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Source: IranWire

Sep 2, 2023

Swimming Manhattan’s 48.5km Coastline for Iranian Women

Raha Akhavan, 45, an accomplished open water swimmer and university professor based in Istanbul, has completed a 48.5 kilometer swim around Manhattan island in New York City to raise awareness about the abuse of the rights of Iranian women.

The US-born Akhavan embarked on the 20 Bridges Swim around Manhattan in New York on August 31. She swam in honor of Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody on September 16, 2022, and to support Iranian women and protesters who sustained eye injuries during government crackdown on protests sparked by Amini’s death.

In an interview with IranWire, Akhavan described the oppression she herself faced as a girl and a woman in Iran, and paid tribute to victims of the Islamic Republic’s bloody crackdown. Akhavan is a professor at a private university in Istanbul, Turkey, and lectures on Supply Chain Management and Business Analytics. 

Akhavan had begun training for the swim in the fall of 2022 when Iran was overwhelmed by popular protests sparked by Amini’s death. Her swim took her along the East River, Harlem River and Hudson River, passing beneath the 20 bridges linking Manhattan to Brooklyn, Queens and New Jersey. 

She was accompanied by a support boat and a guide from the New York Open Water Organization.

The epic 20 Bridges Swim is part of the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming, an ultra-marathon swimming challenge that also includes a successful solo completion of the Catalina Channel (between Santa Catalina Island and the Southern California mainland) and the English Channel.

Akhavan has already swum the Catalina Channel and says she is also planning to take on another challenge: swimming the English Channel in the near future.

"I'm very happy that as a citizen I can do my social responsibility. What I can do is to raise my voice. Raise the voice of the women of Iran who are fighting for their basic right of living their free life, wearing what they want to wear, having equal rights as men," she said on August 31.

One of Raha Akhavan’s main goals was to collect financial assistance for victims who have been blinded in one or both eyes by Islamic Republic security forces.  

The donations will be sent to the non-profit Malteser organization in Mainz, Germany, to be used for medical and legal needs of Iranian asylum seekers.

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