As uprisings continue in Iran, Canadians across the country are showing support by organizing and marching in protests, showcasing solidarity for the thousands risking their lives to dismantle the regime.
Protests organized by local human rights groups and Iranian-Canadian organizations were held on Saturday in Toronto, Winnipeg, Halifax, Montreal and other communities across Canada. Thousands marched for the Iranian people who are protesting for human rights.
“It’s a serious challenge to the Islamic Republic and definitely a legitimacy crisis that they’re dealing with,” Negar Mortazavi, host of The Iran Podcast, said on CTV News Channel Saturday. “The government, or the regime, has been willing and capable to suppress these types of protests with very brutal violence, by security forces shooting directly at protesters.”
The uproar was sparked late September when 22-year-old, Mahsa Amini, died while in custody of the so-called “morality police,” a unit that enforces mandatory headscarves for women and girls in Iran. She was taken to a “re-education centre” for not wearing her hijab correctly and later died, her family says she was beaten to death while officials say it was a heart attack.
Amini’s death has become a symbol of oppression Iranian women have faced for decades.
In Iran, thousands march in the streets and many women and girls continue to remove their headscarves in support of Amini. The government in turn has used violent tactics to silence the protesters. Over 200 people have been killed and thousands have been arrested, the Associated Press has reported
One woman who spoke with CTVNews.ca Saturday said looking overseas from Canada at the ongoing “human rights violations” is terrifying.
“I’m not just scared and worried for my brothers and sisters and my nieces and nephews (who) live there,” she said over the phone on Saturday. “I’m more worried about what’s happening for all those little kids and those young people in the streets.”
CTVNews.ca is protecting the woman’s identity at her request due to safety reasons.
More than a decade ago she and her husband moved Canada, with the goal of giving their daughter a better life. Today, she lives in the Greater Toronto Area says she is proud of the people protesting in Iran.
“This is so brave, and high school girls, other young girls in the street and how the other men and young boys support them, I’m so proud of them,” she said. “But at the same time, I’m so scared for them.”
Last week Iranian climber, Elnaz Rekabi, competed in South Korea without her headscarf. BBC reported she was missing shortly after, only for her to resurface in Tehran, Iran’s capital, making what some are calling a forced apology for the “unintentional” act.
Instead, protestors have taken Rekabi as another symbol for the continued uprising.
The Iranian woman from the GTA was present during the previous 2009 protests, after the Iranian presidential election was plagued by irregularities and allegations of vote-rigging. She says the movement in 2022 is much bigger.
“I know the regime, I know the people and I know the situation and I totally believe that this time, this is not just a protest… this is the beginning of the revolution,” she said.
More recent widespread protests like this took hold of Iran in 2019 when Iranians displayed anger towards soaring food and gas prices. Mortazavi said the use of vicious tactics will have a mixed effect on this uprising.
“We’re seeing extreme images of courage and bravery, especially by women (and) young girls who are risking their lives continuing to protest inside the country,” she said. “But it (violence) definitely has that effect of scaring people and essentially reducing some of the protesters with the security forces present.”
The Canadian government has responded to the protests in Iran, by permanently banning top members of the regime from coming into the country, restricting financial transactions with Iran and enforcing sanction measures.
More recently, the government has imposed targeted sanctions on Iranian officials with a focus on those with links to propaganda and torture, including the Fars News Agency, which is believed to be affiliated with Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and Iran’s Guardian Council, which blocks electoral candidates who don’t align with the regime’s ideology.
As of October 19, Canada has imposed sanctions on 89 Iranian individuals and 177 entities.
Many supporters believe the protests are a revolution sparking widespread change across Iran. Mortazavi says it’s too early to know if the protests will have the outcome people are hoping for.
“They’re chanting for an end to the system, to the discrimination, to the suppression to this inequality, injustice,” she said. “Will the protesters be able to continue and sustain? It depends on a lot of factors of how long this movement will continue especially inside the country.”
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