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Thousands march in solidarity with Iranian women

Deborah Murray

October 25, 2022
On October 22nd, for the fifth Saturday in a row, an estimated 10,000 Montrealers gathered to bring attention to the ongoing demonstrations in Iran after the death of Mahsa Amini.
With palms painted red, Iranian women led the demonstration. Amidst the colors of Iranian flags, people held placards calling for justice and an end to the Iranian regime. One woman held a sign “Femme, Vie, Liberté” with a lock of braided hair attached to it. Some carried signs with the faces of people who had died at the hands of the Iranian police. In French, English and Persian, protesters chanted “Freedom and democracy in Iran,” “Silence is Violence” and “One Solution: Revolution,” reflecting a conclusion some Iranians believe is possible. 
The demonstration in Montreal was one of many that took place around the world, including in Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax and Vancouver, in solidarity with protesters who denounced the regime’s mandatory hijab law and its brutal surveillance of women who don’t comply.
An array of demands was evident, some for greater sanctions against the Iranian regime and not the Iranian people. Speeches began and ended the march with calls for greater international solidarity. 
One of the many organizers of the rally was Nima Machouf, activist and federal NDP candidate in the Montreal riding of Laurier-Saint-Marie. She is a member of the international collective Woman-Life-Freedom whose goal is to amplify the voices of Iranian people. The Iranian Women’s Association of Montreal was also involved in building the march. Organizers made clear that Iranian women claim the free choice to wear the hijab and not its prohibition. They also demand that politics be separated from religion.
Prior to today’s demonstration, the Quebec solidaire MNA for Mercier riding, Ruba Ghazal, wrote to all female members of the National Assembly asking them to sign a joint declaration in support of the Iranian women, to denounce the regime's repression and violence, to demand the withdrawal of the Islamic Republic of Iran from the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and to demand an end to all gender-based discrimination and violence.  
As well, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante delivered a message in solidarity with the women of Iran.
Activists are eager to let other people in Montreal know what’s going on in Iran and put more pressure on the Iranian state.
Throughout the march, the Persian and English versions of the song Baraye by Shervin Hajipour were played and sung by demonstrators with powerful unity. The song has become the anthem of these protests. Shervin Hajipour was arrested for the song’s lyrics shortly after posting it to his Instagram in late September. A Persian version of the song Bella ciao was also heard.
Images emerging from Iran have shown a change in the movement, with demonstrations spreading from universities to elementary schools. Videos of striking oil workers and teachers have surfaced in recent days, and images of young schoolgirls with middle fingers pointed at photos of Ali Khamenei, who holds a position above the president in the Iranian government, have gone viral on social media.
Over 200 people, at least 23 of them children, have been killed by Iran’s security forces since demonstrations erupted in every province across the country following Mahsa Amini’s death.
Yet women and girls continue to remove their headscarves. Led largely by women and youth, they have evolved from spontaneous mass gatherings in central areas to scattered demonstrations in residential areas, schools and universities as activists try to evade an increasingly brutal crackdown.
It is clear, Iranians cannot take and, at this point, will not tolerate anymore of this regime. Montreal protesters, as clearly, stand in solidarity with those who are putting their lives at risk to end political despotism and laws against women that continue to govern Iranian society.
Encouraging non-Iranians to take action, McGill student Homa Fathi stated at one of the recent rallies that “just a few months ago, people in America lost their legal right for abortion, so this is not your perfect world. We constantly should fight and, for that, we need solidarity. So please stand with us in solidarity."
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