“Iran’s fight for freedom serves as a pivotal moment in history”
The situation in Iran has been boiling for around 20 years now, and each movement or unrest has led to the current state of society. With Aban (Bloody November 2019) Iran reached a tipping point, the brutal killing of Jina Mahsa Amini on 16th of September 2022 sent never felt before shockwaves to Iranians in Iran and the rest of the world – as a result a women-led revolution is taking place in Iran. “After 44 years of Islamic occupation, Iranians want their country and culture back and are fighting a battle against religious barbarism, oppression, misogyny, and corruption”, as Arya Zappa aptly analyzed the current happenings.
To give deeper insides in the current situation in Iran, Thomas Venker talked to the German Iranian Music producer and artist Namito; the web3 social-impact initiative Iran DAO, raising crypto and providing resources for Iran’s women-led revolution; the Senior Journalist at Iran International Maral Mohammadi; and the German Iranian Musician and artist Arya Zappa.
How would you summarize the nucleus of the current situation in Iran?
A women-led revolution is taking place in Iran. Despite ruthless violence, unjust executions and internet censorship imposed by the regime, Iranians remain determined in their pursuit of freedom, basic human rights, and democracy. This revolution represents their unwavering imagination for a brighter future and a rejection of the Islamic regime’s control over their lives.
When did you first become aware that the situation in Iran was coming to a head?
The news of Jina Mahsa Amini’s death sent never felt before shockwaves to Iranians in Iran and the rest of the world.
The regimes’ patriarchal societal norms have manifested in the form of morality police and many other oppressive institutions and regulations, which have left a lasting impact on the lives of women and minorities in Iran. Nearly every woman can recount personal experiences of these forces limiting their personal autonomy and ability to express themselves. This institutionalized discrimination has created a culture in which women’s rights are nullified. As is the case for ethnic, religious and LGBTQIA+ minorities. This “status quo” has been fine-tuned for 44 years (since the Islamic revolution in 1979 – a very long time to endure the injustice.
Jina was not only a woman but as a Kurdish-Iranian also from an ethnic minority.
Her death and the subsequent protests felt like an explosive “final stroke” or a “tipping point” to many.
Were you immediately aware of the extent of the conflict?
In contrast to prior episodes of civil uprisings in Iran, of which a remarkable number can be discerned through an examination of recent history, the current protest presents itself as a deviation from the norm from its inception. Iranian women have been instrumental in galvanizing Iranian society towards a comprehensive understanding of the interdependence between gender in/equality and human rights. This revolution is propelled by women, ethnic minorities, students, and the Gen Z cohort, permeating all facets of society. The Iranian populace seeking freedom, regardless of gender, displays an unprecedented sense of unity and solidarity.
This is a good time to briefly review your individual life stories and connections with Iran:
We, the members of Iran DAO, are a proud mix of Iranians and non-Iranians across gender & sexual identity from around the world. Some of us have been raised in Iran, while all of us are connected to the country through our friends and loved ones. The actions of the regime have had a direct and indirect impact on our lives, including the recent violence culminating in the death of Jina, as well as incidents predating her passing.
Do you feel that the global press is adequately reporting the events? If not: What do you criticize?
Regrettably, the media coverage does not accurately reflect the gravity of the situation. Iranians within the country frequently depend on their friends and family abroad to disseminate news and information. Social capital and media attention have played a crucial role in saving the lives of protesters who have faced unjust trials and death sentences. There is a vibrant global community of Iranians who are actively engaged in reporting, advocacy, and policy formulation, providing vital support to their counterparts within Iran.
It is alarming to note that the regime frequently imposes internet shutdowns, exacerbating censorship in some regions to the point where communication is inaccessible. The regime has a history of intensifying violent crackdowns during periods when the world is unable to witness their actions.
Although we take pride in the community’s accomplishments, it is imperative to acknowledge that Iranians are reliant on the international community to bring attention to their plight.
In your opinion, which media should be followed to get the most reliable picture of the events?
Here are some trusted sources of information, like human rights advocates and activists, who provide updates in both English and Farsi. These are just a few of the many suggested sources to stay informed and connected to the latest developments in the movement.
