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Iranian American Women Foundation places billboards in major cities to raise awareness for women's rights

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Posted at 2:58 PM, Nov 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-28 14:58:13-05

When foreign countries face conflict, we are reminded of the rights and freedoms we have as Americans. Even though the conflict may be on the other side of the world, some people who immigrated to the U.S. from those countries say continuing to fight for rights is important.

Multiple billboards and jumbotrons have been placed by the Iranian American Women Foundation in major U.S. cities, including D.C., Kansas City, Los Angeles, and New York City. The hope is to bring awareness to the unrest in Iran, be the voice of the Iranian women, and influence U.S. policy to make a difference.

Tawny Mazarei immigrated to the U.S. when she was 17 to pursue education. Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed was born in the U.S., but her parents were born in Iran. Both say they're very connected to their heritage and invested in the human rights movement happening in Iran.

"The movement started with the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old young girl who was killed in the hands of the morality police in Iran for allegedly not covering every single strand of hair," Mazarei said. "She was detained and she was killed while she was in the police custody. The whole movement is not about hijab. It's about all the other rights that goes with somebody having, and especially women, having autonomy over what they wear, over how they carry themselves, over having other freedoms in their lives and in the society."

"For the last 40-some-odd years, Iran has been under a specific regime," Sadeghi-Movahed said. "The Islamic Republic and the Islamic Republic has a lot of laws in place that many disagree with just outright, but also namely really stifle women's rights."

Grateful for their rights living in the U.S., they are determined to do everything in their power to make a difference for people in Iran.

"It's extremely sad coming from a place of privilege being in the United States that I can't help more," Sadeghi-Movahed said. "We feel very guilty to kind of watch this all transpire. People who look like us being killed online and then can't do anything about it."

Due to sanctions, people from the U.S. can't send any medical supplies or financial help to people in Iran. International conflict experts say that's typically how immigrants are able to send help to people in their country of origin.

"The only thing that we do have is to become their voice," Mazarei said.

"There's a slogan for this entire movement that says, be their voice, be her voice," Sadeghi-Movahed said.

They are exercising freedoms given to Americans in the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

"I guess the leverage that I have right now is I can openly speak about this issue without fear of persecution for my life and my family in America," Sadeghi-Movahed said. "But I will say it is very scary that I could be putting my family in Iran at risk for what I say in the United States."

Sadeghi-Movahed says the goal is for politicians in the United States to take notice, so they put diplomatic pressure on the Iranian government.

"The United States, you know, for all of its bad and good, is looked at as a beacon of human rights and is looked at as an example around the world," Sadeghi-Movahed said. "And the least we can do as Americans is to make sure we're upholding the world to that standard."

They say it will take more than Iranian American women raising their voices. They are asking all Americans to participate.

"We're asking everybody who has access to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tik-Tok, any social media platform to just hashtag Mahsa Amini, hashtag Iran, and just continue to spread the word," Sadeghi-Movahed said.

So that maybe someday women in Iran can also exercise freedoms women in the U.S. already have.