Today’s violence in Iran began decades ago. Who you blame and where you start the story depends on where you sit. But none of this appeared out of nowhere. Regardless, Iranians today face acute and significant political and human rights challenges, as the country remains under the rule of a clerical regime that offers limited political freedoms and enforces strict censorship. After the murder of Mahsa Zhina Amini in 2022, women across the country have led the revolutionary charge and the fight against religious oppression, which has emboldened ethnic minority groups to similarly push for greater autonomy over their daily lives. But these activists and civilian protestors face harsh repression from the clerical regime, including arbitrary arrests, torture, disappearance, and murder. Freedom of expression and assembly are severely restricted. Our own friends and colleagues have endured some of the harshest and most public of detentions, torture, and discrediting campaigns. Inside Iran, activists, volunteers, and humanitarian groups must all operate discreetly due to the pervasive threats. Abroad, Iran engages in violence in other communities where HUMANITE lives and works, such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine.
The protests in Iran began shortly after the tragic death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman, on September 16, 2022. She had been arrested by morality police for allegedly violating Iran's mandatory Islamic dress code and died in their custody. Amini's death led to widespread outrage. Protests started at her funeral in Saqez, her hometown, and quickly spread across the country, with demonstrators challenging Iran's clerical rulers and demanding "Woman, life, freedom." As an ethnic minority Kurd, her death brought diverse ethnic minorities into the streets to protest for greater autonomy over their life and lands, as well, giving the revolutionary movement a broad base of depth and support.
Protestors have coalesced this time around one demand: overthrow the Islamic Republic. Protesters, particularly women and young people, have burned pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and chanted "Death to the Dictator." Women, including schoolgirls, have defiantly removed and burned their headscarves in protest against laws mandating head coverings and loose-fitting clothing. Protests have been especially intense in areas with ethnic minorities, such as Kurds in the northwest and Baluchis in the southeast. After forty years, the message from the streets is clear: women, life, freedom.
The aftermath of the protests witnessed a heavy-handed response by security forces, who restricted access to the internet, messaging apps, and used tear gas, clubs, and live ammunition to quell demonstrations. Paramilitary militia played a prominent role in the crackdown, resulting in hundreds of deaths and tens of thousands arrested. Iran carried out seven executions linked to the unrest, though no official death toll was disclosed. Ultimately, the morality police returned to the streets, surveillance cameras were deployed to identify unveiled women, and businesses refusing to enforce the dress code faced temporary closures. Despite initial challenges, the ruling elite have maintained their grip on power so far, suppressing dissent through arrests, threats, and intimidation that continues to this day, over a year after protests initially broke out.
One of our closest partners, Hengaw, probably sums it up best: “HUMANITE has been critical with access, supplies, doctors, & nurses to protect demonstrators across Iran." We’ve also invested in efforts to raise awareness about the human rights situation in Iran and put pressure on the Iranian government.
Iran was the childhood home of one of our cofounders, Rawand Rasul, when his family was on the run from another dictator, Saddam Hussein. So we hold this place, its people, and their hospitality in special regard. The fight for freedom and human rights is not theirs alone. We aim to help sustain the network building, local training, and economic recovery that our friends and neighbors deserve. But our vision, ultimately, is an echo of the chant that reverberates from the streets: that Iranians of all stripes would have life, and have it abundantly.
When you give, you sustain HUMANITE's support of local peace efforts.
“HUMANITE has been critical with access, supplies, doctors, & nurses to protect demonstrators across Iran."