Only a few days after the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee adopted a resolution condemning the brutal and systematic human rights abuses in Iran, the Association of Anglo-Iranian Women in the UK organised an evening event in Leeds North West to affirm solidarity with the Iranian people.
The event was organised to persuade the UK government to include the Iranian regime’s brutal enforcers, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), on its terrorism list, said Laila Jazayeri, director of the Association of Anglo-Iranian Women in the UK, and coordinator of the event.
Jazayeri, a psychotherapist by profession, works closely with UK parliamentarians, human rights organisations, NGOs, and the media to shed light on the injustices faced by all in Iran, with a particular focus on the horrendous abuses faced by women and girls.
The conference was attended by both Anglo-Iranians and non-Iranians, including local MP Alex Sobel, who spoke in solidarity and support of the Iranian people and their aspirations for change, emphasising the centrality of human rights and the need for the proscription of the IRGC.
Nikita Sharifi, a young Anglo-Indian, lauded the young women who are fearlessly staging protests in Iran in favour of a secular democratic republic, while Azadeh Zabeti, who is affiliated with the committee of Anglo-Iranian lawyers, shed light on the regime’s use of terrorism and wars to divert attention from internal conflicts.
The two-hour event comprised various presentations, including speeches and video clips of situations in Iran. It culminated with music and Persian cuisine in a tribute to Iranian culture.
Misogynistic mentality faced by women and girls
Jazayeri spoke with us about the ongoing human rights abuses in Iran and the struggles faced by Iranian women under the misogynistic patriarchal regime. Describing their plight, she said:
“Women are deprived of their fundamental rights in Iran. A woman cannot leave the house without the permission of her husband. She cannot even attend her father’s funeral without seeking her husband’s permission. The man can divorce his wife in her absence. Besides polygamy being lawful, women are also deprived of the custody of their own children.”
Jazayeri draws attention to the draconian penalties imposed by the regime for violating the recently instated hijab and chastity law. For Iranian women, the removal of the hijab has extreme repercussions: from a prison sentence of six months to three years, to a flogging of 74 lashes, and/or a fine of up to £3,000. All this amid Iran’s collapsing economy, with widespread poverty forcing many to search for food in bins. Women who cannot pay the fine are sentenced to wash dead bodies in the morgue.
Anyone viewed as an accessory to violations of such a repressive law is also punished. A taxi driver, for example, will be levied heavy fines for permitting women not complying with the rules on dress, to sit inside his cab.
She also highlighted deeper atrocities:
“These are the official punishments, but the unofficial punishments include blinding women and even acid attacks.”
Jazayeri further added that paedophilia is legalised in Iran. The legal age for a girl to be married is 13 – which means a 13-year-old girl could be married to a man of 80. In fact, marriages at a younger age can still be carried out with the agreement of fathers and permission from a court.
Protests ignited by a tragic death
In 2022, the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini ignited protests. According to the Jazayeri:
“Mahsa’s death was merely the trigger for the explosion of 40 years of anger and suppressed feelings about corruption, poverty, discrimination and repression. From day one, people were chanting ‘death’ to the dictator, targeting the head of the regime, the supreme leader.
“In just over three weeks, from 25 October to 15 November, 90 were executed. Iran has the world’s highest record of executions per capita, including women and minors. Almost 95% of all executed female political prisoners belonged to the principal opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI) – also known as MEK. The MEK’s resistance units are active all over Iran.”
The regime tried silencing the protests by killing 750 people, including 78 women and 84 children. Some 30,000 have been imprisoned. Women were deliberately shot in their eyes with pellet guns to blind them as punishment for defying the regime.
Iranian regime clings to power despite UN condemnation
With 80 votes in favour to 65 against and 29 abstentions, the 78th General Assembly of the Third Committee approved the resolution titled ‘Situation of Human rights in Islamic Republic of Iran’.
The draft of the resolution introduced by Canada condemns the misogynistic policies and practice of the Iranian regime, asking Tehran to put an end to the discrimination against women. Besides Mahsa Amini, it also mentions 16-year-old Armita Geravand who died in recent weeks.
