a force to be reckoned with


by Jessica Norris


Almost a year ago, I wrote an article that highlighted the necessity of validating women’s voices in the public sphere. A line from this article read:

“How we react to the testimonies of women, and their voices in society, will be the key to our battle against the patriarchal cultures in which these stories of sexual assault are born.”

As I reflect on International Women’s Day this year, I am reminded of how critical it is for the stories and testimonies of women to be upheld and valued – not just by society at large – but also by one another as individuals.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias, which aims to call out the biases, stereotypes, and gendered criticism that provide a platform for sexism and discrimination against women in Australia. There is no doubt that this underlying bias colours the stories of women’s lives with a patriarchal hue. Too often, women in the media, in workplaces, and even amongst their friends and families have their stories explained through a lens that is not their own – the lens of a patriarchal society.

We see this when the conversation surrounding gender-based violence and sexual assault is framed around how men are unfairly victimised. We see this when the story of female sexuality is told within the context of virginity and cis-hetero sex. We see this when stories of women meeting success in their professional lives are counterbalanced with a narrative that this is at the cost of their personal lives. We see this when Indigenous women and women of colour are excluded from certain privileges white women are afforded. We see this when trans, intersex and gender diverse people are excluded from contemporary conversations surrounding femininity and gender expression altogether.

Unfortunately to this day, myself and many other young women I know have experienced the most severe critique and shame in their lives at the hands of other women. It is certainly possible that despite how far we’ve come, many women still view one another as an entity to compete with or measure up against in order to stay ahead in a race that wasn’t designed for us to win. An integral component of patriarchy in action is women being used to call out each other – not that this serves as an excuse for that behaviour.

But when women come together without this bias, the dynamic is a beautiful, magical thing. Conversation can flow like a network of rivers across multiple topics at any one time. We can make sense of our bodies, our stories, and the world around us together. There is connection and sharing. There is emotion and empathy. There is laughter, dancing, cheese, wine, and whatever music, movie, or series we choose to allocate our attention to. There is freedom.

There is a special place in my heart for women who listen to and support other women – unconditionally. Not because it’s a good thing to do, but because they are genuinely passionate about seeing other women overcome obstacles and learn to thrive. A woman alone has an immense power. But women together are a beautiful and unstoppable force to be reckoned with.

If I could rewrite the line from a year ago for myself and every other woman on this particular day, I would say:

“Upholding and empowering the unique testimonies of one another is the ever-strengthening foundation to opposing the biases we face together.”

Women deserve the spotlight shining on them and the microphone handed to them, not just on International Women’s Day, but every damn day of the year. Not because we need it, but because we have earned it: we continue to fly despite all of the biases and structures designed to keep us on the ground.









Photo by Mike Von on unspalsh. 

bbqs don’t mean that much to me


by Jessica Norris

Content warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and those belonging to Indigenous communities, are advised that the following article contains the mention of deceased persons and colonial violence.

I would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation, who are the Traditional Owners of the land on which this article was researched, written and published. I pay my respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging. I thank those from whom I have learnt from and will continue to listen to. This land always was and always will be Aboriginal land.


Growing up white in Australia, my memories of January 26th can be summarised collectively as laid-back, hot, sticky (probably from trying to scientifically extract the last of my Zooper Dooper from its plastic) and for the most part, relatively uneventful. Looking back, I can picture a few polyester Australian flags waving lazily in the summer air. I can smell burgers on the BBQ and freshly cut watermelon. I can see a humble array of Savoys placed around a Coles-brand brie cheese, and I can hear the dulcet tones of the cricket playing on the TV inside.

Upon reflecting on these memories, I have come to realise that I am privileged to have experienced January 26th in this way for so many years. However, since then I have grown to understand the depths of meaning attached to this day. Today I am alert and sensitive to the reality that ‘Australia Day’ is a day of pain and mourning for First Nations peoples. It is a day that marks colonial violence and commemorates a structure of white supremacy in this nation. Today, I see January 26th still being celebrated as a national holiday as symptomatic of the institutionalised racism and systemic disadvantage faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia. There is a clear divide between those who feel free and empowered to celebrate, and those who feel hurt and excluded by this date.

Nakkiah Lui, a Gamilaroi and Torres Strait Islander playwright and actor, says, ‘Most people just want a day to celebrate the place that they call home, to be part of a community, and to guide Australia into the future. I am one of these people, so why can’t we celebrate this on a day that includes all Australians?’ This is the very heart of the ‘Change the Date’ movement – inclusion. The community is pushing to find another date on which we can celebrate our nation in a way that brings Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples together. (And there is a plethora of others to choose from that don’t represent the day this land was invaded by colonialists– May 8th anyone?).

Many that criticise the Change the Date movement say that it is just a ‘token’ or ‘empty’ gesture. They argue that moving the date we celebrate Australia will not help to fix the larger social, economic, and political disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in this country. I would like to suggest that this argument is flawed: how are we as a nation going to build lasting and effective change on a macro-level, to truly heal and reconcile, until we start listening to Indigenous people when they are protesting and include them in our national day of celebration?

