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Motion: Iranian Protests

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: 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.

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