As Iran continues to be torn apart by social upheaval caused by protests against the authoritarian political regime in power, the Femme, Vie, Liberté Montréal collective and the French-language branch of Amnesty International Canada are organizing a march in solidarity with the Iranian people.

The major gathering will take place in Montreal on Saturday.

Starting at 1 p.m., participants are invited to meet at Square Cabot, near Atwater metro station.

Tensions in Iran have not eased since Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian student, died in unclear circumstances last September, three days after being arrested by Iranian police.

"She wasn't wearing her veil properly; you could see her hair," said Nimâ Machouf, an epidemiologist of Iranian origin living in Montreal and a member of the Femme, Vie, Liberté Montréal collective. "Her death was like a spark plug that ignited the anger of the population, an anger that had been contained for four decades in Iran."

Several months ago, waves of mass protests created a movement across the country calling for a change in the theocratic regime in place, and it is not about to run out of steam.

"Women have stopped wearing veils in public, people are boycotting festivals and state-organized activities, others are burning government banners and graffitiing walls," said Machouf. "There are strikes, the resistance is always there, but it doesn't always take to the streets."

"There are also sit-ins in the university, men supporting women. People film themselves dancing in the streets or singing in public squares, it's wonderful," added France-Isabelle Langlois, executive director of Amnesty International Canada francophone. "There is something truly horrible but also very beautiful in this mobilization which, despite the very serious violence, has continued to bring people together for more than eight months."

The demonstrations were met with violent repression by the authorities, who made tens of thousands of arrests and handed down sentences that were deemed arbitrary. Between 300 and 500 people also lost their lives during the demonstrations.

"We're talking about hundreds of people who didn't get a trial or the trials were unfair," said Langlois. "There were dozens of death sentences, without these people being able to defend themselves or know the evidence against them; every time, these people were tortured."


The rally in Montreal planned for Saturday has two specific objectives. Its organizers want to unite their voices to let the Iranian people know that Canadians are behind them and support their struggle for greater freedom.

"Our role here is to give a voice to those who are resisting the government, to tell them that we hear them and that we support them," said Machouf. "What is happening in Iran is not just a matter for the people who live there, it's a question of human rights, and the whole world needs to be aware of that."

The march is also meant to serve as a message to the federal government, which will be asked to take action to put an end to Iranian authoritarianism and violence.

"Iran is a theocratic government that is seeking nuclear weapons and plays an important role in the Middle East. It is a government that supports terrorism and tramples on the rights of its people, especially its women", said Machouf. "Although Canada has no diplomatic ties with Iran, it does have allies who do or who have economic relations with the country. We have the power to ask them to put pressure on the Iranian government, and we can use our influence within the G7 and the United Nations."

"The more we mobilize here, the more pressure we put on our government," said Langlois.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on June 9, 2023.