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Activist Who Fled Islamic Republic: World Must Stand With Israel Against Iranian Regime

Exiled Iranian activist Elaaheh Jamali tells Davar about the atrocities ongoing in Iran and the activism she’s taken on since fleeing the country | Jamali: “If the world does not stop the Islamic Republic, there will be another Holocaust”

אלהא ג'מאלי, פעילת זכויות אדם איראנית-בריטית (צילום: ניצן צבי כהן)
Elaaheh Jamali, Iranian-British human rights activist. (Photo: Nizzan Zvi Cohen)
By Nizzan Zvi Cohen

Iranian-British human rights activist Elaaheh Jamali, known by the nickname Lily Moo, thought she had escaped the reach of the Islamic Republic after fleeing to the UK with her family at age 13. But earlier this month, she found herself in the central Israeli town of Bat Yam when Iran fired hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel.

“I was not surprised by the current attack, just as I was not surprised by Oct. 7,” Jamali said. “For over a year and a half, my friends and I have been shouting that if the world does not stop the Islamic Republic, there will be another Holocaust here.”

Jamali was visiting Israel as part of a delegation of exiled Iranian artists, creators, journalists and documentarians, including the artist Homan Khalili who created works in Israel commemorating the women's protest in Iran and the events of October 7, the poet Fateme Ekhtesari, and the singer Ardavan Khatami. The delegation visited Jerusalem, the north of the country and even the burnt farms of the kibbutzim in the Gaza Envelope, and waved the Israeli flag and the pre-revolutionary Iranian flag near the border fence with the Gaza Strip.

They hadn’t expected their visit to be interrupted by an Iranian attack on the Jewish state.

“I have faith in the Iron Dome and the defense systems of the state of Israel, so tonight I wasn't so worried about myself,” Jamali said about the night of the attack.

On the lapel of her coat, Jamali wore the yellow ribbon pin calling for the hostages’ return from Hamas captivity. In the past, she participated as a human rights activist in pro-Palestinian demonstrations, but never questioned the right of the Jewish state to exist and even considers herself a Zionist.

“On Oct. 8, I saw the silence of the world and realized that I had to stand by Israel’s side,” she said.

Jamali described concern about a potential Israeli retaliation to the Iranian attack.

“What terrifies me is the price the Iranian people will have to pay for the actions taken by the Islamic terrorist regime,” she said. “Unfortunately, just like Hamas, the Islamic Republic also hides its artillery array inside the cities knowing that Israel does not want to harm civilians.”

“Israel, on the other hand, is in a complex and sensitive reality, attacked from all sides by terrorist organizations that are proxy elements of the Islamic Republic, and it has every right to defend itself,” she continued. “The captors of my country attacked your country, and I can only hope that the voice of the real Iranians will be heard and that the world will help them get rid of the Islamic Republic with as little damage as possible to Iran itself and its people.”

Jamali, an actress and model who defines herself first and foremost as a human rights activist, was among the leaders of the hijab protest in London after the murder of Mahsa Amini. 22-year-old Amini was imprisoned and murdered by the Islamist morality police in Tehran in September 2022 after being arrested for improperly wearing the hijab. Following Amini’s death, crowds demonstrated both in Iran and in diaspora communities around the world.

Jamali, who faces a physical disability, took to the streets of London every day for an entire year. In some cases, the protests consisted only of her and a few other activists, but at the peak of the demonstration there were some 27,000 people rallying to the cause.

“In these demonstrations we shouted that the protest against the Islamic Republic is not only for the Iranian people and Iranian women, but a struggle for the future of all humanity,” she said.

Demonstrators in London take part in a protest against the Islamic Republic on the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death. (Photo: Martin Pope/SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Demonstrators in London take part in a protest against the Islamic Republic on the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death. (Photo: Martin Pope/SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

Jamali said it was clear to her that something bad would happen after the Biden administration agreed to lift the sanctions on Iran in September 2023 and release roughly $6 billion worth of frozen Iranian assets.

“It was just before the anniversary of Mahsa’s murder, and we cried out that if they didn’t stop the Islamic Republic, there would be a second Holocaust here,” she said. “And unfortunately, just a few days after that, the Oct. 7 massacre happened. I worry about the world, because what is happening in the free world today happened in Iran in the past, and 4% of the population was enough to implement it.”

The pictures from the Oct. 7 massacre reminded Jamali of some of the atrocities committed by the Iranian regime against those protesting it.

“When I saw the photos of the victims, I saw my sisters and cousins,” she said. “The young woman who was kidnapped with blood on her dress looked like my friends. I know so many women and men in Iran who have had similar terrible things happen to them—murder, rape, imprisonment, executions. I saw the isolation that Jews and Israelis are experiencing—the silence of the world—and I realized that I must not remain silent. That is why I joined the pro-Israeli demonstrations in London and also came to visit here now in search of cooperation.”

Jamali grew up in Iran until the age of 13, when her family fled and sought asylum in the UK.

“As a little girl, we were forced every last Friday of Ramadan to go to organized marches against Israel, America and the West,” she recalled. “We were children who didn’t even know where Israel was, and even in the heat and during fast days they forced us to walk and shout slogans like ‘death to America, death to Israel’ at the top of our lungs.”

“You have to understand, in Iran there are public executions and children are also exposed to them,” she continued. “We talk to children about martyrs and the 72 virgins waiting for the martyrs in heaven. Girls are taught that they are the property of men, that their bodies are the source of sin and that they must hide themselves. Happily, at home I’ve always been told that it’s not true, it’s not the truth, and in millions of homes in Iran, behind closed doors, families are trying to deal with the indoctrination of the regime. That's why I’ve always said that it's a regime that doesn't care about its own children, so it certainly doesn't care about the Palestinian children.”

Jamali described the economic situation in Iran as dire, with ever-increasing inflation and poverty. The Iranian government is devoting its funds to promoting a holy war against Israel, she said.

“Poor people do not want to go to war, and a poor country should not spend money on war,” Jamali said. “This is the attitude of most Iranians in Iran itself, and it is beyond any politics or ideology. They are in their last hour, and everyone knows it. The attack on Israel now is an expression of weakness and not strength. The people in Iran shouted in demonstrations, ‘Neither Gaza nor Lebanon—our lives are dedicated to Iran.’”

Demonstrators at the Tehran hijab protest against the Iranian government. (Photo: via Reuters)
Demonstrators at the Tehran hijab protest against the Iranian government. (Photo: via Reuters)

“At the same time as they were shooting at Israel, they sent convoys of Revolutionary Guard vehicles into the streets of Iran’s main streets to prevent resistance from home, to scare the people, and they took down the media networks,” she said. “Although the Iranian people are not armed, we nevertheless witness acts of courage everyday bravery and resistance which reveal [the regime’s] weakness. This regime will eventually fall, and I call on the world to stand with the Iranian people in their struggle to defeat this terrible administration that attacks Israel at the expense of the Iranian people.”

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