“Coming Back Home Is More Dangerous Than Staying in the Streets.” Protests in Iran

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©Middle East Images

"In similar cases in the past years, as soon as such blind repressions by the government began, people returned to their homes," says Iranian activist Masi Abolhassan in this episode while discussing protests in her home country.

This time is different – the unrest is growing and Masi believes, this might mean the end of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

(Listen to the interview by pressing the PLAY button above)

On the 16th of September Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, died in Iran after being detained by morality police because of allegedly wearing a hijab too loosely. Witnesses said she was severely beaten and died as a result of police brutality but Iranian authorities denied it. The death of Mahsa Amini sparked the protests in Iran counting its seventh week now.

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) states that around 300 people had been killed during the protests, including 46 children. However, the exact numbers vary in different reports. Over 14 thousand protesters have been arrested already.

<p>People gather during a protest for Mahsa Amini, who died after being arrested by morality police allegedly not complying with the strict dress code in Tehran, Iran. ©Middle East Images</p>

People gather during a protest for Mahsa Amini, who died after being arrested by morality police allegedly not complying with the strict dress code in Tehran, Iran. ©Middle East Images

According to the Iranian government, at least 36 members of the security forces were also killed. Tehran's chief prosecutor announced that over a thousand protesters have been charged as of this day. Lately, the crackdown on protesters is becoming even more violent.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has blamed the United States and Saudi Arabia for orchestrating the unrest. Meanwhile, Iranian people chanting "Woman, Life, Freedom" and "Death to the dictator", are demanding regime change, freedom, and equality.

<p>During the protests, people chant ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ and ‘Death to dictator’, demanding regime change and equality. ©Middle East Images</p>

During the protests, people chant ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ and ‘Death to dictator’, demanding regime change and equality. ©Middle East Images

<p>©Middle East Images</p>

©Middle East Images

<p>©Middle East Images</p>

©Middle East Images

<p>Protesters in Tehran. ©Middle East Images</p>

Protesters in Tehran. ©Middle East Images

<p>©Middle East Images</p>

©Middle East Images

In this episode, two Iranian women – Masi Abolhassan and Shaghayegh Norouzi – tell why they had to flee their homeland and how, both living in exile now, they are still fighting for changes in Iran.

Masi Abolhassan is a journalist, photographer, and women’s rights activist from Tehran.

<p>Masi Abolhassan walking in the streets of Tehran without a compulsory hijab. Iran, 2018. ©Mykolas Juodelė</p>

Masi Abolhassan walking in the streets of Tehran without a compulsory hijab. Iran, 2018. ©Mykolas Juodelė

<p>Masi camping in Hormozgan, in the south of Iran, in 2019 during a one-year-long trip around Iran hitchhiking. ©Mykolas Juodelė</p>

Masi camping in Hormozgan, in the south of Iran, in 2019 during a one-year-long trip around Iran hitchhiking. ©Mykolas Juodelė

Two years ago she had to flee Iran and is living in Turkey now, where she works as a lead researcher in the Iran Prison Atlas organization. Previously NARA published her photostory You Only Leave Once about transgender women fleeing Iran and looking for a better life abroad.

Masi is still in touch with some of her friends and relatives in Iran even though the internet is being blocked and the communication is very complicated: “I can't have a video call with them at all, and sometimes a simple greeting takes two days.” However, Masi believes the protests might actually lead to the end of the Islamic State of Iran.

<p>Masi in Izmir, Turkey, in 2019. Turkey has become her home for now but Masi believes that she will soon be able to return to Iran. ©Mykolas Juodelė</p>

Masi in Izmir, Turkey, in 2019. Turkey has become her home for now but Masi believes that she will soon be able to return to Iran. ©Mykolas Juodelė

Shaghayegh Norouzi is a human rights activist and a founder of Iran's #MeToo movement. It’s been two years since she moved to Spain where she continues publishing #MeToo stories of Iranian women and fights for more freedom and equality in her home country.

“The moment that you leave your country and feel that you cannot come back is a tragic moment. Maybe I will never see that house my grandfather had, that avenue, that door... This is tragic really, and a very hard feeling. But all of us have hope now again that maybe it will not take that long time to go back,” says Shaghayegh.

<p>Shaghayegh Norouzi, an Iranian actress and director, was fighting for women's rights, especially in the film industry for over ten years. She had to leave Iran because it became impossible for her to get a job in the film industry.</p>

Shaghayegh Norouzi, an Iranian actress and director, was fighting for women's rights, especially in the film industry for over ten years. She had to leave Iran because it became impossible for her to get a job in the film industry.

In the latest update from Iran, Amnesty International fears 10 more possible deaths, including children in the city of Khash in Sistan and Baluchestan province.

A map made by an anonym shows the spread of the protests all over the country.

<p>©Middle East Images</p>

©Middle East Images

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