8 April 2023

Vigil in support of Iranian women a great success

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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People at a vigil holding candles

Vigil organiser Dr Shabnam Azarm said the event turned out better than expected. Photo: Supplied.

A candlelight vigil held in Wagga to remember those who lost their lives during the ‘women, life, freedom’ movement in Iran was an “eye-opener” for the community.

The vigil was held at the Victory Memorial Gardens last weekend and attended by many community members, along with Member for Riverina Michael McCormack, Member for Wagga Dr Joe McGirr and Wagga Wagga City Council Mayor Dallas Tout.

Iranian women are continuing to be treated as second-class citizens in relation to marriage, divorce, employment, child custody, political office and inheritance. During the ‘women, life, freedom’ movement thousands were arrested, and more than 100 children were killed.

Vigil organiser Dr Shabnam Azarm said the vigil was a “success”, turned out better than what was expected and received support from various community members.

“We had one-on-one chat with a lot of people and it was an eye-opener for many of them,” Dr Azarm said.

“Some people knew what was already going on and happy this event (vigil) was being held and give people (of Iran) the voice.

“A lot of people were emotional … couldn’t believe their eyes.”

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Dr Azarm said the organisers were looking into organising another event or activity to raise awareness about schoolgirls being poisoned.

“UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) hasn’t done much for what’s happening to the children in Iran,” she said.

“The children are back to school after new year holidays and were attacked with chemical poisoning.

“We’re hoping to raise more awareness with Iranian communities from other cities … we have some ideas, but we don’t have any fixed plans right now.”

Dr Azarm extended her gratitude to Mr McCormack, Dr Joe McGirr, Cr Tout, local community members, The Curious Rabbit, Multicultural Council of Wagga Wagga and local media for participating and helping to raise awareness of the atrocities faced by Iranians.

Cr Tout said he was honoured to be asked to attend and speak at the vigil.

“It was very courageous of members of the Iranian community to attend the vigil considering the actions the regime took against family members,” Cr Tout said.

“The vigil represented what Wagga does as a diverse and inclusive city.“We wrap ourselves around those in need and stand by them in times like these.”

Mr McCormack said the candlelight vigil had a strong turnout in support of the Iranian people fighting for basic human rights which most people took for granted.

“It was inspiring to attend such a powerful community representation of peace-loving people gathered to send a message of hope, love and peace to Iran,” Mr McCormack said.

“Given my shadow portfolio responsibilities include international development, I will, as I have always done, continue to advocate for improving human rights.

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“Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini died at the hands of Iranian authorities at just 22 years young in September last year. Her death, and others, must not be in vain.

“It is not good enough that women are oppressed and mistreated in any country, in any situation and the Wagga Wagga community has shown its desire to effect positive change across the world.”

Mr McCormack said Wagga cared deeply about its international obligations and making sure people did everything they could so women could feel free anywhere they lived in the world.

Dr Joe McGirr thanked the Iranian community of Wagga on his social media for raising awareness of the human rights issues faced by women in Iran.

“It is horrific to see the atrocities occurring against women in Iran at present,” said Dr McGirr.

“We must not tolerate this appalling discrimination, we must stand with the people of Iran, and we must not let it influence our views in our own society.

“When we let the rights of any group in our society be reduced, it impacts the rights for all.”

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