Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. T.T. Ngo:
That this council—
1. Condemns the deadly and disproportionate use of force against protesters in Iran, following the tragic death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Jina (Mahsa) Amini;
2. Expresses concern at the disproportionate attacks on ethnic minorities in Kurdistan and the Baloch regions of Iran;
3. Supports the right of all people in Iran to protest peacefully and calls on Iranian authorities to exercise restraint and heed the call of protestors;
4. Supports the inherent right of the people of Iran to call for democracy in Iran;
5. Stands with women and girls in Iran in their struggle for equality and empowerment, and calls on Iranian authorities to cease its oppression of women and ethnic minorities; and
6. Expresses its commitment to promoting gender equality and women’s human rights, empowerment and ending violence against women and girls worldwide.
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (19:46): I rise on behalf of the Greens in support of this motion. Jina was a young Kurdish woman. Her real name, like that of many Kurds, is banned in Iran, and so Jina was forced to use a Persian name, Mahsa, when dealing with the state. The banning of Kurdish names is just one form of cultural oppression against the Kurds in Iran who are barred from speaking, singing or teaching their language.
Like the Baloch and other ethnic minorities in Iran, the Kurds are denied political and cultural rights. There is an important and painful context of oppression behind the name Mahsa. It is imperative that when we speak of her suffering, her brutal death at the hands of the dictatorship and the incredible protest and resistance movements she inspired across Iran and all over the world, we respect her family and her memory by calling her by her real name. Her family have asked that she be referred to by the name that they gave her, the name Jina, the name that means ‘life’ in Kurdish.
In September, Jina Amini was visiting Teheran from her home town in Iran’s Kurdish region. Jina Amini was arbitrarily detained by the so-called ‘morality’ police, as are many other women and girls in Iran. She was arrested for ‘wearing her hijab too loosely’. She was detained and beaten violently to the point that she died days later as a result of her injuries. Her funeral in her Kurdish home town of Saqqez turned into a protest, which quickly sparked more protests across all other Kurdish villages and cities, which then quickly spread throughout the entire country and now, as we have seen, across the world.
Since her death, thousands have been detained, charged, brutalised and killed by Iranian security forces. Human Rights Watch reports paint a distressing picture of what is happening to people standing up for their rights in Iran. Human rights groups have reported the deaths of at least 326 people, and that includes 45 children. Over 15,000 have been charged over the protests. The vast majority of these people are civilians: men, women and children, as well as journalists, students, lawyers, musicians and political activists.
In the vast majority of cases, the whereabouts of these abducted and arrested people are unknown, while others are housed in Evin and other prisons, infamous for their cruelty and torture of prisoners. Where families have received word of their loved ones’ transfer to these facilities, Human Rights Watch has stated these prisoners will face a sham trial, if any at all, before they are being charged with enmity against God, an offence that carries the death penalty.
The latest high-profile arrest has been the young Kurdish musician and rapper Saman Yasin, whose music has exposed the brutality of the regime and the growing poverty of the people living in Iran. It is believed that the death of this young father and rising star is imminent. These prisoners are being denied access to legal advice or representation, and they are unable to contact their families.
Families have protested outside Evin prison demanding information on their loved ones, but to no avail. In many cases, the close relatives of those killed at the hands of security forces have been forced to hand over large sums of money to retrieve the bodies of their loved ones, and others have been pressured to supply untrue statements about their loved ones dying of suicide or other causes. Many families of the wounded are forced to care for them in home, fearing abduction or arrest if they are taken to seek medical attention in hospitals. Jina Amini’s own brother was arrested and her family was threatened with severe retaliation unless they called on protesters to cease on their behalf, a pressure that the family has bravely continued to resist.
Across the border, the Iranian regime has also engaged in drone strikes on Iraqi soil, targeting civilian groups, targeting civilian camps of exiled Kurdish people from Iran, and the headquarters of the progressive political parties that oppose the regime, killing numerous civilians and destroying their local primary school of Koya.
The brutal crackdown being undertaken by the Iranian authorities is seeking to quash the momentum of growing descent, and to suppress the rights of people in Iran. They are suppressing the rights of women, the rights of LGBTQA+ people, the working class and those living in poverty and, importantly, they are suppressing the rights of ethnic minorities which collectively form a large proportion of the population. These minorities, which include the Kurds and Baloch people, are disproportionately affected by those who rule in Iran. Iranian authorities have long ago oppressed these groups and their communities suffer, their children suffer. These minorities stand at the forefront of the protests and are now bearing the brunt of the authorities’ attempts to quash those protests.
