Many Canadians with Iranian heritage want to express their outrage at the recent killing of Mahsa Amini, but fear that speaking out will mean danger for themselves and family members.
That’s why Ali – whose identity is being protected for this reason – is appreciative of local politicians like North Vancouver-Lonsdale MLA Bowinn Ma for amplifying voices from the Iranian community.
Ma posted to social media this week, expressing solidarity with the brave people fighting for their freedoms in Iran.
“This is one of the most powerful ways that people who are not Iranian, especially those who are in positions of power, can be the voice of the voiceless,” Ali said. “She’s doing just that and for what it’s worth, I really, really appreciate it.”
Amini died after being taken into custody by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s so-called morality police for reasons related to the country’s mandatory hijab law. The law came into effect in 1981 after the Islamic Revolution, and has long been contested by women and others in the country.
Protests erupted right at the hospital in Tehran where the incident took place, and are continuing across the country.
“This is no longer about [Mahsa Amini] alone; it’s about all women living under this oppressive regime,” Ma wrote on Twitter.
North Vancouver MP Jonathan Wilkinson also showed support, with a post to Instagram stating that Canada stands with women in their right to peaceful protest while encouraging Iran to launch a transparent investigation into Amini's death.
The North Shore has a substantial Iranian community, with more than 15,000 people identifying as Iranian. There are around 80,000 to 90,000 people who identify as Iranian in the Lower Mainland.
“From the communications blackouts in late 2019 and the threat of war with America, to the downing of Flight 752 in 2020 and more, the diaspora community here on the North Shore has faced so much hardship and yet have been able to emerge each time through great strength and support for one another,” Ma told North Shore News by email.
“As non-Iranian Canadians we too must lend our strength and support when we can.”
Ali said he landed in North Vancouver with his family over 20 years ago. His father lives on the North Shore, but his mother is currently in Iran visiting family.
The Iranian people are fed up with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s mistreatment of its citizens and their human rights, he said.
“The vast majority of Iranians are against the regime, but they haven’t been able to do anything about it because of the regime’s armed, ruthless forces,” Ali said. “They literally kill people in the streets if they are protesting.”
But right now people are in the streets chanting “death to the dictator,” Ali said, referring to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
While sparked by Amini’s death, the outrage being expressed goes beyond. “This is about the right to exist, the right to personal expression, a woman’s right to wear what they want to. They shouldn’t have to wear a hijab if they don’t want to,” Ali continued, adding that people also have the right to protest, but demonstrators are being killed each day.
He said Iran’s state regime is afraid that women are exerting their power. “The IRI for decades have used the head covering as subjugating women. The new generation is not going to tolerate that.”
Amid the waves of protest, Ali feels a mix of anger and hope. “Anger that people are being killed for having a voice, but I’m hopeful that people are going to prevail,” he said.
He used to believe things could be fixed in the current regime, but now he feels anything less than regime change from within won’t work, which “is going to cost innocent lives.”
There have been several demonstrations in Vancouver over the past week, with another scheduled for Sunday (Sept. 25) 3:30-6 p.m. at Vancouver Art Gallery. Ali said he’ll be showing his support there.