By Catherine Perez-Shakdam
[Catherine Perez-Shakdam is Director of Forward Strategy and Research Fellow at the American Center for Levant Studies (ACLS), a research and education organization dedicated to promoting better understanding between the United States and the Middle East. The views expressed are her own.]
As the somber anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s murder is upon us, we find ourselves at a crossroads where the plight of Iranians voicing their defiance against the Ayatollah’s totalitarian regime demands our unwavering attention.
The brazen human rights violations and outright crimes against humanity perpetrated under the façade of ideological fervor by Iran’s dictatorship compel us to adopt a stance that befits our status, and the United Kingdom is in a prime position to spearhead efforts to hold the regime accountable and recalibrate our regional strategy.
Mahsa Amini’s story epitomizes the struggles of many Iranians of all ages and backgrounds who yearn for a society defined by democracy and human rights, and who yearn to be freed of the shackles of their current oppression. Her death starkly underscores the vile stance that the mullahs have taken against women while arguing ‘modesty’ — cloaking their misogyny and ethnocentric views, Mahsa being a young Kurdish woman, behind the convenient veneer of religiosity.
What followed was in the image of the regime’s ideology – wanton violence.
The brutal clampdown on dissent, the throttling of free expression and the systematic abuse of political detainees have become, ever since, enduring testaments to the regime’s modus operandi. As we collectively reflect, we must commit ourselves to Mahsa’s memory, and ensure that the sacrifice that her countrymen and women made to denounce her death continues to reverberate far beyond the shadows cast by tyranny.
The grossly inhumane acts undertaken by Iran’s regime in its ruthless pursuit of power should command universal revulsion. The recent upsurge in protests across Iran serves as an eloquent testament to a people’s mounting discontent with a system that places doctrinal dogma above the welfare of the Iranian people. The employment of coercive force against demonstrators, the ruthless curtailment of fundamental human rights and the wanton imposition of censorship collectively foster a climate of intimidation and despair.
The United Kingdom, renowned for its robust commitment to human rights and global equilibrium, must lead the way and stand on the side of the protesters. It is imperative that we wield our influence to unmask the Iranian dictatorship’s ignominious conduct and demand justice for its transgressions. Our collective response should bear the weight of our determination to hold radical ideologues to account.
Mahsa Amini’s tragic tale should prompt us to rethink our approach vis a vis the Islamic Republic of Iran and the wider region. It is time we recognize that traditional methods of engaging with the regime have yielded unsatisfactory results and allowed its hoards to oppress at home and spread terrorism abroad. We must align our foreign policy with the regime’s actions, not give in to mere rhetoric. The Iranian people’s resilience against oppression deserves more than lip service, it mandates tangible action from the international community.
This reimagining of strategy necessitates our unwavering support for the Iranian protest movement, seeking to rid the country of tyranny. By amplifying the voices of those rallying for change, we can galvanize Iranians to script their destinies on their terms. Our efforts should further encompass fortifying regional partnerships united in their concerns over the regime’s disruptive endeavors.
As Mahsa Amini’s memory reverberates, let her death invigorate our commitment to confront Iran’s regime over its human rights violations while realigning our approach. The United Kingdom stands primed to lead this crusade. We owe it to Mahsa’s memory, Iran’s oppressed masses and the larger pursuit of human rights.
Her story embodies the indomitable human spirit and the unwavering tenacity of those who dare to envisage a better world.