It is important to recognise that the deeply embedded systemic disadvantage faced by First Nations peoples remains prevalent not just on January 26th – but all year round. The 2016 Census demonstrates a desperate need for a shift in education outcomes, stating that ‘only 42% of Aboriginal people aged between 25 and 34 had had a tertiary qualification compared to 72% of non-Aboriginal people within the same age group.’ According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, ‘the potentially avoidable mortality rate for Indigenous Australians was over 3 times the rate for non-Indigenous Australians in 2018.’ According to the Guardian, ‘at least 474 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in custody since the end of the royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody in 1991.’

Changing the date is, in the grand goal of reconciliation, a small step. But it is an integral step down the right path for our government to make in order to signpost that we are listening, and by extension, that we care. The overwhelming majority of Indigenous communities have been calling for this date to be changed for years. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have gathered and declared January 26th to be a Day of Mourning since 1938, making it one of the first major civil rights protests the world had seen at the time, and one of the longest running protests today. For perspective, it should be noted here that January 26th has only been established as federal public holiday and celebrated as ‘Australia Day’ since 1994. Aboriginal civil rights activist and journalist, Uncle Jack Patten, said on the first Day of Mourning in 1938, ‘This land belonged to our forefathers 150 years ago, but today we are pushed further and further into the background.’ It has been over 80 years since that line was spoken and yet First Nations people still gather and protest to make their voices heard in 2022.

Now is the time for us as a nation to stop, sit on Country, learn about its history and heritage, and listen to what Aboriginal Elders and communities are saying. Dr Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, Aboriginal Elder from Nauiyu (230km south of Darwin), activist, educator, and artist calls for us as a nation to practice the art of ‘dadirri’ which can be translated to, ‘inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness.’ She says this practice ‘is [a] gift that Australia is thirsting for’. I wonder, what would it look like for us as a nation to practice ‘dadirri’ and use January 26th as a day of quiet reflection? A time to reflect on our history, how we are treating the land, how we are treating others, how we are moving forward.

I do not consider BBQs, navy bucket hats or paddle pools to be a foundational picture of Australian culture to me, nor does it make up a large part of my identity as an Australian. My identity as an Australian means so much more to me now. It has been shaped by the wisdom of those who have looked after the land for thousands and thousands of years. It has been stretched by reflecting on my own experience of privilege and how I might covertly benefit from my ancestry. It has been spirited by witnessing the peace, courage, and strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. This Australian identity is one that is founded, not on an image of a day on the beach, but in an evolving and fluid experience of learning about the rich and diverse culture of the First Australians. To be frank, I’m prepared to lose all the sausage-in-breads Australia has to offer until I see a nation that is ready to welcome everyone to the table, in heart and policy. How about you?





Further resources

To find out more about the Guardian’s ongoing investigation on Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and see the faces of those who have been victimised in this way, click here.  

To read about how climate change is directly affecting the Torres Straight Islands, click here.

To learn more about the concept of why white Australians are encouraged to ‘pay the rent’, and to give to the Pay the Rent organisation, click here.

To bookmark other dates of significance for First Nations people in the 2022 calendar, click here.

To find out more information about this year’s NAIDOC week, click here.


Image by Jessica Norris taken on 26 January 2021.

people’s candidate or regime’s candidate?

Anatomy of the candidates in the Iranian presidential election 2021

by Alireza Mohebbi

Iran’s thirteenth presidential election will be held on June 18, as the country grapples with several complex and challenging problems at home and abroad.

There is no shortage of challenges for the incoming president to tackle. These include the COVID 19 crisis and vaccination roll out, with official figures reporting infections numbering 2,902,094 cases and 79,939 deaths by May 30th, 2021. The unprecedented nature of COVID 19 is tragedy enough, but when it’s set against a backdrop of rising livelihood dissatisfaction over high rates of unemployment, rising prices, 39 percent inflation, and the devaluation of the national currency, the demands on a new government are overwhelming. While many nations can turn to wealthier countries for support, a series of international incidents has left Iran as an outcast to much of the world. These include the shooting down of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 by two missiles of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as well as the development of a nuclear program that has resulted in international sanctions and the US withdrawal from the IAEA. Iran’s support for Palestinian resistance groups and Shiite militias in Iraq and Yemen, as well as Iran’s military presence in Syria, have all affected foreign policy engagement with neighbouring countries. With so many life and death issues to manage, the next president’s reign will be critical for the future of Iran.

So how will this election play out and what will the role of the president be? Iran is a theocratic country with a population of about 84 million Muslims (about 98 percent) who, according to Article 113 of the country’s Constitution, holds the president as the highest official after the Supreme Leader. The president is responsible for enforcing the Constitution and chairing the executive branch, except in matters directly related to the Leadership.

