By Mahshid Rezaei, MONOVA’s New Voices Volunteer Program
North Vancouver has a rich and vibrant Iranian community that has been growing steadily since the 1970s. Both the City and District of North Vancouver have been enriched by the many Iranian shops, restaurants, bakeries, community organizations and celebrations that these newcomers established.
My involvement with MONOVA’s New Voices Volunteer Program has provided a platform to more deeply connect with the team at the Museum and Archives of North Vancouver, and it was through this work that I was invited to provide some context for the community on the deeply troubling situation taking place in Iran right now.
Recent Popular Protests In Iran
The first popular protest in the history of the Islamic Republic was the women’s protest against the mandatory headscarf, which took place 25 days after the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, on International Women’s Day in March 1979.
The protests increased intensity over a short space of time. Subsequently, the national currency devalued and the government imposed more religious restrictions on people in order to subdue the unrest.
Throughout the 1990s, the beginning of widespread popular movements was accompanied by the arrest and execution of thousands of student protesters.
In 1996, the focus of widespread economic and religious protests expanded to the entire system, and the Iranian people rallied to demand to change the Islamic Republic’s regime for the first time, which was once again suppressed by mass murder and the arrest and political suppression of many more people.
Following the rigged presidential election in 2009, the Iranian people staged yet another large-scale protest that, again, resulted in the murder and detention of a great number of innocent civilians.
By 2018, while subject to the severe living and economic issues due to sanctions imposed by the international community on the regime, Iran’s people endured one of the bloodiest protests including over 1,500 murders among many arrests and many of those prisoners subjected to torture.
Mahsa Amini and the Uprising of 2022
These days mark the greatest and longest sustained large-scale protest in Iran’s post-Islamic Revolution history. This most recent uprising was sparked by the violent and widely-broadcast death of a young woman named Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Iranian Morality Police. She was taken captive, was brutally beaten and suffered an alleged cardiac arrest, only because her hijab was deemed incorrectly worn.
This particular uprising began on 15 September 2022, with a gathering of people in front of the hospital in Tehran, where Mahsa Amini was pronounced dead. Within a few days, public outrage accelerated this gathering into a large-scale and coordinated protest across most provinces and cities. Following the discovery of evidence leading to the true cause of Mahsa Amini’s death, once more the direction of the protests changed from demanding freedom to demanding regime change.
Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 Tragedy
This was similar to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) scandal surrounding the Flight 752 tragedy in 2020 (which included 7 victims from the North Shore’s Iranian community), which also resulted in an overwhelming protest response for regime change. With the huge participation of students together with boycotts of market traders, academics, and various industries, the protests evolved to become more organized, longer in duration and more internationally supported.
At the time of this writing, and during the past three months of this recent movement, the IRGC’s Security Forces attempted to suppress the protests by arresting students, artists, and intellectuals.
Global Movement of Protest
While the Islamic Republic of Iran attempts to censor news of protests and murders of demonstrators including children by disrupting and shutting down the internet, protesters in over 150 cities around the world (including Vancouver) have joined the now global movement and have become a united mouthpiece for plight of the Iranian people.
Despite the censorship and with the support of Iranian diaspora and international community, the world has observed first-hand mass murder of children and young people in Iran. Women around the globe have shown solidarity with Iranian women by cutting their hair, an almost universal feminist symbol of defiance which is especially potent as parts of the world experience increasingly oppressive, predominantly masculine autocracies.
The Canadian government has also demonstrated its unwavering support and commitment for this public movement, similar to what it did for the Flight 752 tragedy.
North Vancouver’s Response
Over 15,000 people identify as Iranian on the North Shore as reported in the 2016 Canadian Census. While the protests in Downtown Vancouver have been the focal point of the response locally, North Vancouver’s Iranian community are active in the protests and showing their support in various ways including the formation of a human chain across the Lion’s Gate Bridge on 29 October 2022.
Additionally, the City of North Vancouver Council passed a motion from Mayor Linda Buchanan on 18 July 2022 directing staff to start the process for a new public memorial dedicated to the 176 people killed when Iran’s military shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 moments after it took off from Tehran’s airport on 8 January 2020. You can visit The Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims to learn more.
“I stand in solidarity with the people of Iran,” stated recently elected City of North Vancouver Councillor Shervin Shahriari. “The brutal killings of young women, men and children during street protests have outraged me and many others around the world.”
“Iran is the homeland of the first charter of human rights, the ancient Cyrus Cylinder,” added Shahriari. “This year United Nations marked its Human Rights Day with the theme of dignity, freedom and justice. Like all nations, people in Iran want to live with dignity, freedom and justice.”
At this stage, it’s important to support the protests and to provide opportunities for the voices of the Iranian people to be heard. North Vancouver residents looking to support the people of Iran can do so by keeping up-to-date on the news in Iran and showing up to support rallies locally when they take place.
MONOVA’s New Voices Volunteer Program provides a forum for newcomers to volunteer at the Museum of North Vancouver. Open to non-permanent residents, new immigrants, and international students, the volunteer group is currently working on new community exhibit to debut in 2023.
We rely on contributions, monthly or one-time gifts, to help MONOVA safeguard and expand our community’s archival and museum collections, build learning experiences and inspire future generations.
Donations are accepted through the Friends of the North Vancouver Museum & Archives Society, Registered Charity No. 89031 1772 RR0001.
We respectfully acknowledge that MONOVA: Museum and Archives of North Vancouver is located on the traditional lands of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations, whose ancestors have lived here for countless generations. We are grateful for the opportunity to live, work and learn with them on unceded Coast Salish Territory.