At the world-televised Cannes Film Festival May 31, Iranian-born model Mahlaga Jaberi sparked welcome outrage when she appeared on the red carpet wearing a glamorous black halter gown fashioned with a golden noose around her neck. She posted a YouTube of herself in the dress that went instantly viral. The message was: “STOP EXECUTIONS!”
Her dress was an intentional political statement created by Iranian designer Jila Saber to bring attention to the wrongful deaths of more than 600 Iranian women and children protesting the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini at the hands of Islamic morality police last September, Vogue reported.
Amini was taken from the streets of Tehran and arrested for violating Islamic dress code: wisps of hair had blown loose from her hijab (mandatory head covering) as she walked in the city with friends. Three days later, she was mysteriously declared dead at a hospital.
Authorities claimed she died of a heart attack that induced a coma shortly after detainment. But her father caught a brief glimpse of his daughter’s foot in the morgue, black and swollen twice its normal size. Witnesses who were also detained at the time said she was beaten to death in custody.
Raising Western Defiance.
Since Jaberi appeared in the noose dress at Cannes, 60 more executions have been carried out (June 1-10).
Oscar-winning actresses Marion Cotillard and Juliet Binoche are two of the dozens of celebrities and iconic women rousing Western solidarity by cutting off shanks of their hair on live posts gone viral.
Meanwhile, large protest gatherings have converged in San Francisco (20,000) and Toronto (50,000) since Amini’s death.
We promised not to forget.
Unstoppable Protests & Punishment.
Every day since news of Amini’s death broke, girls and women by the thousands have protested bareheaded in the streets across the country, throwing their hijabs into newspaper fires or burning them in trash cans. Any move they make risks retaliation – at worst, execution by hanging. The Iranian government has unlawfully detained more than 20,000 peaceful protesters since September 2022 and executed 582 (more than 60 children), per Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI), an organization tracking arrests and deaths.
NPR reported “a string of suspected poisonings has taken place at more than 50 girls’ schools across the country” since November 2022, though no group has claimed responsibility.
“One thing is clear: It’s systematic and it is targeting young women because the young women are the ones who dare to stand up,” Elham Gheytanchi-Fotoohi, Iran expert and professor of sociology at Santa Monica College, told PBS in a March 2023 interview.
In 1979, Iranian women were completely Westernized, attending girls’ schools and co-ed universities, holding high office, contributing as journalists, driving, voting, wearing miniskirts and bikinis. When Ayatollah Khomeini’s military forces deposed the Shah (Raza Pahlavi) during the Iranian Revolution in February 1979, overnight the culture returned to adherence of Sharia law, which dictates a harsh Islamic dress code including the mandatory hijab.
Sharia is the misogynistic Muslim religious code that condones stoning women at the mere rumor of infidelity and strips them of basic human rights.
The trials have been unfair, says Amnesty International, with sham charges ranging from drug offenses to blaspheming the Prophet (Mohammed) to defiling or burning the Koran. This is the mockery Jaberi’s dress symbolized.
Protesters, however, say their objective is not to topple the current regime but to achieve restoration of women’s rights in a culture where females are reduced to living like caged animals. Forget the bikinis.
Yet, this is the most regime-threatening Iranian protest since the 1970s revolution. Iranian women schemed in whispers for 40 years to organize such a powerful movement when the right opportunity emerged. No one expected it would last this long. Protesters said at the beginning they will not stop until change comes. They say they have no fear of sacrificing themselves, no matter how long their sacrifices may take.
Please get involved. We encourage you to join a human rights website and keep an eye on this historic moment led by fearless Iranian women: Iran Human Rights; Amnesty International; Human Rights Activists in Iran.
“Women, Life, Freedom.”