The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as the “Vali-ye Faqih –  ولی فقیه, or ‘guardianship of the jurist,” has the highest political and religious position in Iran – a position which can annul all decisions made by the president or other institutions of power under his government.

The process for the presidential election is not wholly transparent in Iran. The election ends with the president receiving approval from Iran`s Supreme Leader, after gaining an absolute majority of the votes cast (more than 50 percent of the vote) and approval of the election results by the Guardian Council. The approval of the Iranian President by Ali Khamenei as the Vali-ye Faqih, or ‘guardianship of the jurist’ is one of the powers of the Iran`s Supreme Leader in the Constitution, and the four-year term of the presidency in Iran begins on the date of “ratification of the credentials” by the Supreme Leader.

But let’s take a look at the process leading up to the final appointment.


What is the registration process for the Iranian presidential election?

According to Article 99 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Guardian Council is responsible for overseeing the President’s election. The Guardian Council, one of the important supervisory bodies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, has 12 members; six of them are Faqihs (experts in Islamic Law) who are dismissed and appointed by the Iranian Supreme Leader. The other six members are lawyers selected by the judiciary chief and nominated to the Islamic Consultative Assembly (The Parliament of Iran) for a vote of confidence. In Iran, the judiciary chief is appointed by the Supreme Leader by direct decree for a five-year term.

Controversially, according to the Guardian Council, candidates must meet the following conditions to register for this presidential election.

The candidate must:

  • be between 40 and 75 years old.
  • have a minimum master’s degree or equivalent approved by the Ministries of Science, Research and Technology and Health, Treatment and Medical Education, or the Seminary Management Center.
  • have a four-year history of ministries, governorates, or municipalities in cities with more than two million population.
  • be one of the directors of seminaries or of Islamic Azad University (private university in Iran).
  • be a member of the Expediency Discernment Council or the Supreme National Security Council.
  • be the deputy head of one of the three branches (executive branch, legislature, judiciary).
  • be from the heads of governmental organizations, institutions, and public non-governmental institutions at the national level.
  • And, if they are in the military, they should be high-ranking commanders of the armed forces with general and higher ranks.

During this period of the presidential election, 592 people registered with the Ministry of Interior, and finally, the Guardian Council approved the eligibility of seven of them as final candidates to participate in the Iranian presidential election.



Who are the final candidates?


people's candidate or regime's candidate?

Source: Masoud Shahrestani

Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi

The 50-year-old Doctor, the fundamentalist politician, is the first vice-president in the eleventh term of the Islamic Consultative Assembly. He is the youngest candidate in this period of the Iranian presidential election.

He was also a member of parliament in the eighth, ninth, and tenth terms. He is a member of the Central Council of the Sustainability Front and was its spokesman in 2013 and 2014.

The Stability Front of the Islamic Revolution, known as the Stability Front, is an Iranian fundamentalist political group made up of conservative

fundamentalist extremists. The core of this group is formed by some former ministers of the ninth and tenth governments (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s cabinet).

His long serving high ranking career in parliament positions him as a willing parrot of the Supreme Leader. This is evident through the anti-Israel rhetoric which is aimed to demonstrate that he is loyal to the regime.

Following recent tensions and clashes between Israel and Palestine, Ghazizadeh Hashemi said in a statement: “We will soon see the collapse of the Zionist regime.”

This recent statement by Ghazizadeh Hashemi as the Iran’s presidential candidate, refers to Ali Khamenei’s remarks during a challenging speech on September 9, 2015.

The Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran said in his speech to Israel: “You will not exist for another 25 years.”



people's candidate or regime's candidate?

Source: Mahmoud Rahimi (MEHRNEWS Agency)

Abdolnaser Hemmati

The 64-year-old is a moderate politician and former governor of the Central Bank of Iran.

He has a doctorate in economics. From 1980 to 1993, he was active in the Iranian state radio and television and held important positions such as the political deputy of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).

During the eight-year Iran-Iraq war (September 1980 – August 1988), he was in charge of the war propaganda staff. From 1994 to 2006, he was the General Director of the Central Insurance of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Chairman of the Supreme Insurance Council.

Before he was appointed Governor of the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran, he headed Sina Bank (seven years) and Melli Bank (three years) for a total of ten years.

Also, during his tenure as Governor of the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the US Treasury Department on October 8, 2020, sanctioned eighteen Iranian banks for supporting terrorist activities and Iran’s nuclear program.

Rising inflation and liquidity, the devaluation of the national currency, and the turmoil in the Iranian stock market are main economic problems during Hemmati’s presidency of the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran, leading to many criticisms of his performance which heavily impacts his chances winning this election.


people's candidate or regime's candidate?

Source: Hossein Zohrevand

Saeed Jalili

The 55-year-old is a fundamentalist politician, a member of the Expediency Discernment Council, and a representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader in the Supreme National Security Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

He lost his right leg during an eight-year Iran-Iraq war in a military operation.

In October 2007, he was elected Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran in the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Former Iranian President). He attended the nuclear negotiations between Iran and P5+1 group (United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France plus Germany).

