Iran Survey
”The courageous Gen Z demonstrators are more connected and educated than ever before”
On how creative industries can shine a light on the protests in Iran
12 Oct 2022

Mahsa Khoshnood is a prominent figure in the music scene, having worked as a DJ for over a decade. She is the CEO of the Swedish label Studio Barnhus and works at Södra Teatern as their nightclub manager and booker. Khoshnood came to Sweden from Iran in 1989.

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

— The demonstrations that are going on in Iran right now and that were sparked by the killing of the Kurdish woman Jina Mahsa Amini have affected me in so many different ways these past few weeks. My feelings have been veering from fear to hope every day — fear for these young people, mostly young women that are risking their lives every day —  but also hope from seeing them so fearlessly fighting for their freedom to live. It’s hard seeing videos and not thinking about how the situation would have been if you had not been able to leave the country as a child. I’ve been dealing with survivor’s guilt, a feeling I think most Iranians in exile can relate to. At the same time, what’s going on in my homeland has brought up a lot of family trauma from the period right before my parents decided to leave Iran together with me and my sister. This was back in 89 and the people of Iran had recently experienced the Islamic revolution in 1979 and the aftermath, as well as an 8-year-long war between Iran and Iraq, both of these historical events had taken a huge toll on the Iranian society.

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

— What’s happening in Iran right now is quite extraordinary, the immensely courageous Gen Z that is a part of the female lead counter-revolution are more connected and educated than ever before. Over 60 percent of the STEM-educated are women in Iran. Recently they attacked the Sharif university which is the equivalent of MIT or Harvard and where future leaders, scientists, and Nobel prize winners attend. The regime is going especially hard on students, the young people who are our future. But this generation has had enough of the Islamic Republic’s oppression and brutality and is calling for an end to it. They are fighting for basic human rights, the freedoms that were denied to them, and demanding justice for the victims of the regime. Unfortunately what’s happening in Iran right now has not been given the proper media coverage it could have. Many journalists have been imprisoned and the internet has been shut down. The last time an internet blackout happened was in 2019 and approximately 1500 innocent people were killed so what is happening right now is a matter of urgency. That is why they need us who have unlimited access to the internet all hours of the day to be their voice – every person and platform counts as an outlet for those who are being silenced.

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?

— I have seen some different initiatives from the music scene. The first one was when the artist Shervin Hajipour who released the song ”Baraye” — (which has become the anthem of the protests) — was imprisoned by the regime and people in the industry acted fast to have it available on different streaming platforms. A friend of mine, Sahar Sorati also started an initiative to get the song Grammy nominated for the best song for social change by compiling a Grammy nomination starter pack. As mentioned, the song means so much to all of us that are affected by the situation in Iran as the lyrics deal with the longings of the Iranian people after 43 years of oppression, so it would be quite amazing if he was nominated for this particular reason.

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?

— Don’t just react to what other people post on social media, educate yourselves and ACT on it. Show the people of the world who are not able to take human rights for granted that you don’t either by being their voice in hopes that we will all be free one day.

Keep posting pictures and use the hashtags #iranprotests #jinaamini #mahsaamini. Sign petitions (for example Amnesty’s) and join local demonstrations in your country in solidarity with the people of Iran – there are far too few non-Iranians at these gatherings. Put pressure on policymakers on a local, national and international level for them to act. The government of Sweden needs to wake up, as a country that has a history of a somewhat functioning moral compass when it comes to world politics it is a disgrace to see how they have handled the situation so far, with complete passiveness.