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Armita Garavand’s Death and the War on Terror’s Unseen Costs

Solidarity with Iranian Protests - From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository
Solidarity with Iranian Protests - From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

The tragic demise of 16-year-old Armita Garavand serves as a grim testament to the toxic amalgam of religious extremism, autocratic governance, and human rights abuses that afflict Iran—a nation perpetually entangled in ideological conflicts with far-reaching implications, not just for its own citizens but also for global security. As we contemplate the unfolding drama in Gaza, where Israel is embroiled in an existential battle against Hamas, it is imperative to bear in mind that Iran’s actions—whether overt or covert—play a significant role in perpetuating such conflicts. All this forms part of the same complex tapestry of issues that we neglect at our peril.

The official account of Garavand’s death attributes it to “a drop in blood pressure”. However, unyielding evidence shows she was brutally assaulted by Iran’s morality police for her refusal to wear a hijab, rendering all previous speculation obsolete. This is far from an isolated incident; it is a vivid, haunting illustration of a regime steeped in a perverse interpretation of religious ideology, weaponised against its own people. Those who maintain that such issues are localised and unique to Iran, and therefore unworthy of international attention, are gravely mistaken.

This is wishful thinking at its worst.

To fully comprehend Iran, we must place its behaviour within the broader remit of the War on Terror. The very tendrils of religious extremism and authoritarianism that reach down into the Tehran underground also extend across borders, sustaining entities like Hamas, committed to Israel’s destruction. Iran’s support for such groups is not a mere footnote in a geopolitical narrative; it’s a stark reminder of how interconnected these issues are. The War on Terror is not a disparate collection of isolated skirmishes, but a global struggle against an ideology that enables the abrogation of basic human rights domestically and sponsors terror internationally.

It’s all too easy to compartmentalise these issues. The plight of a young girl in Tehran can appear leagues away from rocket attacks in Tel Aviv. Yet, they are two sides of the same coin—spun by a regime that has made it abundantly clear it has scant regard for individual liberties or international norms. Whether it’s cracking down on its own citizens for non-adherence to a mandated dress code or supplying munitions to terrorists, these are facets of a concerted strategy to further a specific worldview.

The international community is at a crossroads. The death of Armita Garavand should not be considered in isolation, but as a dire warning—a harbinger signalling broader societal and geopolitical issues arising from neglecting the clear and present danger posed by regimes like Iran.

We frequently invoke the words ‘never again,’ referring to past atrocities. Yet, history reveals that we’re perennially caught unawares. Now is the time to rectify this. The global community, and most urgently, powers with diplomatic leverage over Iran, must scrutinise the regime’s actions through the lens of the War on Terror. A failure to connect these interconnected issues will not only allow further human rights abuses within Iran, but also embolden the state’s extraterritorial ambitions, thereby perpetuating cycles of violence and terrorism that plague the world.

As the situation in Gaza escalates and the struggle against extremism rages on, ignoring Iran’s multifaceted role in this intricate web would be more than an oversight; it would be an abdication of the very principles we purport to hold dear. Thus, the death of a young girl in a Tehran underground station becomes not merely Iran’s shame, but the world’s—unless we act coherently and decisively to address the underlying issues she unwillingly epitomises.

About the Author
Catherine Perez-Shakdam - Director Forward Strategy and Executive Director Forum of Foreign Relations (FFR) Catherine is a former Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society and consultant for the UNSC on Yemen, as well an expert on Iran, Terror and Islamic radicalisation. A prominent political analyst and commentator, she has spoken at length on the Islamic Republic of Iran, calling on the UK to proscribe the IRGC as a terrorist organisation. Raised in a secular Jewish family in France, Catherine found herself at the very heart of the Islamic world following her marriage to a Muslim from Yemen. Her experience in the Middle East and subsequent work as a political analyst gave her a very particular, if not a rare viewpoint - especially in how one can lose one' sense of identity when confronted with systemic antisemitism. Determined to share her experience and perspective on those issues which unfortunately plague us -- Islamic radicalism, Terror and Antisemitism Catherine also will speak of a world, which often sits out of our reach for a lack of access.