This is a historic moment in Iran. People have taken to the streets to vocally reject the oppression of women in their country. The protests are spreading, with protests seen in hundreds of towns, universities and schools. Across the Kurdish towns the people are holding a general strike in solidarity with the protesters, and particularly with the Baloch people who recently suffered some 80 deaths in just one day at the hands of government forces, a dark day that they now refer to as Black Friday.
Young women have been at the forefront of these demonstrations. Headscarves are being tossed in bonfires, women are dancing bare-headed in the streets, schoolgirls are heckling security agents out of their classrooms and their schools, and the long banned Kurdish flag is been flown across Kurdistan with local mosques blaring Kurdish songs of resistance throughout the towns, supplying the defining images and sounds of defiance against the restrictive morality laws and their brutal enforcement. In a country that has fatal penalties for public protests this is an incredible show of bravery and solidarity.
The slogan ‘Women Life Freedom’ has been chanted all over the world, but it has important roots in the long-standing Kurdish women’s liberation movement, a movement that effectively brought an end to the rule of ISIS in north-east Syria and Iraq, against all odds. This movement is rooted in a world view of ecology, women’s liberation and radical bottom-up democracy. In its original Kurdish form, Jin Jiyan Azadi has been chanted in the battle against the so-called Islamic State and subsequent invading Turkish forces in northern Syria, and for decades before this in the Kurdish women’s liberation struggle in Turkey. Today, in its Kurdish, Farsi, English, and countless other language forms, Women Life Freedom has inspired thousands of people worldwide to rise up in support of the protests across Iran.
The gendered and racial impacts of authoritarian rule, whether by the Iranian government, the Taliban, Russia, Turkey or others cannot be ignored. We must stand up for the right to protest, and we must speak out for women’s rights. We should fight for women’s rights to speak and sing and teach in their own language and to choose their clothes, their partner, their career and what they want to do with their bodies. I stand in solidarity with the women of Iran. The Greens here today stand in solidarity with the women of Iran. Women. Life. Freedom. We commend the motion.
The Hon. C. BONAROS (19:55): I rise on behalf of SA-Best to speak in support of this motion and echo the sentiments of other honourable members. The eyes of the world are on Iran following the death in custody of 22-year-old Jina on 16 September, three days after her arrest by the morality police for improperly wearing a hijab. Media reports say she was violently beaten in a van en route to a detention centre. The police, on the other hand, say she simply had a heart attack.
In the aftermath of Jina’s death, Iranian citizens have risked their lives by peacefully protesting. Hundreds of people have been killed and many more injured, many of them women and children. We have seen reports of state mandated internet disruptions being used to stifle freedom of speech. The United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran has told CNN:
Over the past six weeks, thousands of men, women and children—by some accounts over 14,000 persons—have been arrested, which includes human rights defenders, students, lawyers, journalists and civil society activists…
He said at least 277 people at that time—to that date—had been killed. The Iran Human Rights NGO has since reported the killing of at least 326 people, including 43 children and 25 women. There are very legitimate fears that those numbers are much higher than what has been reported. And that is before the executions begin. Imagine opening fire on protestors after prayer. That is what we have seen happening in Iran. The Iranian government, through state media, has reported 1,000 arrests and signalled its intention to hold public trials for ‘waging war against God’ and ‘corruption on earth’, charges which carry the death penalty.
On 6 November, 227 members of parliament called on the judiciary to act decisively against those arrested. According to the ABC, as at yesterday almost all of Iran’s 290 politicians demanded the death penalty for those who have harmed people’s lives and property. Only China executes more people annually than Iran. Some 20 people are now facing the death penalty in Iran. This is not a horror movie. This is real life for many women and children.
United Nations human rights experts have issued this plea:
With the continuous repression of protests, many more indictments on charges carrying the death penalty and death sentences might soon be issued, and we fear that women and girls, who have been at the forefront of protests, and especially women human rights defenders, who have been arrested and jailed for demanding the end of systemic and systematic discriminatory laws, policies and practices might be particularly targeted…
We urge Iranian authorities to stop using the death penalty as a tool to squash protests and reiterate our call to immediately release all protesters who have been arbitrarily deprived of their liberty for the sole reason of exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of opinion and expression, association and peaceful assembly and for their actions to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms through peaceful means.
