Human rights laws limited on stopping Iran’s violence against women, talk show audience told
Outrage, disbelief and despair came to the surface in an emotionally charged talk on violence against women and girls in Iran after the death of 22-year-old Masha Amini.
Students and academics from Iran and Pakistan spoke out at Friday’s talk show by Brunel Research Group on Human Rights, Society and Arts.
“As an Iranian, it is painful to see our people being killed every day,” a young woman in the audience stood up and said. “We are all Iranians beside each other in this fight,” said another.
UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, Professor Javaid Rehman, spoke with law lecturer Dr Elena Abrusci, before questions from the audience. Several struggled to understand how the world seemed to stand by amid the regime’s brutal crackdown on protests triggered by Masha’s death.
Yet “there are strong limitations to what international human rights law can do”, said Professor Rehman. “Human rights law cannot authorise use of force or regime change,” the Brunel Law professor said. “Any change will have to come from the people of Iran themselves in the form of democratic reform.”
“It was touching so many Iranian women and men shared their experiences and thoughts with us,” organiser Dr Abrusci said afterwards. “That gave us all a further layer of understanding of such a complex issue and the tremendous tragedy going on in Iran.”
Iran’s morality police arrested Kurdish woman Masha Amini for wearing her hijab too loosely. She was beaten in custody and died there because of her injuries on 16 September. There has been no proper, independent, impartial investigation and authorities say she died of a pre-existing medical condition.
After years of extreme violence by authorities against women, Masha’s death triggered a national ongoing wave of spontaneous public protests lead by young people. “They couldn’t understand why in 2022, women had to wear a piece of cloth in a certain way,” said Prof Rehman. “Women are second class citizens in Iran. They have been under growing pressure since President Ebrahim Raisicame into power in 2021, adding that women are now monitored by technology on public transport.”
Fuelled by years of pent-up anger about economic misery, discrimination against ethnic minorities and tightening social controls, there are calls for regime change. The authority’s response has been brutal. Several people have been convicted with offences which carry the death sentences in connection with the protests and four people have been executed.
“The tragedy is the regime is creating an environment of fear, so people are afraid to come out,” Prof Rehman told the audience. “They have been shooting people with live ammunition to kill them. They have been shooting women at very sensitive parts of their body to damage them permanently. It is so shocking.”
“We thank again all the Iranian people in the room,” said Dr Abrusci “and we will do our best to continue to raise awareness and provide a forum for keeping this fight on.”