The Power of Community and Collective Action
July’s IDEA Challenge is facilitated by Niloufar Salimi.
Challenge #29 – The Power of Community and Collective Action
“For me, protesting is like making art. It doesn’t matter if no one sees it. You have to make it because you must express yourself. Because expressing yourself and connecting with your community is liberating.”
My name is Niloufar Salimi, and I’m an artist living in Toronto, since 2002. For the past decade, I have immersed myself in the arts and culture sector, finding inspiration and connection through my artistic endeavors. However, in September 2022, my life took an unexpected turn when Mahsa Amini was killed in the Iranian Morality Police custody. Her death ignited a massive protest in Iran, and the impact on my life was profound.
After the 1979 youth protests, the Iranian government illegalised protesting in 1980. This did not stop the Iranian people from protesting the government which failed what it promised from day one.
Since then, there have been numerous protests against the government, but the protests beginning in September 2022 felt different. This time felt very close to my heart. All of the trauma from my youth which my mind had suppressed forced its way to the surface. The pain was bigger than I could’ve anticipated and it took me a long time to endure the shock, loss, and acceptance.
In Iran, my generation was greatly impacted by the wills of the government. We had to have a strict separation of private and public lives. Today’s youth have revolted against that notion, risking their lives to fight for their right to a full life and the rights of women. In the past year, I have learned to look at the violence against the people of Iran in a new light with a sense of power and hope for the first time. As a young person in Iran I couldn’t imagine protesting, but now I finally feel connected to the Iranian people doing this brave work.
The news of Amini’s death and the subsequent protests reached us in North America delayed by time differences, language translation, and deceptive media representation. Viewing a crisis back home, as a spectator, was jarring. We were emotionally charged, and it was hard to see in the moment how we were being manipulated by government suppression of the media and free speech. We needed digital literacy to trust the sources and get real information without submitting ourselves to watching violent videos. Like all modern media, the protests were quickly forgotten about by the general public as other news became a priority.
We must not forget about the Iranian people. The lack of news coverage does not mean the crisis is over. Their fight is not isolated. It is the same fight women are facing around the world. It is the same fight that people are enduring under numerous oppressive governments. The intersections echo around their world. I hold onto this thought as I work through the emotional pain and try to find acceptance in being an outsider to my own people’s struggle.
My hope is that bringing this topic to the Coworking IDEA Challenge can encourage us to consider the ways our members, coworkers, and neighbours are impacted personally by events happening abroad. Together, as a community, we must take action.
“Drop by drop, an ocean will form”
PLEASE NOTE: There will be no IDEA Conversation this month, as we want to ensure you have time to watch or listen to the conversation with Niloufar Salimi. We encourage you to watch with a friend or colleague, and reflect upon what you can do to more deeply understand and support your neighbours and the members of your coworking community.
Groups to Support
Here is an organization that empowers women and men across Iran, especially in rural areas that have been through a lot of neglect: https://www.ifacrowd.fund/#
The Women’s Movement in Iran by Farheen Nahvi