What Designers Can Do in Support of Women in Iran

Oct 7 2022 - 9:30am


The Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) is shining a spotlight on the uprising of women in Iran after the killing of Mahsa Amini in Iranian police custody, and giving a platform to one of our members, Mina. 

IDSA is dedicated to using our platform to spread awareness about our members' advocacy work and support marginalized groups in our community, in collaboration with IDSA's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council (DEIC) and Women in Design (WID) chapter network. 

Here's a brief overview from The Washington Post on how Mahsa Amini's death, for the alleged crime of wearing an improper hijab, sparked nationwide protests.

Learn more from Mina, below, on the Iranian women's movement and use #mahsa_amini and #mahsaamini on social media to amplify their voices.



IDSA: It can be easy for people in outside countries such as the United States to not know what to do or how to help in any meaningful way. How can giving a platform to and amplifying the voices of the movement make a difference?


Mina: As isolated as Iran might seem from the international community, it still is an influential player on the world stage. With a grip on world energy resources and political influence on its neighbors, the leaders of the Islamic Republic are in a relatively strong bargaining position to push their agenda. Now add to the equation the instability of the middle east and war in Ukraine, and you can see how compelling it would be for western politicians to turn a blind eye on the bloodshed in Iran. Avoiding a more complicated situation in the region, keeping Iran from getting closer to Russia, and managing the energy crisis might limit the leaders of the free world to taking only symbolic actions against the Iranian regime. These 'tactical decisions' by the western politicians could further jeopardize the basic human rights of 80 million Iranians, unless the Iranian people have the support of the public opinion in the free world. America enjoys the privilege of a powerful voice and political agency, and their response to an event  like this can be extremely consequential. Politicians' indifference must be challenged by their constituents. The brutality of the Iranian regime must not be ignored.

As was said before, it’s crucial to remember that no matter how isolated the Islamic Republic is, it still relies on international connections, legitimacy, and trades. That's why they have expelled all international media and human rights watch groups and shut down the internet, as it allows them to murder protestors without consequences.

Women in Iran with men on their side are bravely putting their lives on the line by standing against the savage military force of the Islamic Republic. Social media platforms can be leveraged to demand support from our local representatives, and help keep the momentum of the movement going. It can limit the Iranian regime's free hand in their use of violence and save lives. 

This isn't just about women's rights in Iran; it is about bodily autonomy of women being taken away almost everywhere in the world. It's at its core the same issue women in the US face when their reproductive rights are taken away. That's why every person living on the planet right now needs to stand up for the women in Iran—their struggle mirrors that of women all around the world.

One concern that I need to address here is misunderstanding this movement or conflating it with 'Islamophobia.' In the western culture, people have been rightfully defending the right of Muslim women to wear their religous covering, and to talk about the Iranian protests against compulsory Hijab might discourage them from supporting this movement. This movement is about women’s right to make decisions about their body, about the way they dress, and social or legal decisions. It’s the same fight against patriarchy and rules designed to control women. 

Two weeks ago, just days after the tragic death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iranian morality police, and while Iranian protesters were getting killed on streets, the politicians of the free world were chatting and shaking hands with the murderous Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the general assembly of the United Nations. Many political figures didn’t bother to 'comment on Iran’s internal affairs' and even invited Presiden Raisi over for an official state visit to their countries. Now with the heartwarming help of people all around the world, public figures and activists, violation of women’s rights in Iran has become an issue that politicians worldwide are at least recognizing, condemning, and challenging. But they are still short of taking strong measures that could discourage the regime’s merciless suppression machine from silencing the protests.


I know from experience that my friends and family in Iran wake up every day trying to get a chance to connect to the internet even for a short time. Their ray of hope is to see their struggle is not old news for the rest of the world, and that their momentum is still alive. 


IDSA: What specifically can designers and those in the ID community do to help? Is there a community of Iranian women in design?


Mina: The situation in Iran is similar to a war zone now, with the government shooting at civilians and with a death count that keeps going up. Many of us Iranians still have families and friends living there who might have been killed, injured, arrested, or in danger; and with the internet shut down, it’s been very hard to know if they are well. There's lots of grief, anger, and fear going around in the Iranian diaspora at the moment, and that has left the community more vulnerable and perhaps less productive than normal. So, keeping the expectations balanced is crucial, as is checking in on Iranian employees and colleagues and their friends and family, being curious and self-educating about what's going on, and trying to bring attention to the issue.


The Iranian community in design is relatively small in the US, and smaller still is the number of Iranian women in design in the US, and this is the very reason we need the support of non-Iranian designers to help get the word spread.


Learning about what's happening in Iran, raising awareness, and amplifying the voices of the Iranian people by any platform they have can keep the attention on Iran and can help contain the bloodshed until, hopefully, Iranians can find their way out of these dark days and make history for all women.

I know one of the first solutions that is almost always practical when trying to help people living far away from us is to help them with donations, but in this case we are talking about people who don’t even have direct financial relations with the rest of the world, so even re-posting their stories on social media goes a long way.



Recommended Resources for Continued Education: