Iran: We stand in solidarity with women and protesters

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Artin Bakhan via Unsplash

We, undersigned feminist and human rights organisations stand in solidarity with the courageous women in Iran who have taken to the streets to peacefully protest the death-in-custody of Mahsa Amini and to demand their bodily rights.

We also express our profound sympathy to the families of the incredible Iranian protesters who have lost their lives to the ongoing brutal police crackdown in response to peaceful demonstrations. We urge all feminists and women human rights defenders, their organisations in different countries and particularly in the MENA region, to stand in solidarity with Iranian women and amplify their voices, through all means possible, especially now that Iran’s government has severely limited internet access across the country.

The weeks have witnessed unprecedented scenes of protesting in Iran. For the past four decades, the Iranian government has violently imposed mandatory hijab and other laws to limit women’s social and economic participation in society and force them out of the public space. Yet, despite violent crackdowns against women who have consistently and peacefully expressed demands for change, we are now witness to the Kurdish motto of “Women, Life, Freedom!” being chanted by Iranians across the country.

Protests broke out in Iran following the September 16 death of Mahsa (Zhina) Amini, a 22-year-old woman, in police custody three days after she was arrested by “morality” police for allegedly wearing her headscarf loosely. Mahsa was on a family trip to Tehran, but within a few hours of going out with her brother, she was in a coma on a hospital bed due to sustained brain injury and never recovered. Despite threats by intelligence forces for a quick burial in silence, Mahsa’s family refused to succumb and took her body to Saqqez, her hometown. Women at her funeral took off their headscarves and widespread protests in Kurdistan province were ignited. This collective mourning of a life lost so soon and so unjustly, escalated into countrywide protests with women at the forefront of every demonstration.

In recent months, Iran’s government has ramped up arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment of civil society activists, especially women’s movement activists, in a blatant attempt to silence those who speak up against systematic discrimination and repression. At the same time, we have witnessed increased violence from the so-called “morality” police patrols toward women. The case of Sepideh Rashnou from July of this year was a vivid example of these often violent encounters. Sepideh was arrested soon after her verbal argument on a bus with a mandatory hijab enforcer went viral. Sepideh was violently arrested, kept in solitary confinement for weeks, and released after she had to make a forced televised confession where she clearly had a bruised face and was in poor health.

Iran’s recent protests are referred to as a feminist revolution. Young, fearless women in the streets are taking off their headscarves and setting them on fire right in front of massive line-ups of riot police forces and demanding freedom. These protests have now gone beyond all divides, and men in large numbers are supporting these fierce women. Even in small cities with more traditional beliefs, everyone is chanting “Women, Life, Freedom!”

Many women are sharing videos of themselves cutting their hair to protest Mahsa’s killing. Several female Iranian artists and celebrities forced to comply with mandatory hijab have joined the movement by posting videos in which they take off their hijab despite the repercussions that this might have on their careers. Celebrities and athletes are among others who are supporting Iran’s first-ever feminist revolution by stepping down from their sports teams or supporting protestors in interviews.

As the protests continue, the government has escalated its massive crackdown and scores of women human rights defenders, journalists, students, human rights lawyers, and ordinary protestors have been arrested. Based on recent reports from human rights groups, over 100 protesters have been killed by security forces. The government has also imposed another internet blackout to block people’s access to social networks and messaging apps to suppress the protests. This is similar to the pattern used in the 2019 uprisings, which blocked communication in social networks and messaging apps to stop people from sharing images from protests and the violent and bloody police crackdowns. However, the voice of women and feminist groups are amplified by their sisters and peers in many countries. They have stood up in solidarity by organising protests and publishing videos supporting the movement in Iran.

We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with Iranian women who are protesting the unjust killing of Mahsa Amini and who are demanding democracy as well as rights to bodily autonomy and fundamental freedoms all over Iran. Furthermore, we urge our feminist sisters in international organisations and regional groups to show their solidarity in any way possible.

 We urge UN Human Rights Council to condemn the violent actions of the Iranian government against women and hold them accountable for the suppression and killing of protesters.

 We urge UN member states to support calls for a UN led investigative mechanism on Iran through the adoption of a resolution during an urgent session of the ongoing 51st regular session of Human Rights Council.

