Demonstrations have erupted across Iran over the past week, with tens of thousands taking to the streets. The response of the authorities has been brutal repression, with at least 35 people reportedly killed in the crackdown. Thousands joined solidarity demonstrations in London on 24 September, with around 2-3,000 people gathering in Trafalgar Square. Another protest also took place outside the Iranian embassy.
“We joined the protest today after a young woman was killed by the authorities in Iran for not covering her hair according to government standards,” Somaye Zadeh and Fathieh Yazdi told Middle East Solidarity. “This is after 43 years of oppression and discrimination of women by the Islamic Republic of Iran and has resulted in widespread protests in Iran which are probably the biggest since the Green Movement in 2009 and they are still growing.”
“The demands here are the same as the protesters in Iran: Freedom for women and the removal of the Islamic Republic. The latter because people no longer believe that the Islamic Republic will give them the freedom and equality they want.”
The Trafalgar Square protest was called by an ad-hoc group of civil activists and independent Iranian feminists, Somaye and Fathieh said. “It was called as a women’s protest, but it was hugely supported by men. We saw many people from many groups, political and civil and many individuals who are not associated with any group at the protest. This we believe shows the enormity of the situation.”
As in Iran, demonstrators’ chants targeted not only the police, but also key figures in the Iranian regime, including President Ebrahim Raisi, who has imposed harsh repression on women who don’t comply with the state-imposed dress code, and condemned the religious nature of the government and authorities. They also hit back at Mojtaba Khamenei, son of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei and a leader of the militia used to crush the wave of protests over the 2009 presidential elections. Many demonstrators in London sang anthems of the 2009 protests, including the song Bella Ciao, which was popular with Iranians abroad and frequently heard on solidarity protests outside the Iranian embassy in London.
There were also chants in Kurdish from demonstrators, showing their solidarity with Mahsa Amini’s own experience of state-backed oppression as Kurdish citizen of Iran, and with the intense demonstrations over her murder in Kurdish areas which have also faced some of the fiercest repression so far.
“Despite some sanctions that have been imposed on the morality police by the US and the modification of sanctions that allow technology companies to counter Iran’s internet lockdown, people think that a stronger stance should be taken in the form of indictment of Raisi to the International Criminal Court,” Somaye and Fathieh said. “This is not just because of recent events but because Raisi was directly involved in the widespread executions of political prisoners that took place in 1988. The oppression of women has been an issue in Iran from the moment this government came to power and the recent death of Mahsa Amini was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back and brought people onto the streets.”