The Iranian diaspora’s powerful use of media in Iran’s human rights crisis

By Roksaneh Salartash, Communications Intern 

The Iranian people have taken to the streets in what has become the largest uprising since the nation’s Islamic Revolution in 1979. The regime has severely limited the freedoms of Iranians for 43 years. Basic rights of expression, speech and religion are nonexistent. Everything from holding hands in public to listening to rock music is considered a crime. The country is especially known for its severe gender inequality and restrictions upon women. Many basic freedoms we in the United States take for granted are nonexistent for Iranians. 

Protests erupted this September following the death of a 22 year old woman named Mahsa Amini, who was killed by the country’s morality police for allegedly wearing her headscarf improperly. Since then, Iranians – led by women and young people – continue to protest and demand the downfall of the regime. 

They face extreme force from the police and violent crackdowns at universities. Protesters are being  kidnapped, arrested, and subject to execution for simply asking for one thing: freedom. Writers, musicians, photographers, and other creatives are being imprisoned for speaking through their art against the government. Harsh censorship is used as a tool of oppression by the regime as they continue to disseminate their extreme ideology to the population. 

Over the past four decades, Iranians have resisted the government but never before in the unity and numbers we see today.   It has become a global movement because of the diaspora of Iranians who now live all around the world. Everywhere from London to Los Angeles, Iranians are amplifying the voices of their brothers and sisters in their homeland. Where major news outlets have failed to report on this movement, social media has become an important tool for spreading awareness of the issues Iranians face and bringing to light their government’s severe human rights violations. 

Many argue that “performative activism” on social media is not effective, but the current uprising in Iran is a unique case. The people in Iran are so limited in their speech. Protesters who share photos and videos of the revolution online often get arrested or threatened by the police. This is why the Iranian diaspora worldwide have become their voices. 

The current revolution in Iran demonstrates the importance of the media in human rights movements. When footage of human rights violations in Iran circulates and gets major media attention, the world holds the regime in Iran accountable. Social media propels these videos and photos around the world to spread awareness.

The Iranian diaspora has prioritized using the media to put pressure on world leaders to create change. In one recent example, the United States officially called on the United Nations to remove Iran from their Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). This development is a direct result of widespread petitions by the Iranian diaspora and the push from influential American women like Michelle Obama and Vice President Kamala Harris. 

Public pressure and social media advocacy works. While the regime uses the media as a tool of oppression, the Iranian diaspora uses it to expose the country’s human rights violations and keep the movement’s momentum around the world.

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Published on December 14, 2022

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