 We urge the UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls, the Special Rapporteur on Elimination of Violence against Women, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, the Special Rapporteur on Peaceful Assembly and other UN mandate holders to investigate and report on the systematic violation of the rights of Iranian women and protesters by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

 UN and member states should work with the government of Turkey and Kurdistan Regional Government to ease border crossing restrictions for those rights defenders fleeing to safety and work to ensure the safety of HRDs in their respective countries. Governments and the UN should facilitate and expedite refugee status and repatriation processes of Iranian HRD and especially WHRDs in neighbouring countries who are at risk of extrajudicial retaliation by Iranian authorities.

 We urge the governments of countries with diplomatic ties to Iran, especially Global South and non-aligned states, to summon the ambassadors of Iran and express their concerns over the violence being used against protesters and the widespread arrests of human rights defenders.

 Donors should consider expanding and urgent support funding for human rights defenders, especially women human rights defenders, facing threat and risk, including fellowship and respite opportunities, that are more flexible and easy to access.

 We ask international and regional human rights organisations to take a stance on the recent events in Iran, to follow up on the situation of those detained, press for their release, and demand that Iranian authorities ensure their safety and health while in detention.

 We ask the journalist associations and unions to condemn the arrests and arbitrary detention of Iranian journalists in recent days, especially female journalists who have been at the forefront of reporting on recent developments.

 We ask feminist groups and organisations to continue supporting Iranian women’s rights and their demands for bodily autonomy through protests, peaceful gatherings, statements, production of artwork, and other means.