It is difficult to contemplate what it is like to be a woman in Iran. It is difficult to comprehend injustices that women in the West simply cannot imagine. It is difficult to contemplate them in the face of standing here today and having the freedom to speak as we do.
In Iran, a man can divorce his wife whenever he pleases, but a woman cannot. A husband’s written consent must be provided for his wife to apply for a passport. He must consent to her attending college. There are sweeping restrictions on what women can do outside of the home. A woman’s life is literally worth half of that of a man. A woman’s evidence in court is given half the weight of a man’s. Men automatically get custody of children. Sisters automatically inherit half of what their brothers do.
A man will murder his wife and her lover if he suspects unfaithfulness or infidelity. A woman can be murdered by relatives if she is thought to have dishonoured her family. In 2020, a man beheaded his daughter with a farm sickle as he thought she was in a relationship with an unsuitable man, but not before seeking legal advice to ensure that his actions would not attract the death penalty.
Child marriages are common. In the first six months of 2021, 16,000 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 years were married. It gets worse, because the age of criminal responsibility in Iran is nine years for girls and 15 years for boys. It is one of the last countries in the world to execute juvenile offenders. According to Amnesty International, at least 73 juvenile offenders were executed between 2005 and 2015, many of them publicly. There are legitimate fears that these numbers are much higher behind closed doors.
Reports of the horrific rape of girls on death row have now been well documented since the eighties by journalists, families of executed girls, guards and even in the memoirs of a former Islamic Republic leader. The justification? The law dictates that a minor cannot be executed if they are a virgin. Girls, children, are married off to prison guards the night before their execution and raped to prevent them from going to heaven. I am not sure it could get any more horrific than that. There are fears that these practices continue even as we speak, with so many young girls arrested in recent months.
In late September, Australia’s foreign minister, Penny Wong, issued a joint statement with the Minister for Women, Senator Katy Gallagher, condemning the death of Jina and expressing concern about the disproportionate use of force that has followed. If Australia remains strongly committed to promoting gender equality and human rights, as it claims, then we should be questioning why we continue to support the existence of an embassy and a presence in Canberra.
We should be continuing to question why we appear to support a country that appears to justify the rape of little girls the night before their execution. I do not support the death penalty, and the apparent legal execution of children is unfathomable. We are talking about a country that has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a convention that absolutely bans the death penalty for people under the age of 18 years, but continues to execute minors.
They do have a responsibility—we have a responsibility to get serious with those countries that blatantly disregard the rights of women and girls. The many thousands of people who have joined peaceful protests all over the world know that we simply are not doing enough. I certainly do not profess to have any of the answers to what is a very complex issue, but I do know, as has been echoed by the Hon. Tammy Franks today, international pressure plays an important role, but gender equality is absolutely key. At the current rate of progress, the United Nations has already warned us that full gender equality is almost 300 years away. It is one of the most pressing global issues requiring our most urgent attention.
In closing, I would like to thank the Hon. Tung Ngo for amplifying through this motion the voices of the women and girls in Iran who have none. Our heart goes out to all of them, including the family of Jina and every other victim of a senseless killing. Thank you also to the many people who have written to our office urging our support on this very important motion, many of whom are here this evening. Please know that your voices are being heard and we do support your pleas for an end to the senseless and tragic atrocities that are occurring before our eyes and that we stand with you.
The Hon. S.L. GAME (20:05): I rise in support of the motion put forward by the honourable member and add what I hope to be an important contribution for our South Australian Iranian community. We absolutely should acknowledge the call for democracy in Iran and condemn the inappropriate use of force against protesters. I do acknowledge the gender-based oppression of women and girls in that country and implore for an improvement of conditions for minorities.
My primary concern is for those members of our community who have moved here from Iran and are now an important part of the society of South Australia. I have been told firsthand how difficult it is to witness current events from afar. Their impact brings to the surface memories many would like to leave in the past but may also bring a feeling of grief for family and loved ones left behind. This is why I wish to move the amendment that has been circulated standing in my name:
After paragraph 6 insert new paragraph as follows:
7. Expresses its support for the South Australian Iranian community, who have been a part of our cultural tapestry since the 1950s.
Iranians have been contributing to the South Australian community since the 1950s. Census shows there are 4,500 of Iranian birth and that number again of those of Iranian descent living here. I acknowledge the community groups, Iranian Women’s Association, Persian Cultural Association of South Australia, Persian Cultural Group (Baha’i), Local Spiritual Assemblies of the Baha’i of South Australia and Iranian Women Organisation SA Incorporated, all who play an important part in the balance of upholding tradition, culture and faith, whilst promoting cohesion, learning and integration.
