The Iranian protesters who have demonstrated across the country for 12 consecutive nights over the death of Mahsa Amini are keen to amplify their message in the West as international observers focus on the theocratic regime’s repression of women.

Anger is only mounting among the Iranian protesters who have defied a crackdown to decry Amini’s death on September 16 in the custody of the Islamic Republic’s morality police. “We’re like the Afghan women the West has abandoned to the Taliban. Who’s going to defend us in the end? I saw how your president [France’s Emmanuel Macron] treated [Iranian President] Ebrahim Raisi with kid gloves at the UN,” said Niloufar*, a protester in Tehran contacted by FRANCE 24.

The 39-year-old office worker has a bruise about 10 centimetres wide on her left arm, as shown in a photo she has posted on social media. “I was hit by a baton; the police officer was hitting me with all his strength,” Nilfour said. She has been out protesting after work, night after night. “But what I’ve been through is nothing compared to what others have suffered. Today my arm has gotten better. But my heart is broken.”

Ten days passed before the French foreign ministry, the Quai d’Orsay, condemned the Iranian authorities’ violent response to the protests rocking Iran every night.

Although it decried Amini’s death on September 19, it took until September 26 for the Quai d’Orsay to release a comminiqué expressing its “strongest condemnation” of the repression of demonstrations – adding that Paris was examining, along with its European partners, the “options available” in response to these rights abuses.

Before that French foreign ministry statement, Macron had met Iran’s hardline President Ebrahim Raisi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. Macron expressed his “shock” over Amini’s death in “morality police” custody and demanded a “transparent investigation”. The French president also told the press that he had “insisted” that the Islamic Republic respect women’s rights.

But several of France’s Western partners produced stronger responses – notably Germany, which summoned the Iranian ambassador on Monday about the crackdown, and Canada, which prepared sanctions on a dozen Iranian officials and bodies including the morality police.

Meanwhile the protests and the repressive state response have continued unabated. The exact number of victims remains unknown. According to official figures, at least 41 people have been killed, including both protesters and members of the security forces.  The NGO Iran Human Rights says at least 76 people have been killed in the protests.


Celebrity backing
News has filtered down more slowly than usual because the Iranian authorities have restricted access to the Internet since September 21 to prevent demonstrators from protesting on social media. Younger Iranians in particular have been able to circumvent this by using VPNs and Tor software – but the connection can still be slow and random.

Yet many Iranians have managed to get around the censorship and amplify their message among a Western audience horrified by events in Iran. On Instagram, the most popular social network in Iran, protesters have called on the Iranian diaspora to demand robust responses in the countries where they live. That gives them quite a megaphone – seeing as more than four million Iranians live abroad. From Paris to London to Berlin to Los Angeles to Santiago, many striking images in support of Iranian protesters have done their rounds in the media.

In just a few days, more than 100 million tweets have gone out with the hashtag Mahsa Amini in Farsi, helping make the young woman into an icon of resistance.

One of Iran’s most famous faces, Oscar-winning film director Asghar Farhadi, has called for people across the globe to support the demonstators.

“You must have heard recent news from Iran and seen images of progressive and courageous women leading protests for their human rights alongside men. They are looking for simple yet fundamental rights that the state has denied them for years. This society, especially these women, has traveled a harsh and painful path to this point, and now they have clearly reached a landmark,” the filmmaker wrote in an Instagram post.

“Through this video, I invite all artists, filmmakers, intellectuals, civil rights activists from all over the world and all countries, and everyone who believes in human dignity and freedom to stand in solidarity with the powerful and brave women and men of Iran by making videos, in writing or any other way.”

At the same time, Iranian activists have demanded that stars like Beyoncé express their support for the protesters. And demands for Western celebrities to express their support have borne fruit – as stars with millions of followers have expressed their indignation over Amini’s death and support for the protesters – including singer Justin Bieber, actress Jessica Chastain, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, model Bella Hadid and actress Eva Mendes, whose post on the matter attracted more than 44,000 comments. Fans have shared their messages, swelling a wave of support around the world for the Iranian protesters.

                                                     This article was adapted from the original in French.