I lived in Iran for the first 34 years of my life and moved to Switzerland six years ago with my husband just after we got married and he got a job offer in Zurich. I had a few opportunities to migrate abroad prior to that, but I decided against it. I counted myself among a group of Iranians that were convinced that not everyone should move out of the country and that we should stay to build it. It was a struggle with my family who believed that I was not the kind of woman who could live in Iran and follow the strict islamic law and its restrictions on daily life. My family was not religious but they strongly committed to societal norms and wanted me to think, talk, dress and act accordingly.
Soon enough they realized that I wasn’t a person who would follow them thoroughly.
They somehow managed me and my wild spirit during my childhood and teen years; But i was not a typical girl. I thought about shaving my head so that I could ride my bike like my brother and cousins, I wore clothes like boys and insisted on joining the men in the family on their hikes and adventures in nature. I wished I was a boy back then.
When my family found out I had a boyfriend at the age of 17, they somehow forced me to marry him. We were meeting each other once a week in the park. We were petrified not just because of the morality police that does not allow men and women that are not family to be together in public, but also to be seen by our families. We were even too scared to hold hands. We had to marry so that our families could save face, so that we were safe from the morality police and the judgement of society including our own family members. We did not even live together for one day during our marriage.
Once I was 18 years old, I moved to a different city to study. I lived independently and worked for a private company when I was 22 years old. While this is all totally normal for a young woman living in the west, this was not at all acceptable by my family and the Iranian society. When I was old enough to realize that our marriage was a big mistake and wanted to end it, I received very harsh feedback from my family. This was the first divorce in both families. I ended up being more isolated and restricted as ever before. The perception was that I was more vulnerable in society due to the divorce label and the fact that I no longer was a virgin.
Maybe one day, I will write a book, a drama novel, about my life, which might offer a satiric view to the rest of the world on how a normal life is for an Iranian woman.
Iran’s society has changed rapidly in the last decade. Living alone and independently for a girl is no longer disparaged, having a boyfriend and getting a divorce are not frowned upon like 20 years ago but the gender segregation still shows itself clearly. While society norms and cultural practices has changed a bit, the discriminating laws of the islamic republic laws have remained the same.
Blatant discrimination and unfair expectations towards women are common in Iranian law and practice. In all areas of women's lifes, including marriage, divorce, employment, and culture, Iranian women are either restricted or need permission from their husbands or paternal guardians, depriving them of their autonomy and human dignity.
After my MBA in Iran, I attended a few courses at the Koblenz university in Germany, under the European Union program about International economy and Marketing. This was right after the green protest movement in Iran in 2009, in which I took part. I wore a green wristband and I explained to people from different nations what we are fighting for every possible opportunity I had. I had travelled to several countries before moving to Switzerland and I was naive enough to believe the world cares about democracy and freedom for every human being living on this planet.
I wouldn’t call myself a political activist before I joined the people in protests in Iran during 2009. Lots of Iranian people now are fighting for the revolution, back then we still believed that we can change the situation with reforms. But after all those years of trying, today we all are sure that there is no space for any reforms. This regime is a murderous corrupted one and we clearly want it to go. While living in Switzerland, a free country, a role model for democracy, I thought although I am far from Iran, I might be able to help the protestors in Iran by being active here. I thought the Swiss government wouldn't be silent when they see and hear what is going on the ground in Iran so I tried to echo their voices. As soon as I got the attention from politicians and media after cutting my hair on September 24th during our first demonstration, I had several interviews and opportunities to talk about what now call the «Iran Revolution»
Now, I believe it is hard to live here in Switzerland and not be aware about the current situation in Iran. But I am shocked how the Swiss government ignored us for such a long time and that in the end they preferred not to support the Iranian people, human rights and democracy for the sake of their current relationship with the regime.
It is unbelievable that in a free country that believes in democracy deeply, the government doesn’t care about democracy in other countries.
What about the future?
We deeply believe that this time protests are different, that's why we call it a revolution and We are fighting till victory. Lots of educated, talented, potent Iranians had to leave Iran during the last four decades because they couldn’t live under the situation this dictatorship regime made. We hope to have a free Iran where all Iranians can live freely.
For me as a nature lover, Switzerland is a heaven where I can explore and climb mountains, this is the country my daughter was born in and calls it home and I was quite happy living here. Having an Iranian passport and Switzerland residency permit type C, give me the options to decide where to live in future, hopefully soon Iran will be a free country we all Iranians choose to live in.
So what can the Swiss people do to help the Iranian people?
- I started a petition at the start of the protests to demand that the Swiss government takes action but I only succeeded in gathering less than 10’000 signatures. It is uploaded in four languages; English, German, French and Italian. Let us sign and share it now. We have a plan for the petition‘s handover to the government next week, please help me to strengthen this petition with more signatures.
- Ask your government to take action. To Stop any business affiliation and negotiations with the murderous Islamic Republic and impose wide range of sanctions against all key factors of regime. Don’t let them and their families enter Switzerland after fleeing from Iran and hide the money they stole from iran. In Switzerland there is no big gap between people and government, I believe people can ask for what they care about.
- Join one of the demonstrations that we are organising regularly. I am a member of the «FreeIran.ch» group where we are united for further social and political actions. You can keep yourself informed through the social media channels about our next demonstrations and actions.
- Help us to reach out to the wider range of society. The Internet and social media are not working well in Iran due to the limitations imposed by the regime but we Iranians abroad play a big role in spreading the news in the media. I am quite active on my Instagram account, with only less than 20’000 followers, to provide people useful information. Bigger special media accounts can be even more effective. There are accounts with millions of followers in other countries like Germany, the US and Canada which gave airtime to Iranians to raise awareness, for example Joko and Klaas in Germany.
- More NGOs, associations, organisations can support us on our way fighting for freedom in Iran.