by Higerta Gjergji

The Iranian Diaspora Collective (IDC) was formed in response to the mass protests in Iran and around the world following the murder of Mahsa Amini by the Iranian moral police in September 2022.

Members of the diaspora aim to listen to and amplify the voices inside Iran calling for an end to the current dictatorial regime and the establishment of a secular and democratic system that defends women’s rights, including human rights, freedom of movement, freedom of expression and the protection of the country’s environment and resources. An intersectional approach is used to implement projects and achieve freedom of expression and equality for women and all marginalised groups in Iran.

“We acknowledge the work of Kurdish leaders and feminists who launched the Woman, Life, Freedom (“Jin, Jiyan, Azadî”) movement over 44 years ago, and we recognise that the protests in Iran are the result of decades of work and perseverance by human rights activists in all parts of Iran”.

The group calls itself non-partisan – they are not affiliated with any political organisation or pressure group – multi-religious and queer.

With these premises, their projects developed. When the Iranian government blocked the internet in September 2022, preventing the use of social media and the ability of the Iranian people to share their experiences or government oppression, the IDC responded by launching a multi-source publicity campaign to raise visibility and awareness of the Women, Life, Freedom movement in Iran. This campaign was the backdrop for protests and solidarity rallies in many places outside Iran. Internet access has become necessary for journalism, communication and dissemination of what is happening inside the country.

Any video of protests or proclamations for human rights has been shared thanks to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), which are tools that allow you to protect your connection and disguise your IP address, bypassing blocks; thus a system that acts as through the computer and the user and the sites used by hiding their identity – the connection via VPN can come from another country.  For this reason, IDC is supported by Yasmin Green (CEO of Jigsaw at Google, an internal Google unit that researches the threats available to companies, government agencies and private entities tools to extract structured data from the analysis of network flows, such as the cyber attack map. They look for high-impact interventions where they can focus on helping a specific group of people, such as journalists, civil society or activists, to make the Internet and society stronger and safer for everyone.) Another contributor is Reza Ghazinouri, a security and privacy expert.

Among their projects are, an Instagram page from more than 59 thousand followers, two important petitions, creating an immersive experience to tell the stories of political prisoners, and campaigns to amplify the voice of the Iranians.

After the death of President Ebrahim Raisi, the Instagram page published posts reporting the words of the families of the regime’s victims, in which they share their strong emotions, from pain to loss to a sense of justice. “Their voices echo the ongoing struggle against the cruelty of the regime”.

Sentences like: “What have you done to make your deaths so sweet?” by Niaz Zam, daughter of Rohollah Zam, who was abducted and executed by the IRGC, and “My mother: I am glad that there are fewer executioners. I am happy because today thousands of mourning mothers like me are happy, and I am happy because the orders of these very executioners innocently executed my son Ramin” by Amjad Hossein, brother of Ramin who was executed by the regime.

From this page you can link to the other projects, including the Iran Prison Project. The experience is immersive, almost like a video game, and through this, we live the testimonies of the people who dared to tell it thanks to the help of voice actors who give voice to the written texts.

To facilitate information and access to sources, in 2022 they created a Living Document, with varied documents and stories. In addition to the information, there are petitions to stop the executions of Iranian protesters, and the letter to support the rapper Toomj Salehi who was an explicit critic of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and for this, he was arrested.

Toomaj was accused of ‘anti-government propaganda, cooperation with hostile governments and forming illegal groups to create insecurity in the country’, IRNA quoted the Isfahan provincial judiciary as saying. “He was denied a lawyer of his choice and given one appointed by the regime,” Toomaj’s cousin Azadeh Babadi told CBC News. Tens of thousands of protesters in Iran have been arbitrarily detained during recent anti-government demonstrations. The most common, vaguely defined criminal charges often used against dissidents or protesters are moharebeh or ‘waging war against God’, efsad-e fel-arz or ‘corruption on earth’ and baghy or ‘armed rebellion’. These charges carry the death penalty and are dealt with by the Revolutionary Courts. 227 of the 290 members of the Islamic Republic’s parliament called for “the execution of demonstrators convicted of war crimes as soon as possible”.

The petitioners demand that “the authorities must release Toomaj and other political prisoners and respect the rights of detainees to due process. We call on world leaders and the international community to speak out against the arbitrary detention of dissidents, the use of torture and unfair trials of protesters. 

On the cover photo, a billboard by the Iranian Diaspora Collective, featuring Mahsa Amini (from IDC’s website)