Iran Protest | Swedish MEP Abir Al-Sahlani Cuts Hair at EU Assembly: Who Is She?

Abir Al-Sahlani lopped off her ponytail on Wednesday, chanting 'Jin, Jiyan, Azadi" ('woman, life, freedom').

3 min read
Edited By :Ahamad Fuwad

Video Producer: Akanksha Pandey

Video Editor: Pawan Kumar

In the latest show of solidarity with Iranian women protesting against the stringent hijab laws in the country and the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, an Iraq-born Swedish Member of the European Parliament (MEP) chopped off her hair during a speech at the European Union (EU) Assembly in France.

"Until Iran is free, our fury will be bigger than the oppressors'. Until the women of Iran are free, we are going to stand with you," Abir Al-Sahlani said, while addressing the EU Assembly on Tuesday, 4 October.

"We, the people and citizens in the EU, demand the unconditional and immediate halt of all violence against women and men in Iran," she added.

Then, she took a pair of scissors and lopped off her ponytail, chanting, "Jin, Jiyan, Azadi," (Kurdish for 'woman, life, freedom').

Who Is Abir Al-Sahlani?

Al-Sahlani, a Swedish citizen, represents the Centre Party at the European Parliament.

Born in Iraq's Basra in 1967, she fled the country with her mother to escape the dictatorship of the Saddam Hussein-led Baath regime, and came to Sweden when she was 15 years old.

Politics was in her blood, as her father Faisal Sahani was also a leading opposition politician in Iraq, and was imprisoned for opposing the ruling regime.

In 2004, she became the secretary general of the Iraqi National Democratic Alliance (DNA) and in 2007, a member of the Centre Party.

She was elected to the European Parliament in 2019, and also served on the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs from the beginning of her tenure.

Al-Sahlani is a member of several other committees as well, including the European Parliament Intergroup on Seas, Rivers, Islands, and Coastal Areas, the European Parliament Intergroup on Disability, and the European Parliament Intergroup of LGBT Rights.

Since last year, the politician has been a part of the EU Parliament's delegation to the Conference on the Future of Europe.

During her speech on Tuesday, she also slammed EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, calling him a "spineless coward" who "refrained from supporting the protesters in Iran."

The Greatest Challenge Iran Has Faced in Decades

Al-Sahlani's comments come amid growing domestic and global outrage against the hardline Iranian regime, led by ultraconservative leader Ebrahim Raisi.

The country is facing the largest nationwide demonstrations in years following the death of Amini, who was allegedly beaten by the country's morality police for not following hijab laws, and succumbed to her injuries three days later.

The protests have moved well beyond the borders of Iran, with several countries in West Asia and Europe holding solidarity protests, and demanding the withdrawal of hijab laws in the country and greater freedom of expression for women.

Recently, leading French actors Juliette Binoche and Isabelle Huppert cut locks of their hair in protest against Amini's death on 13 September.

Actor Priyanka Chopra also took to social media on Friday, 7 October, to express solidarity with Iranian women protesters.

"The voices that speak after ages of forced silence, will rightfully burst like a volcano! And they will not and must not be stemmed," Chopra said on Instagram.

In recent weeks, several female students of schools and colleges across Iran have taken to the streets, burning their headscarves and chanting slogans like 'Death to the Dictator'.


Iran's Response

On the other hand, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei alleged that the protests had been orchestrated by the country's arch rivals, the United States (US) and Israel.

In his first public comments regarding the protests, Khamenei said, "I say clearly that these riots and the insecurity were engineered by America and the occupying, false Zionist regime (Israel), as well as their paid agents, with the help of some traitorous Iranians abroad," as per CNN.

He further endorsed the actions taken by security forces in the country, saying that they had faced "injustice" amid the unrest.

At least 133 people have been killed by security forces in Iran since the protests began, as per Iran Human Rights, a Norway-based group. State media, on the other hand, has put the fatality figure much lower, at 40.

(With inputs from CNN.)

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Edited By :Ahamad Fuwad
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