In November of 2022, while the nationwide protests triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police were at their peak and members of the Islamic Republic’s parliament called for the execution of the demonstrators, a Swedish lawmaker read the names of Iranian teenagers killed by forces of repression. During a parliament session, Alireza Akhundi, who is of Iranian origin, burst into tears as he read names such as Nika Shakarami and Sarina Esmailzadeh.
Alireza Akhundi was among dozens of MPs of Iranian origin in the parliaments of other countries who echoed the voice of protesters in Iran. About 20 days after the death of Mahsa Amini, Darya Safai, a member of the Belgian parliament, cut her hair in parliament in solidarity with the anti-government demonstrations in Iran.
On the eve of the anniversary of Amini's death, a number of MPs of Iranian descent continue to use their voices to remind the world of the situation in Iran, although there are also other MPs of Iranian origin who never uttered a word about the protests and or never posted anything on social media.
Iranians, Most Active on the Swedish Political Scene
The Swedish political scene is witness to the largest number of high-ranked individuals of Iranian origin. The number of people of Iranian descent is greater in Canada, Australia and the United States than in Sweden, but as many as 10 of them are members of the Scandinavian country’s parliament.
These MPs come from different backgrounds, from journalists and lawyers to a leftist party leader and a former government minister. Not all, of course, responded to the brutal crackdown on protests after the murder of Mahsa Amini.
Alireza Akhundi has been one of the most vocal politicians of Iranian descent in Sweden. After his speech in parliament, he spoke with multiple media outlets about the violent suppression of protesters in Iran. He was among those who actively pushed the European Parliament to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization.
Born in Tehran, the 41-year-old lawmaker was not well-known to the Iranian community in Sweden before his speech.
Another Swedish politician of Iranian descent who was very active after the start of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement is Nima Gholam Ali Pour, an author, activist, political commentator and journalist. He was born in the Caspian Sea port of Bandar Anzali and his family took asylum in Sweden in 1987.
He is a member of Sweden Democrats party and served as editor-in-chief of a newspaper in Malmö. He has also written columns for international journals such as Frontpage Magazine and the Jerusalem Post. He has authored two books on immigration and Swedish politics.
Nima Gholam Ali Pour has been a very active member of the Swedish parliament following Amini’s death. He even presented a bill to parliament calling for sanctions on top Iranian officials, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. He is very active on social media, where he has many followers. In the past year, he has consistently commented on events unfolding in Iran on his social media pages.
Another member of the Swedish parliament of Iranian descent is Mehrnoosh "Nooshi" Dadgostar, the chair of Sweden's Left Party. This 38-year-old politician was born in Sweden to Iranian parents and studied law. She has generally not commented on developments in Iran and the widespread protests against the Islamic Republic.
The 46-year-old Swedish-Iranian economist Ali Esbati, who is also a member of the Left Party and a lawmaker, has posted many messages on social media supporting the protests by the Iranian people.
The 32-year-old Daniel Riazat is also affiliated with the Left Party and is a member of the Swedish parliament. He has used his Facebook page to express support for the Iranian people.
Azadeh Rojhan, a 36-year-old member of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, was first elected to parliament in 2014. She has commented on the nationwide protests in Iran.
She was born in 1986 in Iran and settled in Sweden at the age of five with her mother, father and brother. As a teenager, she translated two children’s book from Swedish to Persian.
Aylin Fazelian, 30, and Laila Naraghi, 40, were both born in Sweden. They are not very active on social media and have not publicly reacted to the protests in Iran.
Rashid Farivar and Ardalan Shekarabi are the two other MPs in Sweden who have spoken in support of the protest movement. Ardalan Shekarabi, who served as minister for public administration and as minister for social security, closely follows developments in Iran. In December 2022, he announced he was sponsoring Mehdi Karami, a protester who had been sentenced to death and called on the Islamic Republic to put an end to executions. Karami was hanged in January 2023.
In a non-binding resolution in January 2023, the European Parliament called for the IRGC to be included to the European Union’s terrorist list and, on May 10, the Swedish parliament, including its members of Iranian descent, passed a similar bill.
From Detention in Iran to Membership in the Belgian Parliament
Without a doubt, Darya Safai has been one of the most active Iranian-born parliamentarians in a foreign country.
Born in Tehran in 1975, Safai grew up in Iran, studied dentistry at Tehran University, and actively participated in the student protests against the Islamic Republic in 1999, when she was arrested and held for 24 days in solitary confinement. Released on bail, she fled the country via Turkey and settled in Belgium with her husband, a leader of the student protest movement, and became a member of the Belgian parliament in 2019.
