Some 100 Israelis gathered in Jerusalem’s Independence Park on Thursday afternoon to rally in solidarity with the Iranian women who have been leading anti-government protests for weeks.
“There was something about hearing that a young woman was taken off the street because she wasn’t dressed the way someone wanted her to be dressed,” said Shoshana Keats Jaskoll, a feminist activist and one of the event organizers. “It really affected me… and so many women — and men, by the way — said we want to stand with the Iranian people. We want to stand with the minorities of Iran, the women of Iran, and we want to say this is not okay.”
“And we want to say here in Israel that we believe you deserve your freedom,” added Keats Jaskoll.
Anti-government protests have been roiling Iran in recent weeks, touched off following the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish woman who was detained for wearing her hijab too loosely. Activists estimate that more than 90 people have been killed in the protests so far, as police have responded with force and cracked down on rallies as well as social media activity.
Holding signs in Hebrew, English and Farsi, the protesters in downtown Jerusalem — including many Israelis of Persian descent — chanted “Women. Life. Freedom.”
Shelly Salemnia, who has Iranian heritage, said it was important for her to seek out an event in Israel supporting Iranian protesters.
“I wanted to find [a protest to attend] because I know that there’s a deep connection between Israel and Iran,” said Salemnia. “My family used to move between Israel and Iran back in the day before the revolution change.”
Salemnia said that the Iranian diaspora around the world feels a strong connection to their homeland, “even though I’ve never been there.”
“I really wanted to show support for the people that are suffering over there,” she added. “It’s not their fault that they have to be under this regime, and I’m hoping that it can change.”
Yvette M., a Persian Jew visiting Israel from New York who attended the protest — and who requested to be identified only by her first name over fears of her relatives still living in Iran — said she would love to be able to visit Iran one day in the future.
“This is the first time I feel like there’s a glimmer of hope that something might change,” said Yvette of the ongoing protests. “And there’s much more international coverage this time around compared to the Green Revolution [against then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] in 2009… I’m so happy to see that this is happening.”
The rally was also co-organized by Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, who addressed the crowd in Hebrew and English.
“We have never been against the Iranian people, we are on the side of the Iranian nation and against the cruel Iranian regime that kills women for no reason at all, and stops women from having equal rights and stops people from having equal rights,” said Hassan-Nahoum.
The deputy mayor said she is “praying for the day when Iran can also join the Abraham Accords with the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan… it is in our interest — in Israel’s interest — for there to be a democracy and a free society in Iran.”