Legislative Council: Thursday, November 03, 2022



Iranian Protests

The Hon. T.T. NGO (15:35): I move:

That this council—

1. Condemns the deadly and disproportionate use of force against protesters in Iran, following the tragic death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Jina (Mahsa) Amini;

2. Expresses concern at the disproportionate attacks on ethnic minorities in Kurdistan and the Baloch regions of Iran;

3. Supports the right of all people in Iran to protest peacefully and calls on Iranian authorities to exercise restraint and heed the call of protestors;

4. Supports the inherent right of the people of Iran to call for democracy in Iran;

5. Stands with women and girls in Iran in their struggle for equality and empowerment, and calls on Iranian authorities to cease its oppression of women and ethnic minorities; and

6. Expresses its commitment to promoting gender equality and women’s human rights, empowerment and ending violence against women and girls worldwide.

I rise today to move this motion and to speak out against the violent response against protesters in Iran following the death of 22-year-old Ms Mahsa Amini, who was also known as Jina Amini, from Kurdistan province in Western Iran.

As a former Vietnamese refugee who lived in a Communist country, I have great empathy for people living under a ruthless regime. I have spoken out against other dictators in the past in this chamber and today I speak out in support of our Iranian-Australian community.

As was reported, Ms Amini went to Tehran with their family and was with her brother when she was arrested on 13 September 2022 by the morality police for wearing a hijab which was not in accordance with the government's standards. Ms Amini was taken to the Vozara detention centre and, shortly after collapsing, fell into a coma.

Iranian police rejected allegations that she was beaten up, saying the 22 year old had a heart attack as she waited with other detained women at the police station. However, media reports stated that witnesses said she was violently beaten in the van and later collapsed inside a correctional centre before being transported to a hospital, where she died three days later.

In responding to this news, here in Australia and throughout the world the Iranian community have gathered in the thousands as part of global protests at the Iranian government over her death. An Australian-Iranian protester, Ms Khazaeli Dobson, who is unable to use her real name for security reasons, was interviewed by journalists while protesting in Canberra. She said she was involved in protests in Iran in 2009 and stated how important it is to maintain momentum against this regime. She said 'uprisings in Iranian are not a new thing, but this one is different because of the quite strong message about overthrowing the regime'.

We all know there has been much oppression about developing political ideas in Iran, and this is a nation that desperately needs a plan for a new political regime change so all Iranians can have a better future.

An article written by Iranian author and activist based in Tehran Mr Saeb Karimi, printed in The Age newspaper on 13 October 2022, stated that the presence of women and young girls in the protests is so prominent that some call it a women's revolution, a revolution that wants to overthrow laws that discriminate against women and violates their rights.

However, hijab and mandatory headscarves are not the whole issue. Mr Karimi describes how the protest movement is getting momentum from a vast range of demands and suppressed rights. He discusses how the new wave of protests are like no other seen in Iran. Previous protests focused on single issues such as the hijab, inflation, the lack of action for the environment, and rigged elections. Iranians know that previous protests by individual groups came to nothing, whereas this movement has become the umbrella for all previous protests, like oppression of women and minority groups, government corruption, inactivity to address the economic crisis, and the urgency of the environmental issues.

Iranians are starting to demand a new era and share the same ideals and the same visions. They want to save themselves from the fate they are sentenced to under the current regime. They also want to save their country and the environment from years and years of government neglect. For example, the largest lake in the Middle East, Lake Urmia, a saltwater lake which is about 150 kilometres long and 55 kilometres wide, has been reported to be disappearing. Other environmental issues include lagoons being ruined, rivers drying up and fires in forests. Iran's pollution is killing people and animals, and those who protest against the environmental crisis due to government inactivity are then thrown in jail. Mr Karimi also said:

We want our economy to join the international world and thrive. That is possible with the educated workforce, energy, resources and the right government to handle it. This revolutionary movement's slogan, 'Women Life Freedom' is the most illustrative and illuminating I have ever seen…It seeks to bring back women's dignity and basic human rights, and wants to create a decent life for all and guarantee the freedom and democracy Iran has long sought.

Iranians are uniting; men and women are taking to the streets in huge numbers, posting on social media, protesting peacefully, and risking their personal safety to make their cause known to the world. Mr Karimi said that the current economic crisis is so devastating that even traditional supporters of the regime are joining the protesters.

Here in Adelaide, three large rallies have taken place, attracting thousands of demonstrators as South Australians continue to express their strong support for Iranians in their struggle for equality and empowerment. What is happening in Iran is about dismantling so many forms of oppression that exist for not only women, but many other groups, too. However, for Iranian women, the layers of oppression affect all aspects of their lives, and these must be dismantled.

I recently met with Ms Sahar Khajani from an Adelaide organisation called Arta Iranian Cultural Centre. During our conversation she told me that three years ago there was an uprising in Iran over increased fuel prices, and that the regime killed more than 1,500 protesters over a week, and no-one in the world said or did anything. She said this time almost everyone is coming out to protest because no-one wants any more mass killings. She also said that Iranians believe the time is right for political change.

Many Australians, including Australian-Iranians and Australian politicians from many sides of politics, are calling on the regime and official agencies in Iran to exercise restraint in their response to ongoing demonstrations. I would like to thank the Iranian community in Australia for their campaign. I especially want to acknowledge the members of Freedom for Iran in Adelaide, the Arta Iranian Cultural Centre, and other organisations from the Iranian community, who are working as one in support of their people.

Their commitment to keeping the demonstrations going in Australia is supporting and giving voice to the people in Iran who are demanding and needing political change. I ask honourable members from all political parties in this parliament to support my motion to demonstrate unity on this very important issue.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. L.A. Curran.