‘I use Call of Duty to speak to my family in Iran’

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Iranians in England have told of the hardships they face as protests continue in their homeland – from using Call of Duty to speak with relatives, and fearing losing their livelihood.

A barber in Birmingham said he used the game to communicate after WhatsApp and other message services were restricted.

Meanwhile, a restaurateur fears he might have to close because his Iranian customers have stopped dining out.

Turmoil in Iran was sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody.

The 22-year-old was arrested by morality police in September for allegedly wearing her hijab too loosely, and fell into a coma shortly after collapsing at a detention centre.

Since her death three days later, the country has seen a wave of nationwide protests against the regime that have left hundreds dead, while family overseas can only watch on powerless.

Close up shot of a barber cutting hair

The barber from south Birmingham, who asked not to be named, has been using the online game Call of Duty to check on the welfare of his family currently living in Iran.

“I feel really sad. I get anxiety, I forget everything. I can’t eat very well. I can’t go out. I can’t do anything,” he said.

“I come to work, get showered and basically do nothing. Like a dead man working somewhere.”

He has first-hand experience of the Iran regime’s brutality. Twenty three years ago – before coming to the UK – he said he was put in a cell and ultimately beaten 80 times after officials stopped him in the street and discovered he had been drinking.

One of the barber’s customers, who was also born in Iran, said the inability to check on loved ones had also affected his health.

“It’s really difficult, really painful,” he said.

“I can’t really focus, I can’t really work, I can’t sleep, I can’t stay at home, because when I stay at home, I’m constantly checking the news, Instagram.

“You’re witnessing something you can’t do anything about and it’s breaking you from inside out.”

Omid Garoosi

For restaurateur Omid Garoosi, he believes the unrest has caused him to lose thousands of pounds in revenue, and he now fears losing his livelihood.

The joint owner of Rouhi Persian Cuisine, in Smethwick, said takings plummeted from about £2,000 a day to about £100.

The lack of earnings has left him months behind with his rent and put his restaurant on the brink of closure, Mr Garoosi says.

Before the unrest, most of his customers were born in Iran.

“Everyone is very sad at the moment,” he said.

“They don’t want to come to the restaurant and show we are doing the normal life. They want to say ‘we are with the Iranian people. We don’t go anywhere we are just doing protest’.”

Omid Garoosi

Mr Garoosi said he had received abuse when he tried to organise events to mark events like Halloween or the World Cup.

“I didn’t decorate my shop (at Halloween) because if I did the people are shouting at me, they are swearing at me.

“[They say] ‘Why are you celebrating Halloween? They are killing people in Iran and you are thinking about your business.'”

Hundreds have been killed and thousands arrested amid the nationwide protests that erupted in Iran four months ago.

Mahsa Amini

Mahsa Amini family

Four young men have been executed while 18 other people have been sentenced to death in what human rights groups describe as grossly unfair sham trial.

Authorities have dismissed the unrest as “rioting” and launched a violent crackdown. At least 481 protesters have been killed by security forces, according to Iran Human Rights, a Norway-based non-governmental organisation.

An interpreter who has lived in Birmingham for almost 50 years said she had received abuse for posting happy images on social media.

Protesters in Trafalgar Square holding up Iranian flags and photos of Mahsa Amini

Getty Images

“There are fanatics who think you shouldn’t have a party, you shouldn’t celebrate your birthday, you shouldn’t do anything because people are dying in Iran,” she said.

“When you have a party at home you cannot share it on the internet.

“When I have shared images and tagged friends I have had all sort of abuse in messages. People saying I’m selfish, I don’t care about what’s happening.”

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