Pershang Peighami arrived in England by boat after a perilous journey from the Kurdish region of Iran.

The 25-year-old, from the town of Shinno, was a feminist activist and campaigner for a local political party when she decided to escape 18 months ago.

She thinks it’s the smartest decision she’s ever made.

“I had no option. If I had stayed, I would have been killed,” she said when we met in a bustling cafe in the northeast of England.

Pershing Peshami is taking care of her nephew Farzad's son.
Pershang Peighami is missing her family as she awaits a decision on her UK asylum claim.

The country’s clerical rulers have spent the past five months trying to quell the nationwide uprising, which began after the death of a woman. Mehsa Amini.

The 22-year-old, who was Kurdish, died under suspicious circumstances at a police station in Tehran After his detention by Iran’s religious and moral police Due to improper wearing of hijab.

At least 470 protesters have been killed in protests since Ms Amini’s death, while more than 18,000 have been arrested across the country, according to human rights groups.

And authorities are using increasingly harsh tactics to quell unrest. Four protesters have been executed in recent weeks on charges of “war” or “war against God”.

Ms Pigami has felt the effects in northern England as the unsavory conflict engulfs her family in Iran.

“They were always smiling, always laughing and joking,” she said, showing me photos of her nephews. “He lived his life with great passion.”

Read more:
Protests in Iran: Large protests erupt as anger over execution grows.
Two more people were hanged for alleged violence in anti-government protests in Iran.
Iran has arrested seven people from Britain after anti-government protests.

Farzad, left, and Farhad Tehzada on both
(LR) Both Farzad Tehzada and Farhad Tehzada have been charged with ‘waging war against God’ and now face death by hanging.

Farzad Tehzada, 23, and Farhad Tehzada, 24, have both been charged with “warring against God”, and now face death by hanging.

The couple was not particularly political, she says, but was deeply frustrated with the country’s economic situation. They took to the streets as massive anti-government protests swept Shinjuku in late September.

A few days later the government came looking for them.

“Farzad was taken from his house at five in the morning. He was sleeping when they took him. They jumped from the roof and entered the house in front of his wife and child. His wife was pregnant.”

“And Farhad?” I asked.

“When his brother was arrested, [Farhad] Hiding, he escaped from Shinu but was arrested 20 or 25 days after Farzad.

A protester in front of the Iranian embassy in Berlin Photo: AP
After the assassination of Mahsa Amini in October 2022, a wave of anti-government protests broke out in Iran.

The family sent us a video of their mother, Shehla, after she was told that her sons had been charged with crimes that carry the death penalty.

She wept uncontrollably on Farzad’s son’s knee.

“God why aren’t you listening to me? I’m burning up inside.”

The Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR) says at least 109 protesters have been sentenced to death – or face charges that could carry the death penalty. Family members must deal with the uncertainty that now surrounds their loved ones.

“I think the family members are melting because they see how the children are sitting in the prison cells waiting to be executed. It is the most horrible feeling.”

Ms Pigami admits she misses her family as she awaits a decision on her asylum claim in the UK. Beside her on the bed in one of the rooms is her two-month-old son Ramko.

But she says she cannot go back to Iran.

“Did you make the right decision to come to the UK?” I asked.

“I had no option. If I had stayed, I would have been killed.”

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