Model Mandana Shahoon has a deep personal connection to Iran.
She currently lives in Stockholm, but the importance of her familial ties to the country and her cultural heritage, makes the connection to Iran a place from which she understands herself.
Following the death of the kurdish woman Jina Mahsa Amini in September 2022, protests erupted across Iran.
The events have now evolved into the largest civil rights movement in Iran since the revolution in 1979, uniting the Iranians and igniting outcry around the world and across social media.
We got the chance to ask Mandana about the current events and her hopes for the future of Iran. Speaking up about this matter and taking a stance against the regime is a sacrifice she’s ready to take for spreading awareness, that might cost her possibility to ever visit her home country and relatives again.
You have a very personal relationship with Iran, what does this connection mean to you?
Everything, Iran is my motherland. My connection with Iran makes me understand myself and my heritage. I also have most of my relatives in Iran who mean the world to me, especially my grandmother.
How do you think the protesters in Iran draw strength to continue demonstrating despite the danger they are in?
The protesters know what future is ahead of them and what Iran could be if they get rid of the fundamentalist regime. Iranian women are amongst the most educated people of the Middle East, they have a 97% literacy rate, they make up 65% of university graduates and 70% of stem graduates, which is more than any other country. The women of Iran have been able to accomplish this under horrible circumstances, constant discrimination, and gender apartheid. Women that, despite great amounts of discrimination, torture, and injustice throughout these years, still strived and fought for education, equality and freedom. This time, all of Iran is united, and the men are fighting alongside women. The people of Iran say they do not have anything to lose, and they are not afraid of dying for what they believe in, which is “women life freedom, man homeland prosperity”.
Do you have any tips for how individuals can join in the effort to support Iranian women wherever they are?
On a personal level my suggestion is to show support and ask questions. If you know an Iranian or a Kurd from the Iranian region of Kurdistan, ask them how they are doing. On a global level, I recommend seeking information - again, be curious. Ask yourself, how can I make a change, how can I have an impact?
I won’t tell anyone what to do since everyone should find out what works for them, by themselves. Maybe it’s spreading information through social media, maybe it’s signing petitions, if you’re an artist maybe it’s creating art, if you have money maybe it’s donating money to trusted foundations, if you’re a company owner maybe it’s running a campaign for bringing awareness to the topic, if you’re religious maybe it’s saying a prayer.
What I’m trying to say is that every person can do something, but it is up to themselves to figure out how. One thing is clear though, that bringing awareness and attention to the matter has played a major role when it comes to supporting our revolution. Attention and efforts through social media have led to the Islamic republic being condemned from the UN commission on the status of women, a position they have had through the years, even though the women in my homeland are worth the half of a man in court.
Are there any good sources you can recommended for people who want to keep informed on the situation?
It depends on which language you seek the information in. If you can read and understand Swedish @iranrevolution.sweden is a good source, recently they've been posting in English as well, when it comes to English sources @golfarahani is a good source and @middleeastmatters.
What is your hope for Iran moving forward?
In the name of God of rainbows, I wish and hope azadi for Iran, freedom.
I am exhausted of seeing my people being hanged for opposing the regime, or simply existing in a way that opposes the regime. My country has suffered for over 40 years, people have not been free to love who they want, believe in what they want, eat and drink what they want or wear what they want. They are living in a country ruled by one of the world’s most dangerous dictatorships. Iranians cannot speak their mind without risking getting hanged or being hanged for it. Iranians are not their regime, they are brilliant, smart, loving and freedom fighters, they believe in equality, human rights, and democracy. I wish to see my country being reflected by its people and not by its oppressors in the future.