When one of Australia’s newest citizens, Mahdiyeh Razeghi, had a chance to get in the ear of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, she wasn’t going to squander the opportunity.
Moments after Albanese announced the 36-year-old’s name at an Australia Day citizenship ceremony in Canberra, the academic from Iran made a beeline for the prime minister.
She had prepared a letter containing 10 demands from women of the Iranian diaspora who have been pushing for democracy and women’s rights in a months-long wave of protests against the Islamic theocracy.
A government staffer told Razeghi they would hand the note to Albanese, who was busy greeting attendees after the official event. Razeghi insisted on speaking directly to him. She wanted to explain the plight of family in Iran not lucky enough to live in a country like Australia.
“He said, ‘I know that and I agree with what you say – I’m going to read the letter later’,” Razeghi, who goes by the name Maddie, said.
“This is the biggest platform that I have ever gotten since 16 September, 2022 when Mahsa Amini was murdered by morality police for not wearing the hijab properly.
“Since then we have been chanting ‘women, life, freedom’ because we believe we deserve a better life. We deserve a normal life. Like Australians here, look at them, they are enjoying their life without any oppression.”
Moments before her encounter with Albanese, Razeghi walked on stage wearing a striking red bandana emblazoned with the name of Amini, the young woman whose death in custody sparked the nation’s biggest wave of protests in many years. An estimated 520 protesters have been killed.
She worried after meeting Albanese that her family in Iran would be targeted. She knew it had happened other Iranian Australians, including a Melbourne family whose mother was detained and questioned about anti-regime protests in Australia.
The 10 demands in the letter echo the calls made in protests around the world supporting Iranian demonstrators. Razeghi, a postdoctoral fellow at the Australian National University, wants the Albanese government to list Iran’s revolutionary guards as a terrorist organisation, enact further sanctions on Iranian officials, and find some way to rebuke Iranian diplomats in Australia. The Coalition, Greens, and some teal MPs have called for similar actions.
“The day I was contacted by [the government] that I’d been selected [to attend the citizenship ceremony with Albanese] I was like, I’m going to use this platform to raise the voice,” she said.
“They will threaten my family … I told mum this is a revolution and everyone is paying a cost; this is the cost.”
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