Dozens of British-Iranian women gathered in the center of London on March 8 for a silent march marking International Women’s Day. They wore the red cloaks and white bonnets imposed on female characters in the television series The Handmaid’s Tale, based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same title.
The informal group Stage of Freedom organized the performance. The activists have staged several performances in the past few months and asked anyone who may want to join them to contact them via their Instagram page stage_of_freedom.
In a powerful display of solidarity with women in Iran risking their lives to protest gender discrimination and demand more freedoms and rights for everyone in Iran, the protesters walked from the Palace of Westminster to the Islamic Republic’s Embassy in Kensington area of London, where threw their costumes on the ground and chanted "Woman, Life, Freedom!"
Each participant held a poster of a female protester who has been killed, maimed or imprisoned by the regime since the start of “Mahsa Protests” in Iran in September 2022. The protest movement was sparked by the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of morality police. Amini had been arrested for an alleged breach of the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code for women.
"We just fight for a normal life," Sara told IranWire ahead of the Handmaids’ March.
“I faced lots of discrimination while living in Iran, especially during my high school years,” she added.
“I was living in the city of Ahvaz, which maybe the hottest place in Iran, where the temperature reaches more than 50 degrees Celsius. But I was forced to wear a veil right after going to school at the age of 6. It was a nightmare.”
The protesters choose to wear the costumes featured in The Handmaid’s Tale because they evoke “Iran’s hijab laws and other restrictions on women,” said one of the organizers. “The brutality inflicted against women in The Handmaid’s Tale is not a fiction; in Iran, it is a lived and daily reality,” she added.
“We hope our protest will keep this ongoing human rights crisis in the headlines and will give moral support to the courageous women of Iran – who continue to stand up for their rights despite the grave danger posed to them by the regime.”
“This Movement will Change Iran's Future”
For more than four decades, women in Iran have been subjected to discriminatory treatment regarding employment, education and inheritance, among other things. All women must conceal their hair with a headscarf, or hijabs, while in public and wear loose fitting trousers under their coats. They have also been denied the right to divorce and seek custody of their children.
"Every time I went there, I witnessed injustice, especially toward women," Iranian American activist Leila told IranWire. "I would get the morality police coming up to me and asking me to fix my headscarf.”
“I was in a beach town in the north. This guy on a motorbike came out of nowhere and pointed a gun at my ankles because they were showing and he threatened to blow up my feet," Leila continued while bursting into tears.
A growing number of women, including celebrities, have appeared in public without head coverings or have set them on fire.
Emilia, a 33-year-old London-based law graduate who was born in Iran, said that “watching women in Iran fighting for their freedom, liberty and life is just the best thing that could happen.”
“This movement will change Iran's future. We will have our country back.”
The Iranian authorities have unleashed a brutal clampdown on the women-led protest movement, which poses one of the most serious challenges to the theocracy installed by the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Security forces have killed more than 520 people, including dozens of children, and detained over 19,000 others since the eruption of the protests, activists say. Following unlawful detentions and biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.
Despite the brutality of Iran’s clerical rulers, Rokhsareh, a 34-year-old Iranian woman, said that she has “a strong feeling that women will prevail."