Darya Safai and Akhundi have been the most active parliamentarians of Iranian origin, in parliament, in street rallies and on social media. Both supported a large rally of Iranians in Brussels calling for designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization. And in December 2022, Safai announced her “political sponsorship” of Mohammad Hosseini, a protester executed in January 2023 after being sentenced to death.
In 2014, Darya Safai started a campaign called “Let Iranian Women Enter Their Stadiums” which received a lot of attention.
Safai told IranWire that when she started her campaign she realized that she must place herself at the heart of Belgian politics because the West does not know much about the demands of the Iranian people and is under the impression that Iranians want the Islamic Republic regime to last.
"The death of Mahsa broke the hearts of all Iranians and provided an opportunity for the entire nation of Iran to rise up,” she said. “Expatriate Iranians, who were forced to leave the country due to various pressures and are themselves victims of the Islamic Republic, are also part of this unified nation. For this reason and with this motivation, all Iranians joined together for the freedom of their country and of their fellow countrymen.”
This 48-year-old member of the Belgian parliament believes that after the "Woman, Life, Freedom" movement, parliaments in Europe saw Iran and Iranians differently, like they have woken up after a years-long sleep.
"Western politicians understood that Iranian people want a regime change and not reforms within the regime, which is an impossibility,” she told IranWire. “They saw that Iranians have common values such as individual freedoms, women's freedoms and secularism, and that Iranians are at the forefront of the global fight against totalitarianism and extreme Islamism. There can be no doubt that they found this attractive and admirable because the courage of the Iranian people has opened a window of hope for the West itself, hope for a secure future for the region and the whole world.”
Norway with Two Iranian-Born Lawmakers
Mahmoud Farahmand, 44, and Masud Gharahkhani, 40, were both born in Iran and are now members of the Norwegian parliament. Farahmand is a member of the Conservative Party and Gharahkhani represents the social democratic Labor Party.
In the past year Masud Gharahkhani, who is also parliament speaker, protested against the brutal crackdown on protesters by posting messages on social media and by making interviews and speeches. Mahmoud Farahmand has also repeatedly expressed his views about the uprising by the Iranian people.
"Politicians in Europe do not pay much attention to Iran's issues. Therefore, it is the politicians of Iranian origin in the West and other countries who must explain to them the situation in Iran,” Farahmand told IranWire.
“When I talked about Iranian issues in parliament, all parties participated in these discussions and supported the people of Iran, from the leftists and communists to the conservatives,” he added.
Berlin, the Capital of Iranian Protesters in Germany
Iranians in the German parliament were also among the most active politicians who supported the Iranian people's protests at the height of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement. Berlin and several other German cities saw large rallies by Iranians which attracted international attention.
In December 2022, Kaweh Mansoori, a Social Democrat MP, delivered a speech to parliament about the situation of protesters detained in Iran, including Dr. Hamid Ghareh-Hassanlou and his wife Farzaneh.
Omid Nouripour was born in Tehran in 1975 and is now a member of the Green Party in the German parliament. At a rally during the 2022 nationwide protests in Iran, he called the Islamic Center of Hamburg a “den of spies” for the Islamic Republic, and he said in an TV interview that people of Iran no longer have any hope for reforms in the country.
From Canada to New Zealand: Non-Stop Support
Parliamentarians of Iranian descent in Canada and New Zealand also became vocal in their condemnation of the suppression of protesters in Iran. Ali Cyrus Ehsassi, a Canadian lawmaker from the Liberal Party and the head of the parliament’s foreign relations committee, was one of the politicians who was very active in supporting the protest movement.
In a speech to parliament on Nowruz, the Persian New Year, on March 21, he expressed support for the nationwide protests.
Majid Jowhari, the other member of the Canadian parliament of Iranian descent, was born in Abadan in 1960. He also supported the uprising by the Iranian people.
Golriz Ghahraman was born in the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad in 1981 and has been a member of New Zealand's parliament since 2017. On August 3, in a parliament session attended by Reza Nazarahari, the Islamic Republic’s ambassador to New Zealand, she argued with the envoy over Amini’s death and the suppression of protesters. Videos of the exchange, accompanied by pictures of Amini on a hospital bed, were published on news networks.
While members of the Iranian parliament who, during the bloody crackdown on protests, were calling for the execution of protesters are people’s representatives only in name, MPs of Iranian descent in other countries stood up in support of defenseless Iranians inside the country. Their support shall not be forgotten.