How does such a regime maintain its hold on power? Through two fundamental pillars, according to Jazayeri: “employing suppression and executions to create a climate of terror within the country, and by exporting terrorism – fuelling regional wars through proxy groups.”
Jazayeri asserts that these two factors have significantly aided the regime in maintaining its grip on power and causing upheaval in the Middle East.
A resolve to be a catalyst for transformation
The fierce passion for justice Jazayeri injects into her campaigning is rooted in a transformation of her own personal suffering at the hands of the regime into positive action. This is evidently combined with the deepest compassion for those who are still brutalised on an hourly basis:
“Knowing that misogyny is institutionalised into laws in Iran and witnessing the suffering and discrimination faced by Iranian women, I resolved to become a voice for the silenced, particularly the young women who had been subjected to unimaginable torture, including rape, before their executions. And so, I founded the Association of Anglo-Iranian Women in the UK.”
After tragically losing her husband to atrocities in Iran, Jazayeri faced two options: surrendering to despair or channelling her grief to drive transformative change. For the last two and a half decades, her focus has been to shed light via advocacy work in parliament on Iran’s systematic violation of women’s rights, gender-based violence, limited access to education and employment, and stringent social and legal restrictions. She is also trying to raise awareness by amplifying these issues in the media and by employing all other means possible.
Tirelessly devoted to a cause profoundly personal and close to her heart, Jazayeri is instilled with a steadfast desire to bring justice for those who have lost their loved ones at the hands of a relentlessly suffocating and sadistic government.
Western governments must do better
Although the UN has recently condemned Iran’s ongoing misogynistic practices, Jazayeri points out that Western countries have persistently pursued a policy of appeasement towards the Iranian regime. She indicates that this, in return, has proven ineffective in addressing the plight of the Iranian people:
“Verbal condemnations and written statements have failed to bring about any meaningful change for the people in Iran. Concrete actions must be taken to make a difference rather than empty rhetoric.”
What form might these actions take? According to Jazayeri, the international community can support the Iranian people by categorising the IRGC as a terrorist organisation owing to its role in suppression, torture, and executions. Following from this, the regime’s embassies should be shut and their “diplomat terrorists should also be expelled”.
Given the regime’s breaches of the 2015 nuclear deal, the six UN Security Council resolutions on Iran’s nuclear programme should be reinstated, and the trigger or ‘snapback’ mechanism within the deal activated to impose further sanctions on the regime.
Jazayeri also says that the human rights dossier of the regime should be scrutinised by the UN Security Council, which should recognise the legitimate right of self-defence for the Iranian people in their struggle against oppression.
“Adopting these concrete actions would demonstrate a genuine commitment to promoting positive change in Iran. By moving away from appeasement and aligning with the Iranian people and their demands, Western governments can empower the Iranian people to take control of their future and ultimately bring an end to the oppressive regime.”
A ten-point plan for change
Founded in 1981, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) is a political coalition that aims to establish a democratic, secular, non-nuclear republic in Iran. NCRI comprises 552 – majority female – members from different levels of society including various ethnic and religious minorities. The president-elect is Maryam Rajavi, who has introduced a ten-point plan for a free and democratic Iran.
Jazayeri, who works closely with the NCRI, affirms that this ten-point-plan provides a comprehensive framework for democratic change in Iran. If implemented, it could bring significant transformation. The plan emphasises key principles such as gender equality, religious freedom, separation of religion and state, and the establishment of a pluralistic and inclusive government. It also prioritises restoring fundamental human rights and the rule of law, and eradicating discrimination and violence.
The fight for any such changes is, however, made difficult by the regime’s manipulation of the narrative:
“By portraying what is primarily a struggle between the regime and the Iranian people as a religious conflict between Jews and Muslims outside of Iran, [the regime] effectively hinders the emergence of the next uprising and prolongs its existence in power.”
But it’s a struggle that must be undertaken, since, as Jazayeri concludes, as long as the Iranian regime continues to exist, peace and stability in the region will remain elusive.