The BoF Podcast | How the power of storytelling sparks Iranian protests

Subscribe to the BoF podcast here.


Protests erupted across Iran in September following the death of Mahsa Amini, who was arrested in Tehran for “abusive” wearing her hijab and then killed at the hands of so-called vice police.

These protests have now become the largest civil rights movement in Iran since the 1979 revolution, uniting Iranians at home with those in the wider diaspora and sparking outcry globally and on social media.

Seeking a way to bring storytelling to fuel the movement, creative leaders Moj Mahdara and Dina Nasser-Khadivi used their networks to establish The Iranian Diaspora Collective and @from____iran, an artist-led media collective that amplifies the unreleased Iranian voices, respectively. From Instagram to physical billboards, the collectives have centered the Iranian people and kept the West’s continued attention focused on human rights.

“The only way to move culture is to tell stories,” Mahdara said.

This week on The BoF Podcast, BoF Founder and Editor-in-Chief Imran Amed sits down with Mahdara and Nasser-Khadivi to learn more about the work they do to help people understand the intersectional solidarity of this movement and activate creative communities to share their stories.

Key ideas:

  • Social media has helped spread awareness of the protests in Iran around the world, helping to unite the Iranian diaspora with Iranians back home, while educating people around the world about what is happening on the ground. “The social media aspect of this movement, why it was so important to me, it wasn’t just about raising awareness, it ended up helping us identify who our allies were,” Nasser- Khadivi. “And that’s what then created an even stronger network.”
  • For this movement to be supported internationally, Mahdara believes that recognition is essential. “[The international community] can recognize it,” Mahdara says. “This revolution.”
  • The movement collectively transformed the once conservative perception of Iran to include tolerance as a motivation for progressing towards a secular community. “This whole movement preaches tolerance,” says Nasser-Khadivi. “There are girls covered up next to girls not covered up and kissing. This is the message. It’s tolerance.”

Additional Resources:

  • Iranian fashion retailers continue to grow despite sanctions: According to Shahrokh Keshavarz, director of the Iran Retail Show with 105 national companies – 30% of which were clothing retailers – and representative of the Iranian regional market of the Council of Malls and Retailers of the Middle East, the objective of the he event is to provide a physical platform for B2B activities and to help develop the market for participating brands.
  • Iranian fashion brands move upmarket despite international sanctions: The Iran Mode International Apparel Show saw 167 domestic exhibitors – ranging from garment manufacturers and accessories suppliers to machinery companies and textile and yarn producers – showcasing their wares to buyers and other attendees. Software vendors providing design and retail management solutions also participated in the event.
  • Inside Iran’s Underground Fashion Industry: Shirin and Shiva Vaqar, fashion designers based in Tehran, have joined Hoda Katebi, an Iranian-American activist who founded the first American clothing cooperative run by refugee women. They discussed the fashion industry in Iran, a country that has long been isolated from the Western world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *