A 22 year old woman named Mahsa Amini died on September 16th. in a hospital in Tehran, Iran while in the custody of the Guidance Patrol a/k/a the morality police who arrested her three days before for a violation involving “bad hijab,” the headscarf required by law for Iranian women. Amini was on holiday visiting relatives with her brother when she was arrested and, according to eyewitnesses, severely beaten. Police took her to a hospital where she was reported to be in a coma before her death.
The official statement from the police was that she died of a heart attack as a result of an underlying condition (remember George Floyd?), but her family said she had been in good health prior to the incident. They also said her head and body were covered in bruises, according to an article in The Guardian by Kamin Mohamaddi on October 8th.
Regardless, the death of Mahsa Amini has ignited a firestorm of protests by primarily women and children against not only the hijab law but also the ongoing repression of women’s rights under a hardline clerical regime. The slogan Zan, Zendegi, Azadi which translates to “Women, Life, and Freedom” has become the rallying cry for women’s rights that has now bubbled over to include other economic and social justice issues plaguing Iran. The Indian EXPRESS Journalism of Courage posted this AP photo with an explanation of the slogan on October 15th. The woman’s image on the banner is Mahsa Amini.
The connection between women (Zan), life (Zendegi), and freedom (Azadi) is not coincidental. Women are the creators of life and life itself cannot be free unless women are. (AP)
I hesitate to write about people, places, or events that have the potential to (1) display my ignorance of the world outside my life with Pretty or (2) unintentionally do more harm than good to the universe or (3) some combination. But the story of an Iranian Kurdish woman named Mahsa Imini is one I can’t ignore because it tears at all my senses; I feel for her family and for the thousands of women, men, girls and boys who today protest her death, who ask for a better country – who are dying in the streets by the beatings and bullets aimed to stop the uprising.
The BBC News says Iranian Human Rights Activists estimated this week that 222 people including at least 23 children have been killed by Iranian security forces in the uprisings. From the youngest identified as a 12 year old schoolboy to the oldest known death, a 62 year old woman, tracking the identities of the victims is made more difficult due to the closing of internet access by the Iranian government.
With the Dobbs decision by the Supremes this summer which takes away a woman’s right in the USA to control her own body’s health, I see parallels in the struggles for the rights of women in Iran. Author Kamin Mohamaddi’s article in The Guardian on October 8th. makes the argument that what is happening today in Iran is really the frontlines for feminism in the 21st century:
“There is a power and energy to these protests. The sight of young girls with flowing locks taking down pictures of the two elderly ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei, the current supreme leader, that brings tears to my eyes and makes even my cynical heart burn with hope. It is as if the Furies have been unleashed in Iran and these extraordinarily brave young women, who are prepared to walk into bullets for the sake of the right to choose how to live, have lost all the fear that has kept previous generations repressed.
I say cynical heart because, as a member of Iran’s huge diaspora, as a proud British-Iranian, I have spent a large part of my adult and working life trying to introduce my countries to each other, and it has seemed to no avail…
It seems that the death of Mahsa Jhina Amini has not captured the world’s imagination in the same way as the death of George Floyd did, and the subsequent global protests in solidarity with the Iranian uprising have had few column inches, in spite of mobilising some 500,000 people around the world in one day alone (1 October).
But now, as I watch the unity in Iran and the cry of this generation which carries within it the stifled cries of all the generations gone before, for the first time in many years I am allowing myself to dream that one day I too can enter Iran without fear gripping my heart and accompanying every step I take there…
I am quietly resurrecting the long-buried wish to one day walk down Vali Asr Boulevard in Tehran (the longest street in the Middle East) with my hair loose under the Iranian sun and to lean in to kiss my man without fear of being arrested or shouted at or slapped on the street, or taken to be beaten to death in the back of a morality police van. This is a fragile hope that I keep tucked in my back pocket.
Meanwhile, I hope that the world wakes up to understand that what is happening in Iran is the frontline of feminism right now: the simple expression of desire for equality, for dignity, for life without fear. And as such, it touches us all. Say it with me: Woman Life Freedom.”
Women Life Freedom. Say it with me, and stay tuned.