“Mohammad was a lover; he was in love with love, with life and with history. He was in love with history so much that he became history.”
These are the heartfelt words of Zara Jam, the wife of Mohammad Moradi, an Iranian man who tragically committed suicide in France to highlight the struggle of Iran against its oppressive government.
In life, he was a 38-year student studying history in Lyon. In death, Moradi has become a powerful symbol for Iranian protesters across the world.
On 26 December, Moradi threw himself into the icy waters of the Rhone River, hoping to carry the desperate voice of Iran’s protesters to the western media.
His body was laid to rest today in an emotionally-charged ceremony. Under a grey and gloomy winter sky, mourners chanted ‘femme, vie, liberte’ (woman, life, freedom) — the rallying cry of Iranian protesters — as Moradi’s coffin was solemnly led to the cemetery.
Iran is currently experiencing one of the largest waves of anti-government unrest in its recent history. It was sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, after she was arrested by police for allegedly not wearing her headscarf properly in September.
“What Mohammad wanted the western countries to understand was the oppression that the Iranian people are suffering,” said his wife of three years, Zara Jam. “He willingly killed himself for this reason.”
“He committed suicide to attract the attention of western countries to Iran. When in the 21st century our people are raped and tortured in prisons and the regime kills children,” she added.
The Iranian government has brutally tried to suppress the women-led protests, with security forces killing hundreds and arresting tens of thousands of people.
Systematic rape and sexual assaults of female protesters, many of whom are in their teens, by security forces has been reported in detention centres and prisons across Iran.
“Mohammad sacrificed his life so that the western countries would see what is happening in Iran and not ignore it,” said Jam.
In a video posted a day before his suicide, Moradi called out the violence of the Iranian regime, saying “we have to do something” in a calm voice.
“I [have] decided to commit suicide in the Rhone river, it is a challenge to show that we, Iranian people, are very tired of this situation”, he continued, stressing that his decision was not due to personal reasons.
“When you watch this video, I will be dead.”
There have been widespread calls for European states to do more to put pressure on the Iranian government and help stop the vicious crackdown, including ramping up sanctions on senior figures within the regime.
“When Macron [President of France] shakes the hand of Raisi [President of the Islamic Republic], it is a complete disappointment for us,” said Jam. “Because a dictator, an executioner comes to a democratic country and they welcome him there, while the whole world knows what is going on in Iran.”
“For this reason, Mohammad sacrificed his life,” she added.
At least 520 people, including 70 children, have been killed by security forces since nationwide anti-government protests began, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency.
Authorities in Iran have begun executing detained protesters, following trials that have been branded by the UK-based NGO Amnesty International as a “sham”.
“On the part of Iranians living abroad, if they want to consider Muhammad’s message, it is enough to participate in demonstrations against the Islamic Republic in all countries and to give financial aid to the people of Iran who live in poor areas,” said Jam.
Moradi had been married to his wife, Zara Jam for three years. They both lived in Lyon, France. He was a student of history at the University of Jean Moulin Lyon 3.