• Anna Robertson

Chelsea group forms to support Iranian women

An Iranian woman from Chelsea is calling on the federal government to respond to human rights abuses in Iran.


In response to the recent death of Mahsa Amini, Chelsea resident, Farrah, is organizing a group of fellow Iranian-Canadians and like-minded Chelsea citizens in support of the women of Iran. The Low Down has agreed not to publish her last name for safety reasons. Although the group is in the early stages of planning and is still working on their name, their goals are clear.


They want to raise public awareness about the human rights violations that are occurring in Iran. They also want to put pressure on the Canadian government to pay attention to what is happening and use whatever tools they have at their disposal, to help Iranian women and hold their abusers to account.


The recent death of Amini sparked outrage and protest around the world. The 22-year-old Iranian woman was arrested for allegedly wearing her hijab incorrectly. Iran’s ‘morality police’ detained her and beat her on Sept. 13. She was taken to hospital where she died on Sept.16.


Farrah’s parents and several of her siblings live in Iran. “I am scared for their safety. I talked to them today,” she said. Canadians are feeling anxious about the potential lack of communication with family members in Iran. The Iranian government is threatening to shut down social media platforms and disrupt internet connectivity in an effort to make it difficult to organize protests within the country. In response, Farrah reports that several Canadian phone companies are providing free phone calls to Iran until the middle of October.


Farrah and members of the group have attended rallies in support of Iranian women in Ottawa over the past weeks. She said she was amazed by how many people were involved at short notice and commented on the estimated 50,000 people who attended demonstrations in Richmond Hill, near Toronto, on Oct. 1.


Farrah describes the current global outrage as a new surge of attention being given to the problems Iranian women have been facing for decades. After the Iranian Revolution of 1979, a mandatory dress code for women was introduced in accordance with the new regime’s interpretation of Islamic standards. Less than a month after the revolution, the hijab was decreed to be mandatory for all women in the workplace, and in 1983, the mandatory hijab in public was introduced in the penal code stating that, “women who appear in public without religious hijab will be sentenced to whipping up to 74 lashes.”


Over the years there have been many protests against the wearing of the hijab, with a new surge since Amini’s death on Sept. 16. Human Rights Watch has documented numerous incidents of security forces using excessive or lethal force against protesters in 13 cities across Iran. Hundreds of people have been killed or injured and the violence shows no sign of stopping.


While Farrah is glad the world is finally paying attention to the issues facing Iranian women, she points out that the problems aren’t anything new. “It has been going on for far too long,” she said. “There are events we don’t hear about. It’s constantly happening. People are detained. People disappear.”


In her opinion, the Iranian government typically blames women and suggests that they are somehow responsible for the trouble they get into. Farrah noted that the current outrage resulting from Amini’s death, is due in part to the injustice of her arrest and the fact that she did nothing wrong.


“But this time she really didn’t do anything. She was dressed very conservatively,” Farrah said.


On Oct. 3, Mélanie Joly, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs announced new sanctions in response to what Global Affairs Canada calls, “the gross human rights violations that have been committed in Iran.”


The latest sanctions will add 25 individuals and 9 entities to the 41 individuals and 161 entities already subject to sanctions by Canada.


Farrah estimates that there are about 100 people of Iranian descent living in the Chelsea area. Her group will be meeting again in the coming days to discuss next steps.


A benefit concert will be held on Sunday Oct. 16 at La Fab sur Mill in Chelsea to raise funds to support women in Iran. Farrah’s nephew will be one of the violinists performing.


For information about the concert contact alirezatarvijii@gmail.com.