A trusted figure in the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, he was selected as Iran’s nuclear negotiator based on his background in Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, during Saeed Jalili’s tenure in the Iranian nuclear case, Unprecedented sanctions were imposed on Iran by the United Nations Security Council, the United States, and the European Union, which negatively affected foreign exchange earnings, oil sales, and banking sanctions.

Jalili ran in the eleventh presidential election in 2013 but failed to win, eventually coming in third with about 4.6 million votes.

He ran in that presidential election under the slogan “A Pleasant Life – Hayat Tayyeba – حیات طیبه,” which is inspired by Islamic thought, and his campaign staff included members of extremist groups such as Ansar Hezbollah (close to the Basij and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps).


people's candidate or regime's candidate?

Source: Majid Khani

Mohsen Mehralizadeh

The 64-year-old reformist politician, vice president, and head of the Physical Education Organization was in the cabinet of Mohammad Khatami (the eighth government of the Islamic Republic of Iran) from November 2001 to September 2005.

He was previously the governor of Khorasan for four years, from 1997 to 2001.

Mohsen Mehralizadeh entered the ninth presidential election campaign in 2005 as a candidate of the reformist faction. He was initially disqualified by the Guardian Council but was re-approved on appeal by the decree of Iran`s Supreme Leader.

Mehralizadeh came in fourth in the 2005 presidential election with 1.29 million votes.

After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Mehralizadeh formed the Islamic Revolution Committees in the city of Maragheh (in the province of East Azerbaijan). The committee was responsible for enforcing Islamic rules and ethical standards of social behavior in Iran.

He also participated in forming the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (Maragheh city) and held its command from 1979 to 1981.

He is currently the President of the International Zurkhaneh Sports Federation. His presence on the third day of the registration of candidates for the thirteenth presidential election on May 13, 2021, with his two grandchildren (one of whom wore the uniform of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) caught the attention of news photographers.

According to experts, his presence and confirmation in this period of the presidential election is only as an excuse to increase the turnout among voters who still believe in reform for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Although he will have no place in power and has no hope of winning the election, the regime is using every means to get people to the polls, even in exchange for the approval of a second- or third-class reformist candidate.


people's candidate or regime's candidate?

Source: Mohammad Reza Abbasi

Ebrahim Raisi

The 60-year-old is an Islamic fundamentalist cleric and the current Chief of the judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran. His presence in the Iranian judiciary dates back to 1980.

Raisi has been a high-ranking Iranian judicial official since the 1980s, and his presence on a “four-member execution board” known as the “Death Commission” is one of the dark spots in his case.

In August and September 1988, thousands of political and ideological prisoners were tried without the presence of a lawyer and often within minutes, by order of Ruhollah Khomeini, the former Iranian Supreme Leader, and were executed en masse and secretly.

Ebrahim Raisi, as a deputy prosecutor of Tehran, was a member of the death commission that, after asking a few questions about the prisoners’ political and religious beliefs, decided whether to execute or keep them alive.

With the death of Ayatollah Khomeini and the beginning of the leadership of Ali Khamenei, Ebrahim Raisi was not only not questioned for the executions in the summer of 1988 but also continued to be promoted in the judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran and held positions such as Prosecutor of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran, Head of the National Inspection Organization and the first deputy head of the judiciary.

His performance in the Iranian judiciary led to the US Treasury Department’s taking action on November 4, 2019, against nine individuals close to Ali Khamenei, including Ebrahim Raisi, for human rights abuses and internal repression.

His close relationship with the Iran`s Supreme Leader and his trust in Ebrahim Raisi led to his appointment to the post of Astan Quds Razavi on March 7, 2016, with the ruling of Ali Khamenei.

Astan Quds Razavi is a religious-economic institution responsible for managing the shrine of the Eighth Shiite Imam, collecting vows, and managing the property and economic enterprises affiliated with it. This institution is one of the largest economic enterprises in Iran, which has been exempted from paying taxes by order of Ayatollah Khomeini (the First Supreme Leader of Iran).

Ebrahim Raisi ran for the twelfth presidential election in 2017 but lost the race to incumbent President Hassan Rouhani.

About a year and a half later, on March 7, 2019, Ali Khamenei appointed Ebrahim Raisi as the Chief of the Iranian judiciary. Four years after losing the previous presidential election, Ebrahim Raisi has re-emerged to try his luck again.

The Conservative-backed candidate, a close ally of the Iranian leader, has high hopes of being elected Iran’s eighth president in an election in which the Guardian Council has disqualified countless candidates.


people's candidate or regime's candidate?

Source: Maryam Kamyab

Mohsen Reza’i

The 66-year-old is a military commander and secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council.

In 1980, with the ruling of Ruhollah Khomeini (First Iranian Supreme Leader), he was appointed as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander and worked in this position for sixteen years until 1997.

The IRGC’s conflicts with the Islamic Republic of Iran Army and its performance in commanding various operations during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) when he was as commander of the Revolutionary Guards were widely criticized.

