Actor Nazanin Boniadi is asking the world to support the women’s protests in Iran

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates — Actor Nazanin Boniadi urged the world on Wednesday to support protests in his native Iran demanding women’s rights and political change, saying despots fear nothing more than a free and politically active woman.

Speaking at the Forbes 30/50 Summit in Abu Dhabi, Boniadi told The Associated Press that she hopes people will sign a petition she’s supporting that accuses Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and Iran of committing “gender apartheid” with their policies against women.

“Systems of oppression and dehumanization of women are based on reinforcing and maintaining these entrenched systems of power,” she said. “So we need to legally recognize this as gender apartheid to overcome it.”

Boniadi, who left Tehran as a young child with his family for England following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, has used his fame as an actor to star in Amazon Prime’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.” films that highlight what is happening in Iran.

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Since September, Iran has faced mass protests following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being detained by the country’s morality police. In the time since then, activists say more than 500 people have been killed and more than 19,000 detained in the crackdown by security forces.

“The thing that’s unprecedented is that we’re seeing 12-year-old girls, schoolgirls, coming out into the streets and saying, ‘We don’t want an Islamic Republic,'” Boniadi said. “The courage it takes is amazing. And that courage is contagious.”

In recent months, however, cases of suspected poisoning have occurred in the country’s girls’ schools. While details remain difficult to ascertain, the group Human Rights Activists in Iran says there have been at least 290 suspected school poisonings in recent months, with at least 7,060 students claiming to be affected.

It remains unclear what, if any, chemical was used. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, and authorities have not identified any suspects. Unlike neighboring Afghanistan, there have been no recent incidents of religious extremists targeting girls’ education in Iran. But some activists fear that extremists may poison the girls to keep them out of school.

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“We are united by the fact that (with) dictators and despots, they fear nothing more than a free and politically active woman. That is why there are restrictions in Iran today…as seen in the chemical attacks on schoolgirls.”

She added: “We need to come together. We need to unite. We need to find a way forward and end atrocities against women.”


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