‘Women, life, liberty’: Women in Israel support women in Iran

About 100 Israelis gathered together to support women in Iran who are fighting the regime following the brutal death of Mahsa Amini last month.

 Demonstrators in support for Iranian women (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Demonstrators in support for Iranian women
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

It seems hard to believe that there would be a demonstration in support of Iran in the heart of the Jewish state, but that’s what happened Thursday in Jerusalem’s Independence Park. About 100 Israelis, most of them women, came together to support women in Iran who are fighting the regime following the brutal death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last month at the hands of the so-called morality police.

There were posters with the rallying cry the women in Iran are saying at demonstrations, “Women, Life, Liberty,” and photos of women who have been killed, along with fresh flowers. For many of the demonstrators, it was a way to support Iranian women.

Demonstrators showing support for Iranian women

“I cannot believe that such a thing is happening to women anywhere in the world, and I am appalled that women can be kidnapped, tortured and murdered because they’re not wearing their hijab correctly,” said Linda Lovitch, a media and communications consultant. “As a feminist, I think it’s important to give them a voice.”

She came to the rally with several young Iranian-Israeli women she met on the Clubhouse app, where she also speaks with Iranians. One of those young women, Shelley Salemnia, 31, who made aliyah less than a year ago from “Tehrangelis,” the heavily Iranian section of Los Angeles, came to the rally from Caesarea.

Pictures of Mahsa Amini and other Iranian women that were killed were displayed on the ground with flowers (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)Pictures of Mahsa Amini and other Iranian women that were killed were displayed on the ground with flowers (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

“I came because I really have a deep need to support the Iranian people, especially the Iranian women who’ve had to live under the regime all this time,” she said.  “I’m lucky that my family was able to get out [of Iran]. But our Persian roots are deep within us no matter where we are in the world. I want to tell the Iranian people that Persian Jews are here, Israelis are here, and despite the regime, we have no borders between us.”

"I want to tell the Iranian people that Persian Jews are here, Israelis are here, and despite the regime, we have no borders between us.”

Shelley Salemnia, one of the demonstrators

Some of the other demonstrators said they still have family in Iran and are concerned for their welfare.

 “It’s extremely scary when you’re trying to talk to your cousin, and there’s a blackout and you don’t know if she’s alive,” said Yehudit, who did not want to give her last name. “You feel kind of useless, so at least I can do this.”

The rally was organized by Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum and Shoshana Keats Jaskoll, the founder of Chochmat Nashim, a religious-feminist organization.

Keats Jaskoll became tearful as she spoke to the crowd.

“As a religious woman and someone who chooses to cover her hair [for reasons of Jewish modesty], the idea of a woman being taken off the street and killed or beaten because she didn’t make that choice is something that I can’t live with and something that I have to stand against,” she said.

Hassan-Nahoum thanked the participants for coming and said she realized the timing of the rally after the High Holy Days and before Sukkot was not ideal.

Nevertheless, the rally sent an important message to the regime in Iran, Hassan-Nahoum said.

“We’re not against the people of Iran, we’re against the cruel regime of Iran, which kills women and denies them freedom,” she said. “We are dreaming of the day when Iran can join its neighbors in the Abraham Accords and make peace with Israel.”

 Demonstrators at Independence Park holding signs (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) Demonstrators at Independence Park holding signs (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

There was even an Iranian DJ, Rani Amrani, who led the protesters in a chant in Persian that is being repeated all over Iran.

“Zan, Zangagi, Awdazi,” he taught them, and then repeated it in English, “Woman, Life, Freedom.”

Dozens of people have been killed in the three weeks of protests in Iran. Along with Amini, outrage has spread over the death of Nika Shahkarami, 16, who went missing after a protest on September 20 and was found dead 10 days later. Many of the protesters in Iran are schoolgirls, and at least seven women are among the 90 people who have died in protests.