Mohsen Reza’i entered the world of politics after 1997 and was appointed secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council by the ruling of the Iran`s Supreme Leader. Mohsen Reza’i holds the record for running in the most presidential elections.

He ran in the ninth presidential election in 2005 but resigned before the election. He ran in the tenth and eleventh presidential elections in 2009 and 2013 and lost.

Reza’i was absent from the twelfth election but is running again in the thirteenth presidential election, seeking his presidential dream. However, it seems unlikely that he will have a chance to become president.

Ahmad Reza`i, his eldest son, fled to the United States in 1998 and criticized the Islamic Republic of Iran. He was assassinated on November 13, 2011, at the Gloria Hotel in Dubai.

Mohsen Reza`i was placed on the US Treasury Department’s sanctions list on January 10, 2020, following the US government’s announcement of involvement in the 1994 terrorist attack against the AMIA Jewish community in Argentina, resulting in the deaths of 85 people.

Mohsen Reza`i was listed as wanted by Interpol (International Police) on March 2007 at the request of the Argentine government on charges of involvement in the explosion of the Jewish Aid Center (bombing of AMIA as the then commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps).

His remarks in July 2013 on the issue of military aggression and conflict with the United States were highly controversial. Reza’i said: “If the Americans want to have a bad eye on Iran and think of a military strike, they can be sure that we will capture at least 1,000 Americans in the first week, and then they will have to pay billions of dollars to free each of them and we will solve the economic problem of the country.”


people's candidate or regime's candidate?

Source: M.Hossein Movahedinejad

Alireza Zakani

The 55-year-old fundamentalist politician represents Qom (Iran’s religious capital) in the eleventh term of the Islamic Consultative Assembly (The Parliament of Iran) and heads the Islamic Parliament Research Center of The Islamic Republic of Iran.

With the start of the Iran-Iraq War, Zakani went to the battlefields and participated in the Irregular Warfare Headquarters. He was wounded in battle.

Alireza Zakani was in charge of the Student Basij Organisation of the University of Tehran, the mosque administration of the University of Tehran (for four years), the Student Basij Organisation of the universities of Tehran province, and was in charge of the Student Basij Organisation of Iran.

The Student Basij Organisation -سازمان بسیج دانشجویی  was founded based on the decree of the first Iran`s Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini on 23 November 1988. This organization is a subset of the Basij Organization (one of the paramilitary organizations and a subset of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps).

Zakani represented the people of Tehran in the seventh, eighth, and ninth terms of the Islamic Consultative Assembly.

Alireza Zakani registered for the eleventh (2013) and twelfth (2017) presidential elections in Iran but was disqualified by the Guardian Council in both.

According to many critical experts, this rejection and approval of credentials in different periods is a tool of pressure done by the Guardian Council (by order of Iran`s Supreme Leader).

Some experts believe that before the election, Alireza Zakani may withdraw from the election in favour of the main representative of the Conservative Party, Ebrahim Raisi, as a close pro-government observer. If Ebrahim Raisi wins the Presidential election, Zakani will likely be elected as one of his cabinet ministers.


What next?

One of the important events of the thirteenth Iranian presidential election so far is the disqualifications of the Guardian Council regarding Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (former President of Iran from August 2005 to August 2013), Ali Larijani (Speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly from 2008 to 2020) and Eshaq Jahangiri (First Vice President since 2013).

The seven qualified candidates will have 20 days from May 28 to June 16, 2021, to carry out their activities and election campaigns throughout Iran. The thirteenth presidential election in Iran will be held on Friday, June 18, 2021.

Experts believe that due to the complexities and problems in Iran’s domestic and foreign policy – including increasing public dissatisfaction with the government, severe economic and livelihood problems, the COVID 19 crisis, and the ambiguous status of Iran’s nuclear program – turnout will be at an all-time low compared to previous elections in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Some polls in Iran, including the Student Opinion Polling Centre (ISPA), put the current turnout at 36 percent.

During the eleventh term of the Islamic Consultative Assembly (The Parliament of Iran) on February 21, 2020, only 42.57 percent of eligible voters went to the polls, with the lowest turnout (after the second round of municipal council elections in February 2003) in the post-revolutionary history of the Islamic Revolution since 1979.

Whether some consider the Iranian election a premeditated and engineered election or others see it as a blind hope for choosing between bad and worse, on June 18, 2021, the Islamic Republic of Iran will recognize its eighth president. The President could be considered the most outward facing showcase figure of the regime which is approved by the Supreme Leader and the Islamic Republic of Iran at this time.



Alireza Mohebbi

HDR Candidate

Schools of Arts, Social Sciences & Humanities

Swinburne University of Technology

Twitter: @alirezambb


Feature image source: Borna Ghasemi

in the fight against sexual assault, validating women’s voices is vital


by Jessica Norris

Content note:
This article contains mentions of sexual harassment, assault and gender-based violence.


