Human rights in Iran being put in the spotlight on Women’s Day

With a performance at TU/e’s Women’s Day, the Iranian Sharare wants to show the strength of Iranian women and make people aware of the human rights that are being violated in her home country. By playing an oppressive game with the audience, she hopes to touch people’s hearts, so they “can never go back to an hour before." Sharare was invited to participate in the event after she had been involved in and performed at several protests on campus, sparked by the death of Iranian woman Mahsa Amini.

photo Sharare

For people who were born and raised in a free country, it’s hard to truly understand how someone who was born under an oppressive regime must feel. Still, Sharare wants to offer people a glimpse of what Iranian women have to go through every day. She will do so at the university’s International Women’s Day event that takes place today, by playing a game with the audience. “It’s a serious game. One that I’ve lived and that people have died for," says the performer. She feels closely connected to the Iranian community at TU/e, because her husband works at the university. She has also been involved with several protests on campus that were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, calling for freedom for Iranian women and raising awareness of the violation of human rights in the country.

Human rights

Sharare hopes that today’s game will have the same effect on people as her performances during the protests on campus: to get underneath their skin. “I want to touch people’s hearts. Playing with people and their hearts instead of just telling them something allows me to make them feel things. That way they can’t go back to an hour ago. And the next time they hear or see something related to human rights, they will recognize the suffering and they will realize that the people who are suffering are human, just like them.”

During the performance, the people in the audience constantly have to make the decision whether or not they are willing to do what Sharare tells them to. Within the reality of the game, if they do decide to obey, they only have to suffer from it for the next fifteen minutes. If they don’t, it will ‘affect’ Sharare for the rest of her life. “I want to create a sense of urgency in making the decisions. In Iran, people are forced to do things, but here I don’t want to force people.” With these rules in mind, people have to decide whether they are willing to wear a head scarf, give away their bike key - “women in Iran for some reason are not allowed to ride bikes” -, ask their partner for permission to do something, and so on. The requests get more and more serious in nature. “Then all of a sudden, it’s all over and I show a video of women taking to the streets in Iran.”

Of course Iranian women are scared. But the will to change something and to be free is stronger.


The main goal of the performance is not to make people pity Iranian women, stresses Sharare. “I want to talk about the power of women. People need to see that what we have to endure in Iran is not normal. It’s not normal for me, not even for my mother. She is still not used to it, to the lack of respect. Iranians have been taking to the streets to fight against the regime, because they will not stand for it. We need the TU/e community to truly understand the situation, so next time when they see an Iranian colleague or student, they won’t say: ‘Poor you’, but: ‘You’re brave’.”

Because that is what the women who are fighting for their rights in Iran are, says Sharare. “Of course they are also scared. But the will to change something and to be free is stronger. Just recently, a mother and daughter were released from prison. Just outside the prison they recorded a video saying: women, life freedom. It’s not about fear, we are furious.”


It is for that reason that Sharare also wants to take action here, even if that jeopardizes her own safety and that of her family. “I feel ashamed of myself, living in a free country, when I see boys and girls dying in the streets of Iran and when I see teenage girls fearlessly shouting at the police. I just have to do something. And yes, they might go straight to my family to hurt or arrest them, but if I don’t do anything, my family members are still not safe; they could still get hurt or arrested for no reason at all. And then nothing will change. So, it’s like surgery: there’s going to be much blood and pain, but we have to do something.”

Sharare hopes that one day, people in Iran will be free. “We are born with fear and raised with it. You get told: ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that. Be careful with this person’. You have a double life. You always have to make sure there’s no leak between those two worlds.” Seeing that more and more people brave the streets makes her cautiously hopeful. “Twelve years ago, people were talking about changing the government - now it’s about changing the regime. It’s about changing the system behind it. We don’t know when we will defeat them, but one day it will happen.”

Student Emergency Fund

After the Iranian community’s first protest in October of last year, a few students met up with President of the Executive Board Robert-Jan Smits. That talk resulted in an extension of an existing emergency fund, says Edith Snelders, team leader at the University Fund. “He came to me and said: we should be able to help these students. Together, we made sure we have enough financial space to help all students who are facing a financial emergency. The University Fund is financed through donations but the amount was insufficient. With the extension of the Emergency Fund, the university will serve as a backup. If the University Fund has insufficient funds, TU/e will step in.

Speed of action in case of emergency is crucial. So the process of getting money from the fund has been changed and improved, says Snelders. “Students can go to their student counsellor if they need financial support from the Emergency Fund. If the student meets the criteria, the University Fund will provide the money.”

Sharare is happy that the efforts of TU/e’s Iranian community led to the extension of the fund. “As far as I know, Iranian students can have problems getting to their money because of the lack of internet or other connections with their family. My husband couldn’t talk to his mother for three or four weeks, that was really hard for him. The fund can help with these kinds of things.”

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