Unprecedented Support: #OurStoryIsOne reaches hundreds of millions worldwide
BIC GENEVA — In an extraordinary global response, the #OurStoryIsOne campaign has, in the few weeks since its launch, attracted unprecedented levels of support with a reach of several hundred million views on traditional and social media. The momentum has been augmented by an outpouring of statements from United Nations officials, high-level dignitaries, government figures, parliamentarians, Nobel Peace Laureates, artists, prominent individuals, members of the public, and prisoners of conscience in Iran.
The campaign’s theme revolves around the concept of collective destiny, giving expression to calls for unity and asking all to see themselves as integral threads in the tapestry of a diverse but single, interconnected group. The powerful message of this year-long campaign is a shared aspiration for essential values and principles, in particular the realization of equality of women and men and a common vision for a prosperous future.
“Four decades ago, when the Iranian government brutally executed 10 women and girls in Shiraz, Iran, for their belief in the Bahá’í Faith, they thought they were erasing their names from history,” says Simin Fahandej, the Bahá’í International Community (BIC) Representative to the United Nations in Geneva.
“Little did they know,” she continues, “that their ruthless act would instead ignite a movement of unity decades later, making their names known worldwide as global symbols of commitment to the principle of equality, and millions not only in Iran but around the world coming to see these women’s story as their own. The ‘Our Story Is One’ campaign is resonating with the deepest aspirations of populations around the world to turn to unity rather than division and to see the interconnectedness of our stories. This sends a strong message to the Iranian government that injustice and shedding innocent blood will not ultimately succeed.”
The BIC launched the one-year global #OurStoryIsOne campaign on 18 June in honor of the 40th anniversary of the execution of the 10 Bahá’í women in Shiraz, Iran, who were all hanged on one night for their beliefs. It dedicated the anniversary and the campaign to all Iranian women who, regardless of faith and background, have yearned for gender equality in the country and who continue to strive for justice.
The campaign called for artistic contributions, public statements, and commemorative events to honor the 10 Bahá’í women as well as all women in Iran. Contributions continue to pour in and are published daily on the campaign’s Instagram page.
The #OurStoryIsOne campaign has thus far reached some 250 million views in more than 33 languages. A two-hour social media event on 18 June trended in Iran as well as eight other countries across four continents, in Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
The highlights of the campaign included a worldwide wave of events and commemorations in honor of the 10 and all women in Iran; an outpouring of artistic contributions from individuals around the world; public statements from notable figures; and media coverage and documentaries produced specially for the anniversary and the campaign.
The following is but a sampling of the responses to the #OurStoryIsOne campaign, more information about the contributions can be found in this BIC article.
A worldwide wave of events and commemorations
In a global expression of unity inspired by the campaign, events at international, national, and local levels have been and continue to be held worldwide.
A global commemorative event co-hosted by the BIC and the Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs of the United Kingdom was held in London at Central Hall Westminster. The event brought together 150 attendees, including government officials, United Nations officials, representatives of international civil society organizations, leading human rights advocates, and journalists from several countries.
During a European Parliament session, the execution of the 10 women was highlighted and parliamentarians heard live testimony by one of the relatives of the 10 women. The Chair of the delegation, Cornelia Ernst, and the Vice-Chair, Bart Groothuis, both remarked how touched they were by the story of the women and their concerns over the ongoing situation of the Bahá’ís.
The campaign’s message was further echoed around the world through a cascade of national and local-level events. Each event expressed unique national and local cultures while celebrating the lives of the 10 women and all Iranian women in their struggle for equality.
Public events organized in commemoration of the anniversary of the 10 Bahá’í women included gatherings in Austria, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Kuwait, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Samoa, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Timor Leste, United Kingdom, and the United States.
In Slovakia, in addition to an event held for the campaign, the country’s largest bookstore featured an exhibit of the Bahá’í women, together with paintings and works of art received for the “Our Story Is One” message.
Commemorations were held at Bahá’í Houses of Worship in Sydney, Australia; Santiago, Chile; Frankfurt, Germany; New Delhi, India; and Wilmette, the United States. These events included remarks from government officials and parliamentarians, prominent individuals as well as artistic presentations, music, and stories shared by relatives of the 10 women.
At a gathering in Wilmette, the United States, Jan Schakowsky, member of the United States Congress said “I’m so inspired and strengthened by what I’ve already heard today and what I’ve heard in the past about what you stand for as members of the Bahá’í Faith.”
