In the streets of Iran, they are chanting “Woman! Life! Freedom!” This powerful rally cry is growing louder as the need for government accountability and reformation becomes ever more apparent and demonstrations spread across the globe.
Sparked by the recent death of Masha Amini at the hands of the Iranian morality police for ‘improper wear’ of the hijab, her murder is the latest tragedy in a long history of the Iranian government targeting and terrorizing women and girls.
Over the last week, more people have died as Iranians protest and challenge their government’s infringement upon basic human rights. Tragically, it is likely many more will perish if past behavior is predictive of future. Many of these demonstrations are being led by women who are cutting their hair and burning their hijabs in protest.
These are no minor sacrifices. Iranian women, and the men who stand with them, know they are risking their lives for the possibility of change, for the chance of freedom. They are willing to die for what we often take for granted here at home.
The Biden administration recently announced sanctions against seven senior Iranian military and security officials in response and, today, the Treasury Department stated it will issue Iran a General License D-2 which will expand internet services to people in Iran. This is critical given the government cut off global internet access for most of its 80 million citizens mid-week. These steps should just be a couple of many to hold the regime accountable for their disregard of women’s rights, the attacks against Americans, substantiated plots to assassinate American officials, and many other human rights abuses and violations.
Now is a moment for solidarity against such brutality, no matter how small the actions may seem. For example, yesterday Christiane Amanpour refused to wear a hijab to interview President Raisi, an interview that would have been his first ever on U.S. soil during his visit to New York and the United Nations General Assembly (and a critical interview for Amanpour). But she chose her commitment to freedom and women everywhere rather than concede to his and his staff’s demands. Other journalists, like Leslie Stahl who chose to wear one for an interview with him on 60 minutes, should take note. There are no small concessions to tyrants.
There are things we can do here at home too. Call your representatives and encourage them to support the PUNISH Act or Preventing Underhanded and Nefarious Iranian Supported Homicides Act. An effort led by Senator Joni Ernst and Rep. Mike Waltz would codify the Trump Administration’s sanctions on Iranian government officials, its financial sector, and other sectors including energy. It would also prohibit the lifting of sanctions on Iran, including those that the current Administration wants to lift to re-enter the Iran Nuclear Agreement. You can also help Iranians connect to Signal messaging by hosting a proxy server so demonstrators can organize and communicate via the secure app.
The Iranian people deserve our support. Every woman deserves life, and freedom.