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I’m free when Iranian women don’t have the same luxury – but now they’re spearheading a revolution | Setareh Vaziri

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I am a free woman. It is a luxury that is not offered to women in my homeland, Iran. As an Australian of Kurdish Iranian descent, the past six weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions. A cocktail of fear, grief, guilt, pride and hope. Fear for the safety of millions of Iranians living under an oppressive regime. Grief for the hundreds of innocent lives lost, the thousands imprisoned and brutally tortured. Guilt for not being a louder voice for a pain I know all too well. Death is the ultimate price of freedom in Iran. This disparity should not be lost on anyone living with basic human rights.

Iran is a country of contradictions. It has intense natural beauty, deep cultural and historical roots, and a formidable people of a kaleidoscope of ethnic backgrounds. For 43 years, Iran has been under a theocratic rule, ruled by a supreme leader and a power structure that has instilled fear in the very people he rules and ostracized the country from the global community. His regime has a scathing record of human rights abuses against political dissidents, minorities such as Kurds, Baluch, Sunni Muslims, Baha’is, and the LGBTQIA+ community, among others.

The regime has used censorship to stifle the dissenting voices of poets, writers, journalists, and free thinkers daring to criticize it. Most scathing of all has been the regime’s denial of basic human rights and freedom for half the country’s population, its women.

Women were denied freedom of dress, speech, equal rights in court, and the ability to exercise superior decision-making power in government or the justice system. Despite this, young Iranian women are said to have the highest literacy rate in the Middle East, with a high percentage of university graduates, and one of the highest percentages of university graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics by compared to other countries. .

The September 16 death of Iranian Kurdish girl Mahsa (Jina) Amini while in the custody of vice police for allegedly failing to observe strict mandatory hijab laws sparked a women’s movement Iranian women, mostly high school and university students, who are today at the head of a revolution. This movement has galvanized the determination of Iranians to rise up and seek the freedom they deserve.

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Make no mistake about the purpose of this fight. It is not a fight against religion but rather a system of government and a fight for freedom that has transcended gender, class and religious divides. Women, veiled and unveiled; men, young and old; and religious and secular Iranians stand side by side in calling for regime change. In a country where a woman can be persecuted for exposing an inch too much of her hair, young women are in the streets of Tehran and all the major cities of Iran, chanting “zan, zendegi, azadi” (woman, life, freedom).

They are arrested, beaten, raped and killed and continue to come forward, day after day, demanding that their voices be heard. To say that as a fellow Iranian I am proud is an understatement. I am in awe of the bravery and courage of these lionesses. Their iron will to fight tyranny and speak out against hatred and darkness is an act of defiance that has amazed and humbled the Iranian diaspora and the global community, who are also mobilizing in major cities around the world, including in Australia, to show their solidarity and amplify the voices of those in Iran.

The Iranian Women’s Revolution tapped into a collective struggle for women across the world as we continue to face issues of equality and equity, such as a persistent lack of representation at all levels of government. and businesses; the gender pay gap; and most disturbing, the continued erosion of women’s rights in places like Afghanistan, India and even the United States. It announces a strong message to all authoritarian and patriarchal societies that a paradigm shift is upon us.

As the uprising escalates, Iranian women’s anger is also growing in response to the regime’s incredible savagery. Human life is priceless and no death is justified. The determination of the Iranian people and the images on social media of young lives lost in this fight clearly demonstrate that they have accepted that their freedom as a nation will come with sacrifice. There is no greater power than collective human resolve. This is the realm of hope and where the promise of freedom lies.

Australia’s response to this crisis is important. As members of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, with a strong international reputation and a large Iranian diaspora, our response must be commensurate with our commitment to protecting the universality of rights and the promotion and advancement of social inclusion by guaranteeing the equal rights of women and girls. The Australian government’s action will send a clear message not only to the Iranian regime, that we are monitoring and questioning its legitimacy to rule Iran, but also to all migrants who call Australia with love, that they matter and that our government will not stand by while humans suffer.

The Australian government has sent a message of solidarity and publicly condemned the regime’s barbaric response against innocent protesters, however, to date I have not seen any announcement of definitive actions. The Canadian government, for example, several weeks ago announced targeted sanctions against officials and their affiliates within the regime’s power structure.

Without action, we are failing in our commitments and the human rights we claim to protect. We fail to recognize that inequality and injustice against women and vulnerable people everywhere is injustice against everyone.

Human beings are members of a whole, in the creation of an essence and a soul. If one member is afflicted with pain, the rest of the worried members will remain. Saadi, 13th century Persian poet.

Setareh Vaziri is an Iranian-Australian of Kurdish origin. Born in Iran, she emigrated to Australia with her family in the early 90s and resides in Melbourne. She is a mother of two daughters, a writer and a women’s rights activist. She works in mitigating financial crime in the banking sector

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