Public statements from notable figures
In a compelling manifestation of the campaign’s resonating message, hundreds of distinguished individuals have echoed the call of “Our Story Is One”, inviting widespread participation in the campaign. These influential figures have catalyzed momentum, their support underscoring the campaign’s potential to create a united global discourse about equal rights for women and men.
An array of prominent personalities gave their support, including government officials, parliamentarians, UN officials, activists, journalists, artists, and human rights leaders around the world.
Five women Nobel Prize Laureates lent their voices to the campaign by issuing a joint statement, stating the sacrifices of the 10 “have inspired a new generation of women who refuse to be silenced and are willing to endure great hardships to live in a more prosperous and just Iran. The story of the resilience of Iranian women in the face of persecution is a shared one, transcending boundaries of faith and background.”
The Foreign Minister of New Zealand, Nanaia Mahuta, issued a statement for the campaign which praised the 10 executed Bahá’í women for “refusing to renounce their beliefs” and by highlighting their sacrifice and courage. The people of New Zealand stood with the people of Iran, she said, “in particular those who were oppressed by the Islamic Republic,” and urged “respect for religious minorities everywhere.”
Australia’s human rights commissioner, Lorraine Finlay, said about the 10 women that their “memories are honoured by those who continue to seek gender equality and justice in #Iran and around the world.”
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), civil society leaders, and human rights activists in Europe also issued statements. MEPs Frances Fitzgerald, Rasa Juknevičienė, Antoni Comin, Hannah Neumann, Sirpa Pietikäinen, Salima Yenbou, and Isabel Wiseler shared public expressions of support for the campaign.
Ms. Juknevičienė, said that while it had been 40 years since the Iranian government “in a single night hanged 10 Bahá’í women,” it was also a “horror lived by women in Iran” today. Ms. Pietikäinen stated, “We’ll stand united with the Iranian Bahá’í women on the fight for their rights.”
The Netherlands Special Envoy for freedom of religion or belief, Bea ten Tusscher, was among those in the country who lent their voice in support of the campaign through statements.
In Austria, the campaign also garnered significant support. Three Members of Parliament—Martin Engelberg, Hans Stefan Hintner and Robert Laimer— alongside the President of PEN Austria, emphatically voiced their solidarity. The Austrian diplomat, Shoura Hashemi, tweeted her support, emphasizing that individuals of all beliefs, both women and men, are fervently striving for freedom in Iran today. Cornelia Pessenlehner, the President of Business and Professional Women Austria, issued her support for the campaign.
In a moving tribute, Senator Marilou McPhedran of Canada said, “on the 40th anniversary of the 10 Bahá’í women in Iran, we stand united in honoring their memory and the countless other Iranian women of all faiths who have sacrificed their lives for justice and equality. Their resilience in the face of unimaginable adversity serves as an enduring beacon of courage and strength. May their sacrifices… serve as a powerful call to action for each of us to stand in solidarity with those still facing persecution today.”
In Germany, several parliamentarians and members of the House of Representatives, Renata Alt, Franziska Kersten, Petra Pau, Pippa Schneider, Anne Shepley, and Carsten Schatz made public statements in support of the campaign. Ms. Kersten spoke about one of the 10 women, Roya Eshraghi, saying “Roya, who was executed with her mother and only two days after her father, studied veterinary science just like me until she was expelled from university because of her religious beliefs.” Mr. Schatz said, “I support the #OurStoryIsOne campaign to honor the executed women and the long fight for gender equality for women of all faiths and backgrounds.”
Ahmed Shaheed, the former UN Special Rapporteur for both human rights in Iran and freedom of religion or belief, said he joined “all human rights defenders honouring the memory of 10 brave and honourable Bahá’í women from Shiraz who paid with their life 40 years ago.” Javaid Rehman, the current Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran said in his statement that “today we honor the memory of 10 Bahá’í women of Shiraz who made the ultimate sacrifice for their beliefs.”
High-level support in Norway included the President of the Norwegian parliament, Masud Gharahkhani, as well as a member of parliament, Mona Fagerås, who voiced their support for the Bahá’ís in Iran and the “Our Story Is One” campaign. In the weeks leading to the campaign, Norway’s Bahá’ís representative stood before parliament to shed light on the harrowing execution of the 10 and the global campaign in their honor.
A host of other civil society leaders and organizations also joined the campaign, including Amnesty International, as well as its Australia, Spain, and Sweden desks or representatives, Combat Antisemitism, Citizens for Global Solutions, Stop Femicide Iran, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Open Doors International, Human Rights Without Frontiers, CAP pour la Liberté de Conscience, Religions for Peace, the FoRB Women’s Alliance, the Women of Brazil Group, the Iranian Women’s Association in Australia, the Society for Threatened Peoples, India’s Human Rights Defense International, Norway’s Stefanus Alliance, and others.