I acknowledge the many Iranian Australians who have contributed to our society. The South Australian Migration Museum notes the first Iranian migrants arrived in Adelaide towards the end of the 1950s. Since that time, they have been welcomed members of our society, adding to the tapestry that is our modern culture.
We must acknowledge that Iranian South Australians come from a number of religious backgrounds, including Christian, Muslim, Baha’i, Judaism and of course Zoroastrian, an Iranian religion and one of the world’s oldest organised faiths, based on the teaching of the Iranian speaking prophet Zoroaster.
I want to shine a light on the vast academic and professional contribution of our Iranian-Australian population. The 2016 census notes that the Iran-Australian population has a higher proportion, over 40 per cent, of adults with university qualifications than the general population. They bring skills and knowledge to our economy. This is reflective of the professional workers who arrived in Australia during the eighties, nineties and early-2000s.
I applaud the high aspirations many young and second-generation Iranian Australians show with their studies and careers. I especially call this chamber’s attention to Mr Arman Abrahimzadeh OAM, ambassador of White Ribbon Australia, nationally prominent anti domestic violence campaigner and founder of the Zahra Foundation in South Australia, supporting victims of domestic violence to re-establish themselves financially as they escape domestic violence situations.
Mr Abrahimzadeh and his sisters migrated from Iran in the 1990s, along with both his parents. After the horrific and public murder of his mother at the hands of his father, Mr Abrahimzadeh has been instrumental in creating change in both legislative and cultural forms for domestic and family violence.
In conclusion, the Iranian Australian community can be incredibly proud of their contribution to the fabric of South Australia. One Nation recognises all Australians, regardless of their faith or ethnic background, as worthy of the important values of democracy, freedom and respect. This motion is the right thing to do and we must ensure that human rights are protected. I support the honourable member’s motion and hope this small amendment to specifically recognise our own Iranian Australian community is viewed as a positive contribution by the chamber.
The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (20:10): On behalf of the Liberal Party, I rise today to speak on this motion. On this side of the chamber, I would also like to acknowledge my Liberal colleagues, the Hon. Nicola Centofanti, the Hon. Michelle Lensink and the Hon. Laura Curran. We will all show our solidarity and the strong support of the Liberal Party of South Australia for this motion.
This motion calls on this parliament to condemn the deadly and disproportionate use of force against protesters in Iran, following the tragic death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Jina Mahsa Amini. We have all been confronted by the horrifying circumstances of the death of this young woman. The news reported that Ms Amini died in a hospital in Tehran, Iran in suspicious circumstances on 16 September 2022.
Ms Amini was arrested by the religious morality police of Iran’s government for not wearing the hijab in accordance with the Iranian government standards. The authority attempted to cover up the cause of her death by stating that she had a heart attack at a police station, before transferring her to the hospital. However, eyewitnesses, including women who were detained with Ms Amini, reported that Jina was severely beaten and that she died as a result of police brutality, which was denied by the Iranian authorities.
The protest which began outside the hospital where Ms Amini died quickly spread to dozens of cities across the country and grew into something much, much larger through the international communities, including those in South Australia. I was contacted by community leaders, including councillor Arman Abrahimzadeh OAM, Sahar Khajani, Suren Edgar, Shaza Ravaji, Rashanak Amrein and many other leaders, to raise awareness of the matter on 29 September 2022. I issued a public statement the next day, published on my Facebook page, to show my support and the Liberal Party’s support for the Iranian community in South Australia.
At that time, I was the first and only state member of parliament who had publicly acknowledged the matter. At the time of issuing my statement, my office found no evidence of any other social post by any state government ministers on this matter. I would like to put on the public record the statement I published on Friday 30 September 2022 on Facebook, to be included in my contribution today, as it is directly relevant to the motion. The title is ‘Statement of support for Iranian community’:
The incidents of human rights violation that have unfolded in Iran have shocked us all, following the tragic death of Mahsa Amini.
I join with the Iranian community in South Australia and Members of Parliament in Australia and around the world to express my deepest concerns and heartfelt condolences for the lives lost in the ongoing protests in Iran.
South Australians are standing in solidarity with the women-led movement in Iran and are calling for Iran to cease its oppression and stop the violation of human rights.
I fully support the United Nations statement that ‘Iran must repeal all legislation and policies that discriminate on the grounds of sex and gender, in line with international human standards’.