On a particularly sunny, blue-skied day in February 2010, I was riding the number 16 tram to St Kilda beach with a group of my high-school friends. I wore a red floral tank top and some cute denim shorts, with a Cotton On tote bag loosely flung over one shoulder. The smell of sunscreen and freshly painted pink nail polish hung in the air just as starkly as the sound of scratching tram tracks.

While holding on to the safety handles above with sweaty hands, I noticed one of the boys in our group looking at me. My stomach flickered a little and I stared at my feet, embarrassed. Was he definitely looking at me? Do my thighs look too big in these shorts? Will he still look at me when I’m wearing my bikini? Maybe I imagined it. The tram doors flung open and I turned to get out of the carriage, relieved to have a break in the awkward-teenager tension building in my head.

The relief didn’t last long. Somewhere between the gap from the tram and the platform outside, I felt two hot, firm hands grab my butt cheeks from behind. Trying to regain my balance in a crowd of people getting on and off, I stared up at this boy with my mouth a little open and cheeks rapidly reddening. He looked back at me and was chuckling along with the other guys, and even a few of my friends. There I stood, a fourteen-year-old girl, inescapably on display for all to see. I hardly spoke for the rest of that day.

The other night, I found myself at a party standing with a group of girls, some of whom I had never met. We started discussing the sexual assault allegations that had surfaced in the media and shared various experiences of our own.

“You don’t get hurt or feel frightened at a safe venue,” said one girl, “it’s the travelling there and home that scares me.” She told us about a time she had left Yah Yah’s on a Thursday night to find a crowd of drunk men waiting outside. “They yelled, ‘Kiss!’ at my girlfriend and I when they saw we were holding hands. Like, we’re not a fetish.”

“I can’t count the number of times I’ve been groped in a club,” said another. “One time, I rejected a guy and he got so mad that he told the bouncer I was drunk.”

At this party more than ten years later, that day on the tram flashed into my mind from a vault of random memories that make me cringe as hard as the day they happened. As I stood in this circle of young women swapping their stories, I was reminded that mine needed no complex explanation or justification for telling it. These women understood exactly what happened that day on the tram, and I knew they would, because all of our experiences a part of one narrative: the story of a society where women are sexualised, and sexual assault is normalised.

There has been a spotlight in the media on allegations of sexual assault and rape, spilling down from our Federal Government to high schools across the nation and beyond. I cannot help but wonder, Do the headlines circling around Australia at the moment surprise me? Or does it feel like the rest of the country is just starting to catch up on the conversations girls are having at parties? The tired, old, misconceived narrative that women are raped in dark alleyways by Really Bad Men is finally being challenged on a larger scale. Our society is sitting with the reality that sexual assault is so prevalent, that it’s happening every day to our little sisters on social media, to our female colleagues in our workplaces, to our grandmothers in their nursing homes and to our friends on their first dates, most often by men they know personally.

The pressing problem of sexual and other gender-based violence being experienced by women at overwhelming rates in Australia and globally is undeniable. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has found that one in five Australian women have experienced sexual violence, with one in six women experiencing this abuse before the age of fifteen. According to a recent survey for the UN Women UK, 86 per cent of British women aged 18 to 24 stated they had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces, with only 3 per cent saying they had not.

Unfortunately, these statistics only worsen for women belonging to minority communities across multiple areas of gender-based violence. First Nations women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of family violence when compared to non-Indigenous women. Approximately one in three women with a disability have experienced emotional abuse from an intimate partner compared to one in five non-disabled women. Transgender women are more likely to experience sexual assault at the hands of strangers than cisgender women, and their experiences are often excluded from sexual violence data. These statistics are disheartening, but they only begin to illustrate the violence that the vast majority of women in Australia face throughout their lifetimes, as many testimonies remain unreported.

The recent testimony of Brittany Higgins has been a hollowing reminder to women across Australia that if a rape can happen to a politician inside Parliament House, it can truly happen anywhere. Chanel Contos’ petition for “sexual consent education”, in schools has stressed the saddening reality that teenage girls face sexual assault at an overwhelming rate in their developing years. The Morrison government’s “Milkshake” ad in response (attempting to educate teenagers on consent) has only illustrated just how out of touch our leadership is, with both the seriousness and basic principles of sexual consent. Marie Barbaric’s story of institutional sexual abuse following her removal from her family under government policy ­­– now known as the Stolen Generations – has reminded us of the double-edged sword of sexism and racism Indigenous women have been battling for two hundred years.

Women across Australia are deeply hurt and angered by this injustice, and the March protests across major cities have highlighted that they are ready and willing to use their voices to make that clear.

How we react to the testimonies of women, and their voices in society, will be the key to our battle against the patriarchal cultures in which these stories of sexual assault are born. Women like Brittany Higgins, Marie Barbaric and the many that have gone before them, are demonstrating that speaking up about sexual assault is an incredibly powerful weapon in revealing truth, engaging public discussion and paving the way for others to go next. Women who come forward to share their stories are breaking the stigma of shame and silence that has followed these experiences for decades.