A significant outpouring of support came from renowned Iranian figures and distinguished personalities. Their profound and moving expressions of solidarity not only acknowledged the four decades long persecution against the Bahá’ís but extolled the campaign’s call to see the interconnectedness between groups and for a vision of society where everyone, regardless of faith, background, and gender, has equal opportunities to participate in its construction.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Shirin Ebadi, said in a video statement, “Just like a virus that spreads through the body if it is not prevented, if we do not stop crimes against a particular group, it will spread to other groups. This is what we see with the Bahá’ís in Iran and the 10 Bahá’í women who were executed 40 years ago for their beliefs. The injustices we see today in Iran against all groups is the result of us not standing up to injustice against the Bahá’ís. We must stand against discrimination and injustice against anyone, anywhere, and this is the message that ‘Our Story Is One’ campaign tries to convey. Indeed, whoever we are, from whichever group we come from, our story is one.”
The renowned Iranian human rights lawyer Mehrangiz Kar made two public statements, remarking, “how can you fill the empty spots of 10 devoted young women in this world? Did Iranians lead a Revolution [in 1979] to allow for the killings of Bahá’ís? Or so that all Iranians can live in greater security and prosperity? We may not have been witnesses the day they killed 10 young Bahá’í women, but after hearing about it, we became witnesses and yet stayed silent. This silence has made us pay a price too. Let us make a pact with ourselves that we will never stay silent in the face of crimes by a government.”
Ladan Boroumand, a distinguished human rights activist and one of the founders of the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran, posted multiple tweets, stating in powerful and emotive language: “Our story is one: we have learned that from our fellow Bahá’í citizens. Their unspeakable ordeal in the Islamic Republic of Iran has become the mirror in which we, ordinary Iranian citizens, look at ourselves and see our shortcomings. With magnanimity they tell us #OurStorylsOne, we know why their story has become our story: for we stood as indifferent bystanders when it all started.”
Touraj Atabaki, a prominent historian and professor said, “Let us raise our voices to seek justice for the Bahá’ís,” while Parastou Forouhar, a well-known Iranian, poignantly declared, “Our story is one; let us be a balm for each other's sufferings.”
Nazanin Boniadi, British-Iranian actress and human rights activist, expressed support for the campaign through multiple tweets, calling the story of the 10 Bahá’ís “truly heartbreaking #OurStoryIsOne.”
A video depicted a fictional character—a young British woman—who is arrested, imprisoned, and sentenced to execution for her beliefs, creating a parallel between her life and that of the 10 women, to allow an audience unfamiliar with such a reality to gain a better grasp of the story.
Iranians even joined the campaign from the very heart of Iran’s repression—inside prisons. The jailed and prominent human rights activist, Nargess Mohammadi, courageously posted two messages of support from inside Evin Prison.
Thousands more Iranians from within and outside Iran joined the campaign through compelling tweets and messages. One tweet said, “Our story is one of the most beautiful short stories of love and empathy of one people with many beliefs, living side-by-side.”
Media coverage and documentaries produced in their honor
In a further display of global support, leading media outlets around the world, spanning television, radio, and print, also covered the campaign. Through poignant stories about the 10 women, compelling interviews with family members, and extensive coverage of the commemorative events, they painted a comprehensive picture of the campaign’s significance, expanding the reach of the #OurStoryIsOne campaign to millions more people around the world.
Television and print media significantly amplified the exposure of the campaign worldwide. The reach of the campaign through traditional media is estimated at several hundred million.
NBC, a prominent US broadcaster, aired an impactful piece on the executions with interviews with family members.
Other news outlets around the world called attention to the campaign, including France’s Agence-France Presse and Radio France International; Canada’s CBC, CTV, and Global News; the UK’s The Telegraph; Austria's national broadcaster ORF; Norway’s leading newspaper Vårt Land; Germany’s Deutsche Welle, Die Welt, WDR, and Deutschlandfunk; Spain’s El País, El Mundo, and RTVE Canal 24; Luxembroug’s Tageblatt; Australia’s Vision Australia; India’s Taasir Urdu Daily, Newsinc24, Third Eye World News, Right Media, Bhopal News, OpIndia, ETV Bharat Urdu, and Arunachal Observer; Malaysia’s Newswav; Slovakia’s Noviny TV; Mexico’s Milenio; and New Zealand’s Stuff magazine.
