Fear of being Islamophobic silencing Western feminists on Iran - activist

A Kiwi Iranian activist says the deadly fight for freedom in Iran hasn't received the Western attention it deserves - believing the fear of being Islamophobic is silencing Western feminists.

Iranians across the world are calling for world leaders, including New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, to speak up.

Anger over issues including restrictions on personal freedoms and strict dress codes for women in Iran has reignited, with thousands of Iranians taking to the streets in protest.

The long-brewing unrest in Iran escalated after the death of Mahsa Amini, who was caught by the country's morality police for failing to correctly wear her hijab. 

Protesters are demanding an end to Iran's misogynistic political system, including the compulsory rule which forces women to wear a hijab.

At least 185 people, including children, have been killed in demonstrations in Iran so far. 

Despite these violent crackdowns, anti-government protests persist as women fight for their rights and freedom in Iran - while Iranian Kiwis fight in support of their compatriots in Iran.

Iranian people are shouting slogans against the Islamic regime, during a worldwide day of solidarity with Iranian women, and to call for justice in Iran.
Iranian people are shouting slogans against the Islamic regime, during a worldwide day of solidarity with Iranian women, and to call for justice in Iran. Photo credit: Getty Images

Iranian Women in NZ founder Dr Forough Amin told Rebecca Wright on Newshub Live at 8pm the revolution is not receiving enough attention from Western feminists and world leaders.

"I think it's the first revolution in modern history started by women and led by women and it can be quite inspiring for women in other parts of the world. But this revolution has not received attention and support it deserves from Western feminists and women's rights activists," Dr Amin said.

She believes one of the driving factors for Western silence is the fear of causing Islamophobia. But as Dr Amin explains, the protests are not about the women who have chosen to wear a hijab but the millions of women who are living under gender-based discrimination.

"Now we are paying for the prejudices and the discriminations that Western people had against Muslim women. In order to compensate for those mistakes now they are ignoring our right for not wanting to wear hijab," Dr Amin said.

Speaking to the NZ Herald, Dr Amin suggested practical measures New Zealand could take include expelling the Iranian Ambassador from New Zealand or closing the New Zealand embassy in Iran. She also would like to see the Government designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation in New Zealand. 

Iranians have been disappointed with New Zealand Government's response and have called for world leaders to amplify the voices of brave Iranian women.

"Dear Jacinda Ardern. You wore a hijab to show solidarity with Muslims and Iranian regime celebrated it. Today is the time for you to stand by women who are being killed for not wearing hijab. I call on all female politicians who wore hijab to stand with us," Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad tweeted.

Dr Amin said the tweet encapsulates what Iranian Kiwis have been asking for since the start of the uprising in Iran.

She said they have been writing letters to the Prime Minister, signing petitions and commenting on Ardern's social media posts requesting her to show solidarity with Iranian women and to support their fight for freedom.

"She just chooses to be silent on this matter."

Dr Amin said the time for showing solidarity has long passed, as what's happening in Iran has shifted from being about compulsory hijab to a genocidal massacre.

Last week, Ardern said in response to a question at a press conference she was "deeply concerned" about the situation in Iran.

"I've been deeply concerned to see the loss of life and, of course, just generally what we would consider to be human rights issues as they relate to women and girls," Ardern said.

Ardern said the Government has been consistent in raising concerns New Zealand has with Iran.

"At the Human Rights Council we were raising these issues in 2021, and we have a direct human rights dialogue where we’ve also been raising these issues directly with Iran."