Masih Alinejad – prominent womens rights activist
1500 Tasvir English – protest footage / general updates (anon collective) United 4 Mahsa – grassroots collective
Feminists 4 Jina – grassroots collective
From Iran – grassroots collective
Be Iran’s voice – UK based grassroots collective
Woman life freedom collective – Berlin based grassroots collective
Iran DAO – our own collective (we retweet sources we trust)
Collective for Black Iranians – grassroots collective
Iran Diaspora Collective – grassroots and doxxed collective
Disco Tehran – music collective fundraising to provide VPNs
The people on the ground in Iran are risking their lives with their protest. This is hardly comprehensible for people who do not live in such a totalitarian system.
What can you do as a person who does not live in Iran (and has no family there) to help?
What do you think you should do?
Raise your voice in support of Iranians. Listen to their stories, become their voice when news is scarce, and use your platforms to amplify their message. Sign petitions to put pressure on governments and local representatives. The internet is a vital tool in this effort, as every like, share, hashtag, and piece of content contributes to trending topics and draws attention to the cause.
The hashtag #MahsaAmini is a testament to the power of online activism, having become a defining hashtag of the decade just one week after her passing. Its usage has surpassed even those of BLM and MeToo.
When people inside Iran see proof of global support, it helps them to stay resilient and continue protesting. Keep in mind that despite internet blackouts and state propaganda, our support can still make a difference.
Standing up for Iranians is not islamophobic. Distancing yourself from those who claim otherwise is important.
Which institutions and organizations should be supported? And why these in particular?
Our collective, Iran DAO, is dedicated to advancing and supporting human rights, humanitarian, and democracy initiatives for the people of Iran. Through legally authorized means, we raise funds and distribute them to those affected by regime violence. Guided by the principle of “Woman Life Freedom”, inspired by its Kurdish origins and reinforced by the tragic murder of Jina Mahsa Amini by the Islamic regime, our mission is to empower women, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and those who support them in Iranian society to live free and peaceful lives. We achieve this through fundraising and providing OPSEC training and anti-censorship resources.
It’s always recommended to conduct thorough research, and there are numerous exceptional organizations, collectives, and foundations (some of which we mentioned here) based outside of Iran doing valuable work focussing on ethnic minorities, LGBTQIA+, etc. It’s worth noting that organizations based within Iran must undergo a government approval process, so it’s important to thoroughly investigate before supporting ‘official’ Iran-based groups.
To position oneself clearly politically and to get involved socially is one thing, the other is the concrete political process. How realistic is it that official diplomacy, NGOs and also agitative, oppositional groups in Iran will get a change process moderated with the system?
The current situation in Iran is dire and it’s hard to imagine it getting any worse. That’s why it’s more critical than ever for the international community to stand in solidarity with the Iranian people.
It’s important to note that this revolution is being led by the people, not by political oppositions or reformists. It is a pure, women-led and intersectional pro-democracy revolution. The world should be proud of that. Woman, life, freedom – these are the values we must stand for. Let us use our voices to amplify theirs.
It’s essential to avoid falling into the trap of “western meddling”. The Iranian people will solve their problems themselves. However, the world can be their voice by amplifying their cause and supporting their efforts. It is important to understand that what Iranians are fighting for – a regime-free Iran – will have a profound impact on the world.
Lastly, it’s crucial to keep in mind that transformative change doesn’t happen overnight. While discussions about the political future of Iran are important, they must not detract from the core objective of toppling the current regime.
What do you think needs to be replicated?
Instead of using the term”replication”, consider”borrowing from the successesand lessons learned” in other similar revolutionary movements. This not only helps to avoid potential abuse of power during transitions but also offers valuable lessons and insights to ensure a better outcome.
What else is there to say?
Iran’s fight for freedom serves as a pivotal moment in history, with the potential to dismantle patriarchal systems of oppression not just within Iran, but globally. The significance of this revolution for women-led liberation movements cannot be overstated, making it a matter of utmost importance for individuals and communities around the world to stand in solidarity.
As we move forward, it is our hope that the outcomes of this revolution will bring about a brighter future, not just for the people of Iran, but for all those who believe in the power of freedom and gender equality.