Iran Survey
”The best thing we can do is to stay informed and continue to help amplify the voices being shut down”
On how creative industries can shine a light on the protests in Iran
12 Oct 2022

Milad is a self-taught photographer working globally with both commercial and editorial clients within the fashion industry. With a background in architecture, he shows a unique point of view in depicting menswear and lifestyle in a relatable manner.

Can you share your thoughts on what is happening in Iran right now and how this is affecting you personally?

— The timing of Jina Mahsa Amini’s death amid ever-escalating repressive state policies has pushed the frustration of the people beyond control. These protests are the culmination of decades of resistance led by women, both veiled and unveiled, against religious exploitation, gender apartheid, and forced hijab. Mahsa is every woman and this struggle for equality and basic human rights is closely linked with what many women across the globe experience every day, that their bodies and rights are and have always been under attack. And they have had enough.

The images we see are reminiscent of the turmoil before the ‘79 Islamic revolution which began as a promise of freedom from a foreign-backed monarchy. Religion quickly turned into a tool to build another repressive system and maintain power over the people. And so, it is important to realize that the people of Iran, many of whom are practising Muslims, are not against Islam or even the hijab. They simply wish to have the freedom of choice that many of us in this part of the world take for granted. Regardless of their personal beliefs, they have built a unified and leaderless movement focused on a singular slogan signalling a major shift from past demonstrations and a political future where they are free from any system of oppression.

Any personal implications for me are irrelevant in comparison to the risks taken by my brothers and sisters in the streets of my homeland. The past weeks have been a rollercoaster of emotions keeping me in an almost constant reflection about the Iran we could all have had. Many of us Iranians watching from abroad have experienced a repeating cycle of new posts on social media, losing hope and trying to stay off Instagram to dampen the anxiety. Only to be overcome by guilt for not being able to help and so pick up our screens and maybe read something that sparks a little more hope. Through all of this, I have been in awe of the courage shown by my kin. With likely hundreds dead, including many children, mass arrests, and the pre-emptive detention of countless cultural and public figures, how brave they are to not let prison or even bullets stop their voices chanting Zan, Zendegi, Azadi.

Why is this happening right now? In to cultural and generational changes.

— The current backlash against the status quo is unprecedented in Iranian history. This is largely due to a free-thinking generation realizing that change within the current structure is not a possibility and that they not only lack a bright future but perhaps have little to live for in the present. For over four decades the IRI has shut down every possibility for democratic reform and so the people are past asking and are at what appears to be, a turning point toward revolution. We can see this in how they express themselves with seemingly no fear. Teenage girls loudly chanting “death to the dictator” and dancing around their veils burning in bonfires is a sight that could not be imagined even a few years ago. What sparks even more hope is that everyone from men to women who wear their hijab by choice are walking alongside them, supporting this movement.

At the same time, we must address the importance of the broader socioeconomic issues that make everyday life unbearable for many Iranians. Poor foreign relations and extreme inflation caused largely by US sanctions affect women, ethnic minorities, and the working class the most. Cutting Iran off from the rest of the world has also allowed for the monopolization of telecommunications and internet access, possibly the regime’s mightiest weapon in silencing the current uprising.

These issues have played major roles in further empowering the current IRI regime by providing the opportunity for fear-mongering and exploitation. They allow the IRI to blame any problem on ’’the enemy”, the US and Israel while creating further opportunities for corruption within the government.

Have you seen any initiatives in your industry that are supporting or at least discussing what is happening right now? If not, what would you like to see?

— Just as we recently experienced unprecedented global reactions to the Israeli occupation and apartheid in occupied Palestine, many of us feel that the conversation about Iran is finally at a place where we are heard and understood. We have all come a long way and the tragic deaths of Mahsa, Nika, Sarina, and countless others are no longer events we can turn a blind eye to.

The rise of social media as a tool to spread information coupled with universal issues like gender equality is a strong force. What I would like to see is the increased and continuous support of the fashion industry in raising awareness and distancing themselves both in speech and action from anything that supports these systems of oppression.

In regards to the regime’s internet shutdown, how can we, who have unlimited access to social media, help and keep shedding light on the situation?

— Through all this, the Iranian people have asked for one thing only; their voices to be heard.

Almost all the evidence we have of this uprising comes from social media. The best thing we can do is to stay informed and continue to help amplify the voices being shut down. Sharing on social media and educating your own circle not only strengthens solidarity but puts pressure on the international community to take decisive and concrete action in favour of the Iranian people.

We can already see these effects in countries like Canada and Germany. Provoking hope for the people of Iran can be a powerful thing for them to rally behind. As I am writing this, we are getting reports of oil workers in Asaluyeh, home to one of the world’s largest natural gas fields, joining the nationwide strikes marking a major escalation in the movement.