is attacking schools and universities and severely beating students. A sad example of these brutal actions is the murder of a high school girl who was beaten to death just because the army found a torn-up photo of the Supreme Leader (Khomeini) in her bag.”

The army has also kidnapped students, and some families don’t know whether their children are alive or not, or where to find them.

Mass death sentences for many innocent protesters were recently announced and Maryam believes there is also a strong possibility the regime will start a war against one of its neighbouring countries to direct attention away from the protests.

Protesters are also being tortured in the prisons.

“For example, an activist called Hossein Ronaghi lost one of his kidneys as a result of being tortured in prison, as well as suffering broken arms and legs.”

She says when a protester is killed on the street or in prison, their family is threatened to remain silent and report their death as an accident or illness. Sometimes even the corpses are buried in faraway places and families are not allowed to visit the grave or mourn.

The situation for women is especially grim.

“Women’s basic rights have been violated in Iran for years. They are forced to wear a hijab and will be arrested if it’s not worn properly. It is unbelievable that women in my country don’t have the right to ride a bike in street, go to a stadium to watch football, or do powerlifting and body building exercises.”

A more practical move would be expelling the Iranian regime’s ambassador from New Zealand, and the New Zealand government needs to add the IRGC (the regime’s guard) to their list of terrorist groups.

Maryam Ghasemi, doctoral student Faculty of Education and Social Work

The marriage laws in Iran also overwhelmingly favour men, who are the only ones with the right to ask for a divorce.

“A man can marry up to four women,” says Maryam, “while women can’t leave the country without their father or husband’s permission. They can’t even stay in a hotel on their own.”

The whole revolution started with the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, arrested and murdered for not having her hijab attached ‘correctly’.

Mahsa has now become its symbol and the inspiration for its slogan: 'Woman! Life! Freedom!'.

So how can people in Aotearoa best support Iran’s brave protestors?

“Ask your leaders to stop diplomatic relations with the regime in Iran,” says Maryam. She believes “meaningless actions”, like suspending the bilateral human rights dialogue with the regime, are not going to be effective.

“A more practical move would be expelling the Iranian regime’s ambassador from New Zealand, and the New Zealand government needs to add the IRGC (the regime’s guard) to their list of terrorist groups.

“They have tortured, raped and murdered hundreds of thousands of Iranians over the past 43 years and are responsible for raping and sexually abusing girls currently in prisons.”

She says these imprisoned girls have been asking their parents to get them contraceptive pills as their misery continues, in some cases, daily.

"It’s imperative for Kiwis to act now, she says. “We urgently ask New Zealanders to raise awareness of the situation in Iran, join our protests, will be announced on this Facebook page and most importantly, urgently sign this petition, addressed to the New Zealand Parliament’s House of Representatives, asking the House to expel the ambassadors of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

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