Australia has always strongly supported the right to protest peacefully, and it is deeply troubling to hear reports of violence, internet restrictions and journalists being arrested in Iran. South Australians are standing in solidarity with women and girls throughout Iran and around the world who are protesting for equality and empowerment, freedom of choice, freedom of speech and basic human rights for women.
My thoughts and prayers are with the Iranian Australian community during these very traumatic and difficult times, and I will continue to work with my parliamentary colleagues to condemn the use of violence by the government of Iran.
That is the end of my official statement.
What started as a protest against the brutal treatment that led to Ms Amini’s death, and the strict morality and clothing laws oppressing Iranian women, has grown into a worldwide movement calling for women’s rights, human rights, dignity, freedom, democracy and the downfall of Iran’s authoritarian clerical regime.
The Iranian authorities’ response to the peaceful protests has been ruthless and unconscionable, with reports of indiscriminate violence, region-wide internet restrictions and wideranging arrests of protesters and journalists. I join with the Iranian community in South Australia and members of parliament in South Australia to express our deepest concerns and heartfelt condolences for the lives lost and imprisonment in the ongoing protests in Iran.
Human rights organisations in Iran estimate that between 200 and 300 people have been killed since the protests erupted a few months ago, with more than 15,000 Iranians arrested across the country. Authorities have demanded harsh punishments for protesters whom they see as rioters and have tried to blame the civil unrest on foreign powers.
I am deeply disturbed by the latest news that Iran has issued the first death sentence over the protest, with the accused being sentenced by a Tehran court for the crimes of setting fire to a government building, disturbing public order, assembly and conspiracy to commit a crime against national security, as well as being an enemy of God and corruption on earth. There are grave fears and concerns that this ruling is only the start with many more trials of those arrested yet to come.
The South Australian Liberal Party strongly condemns the use of force against peaceful protesters in Iran and calls for the Iranian government to cease its oppression and stop the violation of human rights. We are standing in solidarity with the women-led movement in Iran and we strongly support the rights of Iranians to call for democracy, equality and empowerment, freedom of choice, freedom of speech and basic human rights for women and girls.
Recently, I was told by an Iranian community leader in South Australia that this feels like an historic moment in Iranian history and that for many Iranian Australians it is the first time in many years that they have felt proud to call themselves Iranian. I learnt that many migrants in Australia have felt embarrassed and even ashamed of the policies and actions of the Iranian government and have preferred to identify as Persian so that they would not be associated with the regime in Iran. However, they now feel great pride and power in this women’s movement and the calls for democracy taking place in Iran, around the world and in South Australia.
The Iranian community wants everyone in the broader community to know that they are different, they are totally different, from the Iranian regime and government over there and do not accept the regime’s policies and practices. Iranians are standing up for their rights and freedoms as a people even in the face of unimaginable consequences.
I wish to acknowledge and thank all the Iranian community leaders, organisations and volunteers in South Australia who are adding their voice to the global call to support the women and people of Iran. Thank you for your courage and persistence. Today, I want to reassure you that this parliament and the Liberal Party are standing shoulder to shoulder with you.
The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (20:19): I rise to speak in support of this important motion introduced by the Hon. Tung Ngo. I do so as a mother of twin girls. I tell my children daily that they can do whatever they want to do—within reason, of course—and achieve whatever they set out to achieve with determination and hard work. It is not lost on me that there are many young girls around the world who are not afforded the same opportunity as my girls.
In Iran, women and girls struggle to fight oppression daily. They are not afforded equal opportunities and are not empowered to be whatever they choose to be. In this great country of Australia, we often take our freedoms, opportunities and democracy for granted. We take for granted the fact that we can largely choose what we want to do with our lives, how we want to live our lives and certainly what we want to wear without fear of persecution and death. This does not happen everywhere. As Setareh Viziri, an Australian woman with Kurdish-Iranian heritage, wrote:
Death is the ultimate price for freedom in Iran. This disparity should not be lost on anyone living with basic human rights.
On 16 September 2022, a 22-year-old Iranian woman named Jina Amini died in a hospital in Tehran, Iran, after her arrest by Iranian religious police for allegedly breaching Iran’s strict dress code for women. The traditional mourning period in Iran lasts 40 days; however, since the widespread national protest began approximately two months ago following the death of Jina, the period of mourning in the country has not ceased.
