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Activist for Iranian women also champions Israel’s human-rights cause 

British-Iranian Elaaheh Jamali, 37, insists that hers is the voice of most Iranians today.

Iranian-British human rights activist Elaaheh Jamali holds a pre-Islamic Revolution Iranian flag at the site of the Supernova music festival massacre near Kibbutz Re'im, May 23, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of ELNET.
Iranian-British human rights activist Elaaheh Jamali holds a pre-Islamic Revolution Iranian flag at the site of the Supernova music festival massacre near Kibbutz Re'im, May 23, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of ELNET.

It was the day after the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre, and British Jewry had organized a small event in support of Israel outside the Israeli embassy in London.

Elaaheh Jamali heard about the rally from some of her Iranian Jewish friends and, repulsed by the largest single-day attack against the Jewish people since the Holocaust, came with her mother, sister and brother-in-law expecting to see hundreds of Londoners in the crowd.

They were the only four non-Jews in the gathering of dozens of people.

The event was a life pivot for the 37-year-old London-based, Iranian-born human-rights and women’s activist, also known on social media as LilyMoo (“dark beauty” in Persian), who had risen to prominence over the last two years for her active role in the United Kingdom against the Iranian regime and its repression of Iranian women.

“Then and there, I knew this is just the beginning,” Jamali told JNS in an interview in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. “I felt that same sense of isolation and abandonment, and that these people are just as lonely as the Iranians are. It made me die inside a little bit, that people were just walking by looking at the Jews.”

From that day, the Persian fashion entrepreneur turned human rights activist has been speaking out nonstop for Israel despite death threat. A fatwa Islamic religious edict issued against her sent her into hiding for almost a month.

In November, the Jewish community asked her to speak at another event. She was considering whether to attend in disguise when her mother told her, “You are going yourself as a proud Iranian woman.” 

“Everything else is history,” Jamali said.

Elaaheh Jamali at an event in support of Israel outside the Israel embassy in London, Oct. 8, 2023. Credit: Courtesy.

‘I have not left their embrace’

This spring, Jamali made her first-ever trip to Israel, as part of a delegation of nine expatriate Iranians, sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Her only previous encounter with Israelis had been at malls in England where she encountered one of the ubiquitous teams of 20-something Israelis who were selling Dead Sea products.)

On the first day of the visit, she dryly noted that Hamas leaders were in Tehran. The Islamic Republic’s rhetoric against Israel was growing and the war against Hamas was raging; she felt such a connection to Israel that she decided to stay a month instead of five days.

Jamali did not expect what happened next—Iran attacking Israel with 300 missiles and drones in an unprecedented direct assault on the Jewish state. Springing into action, she spent 72 hours doing nonstop interviews from the Tel Aviv suburb where she was staying with a friend.

“I felt I had to take action and to speak on behalf of the Iranian people, and to tell the world that this war against a sovereign country was not being carried out in the name of the Iranian people,” she said.

Repressing her fear of the incoming missiles, she said: “Sometimes, you need to have blind faith, or you lose your mind. I trusted the IDF and Israel’s missile defense system.”

Still, she was not unmoved by suddenly finding herself on the front lines of a war alongside Israelis.

“After 45 years [since the 1979 Iranian Revolution] where my country is being held hostage, now I was seeing my [Israeli] cousins being attacked by the very same captors of Iran,” Jamali said.

The shock of that day, which she sought to repulse by uniting Israelis and Persians against extremism and hate, brought her back to the trauma she suffered as a child in the Islamic Republic.

Elaaheh Jamali at a rally in London on the first anniversary of the death in Iranian police custody of Mahsa Amini, Sept. 16, 2023. Credit: Courtesy.

Escape from Iran

Three decades later, she remembers asking her father about signs declaring “Death to Israel” on buildings in her hometown of Isfahan. She remembers being forced to repeat such chants and similar ones against America, along with coerced prayers and being forced to cover her hair even as a young girl.

“It was pure abuse,” Jamali said. When she was 13, her family escaped and was granted political asylum in the United Kingdom.

The 2022 killing of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini by Iran’s notorious morality police for allegedly failing to wear a headscarf properly propelled her to change course and become a full-time voice for Iranian women.

“On that day in September 2022, I stopped doing everything else,” Jamali said. “But since October 7, I now work double.”

Nefarious influence of media

The Iranian activist has harsh words for the mainstream media’s reporting of the current Israel-Hamas war, drawing parallels to the 1979 Iranian Revolution and how the Islamists have retained power for nearly half a century.

“The very same propaganda that has given weight to the lies that the Islamic Republic has spread all over the West is now plaguing Israel,” Jamali said. “The Iranian regime gathered strength because of the coalescing of the Communist and the radical left with Islamic fundamentalists, together with networks like BBC and CNN giving them legitimacy.”

Jamali bewailed the established press that, she said, have no understanding of the reality of life in the Middle East and preach morals of higher consciousness from their TV studios or newsrooms.

“They want to hug terrorists into reforming and then say we tried,” she said.

Denying Israeli women humanity

The world’s denial of the attack against Israeli women on Oct. 7 gave the Iranian activist an acute sense of déjà vu.

“The very same free world through its prestigious establishments that denied Iranian women their humanity is repeating this now with Israeli women being stripped of their dignity and humanity,” Jamali said during her latest trip to Israel this week.

She was back in the country for a conference on gender-based violence sponsored by ELNET—The European Leadership Network, an NGO that promotes Israel-European ties.

Jamali voiced outrage, if not surprise, that Western feminist groups and women, in general, have remained silent for months on end even as they are presented with images of bloodied and abused Israeli women.

“When you deny Oct. 7, you deny your own humanity,” she said.

Despite the difficult situation Israel is facing in the world, Jamali is convinced that a brighter future awaits and that the radical regime in the Islamic Republic is on its last legs.

“They say Israel is losing the media war, and the PR war, she said. “Let them say that. The truth will always win out in the end.”

“I believe you and will always echo that,” Jamali said. “My voice, our voice, will always be together.”

She insists that hers is the voice of most Iranians today.

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