Channel Partner Leaders Address Protests in Iran

Several prominent voices in the press addressing the protests in Iran that began in September 2022 after the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody have been long-time Channel partners including Mahnaz Afkhami, Founder of Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP), and Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, MBE, Founder and CEO of International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN).

Afkhami issued a statement on the protests on Sept. 28, 2022, in which she wrote, “Women and men in Iran are bravely challenging the Islamic Republic, the only theocracy in the world, and calling for justice.  Mahsa’s story will reverberate in the future of Iran, which is currently being shaped in the streets.” 

On Jan. 19, 2023, Afkhami invited justice rights activists around the globe to express their solidarity with Iranians mobilizing for azadi–for freedom.  She wrote, “Please join us and world leaders for human rights in signing a statement entitled ‘The Iranian Struggle for Freedom: A Call for Global Solidarity.’  Nobel Prize winners Shirin Ebadi and Maria Ressa, Russian political prisoner Vladimir Kara-Murza, Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as dozens of parliamentarians, heads of NGOs, journalists, and scholars have already signed.” The joint statement was released by Freedom House on Feb. 1, 2023.

Uniquely situated to place these current protests in a longer historical trajectory, Afkhami, the Former Minister of Women’s Affairs in Iran, published a memoir in October 2022 on women’s rights in Iran and the global women’s movement, The Other Side of Silence: A Memoir of Exile, Iran, and the Global Women’s Movement (UNC Press).  From a book summary: “Right now, women in Iran are courageously demanding equality, freedom, and justice.  The stories and experiences shared in the book give context to their bravery, and demonstrate the hope found when women believe in their power and join together for a better world.” 

In addition, WLP has posted many gender equality resources for activists working in Iran (in Persian and English) on their website here.

Anderlini, a prominent British-Iranian and Director of the London School of Economics’ Centre for Women, Peace and Security, has been interviewed for a number of news sources about the situation in Iran.  Indeed Anderlini spoke to Anna Coren on CNN International on Oct. 27, 2022, about the predominantly women-led protests in Iran that began after Mahsa Amini’s death.  Hundreds of protestors have been killed and thousands have been arrested according to human rights groups.   On Nov. 1, 2022, Anderlini tweeted: “I spoke with (CNN) about the courage of women-led protests in Iran, attention to detainees, & importance of international engagement thru embassies, media & multilaterally. Isolating Iranian public from the world will do them more harm.” 

Most recently Anderlini spoke to Christiane Amanpour on CNN International on Jan. 16, 2023 (video clip). Anderlini described the #IranProtests as “a real watershed moment in the history of Iran and history of this regime.” She explains that the regime “is using the only tools it knows: violence and fear” and that a series of executions in Iran is meant to “scare people back into their homes” after months of protests. Concluding the interview, Anderlini says: “for the first time in history, even globally, we’re seeing a revolution that is not only led by women, but the message of women’s rights ‘#WomanLifeFreedom‘ is the clarion call for everybody.”

In fact, Anderlini has been quoted and interviewed in a number of news articles about the situation in Iran including by the San Diego Union-Tribune on Oct. 16, 2022: Today, girls and women in Iran have picked up gender equality fight of the generations before them.

Additionally, Femena, another organization founded by a Channel partner, and which promotes gender equality and supports women human rights defenders, published a series of reports about the protests.  “Iran Protests: Feminists and WHRDs Detained – Report 6,” dated Nov. 18, 2022, highlighted the cases of 30 women human rights defenders (WHRDs), bringing the total of cases documented to 148. While a small portion of those arrested have been temporarily released on bail, their cases pending trial, the majority of WHRDs arrested continue to remain in prison in harsh conditions. 

Sussan Tahmasebi, Director of Femena and co-founder of the Iran Civil Society Training and Research Center, was interviewed on Democracy Now! on Dec. 15, 2022.  Tahmasebi said the protests are “the longest sustained protests since the start of the revolution” and women and youth are sick of the status quo and are seeking fundamental freedoms.  “Iranians voted multiple times for over two decades for some process of reform … but the state has not given in to those demands,” she said.  “What we’re seeing now is the result.”  

Tahmasebi is also co-founder of the One Million Signatures Campaign, a grassroots effort which worked to end gender-biased laws in Iran.  For more background on the Campaign, see the book published by WLP entitled Iranian Women’s One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality: The Inside Story. 

In addition, several leaders from another Channel grantee partner Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) were interviewed extensively in the press about the Iran protests.  Homa Hoodfar, Board member of WLUML, was interviewed in The New Yorker magazine.  Another WLUML Board member, Mona Tajali, was featured in pieces in the Washington Post and Foreign Affairs.

Channel stands in solidarity with the people of Iran fighting oppression, particularly the women fighting for gender equality and bodily autonomy.