Celine C. Erickson, President – AAFSW

The Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) hosted the first program of the New Year with a call for change for a better world and an informative and timely presentation” Fearless Young Iranian Women Uprise.” The event took place on January 17, 2023, in the Burns Auditorium, at the State Department in Washington, D.C.

Sheila Switzer, Program Chair, invited Iranian intellectuals who had personally experienced the brutality of the Iranian regime Shahin Mafi, founder and CEO of Home Health Connection, Persian TV Producer- Human Right activist Parsa A. Sorbi.Mardom TV USA and Human Rights Activist Sayareh Amir for this important conversation. The panel was moderated by internationally recognized journalist, Kate Johns. 

This event was a salute to Mahsa Amini’s legacy and a condemnation of her capturers, the Morality Police and the oppressive government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The speakers shared their insights on Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old woman who died at the hands of Iran’s morality police in September 2022 and the following massive anti-regime demonstrations. The protestors demand freedom from an authoritarian regime that has ruled in the name of religion since 1979. 

The speakers then took us forward to current events, when the first push back by young women got strong after a Mahsa Amini and her brother visited Tehran. The Morality Police approached them because Mahsa’s hijab was showing her hair. The Morality Police captured her as she needed to get “re-educated” at a detention center.  Mahsa died there at the hands of the capturers the next day. The Morality Police still denies the allegations.  

The speakers explained that since this tragedy, fearless young women in Iran are leading the way and inspiring the movement for freedom against an oppressive regime. The brave young women call for systemic change and for the Supreme Leader of the theocracy to step down. This harsh government has controlled women under the law of the Hijab. Women who do not comply suffer severe consequences. 

What started out as a rejection of forced compliance to wear the hijab has escalated to Iranian women and men protesting in the streets with a cry for toppling the government ruled by Ayatollah and put an end to the Islamic Republic. 

Iran is a very distinctive nation with diverse socio-economic structure and traditions where for more than a century, Iranian women have worked for change and fought for their freedom. In 1848, the influential poet, women’s rights activist and theological scholar, Tahirih, was arrested by officials during the Conference of Badasht, and imprisoned in Teheran in 1848 for standing up for women’s rights.

The guests were invited to the Q&A. Do they have a chance? Or is the Islamic republic strong enough to survive for the foreseeable future? And what are the lessons from Iran for other Muslim-majority nations, where the role of religion in public life keeps being contested?

Dina Abou Zeid, an Egyptian researcher and documentary producer, compared the uprising in Iran to the Arab Spring in Tunisia where “All women are considered equal to men and have equal rights under the law and there are measures in place to protect women from gender-based discrimination and violence. Women’s rights in Tunisia are the most advanced and vastly improved rights since the early years of the 20th century. More than Egypt, and vastly different than Iran especially after the Iranian Islamic state of 1979! This explains the slow pace of the uprising in Iran. “

After many questions and comments. The speakers and the guests all agreed in recognizing that these young fearless women have made a huge impact for change, because no women should perish under the Mandatory Hijab Law in Iran or in any country at any time. The program closed after this thorough and heartfelt presentation which charmed and captivated AAFSW’s distinguished guests and members.

This program shined more light on the “Fearless Young Women in Iran”, on women’s rights in Iran and democracy in Iran, which is the unique destiny of the Iranian people.

AASFW is looking forward to inviting you to our programs throughout this year.