I had the pleasure of interviewing Lilia Souri, a close friend of mine and a women’s rights activist who works in Brooklyn, NY! We will learn more about Lilia’s past and ideas on being an activist below! We talked about the Iranian Revolution currently happening over women’s rights in Iran and how she views that as an Iranian-American woman herself.
Please tell us your background and what really led you to become an activist?
I’m an Iranian-American who was born and raised in the states, but my parents were born and raised in Iran (her father left during the revolution in 1978 and her mom in 1982). I’ve always been very outspoken about human rights issues and when the current revolution in Iran broke, I knew there was no other option than to make my followers aware and educated on everything transpiring. Activism to me is bringing awareness to justice. Sadly, western media doesn’t shed much light on crises in the Middle East, therefore making social media activism that much more critical.
Can you please tell us what exactly is going on in Iran and how that makes you feel?
A series of protests were sparked in mid-September following the murder of a Kurdish woman, Mahsa “Jina” Amini. She was 22 years old and was killed by the Hijab police in Tehran, Iran for not wearing her hijab in what the police deemed an appropriate way. Her death ignited the current woman-led revolution, Woman Life Freedom, that’s happening in Iran as we speak. This revolution is demanding the current Islamic Regime of Iran ended. This regime has been oppressing its people, especially women and the LGBTQ+ community for 43 years since they came to power. They have been arresting, raping, torturing, and executing protesters for over two months now. This regime is murdering its people and Iranians are begging for the world to pay attention.
The revolution was sparked by Mahsa “Jina” Amini’s death but it stands for so much for than hijab laws. This revolution is for the freedom of Iran. This revolution is demanding an end to the Islamic Regime and calls for a democratic Iran. This is something Iran has never had. This is something Iran and all humans deserve.
All of this makes me feel so angry. I wake up devastated that young school girls are being brutally murdered for not wearing their headscarves and for peacefully asking for freedom. It also makes me so sad because my parents lived through Iran’s last revolution in 1979. This is the revolution that displaced them. They haven’t been back to their homeland since. All because of the Islamic Regime. This revolution is an attack on my people. An attack on my blood. I won’t rest until my homeland is free.
What have you been doing to spread awareness and advocate for these women in Iran?
I have been organizing protests throughout New York City on a weekly basis and I’ve been constantly posting news from Iran on my social media. Our job as Iranians of the diaspora is to amplify the voices in Iran, especially because they’re facing strict censorship from the Islamic regime. It is so important that we keep spreading their stories. Awareness is what adds public pressure and public pressure is what evokes change.
What do you think others should be doing in support of the Iranian revolution?
I think people should ask questions and post. If they’re confused I promise you any Iranian would be more than happy to explain the complexities of this revolution. And besides, that posting is truly the most impactful thing anyone can do.
Would you consider yourself a feminist? If so, what does that mean to you?
I absolutely consider myself a feminist. To me, this means standing for the full equality of all humans. Not just men and women, but all humans that identify as whatever they choose. Feminism doesn’t stop in the states, to be a true feminist, I believe you must deeply care about women’s rights across the world.
What do you think the criteria is to be considered a “feminist”?
I believe Feminism stands for equality which means it stands for freedom from oppression and I truly believe no one is free until we are all free. As in all humans as a collective unit. I have a hard time seeing people who claim their feminists turn a blind eye to what’s happening in Iran because this is what women’s rights are all about. We must fight for all people to be free from oppressive forces. It can’t be limited to equal pay it must go beyond that.
This is an incredibly important and relevant topic and there is lots to be done in support of the Iranians who are fighting for their rights and freedom. Voices like Lilia’s mean so much as we hear experiences that inform us and urge us to fight for a better world for all.
If you are interested in learning more about the Iranian revolution and keeping up with the news, Lilia has kindly shared some Instagram accounts that will keep you informed:
- an activist helping move people towards action: @taragrammy
- a clear way how to get involved and what is happening: @iamnazaninnour
- a source of motivating information: @chelseahartisme
- dedication to Iranians and showing support: @sepidehmoafi & @nazaninboniadi
- news from the ground on Iran itself: @golfarahani
- for storytelling and clarity on who is who and what is what: @nicolenajafi
- For news at large on Iran: @from___iran & @iraniandiasporacollective & @sarahrmni & @samanism & @ranarahimpour_bbc
All photos were provided and taken by: Lilia Souri