Forty-four years after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Tehran is once again feeling the wrath of its citizenry. Then, it was the Shah and his “modern ideals” the people sought to, and successfully did, overthrow. Now, a different regime — the Islamic Republic — is in power and in the people’s crosshairs.
In the words of Grammy-award-winning artist, Lizzo: It’s about damn time. We in the free world can, and should, stand with the Iranian people as they demand some sort of accountability from the regime, especially on Saturday — the anniversary of another revolution.
Since the brutal murder of Mahsa Amini in September 2022 at the hands of the morality police, protests have taken place across Iran and the world.
Importantly, they’ve been led by women in courageous defiance.
What started with hair-cutting, hijabs-on-fire, and chants of “women, life, freedom” has morphed into an underground movement that’s sending a very clear message to the regime: The people aren’t going to stop protesting anytime soon.
If the recent demonstrations have taught us anything about Iran, it’s this: Human rights have been continuously and increasingly restricted. The most basic freedoms, particularly those to be enjoyed by women, are outright banned.
The regime has killed at least 517 people during the protests. It has so far executed four men for participating in them. Dozens and dozens of others are at risk of meeting the same fate. More than 19,000 people have been arrested and sentenced on vague and outrageous charges; the most recent example being the 10.5-year prison sentence a 20-something, Instagram-influencing couple received for dancing near a Tehran monument.
Detainees have been placed in solitary confinement, subjected to extreme torture, and denied legal representation during sham trials.
We all know what these tactics are designed to do: Repress the protesters and instill fear. Or, at very least, try. The Iranian people are showing great resistance despite these gross human rights abuses.
Today is our chance to re-ignite global support and solidarity with the Iranian people.
As the news cycle moves on to the “next big thing,” Iranian activists like Masih Alinejad, Nazanin Boniadi, and Gissou Nia are doing their part in keeping the public informed of what’s taking place in Iran and how we can help. They’re calling on individuals worldwide to join Iranians by protesting. To show those in Iran risking their lives for freedom they’re not alone.
“Iran’s dictatorship can kill people, murder them, and put them in jail. But it cannot end this revolution,” Alinejad said in October at the Human Rights Foundation’s Oslo Freedom Forum in New York. “Many women have sent me videos telling me this —they know that they may go out and may not come back alive. But the regime cannot kill the idea behind our fight — a secular, democratic Iran.”
History has repeatedly shown us that while Iran is no stranger to protests, neither is the regime’s response to them.
The Iranian regime has increased the frequency and gravity of human rights abuses since the Iranian Revolution 44 years ago. For each attempt to hold the regime accountable for its repression — from the 2009 Green Movement calling for the removal of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the protests of 2017 and the bloody November of 2019, initially over the price of goods — Tehran has responded with violence.
Amini’s death is yet another byproduct of years living under a dictatorship that restricts basic freedoms.
Let’s remember that when good people do nothing, evil triumphs.
So on Saturday, Islamic Revolution Day, let’s lend our support to the new women-led revolution. Let’s join Iranians worldwide in using this day to draw attention to the abuses of the regime. To support the protesters in countering the regime. To irrevocably end the grave violations of human rights. And to finally hold the regime accountable.
• Claudia Bennett is a legal and policy researcher for the Human Rights Foundation.