Demonstrators in Canada are adding their voices to world-wide protests condemning the beating death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died after she was detained by Iran’s so-called morality police.
Amini, who is from the northwestern province of Kurdistan, died in Tehran on Friday after she was arrested last Tuesday for alleged violations of the country’s dress code, which requires women to wear head coverings.
Protestors in Toronto, including members of the Canadian Kurdish community, condemned the death and the Iranian regime, saying violence against women must end.
“It is long oppression from Islamic Republic of Iran – oppression on women, youth and political parties on freedom,” said Kazhal Hamarashid, a member of Kurdistan National Congress and women rights activist.
Women in Iran want the freedom to choose what they wish to wear, and to not be forced to wear the hijab, Hamarashid said.
Meanwhile, escalating anti-government demonstrations in Iran show violent confrontations between security forces and protesters, with displays of defiance against the country’s strict dress code.
Thousands of protestors have taken to the streets, including women cutting their hair and burning hijabs, creating a movement on social media where people around the world also cut their own hair in protest.
At least six people have died in the clashes so far.
“If they do not obey to the Iranian regime and if they do not wear it properly, police put them in to the jail, torture them, beat them like what they did to Mahsa,” Hamarashid said.
“Freedom is very limited in Iran, especially for the Kurdish people,” Hamarashid said.
The UN Human Rights Office says Iran’s morality police have expanded their patrols in recent months, targeting women for not properly wearing the hijab.
The UN said verified videos show women being slapped in the face, struck with batons and thrown into police vans for wearing the Islamic headscarf too loosely.
Meanwhile, Toronto resident and human rights activist Hoda Karimi Sadr says it’s time for international organizations to take real action other than simply condemning human rights abuses in Iran.
Sadr, who came to this country with the support of the Writers in Exile program of PEN Canada, was herself imprisoned in Iran for more than five years for activities against the regime, including fighting against the mandatory wearing of headscarves.
“We, the people of Iran, have lost our hope in international organizations,” Sadr wrote in a letter to PEN. While imprisoned in Iran, Sadr was tortured and whipped.
After her release in 2019, Sadr escaped to Turkey. However, her prison ordeal negatively affected her health and she developed cancer.
Sadr, who has gained prominence with her anti-war artworks, her struggles against the Iranian regime and her work on women’s rights, continues to fight for the people she left behind despite her difficult life and health problems in Canada.
Sadr wrote that she had believed in the power of the pen throughout her entire life, but now her belief has been shaken.
“I used to believe that the pen and the word are stronger than all the atomic bombs in the world, but today, unfortunately, I have come to the point of despair that a hard and black baton can eat all the pens of my country…”
Nur Dogan is a Turkish journalist who lives in Toronto. She studied journalism at Humber College. Her stories and photographs were published not only in Canada but also in the U.S. and Europe. As a digital media reporter, she has covered national and international news for some magazines, newspapers and online news platforms. Focusing on human rights for all, Nur observes and reports on human rights violations, oppressions and illegitimate political attempts against visible minorities.
Arzu Yildiz graduated from Istanbul Bilgi University in TV Journalism Department and has worked as a journalist, editor and senior reporter. She has written critical pieces of investigative journalism about unresolved murder cases in the Southeast against Kurdish businessmen and illegal weapons supply to Syria. She has four books published and writes for New Canadian Media.