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Pathfinder International Statement of Solidarity with Protesters in Iran

Zan, Zendegi, Azadi
Women, Life, Freedom

On September 13, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was arrested by Iran’s morality police in Tehran for allegedly violating the country’s strict hijab rules. Law enforcement officers beat her but publicly attributed her death to a heart attack, releasing images of Amini that horrified Iranians. In the wake of Mahsa Amini’s unjust death, protests in and outside of Iran swelled. Last weekend, mass demonstrations around the world sent up a chorus of international support for the rights of women, and all people, in Iran, and everywhere, to bodily autonomy.

But in Iran, women’s public displays of solidarity with Amini, including setting their own head scarves on fire, have been met with state violence and arrests. The UN reports that schools and other public institutions are being raided. Dozens of children have been killed and an untold number sent to “psychological centers” upon arrest for alleged participation in the demonstrations. Human rights defenders, journalists, students, attorneys, opposition politicians, and activists have been detained. And international coverage of these events is scant.

At Pathfinder, we champion sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide, mobilizing communities to break through barriers and forge their own path to a healthier future. We know that when one girl or woman is denied control over her own body and robbed of the ability to make decisions—from whether to wear a hijab to whether to get married, use contraception, or have an abortion—the rights of girls and women everywhere are threatened. We stand in solidarity with those bravely speaking out in condemnation of oppression, control, and violence against women, girls, and those who support gender equality. We mourn the murder of Mahsa Amini and the violent deaths of hundreds of Iranian citizens, among them children and young people, from government attempts to suppress the uprisings and quash the sentiment behind them.

We call on the international press to amplify the stories of the Iranian people risking their lives to demand a government that guarantees the rights of all people to agency over their bodies and lives. We call on our colleagues around the world and our fellow international nongovernmental organizations to raise their voices in support of the women and girls of Iran. Pathfinder’s tireless work to expand and ensure access to sexual and reproductive health and rights is closely aligned with Iranian citizens’ courageous demands for human rights, including the right to bodily autonomy; the right to freedom of movement, expression, and religion; the right to education; and the right to safety and security.

It is deeply disturbing to see so many women and girls facing death, violence, and threats for merely making a choice about how they would like to dress. Women and girls are humans who should have equal rights no matter where they live in the world. Pathfinder is committed to providing a safe environment to all women and girls that enables them to reach their highest potential in life without fear of persecution.

We stand in solidarity with women and girls across the world in their demand for justice and choice. My deepest condolences to the families and friends of the women and girls who have lost their lives in this valiant struggle. 

— Tabinda Sarosh, President, South Asia and MENA, Pathfinder International