Iranians abroad plea for peace amid ongoing national crisis

These posters line the Cannon House Office grass, each depicting the face of another life lost in the Iranian conflict. Photo by Dia Cohen.

Dia Cohen

These posters line the Cannon House Office grass, each depicting the face of another life lost in the Iranian conflict. Photo by Dia Cohen.

Dia Cohen

As I walked across the street from the Cannon House Office in Washington D.C., I saw at least 100 posters scattered across the grass. Each one portraying a new face. Some faces appeared to be old, and some were as young as ten. In front of these posters were two women at a table. They both held their drinks close to their chest to conserve the little warmth amidst the bitter wind. When my family went to pass them, Mary Atae beseeched us to stay for a moment and listen to what she had to say.

Mary is an Iranian who left her home four years ago at the start of Iran’s civil unrest. Mary and other Iranians had stood in front of the office building for 17 days to bring awareness to the brutality of the Iranian regime. In Iran, citizens of all ages and ethnicities gather in the streets to protest the brutal dictatorship. 

Mary held my hand and walked me around the posters. Each one of them died due to the brutal totalitarianism of the Iranian government. All of them had died fighting in the revolution. 

The revolution started as an uprising following the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody on Sept. 26, 2022. Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman, was arrested for violating a law requiring women to wear headscarves in public. According to the United Nations, during her time in custody, Amini was severely beaten by the morality police. The morality police is a government group that enforces moral laws established. Amini fell into a coma and died shortly after. 

Since Amini’s death, thousands have taken to the streets to protest the excessive use of force and negligent treatment of women. According to CBS, at least 300 people have been killed protesting since the protests began. Additionally, women have started burning their hijabs in solidarity with Mahsa Amini. 

The Iranian government has been criticized for the use of excessive force against peaceful protestors. In 2021, thousands of protestors were unfairly interrogated and prosecuted. According to Amnesty International, “torture and other ill-treatment, including denying prisoners adequate medical care, remained widespread and systematic”. The death penalty is also used by the government to stifle dissidents.

Iran held its first execution from the anti-government protests on Dec. 8, 2022. Mohsen Shekari was accused of stabbing a member of the military force during a protest. Situations like this are why Mary Atae begs the world to listen to the protests. She mourns the loss of each and every life that was taken. She stands there to bring attention to what’s happening in her home. Like Mary, many Iranian American communities are protesting all over the world in solidarity with the people of Iran. 

Today, Mary stands in front of the Cannon House Office building in order to share with the world what’s happening in Iran. 

“You can see how beautiful they are. Beautiful spirit, beautiful faces. I feel like when I look at each of these pictures, their look and their eyes is talking back to me. That’s why I feel responsible. I cannot rest and I cannot go to work and I cannot stay at home. I have to share it with the world,” Atae said. 

An Amnesty International petition has been created to combat the ongoing Iranian crisis, and it has so far gained over one million signatures. The petition’s goal is to establish an independent UN mechanism to investigate and prosecute Iranian officials for their crimes. The Center for Human Rights in Iran, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting Iranian rights, has also advocated change within the country.