Iran’s horrific situation feels far away. It’s not. We must stand up for women.

On September 13, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was arrested by Iran’s morality police for baring her hair. She was brutally beaten and died three days later in a hospital in Tehran.

Amini’s death sparked violent protests and uprisings across Iran – the result of 43 years of women’s oppression by the supremacists who control the country.

Iranian women are prohibited from cycling, jogging through their neighborhoods or dancing in public. They can be forcibly married at age 13, but can only divorce with the consent of a male judge. Married women cannot travel without their husbands’ permission, and they risk imprisonment for exercising rights we might take for granted, including not covering their hair with the hijab (headscarf).

Iran’s Anti-Government Protests: Gen Z of Iran is fed up. The protests are not just about hijab, they are about regime change.

The protests were violent but peaceful. They were led by courageous women demanding change in Iran’s government and an end to gender discrimination.

But the Iranian government’s response was vicious. It has responded with a violent crackdown with leaders unleashing tear gas, batons, tasers and even live ammunition on their own citizens. In addition, authorities have restricted internet access to prevent images and documentation of the atrocities taking place.

In everything:

►Hundreds of protesters have been killed.

►More than 14,000 peaceful protesters have been arrested and face the death penalty without due process.

►An estimated 50 children were killed.

The situation is horrific, but it feels like a world away. So why do we care?

Here’s why: it is actually not a world away.

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Situation in Iran closer than you think

There are people in our own peaceful, beautiful community whose family and friends are currently suffering under Iranian rule. These people, our neighbors, face a painful choice: remain silent – ​​to preserve the opportunity to visit their loved ones in Iran – or speak out and risk being prosecuted and imprisoned if they travel to Iran.

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Freedom and a functioning democracy are central to a healthy and prosperous nation. With enough support, this moment could prove to be a turning point that transforms Iran into a liberated and open country, an inspiration to marginalized citizens in other repressive countries and an ally to Americans fighting for the rights of all women everywhere.

An Iranian woman cuts her hair during a demonstration outside the Iranian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on Oct. 22, 2022.

An Iranian woman cuts her hair during a demonstration outside the Iranian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on Oct. 22, 2022.

Women’s rights and children’s rights are human rights. Abuse of women and children is abuse of humanity. And when a regime is built on brutality towards the vulnerable, the responsibility to save them falls on the powerful. That means us.

How to protect human rights

What can we do? Here’s what:

Stay informed. There are several reliable social media accounts that provide real-time updates. We recommend following the Iranian Diaspora Collective, Middle East Matters and Nazanin Boniadi on Instagram. And when journalists report on Iran, we hope you pay attention and share, amplify and repost the news. These brave protesters need us to hear their voices, to bear witness to their struggle and to refuse to let their oppressive leaders cover up their actions.

►Donate. The Center for Human Rights in Iran – an independent, impartial and non-profit organization – works tirelessly to protect and promote the safety and dignity of all Iranian people, especially children, women, workers and artists. We invite you to visit their website and consider financially supporting this vital work.

Rabbi Elaine Rose Glickman has been named Deputy Director of the Women's Rabbinic Network.

Rabbi Elaine Rose Glickman has been named Deputy Director of the Women’s Rabbinic Network.

Stand up and speak up. As members of a free country, we have the privilege and responsibility to stand up and speak out for those who are oppressed and silenced. We encourage you to sign and share the petition “Speak Up Against Killing Iranian Women” and look out for organized rallies in nearby provinces or cities. Our government officials also need to hear that they represent citizens who care deeply about the Iranian people, and that we expect to hear their voices rise in support and assistance.

Will there be change? Is a free Iran in sight? We put these questions to Iran’s courageous protesters. They believe so, and they work towards this achievement, even at the cost of their own lives.

Do we believe in them? Shall we stand next to them? Iran’s courageous protesters are asking us these questions. How shall we respond?

Sepi Ackerman

Sepi Ackerman

Sepi Ackerman is a native of Sarasota, Florida, a wife and mother of two daughters. She is a first-generation American whose entire family still lives in Iran, but she has not been able to return to Iran since she converted to Judaism.

Elaine Rose Glickman is a rabbi and writer in Sarasota. She is the Deputy Executive Director of the Women’s Rabbinic Network and serves local and national organizations working for equality and justice.

This column first appeared in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Iran Protests: How Americans Can Support Women’s Fight for Freedom

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