I am sure many are like me and have switched off from TV and radio news as it just all seems so distressing and there is a feeling that we can’t do an awful lot about any of it. I know this is wrong but there is a certain amount of self-preservation going on!
It is not so easy for others to switch off from world events as many are worried about families, friends and relatives living elsewhere. For example, those from Iran are currently watching on from afar as a new wave of protests is taking place. The recent wave began after the death on 16 September this year of a young Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, 22, at the hands of Iran’s morality police for allegedly breaking the strict rules on hijabs.
I have spoken with a few Iranians recently and am trying to understand what it must feel like to look on as your family and country seem to be under such uncertainty.
There are varied protests springing up in Iran with immense numbers involved in some cases. There are boycotts of certain government backed brands and some shopkeepers have not opened their shops in protest. One recent video had allegedly shown a shopkeeper being beaten for sheltering a protester.
And a recent cry for help was sent out of the country by some doctors who had been following their Hippocratic Oaths to treat injured protestors but were not given the chance before the security personnel had taken the mostly young and injured protestors away.
Many of young protesters are currently imprisoned
Distressing reports from the country indicate that over 400 protesters, including over 60 children, have been killed and close to 18,000 arrested as security forces have struggled to suppress what Iran’s leaders have portrayed as ‘riots’, according to the Iranian Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA). It has also reported the deaths of a number of security personnel.
It is extremely hard to imagine the fear and worry for the parents of one of those young people.
Support of Iranian protesters in Glasgow, Berlin and Edinburgh
On Saturday 19 November, hundreds of Iranians and their supporters took to the streets of Glasgow in a march for justice in support of protestors in Iran with the slogan ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’. The marchers highlighted the plight of dozens of protesters who have already been sentenced to death by rushed, sham courts and to remember the victims of flight PS752. The visual imagery and the passion of the protesters was striking.
A recent march in Berlin in October saw over 80,000 Iranians from Germany and elsewhere in Europe uniting in solidarity with protestors in Iran. The mood was one of unity and was inspirational.
A ‘Woman Life Freedom’ mural has been painted at St John’s, Princes Street in Edinburgh and the finished mural was opened on Sunday 27 November.
The Islamic Republic of Iran and Sharia law
Iran is a country with a rich cultural heritage and one of the oldest, if not the oldest, civilisations.
Iran has been ruled by different monarchies almost without interruption from 1501 until 1979 when the Iranian Revolution led to the country becoming an Islamic republic. Iran has a population of 86 million. It’s estimated four million migrated to other countries after the revolution, with over a million to the USA.
Demographically a young country, Iran’s median age is 32, compared with the UK medium of 40, the USA 38 and 48 for Japan.
Iran’s constitution defines the country as an Islamic Republic, with Shia Islam as the official state religion. All laws and regulations must be based on ‘Islamic criteria’ and an official interpretation of sharia. The Zoroastrian, Jewish and Christian faiths are recognised. However, according to a US Department of State 2021 report on international religious freedom: Iran, there has been ongoing discrimination against other minority religions such as the Baha’i community.
Is Iran now in Free-fall?
On 16 December 2021 the UN General Assembly approved a resolution expressing a number of serious concerns about human rights but also balance this with a few positives. This November, the European Parliament strongly opposed capital punishment and violent oppression of legitimate protest. Direct contact between the European Parliament delegations and committees with official Iranian counterparts has ceased until further notice. They declared they would not look away from those in the streets of Iran.
The economy of Iran now seems to be in free-fall. Many have not been paid for months and the currency has plummeted. The currency has seen a continuous drop in value since the 1979 revolution when one US dollar was worth 70 Iranian rials compared to its current value of 1 USD = 42,400 rials.
The internet in Iran is down, presumably to restrict communications amongst protesters and also with the outside world. In the last uprising in November 2019, when Iranians protested against an overnight three-fold hike in fuel prices, a similar complete shutdown of the internet was followed by the killing of at least 304 people according to Amnesty International, although it has been estimated by other sources to have been in the thousands.
For Iranians abroad trying to find out what is happening most are following events via sources such as Instagram, with posts making their way through the internet filtering by the use of VPNs (virtual private networks). The videos are often distressing but show the immense scale of the protests. There has been limited coverage of events in Iran and our mainstream media, some of which may be due to being unable to verify sources.
The attention of much of the world is currently on Qatar, where the Iranian football team is participating the 2022 World Cup. However, recent reports indicate that Qatar (who support the Iranian regime) have cancelled visas for Iran International Television (IITV) reporters. IITV London-based television station has been closely reporting on the revolution on the streets. However, the Iranian government has now designated IITV as a ‘terrorist’ organisation.
Qatar is ranked 119th on the World Press Freedom Index 2022 created by Reporters Without Borders, while Iran is ranked 178 out of 180 countries. Incidentally, the United Kingdom is ranked 24th.
What can be done? Are protesters helpless?
Protesters in Berlin and the recent protests in Glasgow, asked western countries to stop signing deals with Iran and for western governments to cease any contact with the Iranian authorities and the regime. There have been repeated cries for cessation of diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic, who are not regarded by the protesters as the legitimate representatives of the people.
Let’s keep track of our country’s trade and diplomatic links with other countries. We must ensure that we have moral foreign policies.
Join with protesters to fight for freedom, not just in Iran but elsewhere. Even in the United Kingdom, recent bills have led to loss of freedoms for protesters. Governments must listen to their citizens. Without freedom to speak out and protest how can we improve our societies for our citizens?
Take action for worldwide solidarity
Let’s come together for a much better world.
Yes, admire, but above all understand why lives are at risk for protesters in Iran. Then look at the UK and recent bills that have led to the loss of freedoms for our protesters.