What began as an outpouring of grief over Jina’s death has evolved into a transformative national movement, but it is a movement not without sacrifice, as hundreds of protesters have lost their lives and thousands more have been arrested. The two female journalists who helped break the story of Jina Amini have been jailed since last September, accused, detained and charged, without evidence, of being CIA agents.
Despite the violent crackdowns by Iranian security forces, despite the tear gas, shotguns, assault rifles and handguns, there are no signs of the movement’s momentum abating anytime soon because this has become a movement about women, life, liberty. It is these three words that can be heard and have touched nearly every corner of Iranian society. Despite the Iranian government trying to silence the masses by cutting internet across the region to prevent images and videos of the protests being circulated, these three words remain loud and clear.
We must stand with these protestors. We must commit to promoting gender equality, women’s human rights and empowerment, and we must stand to end the violence and oppression of women and girls worldwide. The establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979 has meant that women’s rights in the country have been continuously curtailed, notably, though not exclusively, through the imposition of strict dress code rules, including compulsory hijabs for women in public.
While Iranian women have previously sought to remedy their situation by backing reformist candidates and campaigns, those efforts were largely futile in bringing about substantive change. But this movement has galvanised Iranians’ resolve to stand up and seek the freedoms they deserve. This is a fight against a system of government and it is a fight for liberty and freedom that has transcended class, gender and religious divide.
We must not forget these brave women. We must continue to condemn the deadly and disproportionate use of force against them. We must continue to apply pressure and help them achieve the change they deserve and are fighting for. We must continue to promote the rights and equalities for women and girls everywhere, the rights and equalities that we take for granted in Australia.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (20:24): I also rise to support this motion, and thank the Hon. Tung Ngo for raising it, and for calling it to a vote tonight. I acknowledge the many members of the Iranian community here tonight, and particularly thank the Hon. Jing Lee, our deputy leader in the Liberal Party, for her steadfast support for the community, and for raising this issue for many weeks.
We are all shocked and horrified that a woman died after being detained on a so-called count of being ‘improper’. Women across the globe have been shaken. The Iranian regime mandates women to wear the hijab in a manner that covers their hair completely. Jina was alleged to have been wearing her hijab too loosely, and as a result was detained by the morality police. Three days after her arrest she collapsed at a police station and died. Public outrage, protests and columns have unfolded around this horrific event, and shines the light on the critical importance of women, rights and freedom.
An Islamic Studies researcher and lecturer at Charles Sturt University, Dr Derya Iner, provides some good background on Islam and the actual requirements to wear a hijab. Dr Iner says that Islam forbids acts of worship under compulsion, hence Muslim women cannot be forced to wear a hijab but must do so of their ‘own free will’. She further says:
Human beings are left alone to make their own choices. And if you are doing it not for the sake of God but for the sake of…your [country’s political] regime, that can be problematic.
Which I find as somewhat an understatement. She says that from an Islamic perspective, performing an act of worship without having the willed intention can invoke a sense of duality or hypocrisy, which is frowned upon in Islam.
Women in Iran should have the right to dress the way they want. Women in Iran should have a right to be free and make their own choices. This should be true for all women all over the world and Jina should be alive today.
The Hon. L.A. CURRAN (20:26): I rise today to support this motion and to commend the Hon. Tung Ngo MLC for bringing this motion to this place. For the benefit of Hansard, and to mark this momentous point in history, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge those who are in our galleries today. It is not often that these galleries are full, but rightly so tonight they are, so I take a moment to acknowledge you all here.
Australia is a liberal democracy where exercising one’s right of religion is a free choice. People are free to choose if they practise a religion, which religion that may be, and how they practise that religion. Not everyone is fortunate to have such freedom. It is a freedom that I believe we here in Australia take for granted at times.
Having grown up myself under Sharia law in Saudi Arabia, a country where at the time it was forbidden to practise one’s faith other than Islam publicly, I was required to wear an abaya in public, cover my hair when demanded to by matawa (or religious police), and religious police were often accompanied by a police escort who could order the detention and arrest of violators, where stonings, lashings and beheadings were common, where there was no freedom of speech, public worship or association, and a place where the media and the internet was censored and where there was a ban on public demonstrations and marches. In some countries, wearing or not wearing a hijab is not a choice. In Iran, the hijab is mandatory.
The death of Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian Kurdish woman while in police custody for allegedly not observing the strict mandatory hijab laws, has sparked protests across Iran and throughout the world. The initial protests were mostly by Iranian women, largely high school and university students, but they have galvanised both female and male Iranians to stand up for freedom.
