Members of Toronto’s Iranian community are taking a stand against what they say is the world’s silence following the death of a 22-year-old woman in Iran after being detained by vice police.
Mahsa Amini was arrested in Iran on September 13 after police allegedly challenged her hijab, a headscarf that Iran’s vice police require all women, regardless of nationality or religious beliefs, to wear.
She died three days later.
Police say her death was due to a heart attack, but many in the community believe Amini was murdered while in custody.
Azam Jangravi is one of them. She was part of a group of protesters who gathered Monday night in downtown Toronto for a moment of silence to acknowledge a life cut short.
“The whole world is silent,” said Jangravi, who added that she was also arrested once in Iran for removing her hijab.
“Iranian women have no rights in Iran. We can’t just walk the streets – it’s a fight when we walk the streets.”
Jangravi fled the country to protect herself and her daughter.
“I’m here to be a voice [for] her,” she said.
Iranian president to speak at UN this week
Amini’s death comes as Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is due to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week. It also comes as the United States and a number of European countries hope to negotiate a new deal with Iran over its nuclear program, after Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the previous deal when he was President.
Speaking ahead of his trip to the United States, Raisi called his appearance an opportunity to speak about the “malevolence” he alleges unspecified nations and world powers have towards Iran. He did not specify.
Western governments, including the United States and France, have demanded accountability for Amini’s death. But for some Iranian-Canadians, that doesn’t go far enough.
“I would like to address the UN, Russia, the United States, France and all the countries sitting at the table negotiating the nuclear agreement with Iran and tell them not to any table the Iranian government sits at, that table is based on the blood of human rights,” said Nima Yajam, who identifies as a gay rights activist and political refugee.
Yajam notes that human rights violations in Iran also affect the LGBT community, saying two activists have been sentenced to death there only two weeks ago.
“You don’t include human rights in your deal with Iran. If you did, you wouldn’t sit on the table with the Iranian government.”
UN human rights commissioner calls for investigation
Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif called for a “prompt, thorough and impartial investigation”.
“The tragic death and allegations of Ms. Amini must be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated by an independent competent authority which ensures in particular that her family has access to justice and to the truth,” said said Al-Nashif.
Al-Nashif calls for the repeal of all discriminatory laws and regulations that mandate the compulsory wearing of the hijab.
Raisi has ordered an investigation, but protest organizer Nazanin Samavati says Iran lacks an independent judiciary and fears his investigation may not be legitimate.
“Iranian voices must be heard. We are tired of this brutality,” Samavati said.
Samavati organized the event to raise awareness about the situation of women in Iran and the “unjust death” of Amini.
“The World is Sleeping”
Maya Nozadtehrani, who arrived in Canada five months ago, says she couldn’t sleep for days after Amini’s death.
“The world is sleeping,” Nozadtehrani said at Monday’s protest. “Whenever something happens there, the world goes silent,” she added.
“Two days ago it was Mahsa, but it could be me.”
Nozadtehrani hopes to see the world come together for Amini as he did for George Floyd.
“The world must choose between us or the regime,” she said.
“Listen to our voice, that’s the only thing we need.”