However, with every story that makes its way into the public sphere, there seems to remain an inevitability of dismissal, criticism, or even blatant disbelief lurking behind women like a shadow. Recently, a journalist for The Courier Mail wrote, “since when does being Australian of the Year give you licence to personally attack our Prime Minister?” in response to Grace Tame’s public critique of the Prime Minister’s handling of the rape allegations against Attorney-General Christian Porter. While Defence Minister Linda Reynolds needed to be forced to apologise to Brittany Higgins, after calling her a “lying cow” following her report of rape in Parliament.

Our response to women speaking their truth in the public sphere mirrors how we value women in society. Every dismissal of one woman’s story diminishes the right of all women to speak and exercise their value as people that are allowed to do so. If society has truly moved beyond the days where women are silent accessories in a man’s world, then female voices need to hold as much space and power as their male counterparts. For those that are quick to shelve, dismiss, zone out on, talk over, critique or cheapen the voice of the women in your life, we must dare to check in with ourselves and ask, Are we valuing the testimonies of women in our society to the same extent as we do those of men?

What is perhaps an even more important power behind the stories of women is their ability to connect us to each other and help us to understand our own experiences. While each experience is unique, every voice comes together to form the next chapter in the narrative of a women’s movement. Yet, a voice only resonates if someone is there to hear it. And if you are not hearing them, then you are not paying attention. Women are speaking up more frequently than ever before, which makes now the time to hold fast in uplifting and validating their voices until the fight against sexual assault and gender-based violence is won.


Photo courtesy of Swinburne Journalism: 

Lilly Williamson, Milllicent Spencer, Kiara Ariza Stellato Pledger.

racist australia: the nation’s biggest secret


By Ella Paine

Picture this: you and your family made the move to sunny Australia 10 years ago with hopes of a better life. You came expecting nice weather, laid-back people and a multicultural society. Yet now, the media has stereotyped and persecuted your race over all news outlets and social media platforms. And since the eruption of the corona virus pandemic, things are only getting worse. Your family is viewed as unhygienic, contagious and the cause of the disease. Now, in the country that you have come to call home, some people think that you and your family deserve to die. Having already experienced three attacks this week, is the graffitied sentence ‘COVID-19 CHINA DIE’ on the door of your garage not the last straw to make you think, maybe Australia isn’t the home I was told it was?

As terrible as this scenario is, it is not a hypothetical situation. A Chinese-Australian family was sought out and attacked in April last year in Melbourne, in the exact way I have just described.

But racism doesn’t exist in Australia, right?

Hiu Yen Yong would disagree. Hiu Yen, a Chinese-Malaysian woman who has lived in Australia since she was four years old, believes not that racism has recently appeared out of nowhere, but rather that people in Australia are now ‘more comfortable showing it.’

While Hiu Yen says acquaintances have reached out to show their support following these attacks, such messages often feel like hollow platitudes…or double-edged swords.

‘People are going out of their way to show me how much they support me,’ she said.

‘It’s like they think they are being so virtuous by saying they don’t think the virus is my fault.’

In the past, Hiu Yen’s experience of racism was much more direct. She was forced to contend with consistent ‘classic school-ground taunts’ where other children would pull back their eyes, call her food ‘weird crap’, and tell her to ‘go back to [her] own country’, as well as ‘a surprising amount of ching chong bling blong.’

Nisa Raihan, an 18-year-old Malay from Singapore, echoes Hiu Yen’s sentiments, saying she has often felt uncomfortable in Australia as a hijab-wearing Muslim.

After the 2019 Christchurch bombings and the Sydney Café shootings, Nisa and her family ‘tried as much as possible (to) stay inside’ and avoided taking public transport due to the worry that ‘people would blame [them]’ or ‘confront [them]’.

‘I don’t understand how there are some people involved in politics, such as Pauline Hanson, who fuel their policies based on racial prejudice and hatred,’ Nisa said.

‘By projecting these views onto other people, a toxic and hateful environment is created. These people should not have power in society.’

Whilst Nisa says that she hasn’t experienced any racial attacks since moving to Australia some 13 years ago, she states that she thinks this is because ‘when [herself and her family] first migrated, [they] stayed in high Malay and Muslim communities like Broadmeadows and Dandenong.’

When it comes to her safety as a hijabi woman in broader Melbourne, Nisa explains that her parents are more concerned than she is.

‘When I was applying for jobs, my mum was worried I wouldn’t get past the first interview because of my hijab,’ Nisa said.

‘Racism most definitely still exists within Australia. Not only towards Asians but it also extends towards the Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Black communities, as well as other minorities.’

‘We can do so much to reduce the racism rates, but the bottom line is there will always be a small percentage that will be racist whether they’re aware of it or not.’

As Hiu Yen and Nisa have demonstrated, ingrained stereotypes and biases of this nature are damaging to people of colour. Various studies cited in a Guardian article, in fact, have indicated that unconscious racial bias can negatively lead to poor health outcomes, and create barriers that lower the quality of students’ tertiary education.