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  • Co-signatories

    Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran, US
    Advancing Knowledge in Democracy and Law Initiative, Malaysia/Southeast Asia
    Afghanistan Women Protesters, Afghanistan
    Aliansi Perempuan Bangkit / Emergence Women Alliance Indonesia
    All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), Malaysia
    Arab Digital Expression Foundation, Egypt – Regional Mandate
    Arab Watch Coalition, MENA Region
    Article 19, Global
    Artistic Freedom Initiative, United States
    Arts for Women Indonesia, Indonesia
    Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship, MENA Region
    Asociación Ciudadana ACCEDER, Costa Rica
    Association el-Karama, Tunisia
    Association for Monitoring Gender Equality, Turkey
    Association of Women Lawyers Sel & FT, Malaysia
    Association Suisse pour les Droits des Femmes, Switzerland
    Association Tunisienne des Femmes Démocrates , Tunisie
    Assocition d Environnement et Developpement Durable , Tunisie
    AWID (Association for Women’s Rights in Development), Global
    Balance Promoción para el Desarrollo y Juventud, Mexico
    Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), India-South Asia
    BMMA, India
    Cairo Foundation for Development and Law, Egypt
    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), MENA Region
    Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW), Canada
    CCMW Niagara Chapter, Canada
    Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance, Egypt
    Center for Human Rights in Iran, United States
    Center for Human Rights Studies, University of Surabaya (CHRS Ubaya), Indonesia
    Center for Reproductive Rights, Global
    Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy, Germany
    Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), Malaysia
    Channel Foundation, United States
    CIVICUS, Global
    Coalition for Sexual & Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies (CSBR), Indonesia
    Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, Global
    Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, Canada
    Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces, United States
    Congrgacion Del Buen Pastor , Chile
    CREA, Global
    Culture Action Europe, Europe
    Daraj Media , Lebanon
    Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), MENA Region
    Demokratik Emekliler Sendikası (DEM-SEN) , Turkey
    Deutscher Frauenring e.v, Germany
    Dorothy Njemanze Foundation (DNF), Nigeria
    Ecumenical Community for Contemplative Engagement
    Equality Fund, Global
    Equality Watch Women’s Group – Eşitlik İzleme Kadın Grubu (EŞİTİZ), Turkey
    ERA – LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey
    Erktolia, Turkey
    Fe-Male Feminist Collective, Lebanon
    FEDERA, Poland
    FEMENA, MENA Region
    Femmes et Droits Humains, Mali
    FIDH-MENA, MENA Region
    Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Economiques et Sociaux , Tunisie
    Foundation Innovation Social Development, Sri Lanka
    Free Women Writers, Afghanistan, USA
    Fund for Congolese Women, Democratic Republic of Congo
    Fundacion Justicia y Genero, Latin America
    GAMCOTRAP, Gambia
    Gender and Democracy Centre, Indonesia
    Gerakan Perempuan Peduli Indonesia [Indonesian Women Awareness Movement], Indonesia
    Good Shepherd International Foundation, Italy
    Good Shepherd Mission Hub, Malaysia
    GreeneWorks, United States
    Hawaa Organization for Relief and Development, Iraq
    Human Rights Activists (in Iran), United States
    Human Rights Sentinel, MENA Region
    Human Rights Watch, Global
    IFEX, Global
    Indonesian Legal Aid Association for Women (APIK), Indonesian
    Inkyfada/Alkhatt, Tunisie
    Institute of the Third Space, Indonesia
    International Alliance of Women (IAW), Global
    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Global
    International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW AP), Malaysia
    Intersection Association for Rights and Freedoms, Tunisia
    Iraqi Women Network, Iraq
    IRIS Women Watch, Turkey
    Isha Lisha- Haifa Feminist Center, Haifa
    Islamic Development and Relief Agency, South Sudan
    Jamaity, Tunisia
    Jeunes femmes pour la démocratie , Morocco
    Jurnal Sang Pemula, Malaysia
    Justice for Iran, Iran-UK
    Kaos GL, Turkey
    Kawaakibi Foundation, Norway
    KEDV, Turkey
    Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centrem, Palestine
    Kirmizi Biber Dernegi, Turkey
    KPI-LJSP Cabang Jember , Indonesia
    Kun Organization, Libya
    League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI), Iran
    Legal Dignity, Malaysia
    MADRE, Global
    MAJU, Malaysia
    Manushya Foundation, Southeast Asia
    Marta Abrantes Mendes, Marta Abrantes Mendes
    MenEngage Global Alliance, Global
    Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders, Mesoamerica
    Miaan Group, United States
    Musawah, Malaysia
    Muslims for Progressive Values, United States
    Mwatana for Human Rights, Yemen
    National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, United States
    National Observatory to Defend the Civility of the State, Tunisia
    No Peace Without Justice, Global
    No Sanctions on Iran, United States
    Noor, MENA Region
    Open Society Foundations, Global
    Organisation Contre la Torture en Tunisie , Tunisia
    PASS Foundation- Peace for Sustainable Societies, Yemen
    Passon Legal Organization, Afghanistan
    Peace Track Initiative, Yemen-Canada
    Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor, Malaysia
    Persatuan Warisan Wibawa , Malaysia
    Political Well-Being, Turkey
    Programme Against Custodial Torture and Impunity (PACTI), India
    Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), MENA Region
    Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, United States
    Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Justice (RESURJ), Global South
    Réseau National des Jeunes Filles et Femmes Rurales du Mali ( RENAJFFERM), Mali
    Rosa Women’s Association, Turkey
    Rumpun Indonesia, Indonesia
    Saiamak Pourzand Foundation, Iran-US
    Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, Yemen
    Secularism Is A Women’s Issue, Global
    Sekolah Damai Indonesia (SEKODI) Bandung, Indonesia
    Sisters in Islam (SIS), Malaysia
    Sisters of the Good Shepherd-New York/Toronto Province, United States
    Sisters of the Good Shepherd, New Zealand, Australia
    Society for the Improvement of Rural People, Nigeria
    Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) , Malaysia
    Sonke Gender Justice, South Africa
    Southern and Eastern Trade Information and Negotiations Institute, Uganda
    Sukaar Welfare Organization, Pakistan
    Suluh Perempuan Indonesia , Indonesia
    The Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW), Asia-Pacific
    The Association for Struggle Against Sexual Violence, Turkey
    The Awakening – A Member of Men Engage Alliance Pakistan, Pakistan
    The Freedom Initiative, United States
    The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), MENA Region
    The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation , Global
    The Munathara Initiative, MENA Region
    Turkish Council of Women, Turkey
    United for Iran, Iran-US
    Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights, United States
    Väter Aktiv, Italy
    Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State, Tunisia
    Virtual Activism, United States
    WHRD MENA Coalition, MENA Region
    Women for Human Rights, Single Women Group (WHR), Nepal
    Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) – New Ways, Turkey
    Women’s Rights Center, Montenegro
    Women’s March Malaysia, Malaysia
    Women’s Council Denmark, Denmark
    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Global
    Yayasan Penghapusan Kekerasan Terhadap Perempuan “Mitra Perempuan” [The Foundation For Elimination of Violence Against Women “Mitra Perempuan”], Indonesia
    Yayasan Perlindungan Insani Indonesia, Indonesia
    Yemen Future for Media and Culture Development, Yemen

  • Member organisations - Iran
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