October 3, 2022

Weekend recap and NIAC’s continued response

The images of students fleeing government forces using brutal force this weekend was heart wrenching and abhorrent. Like many of you, it’s deeply troubling seeing images of Iranians fighting for their right for freedom followed by violence and bullets. We stand in solidarity with Iranians and were moved by the hundreds of events organized across the globe to raise awareness of the dire situation on the ground. 

This is a critical moment for our community and our team at NIAC is working around-the-clock to amplify Iranians’ voices and advocate for policies that support their struggle. 

Here is a breakdown of the latest news in Iran and how we are responding. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or suggestions by replying to this email. We want to be doing everything we can to help during this difficult time. 

Update on the ground

For over two weeks, the world has watched as Iranians protest in the streets for their freedom and rights. Over the weekend we saw protests continue, many across universities in Iran, and we saw the brutal crackdown and attacks on students at Sharif University. Reports emerged that a large number of students were trapped in a car park and surrounded by government security personnel. More reports stated that students and professors had been beaten up, arrested, and shot at. More images emerged of a stream of cars and traffic moving towards the university to support the besieged students. 

Despite mass arrests and violence against protestors, demonstrations persist along with courageous acts of defiance as Iranian women remove their headscarves in public spaces. Read more about mass arrests and the brutal crackdown in today’s human rights tracker.

Updates from the Hill 

NIAC’s team has been advising Congressional staff on the protests and how Congress should respond. Now, new legislation has been introduced in the House and the Senate to commend the bravery of the Iranian people and to call for new targeted sanctions against institutions and officials involved in the crackdown and human rights abuses. NIAC supported the development of the resolution and are urging swift passage.

There are other key legislative steps we’ve pushed to support internet freedom in Iran. We supported the House passage of legislation requiring the U.S. government to report on the Iranian government’s online repression and steps the U.S. can take to enable the Iranian people to communicate freely online. We believe this would help focus the administration on additional steps that can be taken to counter internet blackouts and keep Iranians online, including satellite internet technology like Starlink.

Now, we need your help. Can you call on your lawmaker to sign onto these important legislative efforts speak out and stand in solidarity with the Iranian people?

[Take Action]

Other ways to support Iranians 

NIAC is urging tech companies to provide services to Iranians in light of the recent easing of sanctions on communications technology. We are also urging them to take rapid steps, including providing services for free that would normally require payment and thus cannot be easily facilitated due to sanctions. 

Following reports that NIAC gathered from our community, we also started a petition and connected with Meta to urge them to halt the censorship of protest-related posts on Instagram and Facebook. To inform our advocacy, we ask you to continue sharing incidents where you have had a post removed or seen posts removed on Meta or other social media platforms. You can reply to this email with any information you have and our team will review it and elevate it to contacts at Meta. 

Message on unity 

We have heard from many in our community who are concerned about attacks and in-fighting that have been increasing within the Iranian diaspora these past few days. Now is not the time for division, it is a time for unity. 

We who are on the outside of Iran have an immense privilege to be able to voice our political views and support calls for freedom without fear of violence – something that Iranians bravely demonstrating in the streets do not have. We have a responsibility to use that privilege to amplify Iranians’ voices and support their cause, not use their cause to settle partisan political differences outside the country. NIAC will not respond to these attacks or engage in this self-defeating behavior. We will remain focused on the work: supporting the Iranian people in their struggle. We hope that others with a platform will find ways to build unity rather than stoke divisions. 

NIAC’s theory of change, which we always remind our volunteers, is that power comes from organized people. Iranians inside and outside the country need power to succeed right now. All of us who support women, life, and freedom must speak with one voice, not divide our voices against one another, to best help the Iranian people.

In closing, like millions of people across the world, I’ve been listening to this song by Shervin Hajipour who was arrested and forced to take down his beautiful song in support of protestors which garnered 40 million views online (and counting). I hope you’ll take a listen if you haven’t yet. 

In solidarity, 

Jamal Abdi

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