2020 has been a year of onslaught and terror for most regions of the world following the coronavirus pandemic, but nothing has caused a bigger revolutionary uprising than the Black Lives Matter movement. The Black Lives Matter campaign, often shortened to BLM or #BLM, was founded in 2013 by cofounders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. According to the official Black Lives Matter website, the three women created the political cause with hopes to spread the word about ‘violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.’ The need for justice, freedom and liberation influenced many others in the United States to stand by these women and their cause.

Following the recent breakout of protests, strikes and calls for racial equality after George Floyd’s death at the hands of the police, many Australians have taken to media platforms to voice their gratitude for not living in a racist society like America. However, multitudes of research and personal stories from people of colour living in Australia show that we also have our own issues with racism that we need to address.

In an Essential Poll conducted by The Guardian, almost 80 per cent of Australians surveyed believed that the United States’ authorities have been ‘unwilling to deal with institutional racism in the past’ which has ultimately led to incidents such as the death of George Floyd. Yet, when asked if the same institutional racism existed in the Australian police forces, only 30 per cent agreed that this type of authority-based racial hierarchy existed in their own country.

Australia’s racism towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is evident through the historical abuse and mistreatment of people and lands, demonstrated through a lack of treaty as well as the stolen generations. However, what many people are not informed about is the 432 Indigenous deaths in custody since 1991: deaths for which nobody has been convicted. The lack of awareness and accountability for this horrifying statistic affirms how relevant BLM is in Australia too.

Australia is an incredibly multicultural country. Since 1945, almost seven million people have migrated to Australia. The 2016 Census found that Australia is home to more than 1.2 million people of Chinese ancestry. Chinese Australians have done so much of building Australia into the country it is today – from the 1850s Chinese migration for the Ballarat gold rush, to Melbourne’s Chinatown existing as one of the oldest Chinatowns in the world.

So why does Australia still hold these stereotypical, prejudiced and racist views?

In a perfect world, Nisa says that ‘racism will never exist,’ but she does not believe this is realistic in Australia’s near future.

‘But hopefully, we will get to a point where everybody, regardless of their race, ethnicity or nationality, can feel safe in Australia.’


Photo by Gisele Diaz on Unsplash

diversity moves in: queer players stake a claim in gamer territory

Author: Emily Spindler-Carruthers 

Originally published in the Swinburne Standard.

When hero Ellie battles through the cycle of revenge in post-apocalyptic PS4 game The Last Of Us Part II, she is supported by her girlfriend, Dina.

The two call each other pet names in passing as they cut paths through infected creatures, dance to records found in abandoned cities, and experience all the mundane highs and lows of a queer relationship against the backdrop of the ruins of human civilization.

When Naughty Dog launched the second instalment of The Last of Us series in June this year, it became one of very few positive and realistic depictions of queer characters in games.

Including a queer protagonist in a genre usually featuring straight males is certainly unprecedented, but Ellie is not the only character to demonstrate increased diversity within video game narratives.

Narratives allowing players a choice in love interests, regardless of gender, are also new to the genre – one such example is the Fire Emblem series. The newest game in the franchise, Three Houses, also asks players to “pick a form” rather than a gender, using neutral pronouns throughout.

Nik Pantis (they/them), a non-binary game developer from Melbourne, says this change is partly due to an increase in “consultation with queer people and LGBTQIA developers working on games”.

Nik adds that this wasn’t always the case, with games from the ’80s to early 2000s often heavily stereotyping LGBTQIA+ characters – if there were any at all – or casting them as the butt of jokes. Case in point: the stereotypical portrayal of gay men as overly flamboyant, promiscuous, side characters seen in the Grand Theft Auto Series.

Now, queer representation in gaming is steadily improving, due to reduced stigma surrounding the LGBTQIA+ community.

This increase in representation serves to temper, even slightly, the “toxic” nature of gamer culture, where homophobic, sexist and transphobic slurs have been commonplace.

Queer gamer Bert Conner (they/them) who grew up in a rural town with “old fashioned beliefs and views”, says inclusive media is “crucial in reminding queer people that they matter, are valid and aren’t the only ones out there.”

“More [queer] gamers now have the opportunity to play something … that they can connect with.”

Despite these positive steps forward, Nik and Bert agree there is still a long way to go when it comes to depictions of LGBTQIA+ people in gaming.

“Inclusion does not equal representation. We need the exploration of queer narratives and telling of queer stories,” Nik says.

Video game Tell Me Why, they add, does well at exploring a queer story within its medium, and serves as a prime example of the direction positive representation in games could continue to go in the future.

Tell Me Why features a heavy but well-done story of a trans man after he had transitioned … a story like this may help to educate some folks on the lived trans experience.”

It is clear that players are pushing for more authentic, inclusive storytelling in video games – and game developers are finally starting to listen.

Featured image courtesy of Jorge Franganillo, courtesy of Unsplash.