Photo: Brett Morrison/ CC BY 2.0

Iranians must be supported in their struggle for democratic change

Right Livelihood and the undersigned Laureates are deeply concerned at the current situation in Iran, where mass protests have occurred across the country sparked by the violent death of 22-year-old Jina Mahsa Amini on September 13, 2022. The Iranian Kurdish woman had been arrested and detained by the “morality police” for violating Iran’s compulsory veiling laws, by wearing an “improper hijab”. She died three days later while in custody.

Since September 16, Iranians from all social spectrums took to the streets to demand justice and accountability for Amini and to put an end to violence and discrimination against women in Iran. The unprecedented protests, which have been ongoing for almost a month now, in at least 103 cities, have evolved into women-led large-scale demonstrations against 43 years of mass discrimination and authoritarian rule. Iranians are making their voices heard: they want to speak up against systematic repression, they want change, they want freedom. They are doing so by exercising their fundamental rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Today, we demand that they get the support they deserve in their struggle.

As demonstrations continue unabated, protesters’ demands are being met with brutal violence and acts of torture. The government’s massive crackdown has resulted in around 200 people killed by the security forces and hundreds more injured. More than 1,800 women human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, students, and ordinary protesters have been arbitrarily arrested and are languishing in deplorable, inhumane conditions in makeshift prisons. In a sign of deepening repression, authorities have recently carried out at least 92 “preventative arrests”, largely targeting civil society, in an attempt to crush any outcry against the government’s violence.

To further stifle Iranian people’s freedoms, the authorities have shut down the internet multiple times and suspended access to social media platforms. This not only impedes Iranians’ access to information, but also prevents them from being able to share information with the outside world, obstructing the documentation of crimes and human rights abuses committed.

We stand in solidarity with all Iranians demanding democracy and the respect of their fundamental freedoms. They must be supported in their struggle for change. We thus turn to the wider international community and call on every State to strongly condemn the Iranian government’s actions, and promptly suspend all diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. In addition, we urge Iranian authorities to:

  • Hold a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into Amini’s death, and hold perpetrators accountable;
  • Ensure that women in Iran can freely exercise their bodily autonomy and have their basic human rights upheld;
  • Unconditionally release all detained protesters, journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders wrongfully detained amid present and past protests and provide them with compensation for the harm suffered;
  • Provide accountability for all human rights violations committed, including killings and widespread violence against protesters;
  • Uphold their international human rights obligations, including  by protecting the rights to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and association as well as by allowing Iranians to freely and democratically decide who governs them;
  • Restore full internet access, and refrain from disrupting online communications platforms as well as obstructing Iranians’ access to and dissemination of information.

As Nasrin Sotoudeh, 2020 Right Livelihood Laureate, said in her Award acceptance speech: “By taking the most peaceful steps over these many long years, Iranian civil society has been on the difficult path towards attaining democracy. Like people all over the world, Iranians wish to live in peace, justice and freedom.” Ignoring the demands and perseverance of the Iranian people would be equivalent to ignoring the universality of human rights.

Signed by:

Right Livelihood

Raul Montenegro, Argentina, Right Livelihood Laureate 2004

Maude Barlow, Canada, Right Livelihood Laureate 2005

Sima Samar, Afghanistan, Right Livelihood Laureate 2012

Vladimir Slivyak, Russia, Right Livelihood Laureate 2021

Ruchama Marton for Physician for Human Rights, Israel, Right Livelihood Laureate 2010

Kasha Nabagesera, Uganda, Right Livelihood Laureate 2015

Angie Zelter for Trident Ploughshares, United Kingdom, Right Livelihood Laureate 2001

Alyn Ware, New Zealand, Right Livelihood Laureate 2009

Ilwad Elman, Somalia, Right Livelihood Laureate 2022

Fartuun Adan, Somalia, Right Livelihood Laureate 2022

Alice Tepper Marlin, United States of America, Right Livelihood Laureate 1990

Tony Rinaudo, Australia, Right Livelihood Laureate 2019

David Suzuki, Canada, Right Livelihood Laureate 2009

Shrikrishna Upadhay, Nepal, Right Livelihood Laureate 2010

Glorene Das, legacy holder of Irene Fernandez, Malaysia, Right Livelihood Laureate 2005

Dickens Kamugisha for AFIEGO, Uganda Right Livelihood Laureate 2022

CECOSESOLA, Venezuela, Right Livelihood Laureate 2022

Petra Tötterman Andorff for Kvinna till Kvinna, Sweden, Right Livelihood Laureate 2002

Monika Hauser for Medica Mondiale, Germany, Right Livelihood Laureate 2008

András Biró, Hungary, Right Livelihood Laureate 1995

Sulak Sivaraksa, Thailand, Right Livelihood Laureate 1995

Sahabat Alam Malaysia, Malaysia, Right Livelihood Laureate 1988

Sudarshan Hanumappa, India, Right Livelihood Laureate 1994

Dipal Barua, former managing director of Grameen Shakti, Bangladesh, Right Livelihood Laureate 2007

Anwar Fazal, Malaysia, Right Livelihood Laureate 1982

Frances Moore Lappé, United States of America, Right Livelihood Laureate 1987

Martin von Hildebrand, Colombia, Right Livelihood Laureate 1999

Juan Pablo Orrego, Chile, Right Livelihood Laureate 1998

Wes Jackson, United States of America, Right Livelihood Laureate 2000

Colin Gonsalves, India, Right Livelihood Laureate 2017

Michael Succow, Germany, Right Livelihood Laureate 1997