The nationwide protests have included women burning their hijabs and cutting off their hair, and have resulted in the deaths of protesters. Some protesters have been taken to psychological institutions to reform and re-educate students to prevent ‘antisocial behaviour’, as stated by Iran’s education minister Yousef Nouri last month. He told the Shargh newspaper:
It is possible these students have become ‘anti-social characters’ and we want to reform them.
And he added that students ‘can return to class after they’ve been reformed’. Now, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died after being taken to a re-education centre by state morality police for not abiding by the state’s conservative dress code. Amini’s death has sparked weeks of anti-government protests that have spread across the country and throughout the world.
Iranian officials have said that Mahsa Amini died after suffering a heart attack and falling into a coma following her arrest. According to Emtedad News, an Iranian media outlet which claimed to have spoken to Amini’s father, her family has said she has no pre-existing heart condition.
These protests symbolise something far greater than the simple act of wearing or not wearing a hijab. It symbolises the freedom that Iranian people yearn for, the freedom we here in Australia are so fortunate to have. So the next time that South Australians speak out against their government or practise their religion or choose what they may wish to wear, just remember how fortunate you truly are.
For many in our society such oppression is unimaginable. As someone who has lived through such oppression, I can only imagine the courage it has taken for them to speak out. So today my thoughts are with all those who are so brave to speak out and continue to protest despite the consequences of protesting. They are a symbol of hope. They are a symbol of hope that maybe one day we will all share the same values and same freedoms that we here in Australia are so fortunate to have.
The Hon. R.B. MARTIN (20:31): I rise to speak in support of the motion and in solidarity with the uprisings in Iran. On September 16 a 22-year-old Kurdish woman was visiting the Iranian capital city of Teheran when she was stopped by the so-called morality police due to her hijab. She subsequently ended up in hospital and died as a result of her head injuries. You may have read and heard this story many times in the last month, but in order to acknowledge the nature of this woman’s experience and the current uprising in Iran we need to understand the cultural context.
The 22-year-old Kurdish woman whose life was so brutally taken and who has ignited a revolution is known to the world as Mahsa Amini, but her real name was Jina Amini. Iran is home to many different minorities which make up its rich tapestry of history and culture over many thousands of years. One of these minorities, who have constantly fought against the Islamic Republic regime’s oppression and colonisation is the Kurdish people. The Kurdish people make up about 15 million people inside Iran, making them the second largest minority.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has a track record of treating its own citizens with contempt and using brutal punishment to implement its rule over Iran for the past 43 years. The very deliberate and racist policies of the regime must also be highlighted and acknowledged to truly understand what the people of Iran are calling for in today’s uprisings.
The reason Jina’s real name was not official is due to the Islamic Republic’s cultural and ethnic genocide of its minorities as part of its oppressive policies. The Kurdish people of Iran are not able to register their Kurdish names and are instead forced to have Persian or Islamic names approved by the government.
Jina is an inherently Kurdish name, which ironically comes from the two words ‘jin’, meaning ‘woman’, and jiyan, meaning ‘life’. It is a very symbolic name for a woman whose life was brutally taken and who, in her passing, introduced the ‘Jin, Jiyan, Azadi’ movement. Translated to English as ‘Women, Life, Freedom’ this movement is not just a hashtag, and it is not just a slogan. It is a movement deeply rooted in over 40 years of the Kurdish women’s struggle against dictatorship and extremism.
Kurdish women in Iran, the first to use this phrase in its early protests, have an equally powerful history of resistance to repressive regimes and religious extremists. The Kurdish people have been subjected to unfathomable cultural and ethnic oppression, including but not limited to having the teaching of the Kurdish native language outlawed, having Kurdish cultural dress outlawed, having traditional celebrations outlawed, having the flag of the indigenous Kurdish people of the land outlawed, having Kurdish rights activism outlawed and having Kurdish political opposition parties outlawed.
All these individual acts can be punishable by death, and many Kurdish people have been executed as a result of standing up to these oppressions. Although the Kurdish people make up approximately 10 per cent of Iran’s overall population, they make up 50 per cent of the political prisoners being held without fair trial in prisons right across Iran.
In SA, many Kurdish South Australians from Iran are former political prisoners. Their experiences have led to their decision to flee the country, seeking refuge and ultimately landing on our shores. The personal story of one Kurdish South Australian who served five years in Iran’s notorious prisons and fled with his family to Australia is truly touching. He was in prison due to his activism against the regime after it was installed in the late 1970s. His name will remain anonymous for his safety.
