Nations have come to the aid of Ukraine against a foreign invader, but Iranians need assistance from democratic countries against an internal enemy – the Islamic regime.

So says a group of 77 prominent exiled Iranians – including human rights activists and family members of political prisoners in Iran – who signed an open letter calling on western governments that cracked down on Russia after it invaded Ukraine to do the same to Iran. 

“The ‘free world’ has proven that it is capable of supporting the fight for freedom of Ukraine, sanctions have been decided within days, clear actions have been taken,” the letter says. “Now is the time to take action and to support the Iranian people in their struggle against a dictatorship. The regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran has shown its multilayered dreadful face over and over again.”

“The leaders of democratic countries have a responsibility to take action and hold Iran accountable for the numerous human rights abuses of their own population and of the dual national, mono-national and foreign national hostages,” the letter continues.

While several countries have imposed sanctions on Iranian officials in response to a deadly government crackdown on protesters in recent weeks, some say this doesn’t go far enough. 

More than 200 people have been killed in protests in Iran that began in late September after Mahsa Jina Amini died while in custody of the so-called Morality Police. Her death became the rallying cry for women who have removed their hijabs and taken to the streets to call for the overthrow of the present Islamic regime. The government has blocked internet access, prohibiting news from emerging from the country. 

The protests are “based on the consequences of four decades of oppression. Four decades during which the regime in Iran has been silencing the voices of women, the voices of critiques of any kind through violence, intimidation, imprisonment, torture and murder. Four decades of lost youth for young Iranians.”

In the letter, the signatories note that Iran’s hostage-taking policy – using dual citizens or non-Iranian citizens as pawns – in addition to torturing them and denying them basic human rights, is its way of antagonizing the West.

Read the letter in full.

One of the signatories, Gazelle Sharmahd, has been fighting for her father’s release from the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran after he was kidnapped in Dubai and brought there two years ago.

“All governments are well aware which actions would hurt theocracies and dictators and which ones will throw them a life line. We know the Islamic regime is not capable to survive 43 years of oppression and terrorism in complete isolation. They have received support from outside,” she told ALL ARAB NEWS. “What the people of Iran demand is that they stop saving their dictators.”

Sharmahd called on regular citizens to lend their voice to “those who are oppressed and robbed of their voices.” 

“The Islamic regime has turned down the internet for a very good reason – to stop the spread of information and prevent transparency. It is our duty as citizens of the free world to shine the spotlight on those that have been forced into the dark,” she said. “There will be lots of propaganda and ways to divert attention away from the massacres that are taking place in Iran, but we have to stay aware of that and continue talking about it and demanding from our governments to take the right actions.”

Sharmahd’s father, Jamshid Sharmahd, left Iran after the 1979 revolution and is now a German citizen and American national. He spent 14 years in the U.S. “being the voice of the Iranian people,” broadcasting their stories through a secure website and radio station  which he ran.

[READ: Daughter of jailed Iranian dissident recounts hellish two years since her father was kidnapped]

This, however, made him a target of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). 

“They tried to assassinate him on U.S. soil and then kidnapped him and are torturing him and planning his public execution right now – all for the crime of speaking the truth,” she said. 

Jamshid Sharmahd has been in solitary confinement for 800 days, his daughter said. The family has been unable to confirm his wellbeing after fires broke out at Evin Prison earlier this week.

“To me there is no difference between the crimes and inhumanity that the regime has brought about my dad and my family and the brutality in which they are now murdering women, men and children in the streets of Iran,” Sharmahd said. “The brave people of Iran are doing what my dad has done: standing up for justice, freedom and truth and they are paying with their lives and livelihood for these principles that are dear to all of us.”

The letter brought together a cross section of Iranian dissidents from different political backgrounds. It reflects, Sharmahd said, the unity among protestors inside Iran. The letter was signed by journalists, human rights activists and family members of former and present prisoners in Iran.

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