Actress, activist Nazanin Boniadi speaks out after Mahsa Amini death, Iran protests


FILE PHOTO: Actor Nazanin Boniadi addresses demonstrators at a Freedom Rally for Iran, protesting in support of Iranian women and against the death of Mahsa (Zhina) Amini, outside City Hall in Los Angeles, California, U.S., October 1, 2022. REUTERS/Bing Guan

(Reuters) - Iranian-born Hollywood actress and activist Nazanin Boniadi said more has to be done to protect the rights of women in Iran as security forces crack down on protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody.

Amini, 22, died in September after being arrested by morality police for "unsuitable attire", sparking protests that have spiralled into the biggest show of opposition to Iran's leadership since 2019.

Security forces have been leading a crackdown on the protests, with thousands arrested, hundreds injured, and over 100 killed, according to rights groups.

Speaking to Reuters in Los Angeles, the Amnesty International ambassador said Amini's death has struck a chord internationally and she called on world leaders to do more to hold Iranian authorities accountable.

"I think the death or the killing of Mahsa Amini in custody in Iran has struck at the core of everything we feel about our rights being taken away from us, how fragile our freedoms can be," said Boniadi, 43.

"So it's hit a chord ... in the global zeitgeist of people feeling like they can relate to what it feels like to have your rights taken away from you. And particularly, I think, women's rights."

The star of Amazon's "Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power", who fled Tehran with her family when she was just 20 days old, has been a prominent voice in the anti-regime campaign since Amini's death.

On Saturday, Boniadi led a protest in Los Angeles against the Iranian government, with organisers saying 20,000 people turned up to show their support. There have been similar protests across Europe and in Canada, in solidarity with the women making a stand in Tehran and elsewhere in Iran.

"Here you have these women who are on the front lines, and they are likely to get beaten at the very least, if not killed and imprisoned. And yet they're doing it anyway," said Boniadi, visibly emotional.

"They're fighting with all they have. The problem is that we need to stand by them... Every country, every member state of the U.N. needs to actively work towards creating this international mechanism for accountability on Iran."

Iranian authorities have insisted Amini died from a sudden heart failure, possibly from pre-existing conditions. Her family has denied she had any previous health issues.

(Reporting by Sandra Stojanovic and Phil Lavelle; Writing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa; Editing by Neil Fullick)

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