In early September last year, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini traveled to Tehran, Iran to visit her family. Iran’s morality police stopped the car she was in with her brother and took her into custody. Her alleged crime? Her hijab, a head covering women are required to wear in Iran, had slightly fallen off. Three days after her arrest, Amini was pronounced dead at a Tehran hospital. She died from the brutal beatings she received at the hands of Iran’s security services.
The news and images of Amini’s death launched nationwide – and global – protests against a regime that is at war against its own people. In the largest demonstrations since the country’s 2009 Green Movement, Iranians took to the streets demanding change, thereby challenging the Islamic Republic’s authoritarian rule. Under the banner of “Women, Life, Freedom,” Iranians came across gender and ethnic backgrounds, gaining international attention and sparking protests in cities and countries around the world.
In Iran, state security services responded with thousands of arrests, violence against protestors, killing of over 500 adult and child demonstrators, and increasingly strict enforcement of the compulsory hijab law. Women have suffered severely, being pulled out of cars, beaten on the streets, and imprisoned because of the regime’s interpretation of “improper” hijab. Moreover, the Iranian regime has adopted technology to quash further protests. It has deployed artificial intelligence enabled surveillance and proposed more stringent legal punishments to accelerate the identification of and retaliation against violators. This is on top of its use of Internet throttling, which limits the use of popular communication tools used by ordinary Iranians to coordinate and communicate with diaspora leaders and supporters abroad.
Despite the regime’s brutal repression and suppression of its own people in the year since Mahsa Amini’s murder, the people of Iran continue to try to stand up. This “revolution” continues with supporters of Iranian freedom raising their voices and protesting. In defiance of the regime’s oppressive efforts, journalists continue to report, students continue to demonstrate, and women continue to speak up and out not only in Iran, but around the world.
The International Republican Institute (IRI) hears their call and proudly stands with the people of Iran. Iranians deserve a free and prosperous future, one that they can determine. That is why IRI has been so proud to honor and celebrate the work of Iranian freedom fighters, particularly Iran’s women, at its 2023 Women’s Democracy Network (WDN) Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Awards and its 2023 Freedom Award Celebration. Iranian activists Masih Alinejad, Nazanin Boniadi, and Mehrangiz Kar spoke at the Freedom Awards about the fight of Iranian women and those standing with them. “Iranians are standing up to the theocracy to demand basic rights, but they are not resisting for that reason alone,” said Alinejad. “They are fighting to protect the world from the danger posed by the Islamic Republic.
One year after Amini’s tragic death, IRI continues to stand with those seeking a freer future in Iran, where all people have a voice and can realize their full democratic potential. “A democratic dawn will soon be peering over a horizon of hope,” remarked IRI President Daniel Twining at the Freedom Award Celebration. “And a future of freedom will be within reach for all people.”Top