Images from Iran reach us every day – courageous, violent, frightening. How do people with Iranian roots experience the situation? We spoke to three women from Germany.
For the past nine weeks, women have been leading the rebellion against the Iranian regime. Their uprising has now spread across society, across the country. The regime reacted brutally – and bloodily. Demonstrators are beaten up, arrested and shot at.
There are reports of sexual assaults in prisons. Several people, including children, were sentenced to death. It started with the death of Mahsa Amani. Over 300 deaths are now known. And the protests continue.
How do Iranians in Germany experience the situation? How do you feel about the pictures and what appeal do you have to the EU, Germany and each individual? We spoke to three women. We conducted today’s interview with Melody M. At her request, she remains anonymous.
FOCUS online: You grew up in Iran yourself. What goes through your mind when you see the pictures?
Melody M.: The first thing that goes through my head is how brave these people are because I know the brutality and what can happen to them. I lived in Iran myself for more than 15 years and had contact with the Revolutionary Guard.
Once I was arrested at a party. The Revolutionary Guard stormed the celebration and took everyone away. We spent one night in prison. The next day we were released again by fast track procedure. And that’s only because our hosts had connections. So we were lucky and were “only” sentenced to fines and not to lashes, for example. This also shows how corrupt this system is.
Coming back to your question, I know how much worse the punishment is for protesters, so the first thing I thought was how incredibly brave the protesters are because they know exactly what can happen to them.
There have been many protests in Iran. What distinguishes the current one from the past?
Melody M.: I believe that many things build on each other and that the situation has become more unbearable for people. The riots and protests of 2009 mark the beginning of the “Green Movement” and are long lasting and the associated reprisals certainly play a role. But also the arrest of many environmental activists in the years that followed. And then the downing of the Ukrainian plane in 2020.
At that time it was denied, covered up and lied to. No consequences were drawn and the message from the government to the people was: We can do what we want. In addition, there is the ailing economy, but Corona also ultimately contributed to the fact that young and old no longer have any prospects and see no future for themselves.
Even the propaganda promoted by the regime – Iran has the best economic growth, is the strongest nation in the Middle East – people know that this is not the case. It is noticeable in daily life. Many people can no longer afford to live.
In addition, many officials are currently taking their property abroad, if they haven’t already done so. Many of their families already live there. They live a double standard. Preaching something in Iran that they don’t practice abroad. And that basically shows that it’s not about Islam and its values. It’s about power and money.
And fundamentally, the generation that supported the Islamic Revolution in 1979 is all the more aware of its mistake.
What about the young people who are the main drivers of the protests?
Melody M.: The young people in Iran grew up with social media and therefore know a much more open communication than we did back then. They are well connected, informed and know what kind of life their peers lead in other countries.
They are demanding their right to a normal life. A life in which they can work, rent an apartment and afford children. But most importantly: having freedom and being able to make decisions for yourself.
Could there be a regime change?
Melody M.: So far I’ve been very sober about it and didn’t believe in it. But it’s actually the first time in so many years that I have the feeling that something can really be moved.
The movements are organized and coordinated across many countries. The common goal is the focus and many people are just learning to hear and endure the different opinions so that the totalitarian belongs to history.
Can a potential change of power still succeed peacefully?
Melody M.: I think it will be very difficult. Also with a view to history. During the Islamic Revolution, the military did not turn against the people. The military of that time was also trained by other people and with a different focus.
Nowadays it is often no longer possible to distinguish between the military, its paramilitary arm, the Revolutionary Guard, the police or foreign groups. Ultimately, it is not clear who is shooting at the people.
The current rulers have to be given a lot to ensure that there is a peaceful change of power.
“Women, life, freedom!” That is the slogan of the protest. What is the role of women and where do they get the courage from?
Melody M.: The idea of freedom is the most important thing for people. And why specifically for women? Because women in Iran have fewer rights than men. It’s not just about the headscarf. It’s about so much more. For the right to divorce, to apply for custody of one’s children, to apply for a passport, and basically for self-determination.
How do you rate the handling of Germany and the EU with the current Iran situation?
Melody M.: I find the handling of the situation rather sober and the reactions too late. For a long time, “political correctness” was in the foreground.
What I did like, however, was that Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock commented on the situation of women in Iran right at the beginning. Then came sanctions which, in my opinion, do not affect those who are really important. Many have been waiting for the Chancellor’s words in mid-November. You are also commendable, but unfortunately you came very late.
Understandably, another important factor in this is the nuclear deal with Iran, which should not be jeopardized. And in moderation quite right, because we don’t really know what that could entail.
But it’s about children. We’re talking about 10, 13 or 14 year old children being arrested, being sentenced to death, being killed. It’s much, much too quiet for that.
What can each individual do?
Melody M.: Definitely, which is very good: share all posts on social media. Even if the pictures are horrible, it’s the reality. Violent scenes are often not shown either, but you can see the unrest. That too should be shared.
And if there are rallies, please go, be there and support them. Give the people of Iran your voice!
The Iranians are also doing their bit by presenting a different picture of Iran. A beautiful country, with a lot of culture and hospitable people who want a life in freedom.