House of Representatives 27/09/2022
Mr KHALIL (Wills) (19:35): I’ve spoken numerous times in this place in support of peaceful protests around the globe, whether it be in Myanmar, Hong Kong, Chile or Iran. Why have I done this? I think for the same reason as most members in this place: because, as democratic representatives, I believe we have a responsibility. We have a responsibility to defend the values and principles that underpin the very freedoms that we enjoy, such as freedom of speech and expression, an independent press, equality before the law and the right to go about our day-to-day lives without fear. So I speak out in solidarity with people protesting in support of these principles, wherever they may be, because freedom is not just a remote concept. It’s not just an ideal for a lucky handful of countries. I think it’s an innate human desire—a desire to live our lives the way we choose to.
In this place, we are regularly focused on the big geostrategic challenges of the Indo-Pacific, our region, and the challenges to human rights in our own region, which Australia has a very important part to play in advancing, of course. But we need not be limited in our ambition to see everyone enjoy the same rights as we do here.
Today I want to speak in support of those demonstrating peacefully in Iran for their own freedom. The Iranian people, I know, are a proud people—an ancient and storied civilisation that has bequeathed so much knowledge and culture to humanity. They are also a passionate people, and that passion and that courage is on full display right now.
For nearly two weeks, people have been taking to the streets in Iran following the death—the murder—of Jina Mahsa Amini. Mahsa died in custody. She was killed. There are corroborating witnesses for that evidence. She was killed at the hands of the so-called morality police, the Gasht-e Ershad. They arrested Mahsa for improperly wearing a headscarf. There is no morality to be found in arresting women for the clothes they choose to wear or not to wear, and it is appalling to think that she would lose her life as a result. Whether it be in Iran or elsewhere, anywhere in the world, whether a woman wants to wear a hijab or not, it should be her choice. I stand in solidarity with the people in Iran and here in Australia protesting in Mahsa’s name.
Many are doing so at great risk to their own safety. The Iranian regime has targeted protesters with the same violence they directed at Mahsa. Students have been met with tear gas, batons and water cannons. Dozens of protesters have been detained and some taken to unknown locations. This includes journalists reporting on the unrest, as the government has sought to shut down the internet. Security forces have fired indiscriminately at protesters. Dozens of people are reported to have been killed, including 23-year-old Farjad Darvishi and 16-year-old Zakaria Khayal—young people protesting for their freedom, slain on the streets by the forces of the theocratic government in Iran.
The Australian government condemns the use of deadly force against these protesters. Our concerns around the death of Mahsa Amini have been raised directly with the Iranian embassy here in Canberra, as we have previously raised our opposition to human rights abuses and discrimination with Iranian officials across multilateral fora, including at the UN. We also support the calls for an impartial investigation into Mahsa’s death by an independent body. The people responsible for these crimes must be held to account, because her friends and her family and the Iranian people deserve truth. They deserve justice. They deserve the freedoms they have fought for for so long.
To stand up for freedom is really to stand up for freedom everywhere. They are an example to us. People, young and old, are standing up in the face of great and serious and grave threats to their safety and to their lives to demand the right to make decisions about their own lives. That’s what they’re fighting for. So I want them to know, and I want all the Iranian Australians watching this to know: we stand with you here in Australia. Whether it be on the streets of Melbourne, where many people have joined protests in solidarity, or here in this place, in the federal parliament of Australia, we stand with you in your fight for your freedom. To the people of Iran: we stand with you. Zendebad Iran, zendebad azadi!