Today, he says he is grateful every day for the opportunity to live in a safe and democratic country, free from discrimination and oppression. He arrived in South Australia in 1995 and has since worked on fruit farms in the Riverland and driven a taxi on the streets of Adelaide. He says that he is now a proud South Australian but has not seen his family, including his elderly mother, for over 30 years due to the fear and risk of persecution, or worse, if he were to return to Iran.
His story is not unique to former refugees from Iran, but the discrimination faced by the Kurdish people in their own country due to their ethnicity is a unique experience for the Kurdish people. The minority regions of Kurdistan and Balochistan are being systematically and deliberately targeted by the regime. In the first 50 days since Jina’s death in the Kurdistan region, 38 cities have joined the revolution by uprising against the Islamic Republic of Iran; 61 civilians have been killed, including 11 children; over 5,000 civilians have been injured; and over 4,000 people have been arrested, with many already receiving the death sentence.
What is happening in Iran and Kurdistan is as devastating as it is inspiring. A movement calling for democracy and freedom in the Middle East, led by women, and in particular young women, is beyond commendable and should be supported by Western governments. I would like to give particular thanks to everyone in the public gallery for coming out to hear these speeches and this motion, and to my friend Tara, in particular, for her advocacy over many years.
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (20:37): I also rise, of course, in support of this motion. Many have spoken eloquently tonight about the unjust death of 22-year-old Jina Amini. It is a tragedy, yet out of this tragedy have come the many protests that we have heard about tonight, and there has come an increased awareness of the brutal tactics and behaviour of the Iranian regime. There has come the bravery and the strength that we have seen by many standing up for those who are oppressed in Iran.
So I rise simply to say thank you to the members of the Iranian community who have been such strong advocates. Thank you to those of you who are here tonight and who have also contacted us in this parliament. Thank you to the many brave people in Iran standing up for what is right and true. I am very proud that our government is supporting this motion and that this parliament is supporting this motion. I would also like to thank the Hon. Tung Ngo for moving this motion and further raising the profile of this incredibly important issue.
The Hon. T.T. NGO (20:38): Before I conclude the debate, I am happy to support the amendment, provided we take out the words ‘since the 1950s’ because I believe the Iranian community might have been in Australia a lot earlier than that. I move to amend the amendment as follows:
Delete ‘since the 1950s’
The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Ngo, you are moving an amendment to the amendment; is that what you are doing?
The Hon. T.T. NGO: Yes.
The PRESIDENT: Has it been circulated?
The Hon. T.T. NGO: No.
The PRESIDENT: Would you repeat that so that everybody can hear what you are saying?
The Hon. T.T. NGO: The amendment would be: ‘Expresses its support for the South Australian Iranian community, who have been a part of our cultural tapestry.’
The PRESIDENT: You are leaving out the words ‘since the 1950s’?
The Hon. T.T. NGO: Yes.
The PRESIDENT: So everybody understands what the amendment to amendment is. Continue, the Hon. Mr Ngo.
The Hon. T.T. NGO: This motion is about giving a voice to the people who are risking their lives protesting as they demand political change and a better future for all Iranians. The momentum of the demonstration is powered by a fight to restore dignity and basic freedoms to women and girls. The Iranian people have united and are protesting against a range of oppressed rights, government corruption and the inactivity to address Iran’s economic crisis and urgent environmental issues.
I thank all honourable members from all sides of politics for supporting this motion. I thank all honourable members for sharing their stories: the Hon. Tammy Franks MLC, the Hon. Connie Bonaros MLC, the Hon. Sarah Game MLC, the Hon. Jing Lee MLC, the Hon. Nicola Centofanti MLC, the Hon. Michelle Lensink MLC, the Hon. Laura Curran MLC, the Hon. Reggie Martin MLC and the Hon. Clare Scriven MLC. As you can see, this motion is supported by all political parties.
Thank you to the Australian Iranian community, especially the South Australian Iranian community who are here tonight, for their willingness to speak out in support of the Iranian people and for their continued campaign to raise awareness about the horrific violation of human rights in their former homeland.
Amendment to amendment carried; amendment as amended carried; motion as amended carried.
The PRESIDENT: Just before you start, the Hon. Mr Pangallo, and the gallery clears, there was reference made tonight a number of times to those in the gallery. This is a very emotional and respectful motion and I have allowed that, but it is out of order. This is not something that should be happening all the time.