Persian-language television, as well as digital and satellite radio channels broadcast more than 65 TV programmes and radio reports—some with English subtitles—including the documentary Before Sunrise.
Outpouring of artistic contributions from individuals around the world
The campaign’s call for artistic contributions has also resulted in an extraordinary array of artistic works.
This song from France commemorates the 10 Bahá’í women of Shiraz as symbols of light and glimpse of hope.
In a short film from Luxembourg, memories of two of the women who were hanged in a single night are recalled by their relatives.
A youth choir in Toronto, Canada, perform the song “Mona with the Children” alongside the composer. The song was one of the top music videos of 1985 and commemorates the life of Mona Mahmoudnejad, who at the age of 17 was executed together with 9 other women on June 18, 1983, for their belief in justice and equality.
Two artists from Canada produced an animated narrated poem honoring the sacrifices made by all women overcoming oppression today.
A Canadian composer produced a song for the #OurStoryIsOne campaign.
A musician released a song in Persian titled “Our Story Is One” and inspired by the lives of Bahá’í women of Shiraz.
A song and music video by a Nigerian musician in honor of the 10 Bahá’í women and the #OurStoryIsOne campaign.
The Bahá’ís of France produced a film inviting viewers to contribute to #OurStoryIsOne campaign.
A short film was produced in Arabic, honoring and commemorating the sacrifices and courage of 10 Bahá’í women.
A musician in Austria composed a song in honor of the 10 Bahá’í women, in which she asks, “Is it a crime to be a woman?”
This Arabic song shares the story of the tragic execution of the 10 Bahá’i women who were all hanged on one night in a square in Shiraz 40 years ago; a story of courage, integrity, and selflessness.
Artists from Canada and elsewhere created this song as part of the #OurStoryIsOne global campaign.
This short film created for the #OurStoryIsOne campaign, retells the story of the life of Mona Mahmoudnejad, one of the 10 Bahá’í women of Shiraz who were hanged in a single night in Iran 40 years ago.
In this video interview, a historian in Austria speaks about the dramatic year of 1983 when the news of the hanging of the 10 Bahá’í women in Shiraz, Iran, emerged.
Theatre performances have been among the commemorative events organized in honor of the 10 Bahá’í women.
Contributions have also included many poems in different languages and from various countries, dedicated to the 10 Bahá’í women from Shiraz.
An artist from Spain created this painting titled “The Seeds They Planted” in honor of the sacrifices made by the 10 Bahá’í women of Shiraz, who were executed for their beliefs in justice and equality.
An embroidery dedicated to the 10 courageous women from Shiraz.
This is a collage titled “Freedom Soaring.” On the wings of the bird are inscribed the names of the 10 women of Shiraz as well as other Bahá’í women killed for their beliefs.
In this painting by an artist from Mexico titled “Petals and Gold, Shiraz, 1983” the contrast between the dark background and the bright gold symbolizes the courage and bravery of the Bahá’í women who stood for their belief in justice, equality, and truthfulness.
This abstract painting by an artist from Ireland titled “On the Nature of Sacred Sound” was inspired by the idea of acceptance.
An artist from the United States created this abstract mixed media artwork titled “Faith, Hope, and Love” focused on the tragedy that happened forty years ago in Iran.
An artist from France created a graphic illustration honoring and commemorating 10 Bahá’í women and the women of Iran today who work toward equality in Iran.
An artist produced a series of illustrations titled “Unfolding Emancipation.” In this sketch, the artist depicts the mountains of Shiraz, the city where the 10 Bahá’í women were executed in 1983.
In this mixed-media piece, an artist from Italy depicts 10 cypress trees, which symbolize steadfastness and life in Persian culture.
An artist from India created an embroidery of the 10 Bahá’í women executed in Iran 40 years ago who chose their faith and conviction in the principles of oneness, equality, and justice, over life itself.
This piece of graphic art from Ireland is dedicated to all who sacrifice bravely for their belief in a better world and the 10 Baháʼí women who were hanged in the city of Shiraz 40 years ago.
An artist from the United States created a graphic art honoring the 10 Baháʼí women of Shiraz.
An artist in Canada created 10 abstract drawings that represent the 10 Bahá’í women who were executed because they stood up for justice, freedom of religion, and the emancipation of women.
The year-long campaign will continue, set to progressively unravel through multiple phases, initiatives, and events, until 18 June 2024.
Further background on the circumstances surrounding the execution of the 10 women as well as brief bios on each of these women can be found in this BIC article.