Women life freedom
The Iranian women’s fight for freedom
The epitaph on her grave said, “Your name will become a sign.”
First, let’s talk about her name, which is Mahsa Zhina Amini.
Mahsa Zhina Amini, a Kurdish-Iranian woman who was 22 years old, died on September 17 in a hospital in Tehran. She had been taken away by the “morality police” and had gone into a coma as a result. Even though the name isn’t clear, this unit’s only job is to enforce the Islamic Republic of Iran’s mandatory hijab law in public places by arresting women in the streets who are wearing “improper hijab.” Even though the Islamic Republic says they did nothing wrong, there are signs that she died from a brain concussion caused by a severe beating and other injuries. As of October 1, at least 133 people have died in the uprising across the country that started after her death. But we only know about those ones. Most likely, we will never know the names of many more. Because of this, “Mahsa Zhina Amini” is more than just a name; it is also a sign.
Mahsa Jina’s death was not an exception; instead, it was the latest example of the Islamic Republic’s philosophy of making people die. Since the 1979 Revolution, when the Islamic Republic began as a theocratic-totalitarian regime, one of its main rules has been that women are subject to systematic violence from the government. For the Islamic Republic, making women wear a hijab, or head covering, is not just a way to enforce Islam. It is also the most visible and systematic form of gender apartheid, which aims to control women and their bodies.
Just a few days after the revolution, the Islamic Republic made the hijab a part of its ideology. So, it would be foolish to think of the current uprising in Iran as a reaction to the “morality police” or to try to figure out why people are taking off and burning their headscarves by looking at what “hijab” means and stands for in other Muslim communities. At the same time, this should not be seen as the first time that women in Iran have taken off their headscarves in public to protest mandatory hijab. On March 8, International Women’s Day, Iranian women held the first protest after the 1979 Revolution. They were against this law. Since then, the Iranian Women’s Rights Movement has fought bravely against many misogynistic laws and state practices. This is despite facing a totalitarian regime that has killed, tortured, imprisoned, exiled, and attacked women’s rights organizers and activists on a regular basis.
Iranian women have also been fighting another battle, which some might say is more important but less obvious: the everyday fight for life. Even though Iran’s patriarchal society and culture is full of sexism and misogyny, they have not only made it through this battle, but have thrived. On the surface, the “morality police” are the Islamic Republic’s answer to the way women keep pushing the boundaries of “proper” hijab. When you look at what “proper” hijab looked like in the 1980s and how it looks now, you can see how it has changed over time. But on a deeper level, “morality police” can be seen as the regime’s cruel, but fruitless, attempt to keep its gender apartheid and stop women from having more and more control over their bodies and more and more power in society. Women in Iran have been fighting for equality and freedom for hundreds of years. This revolutionary moment has nothing to do with the stereotype that women in Iran are helpless victims.
But if Mahsa Zhina Amini’s name has become a symbol of this uprising, we shouldn’t forget that it’s not just the name of a woman, but of a Kurdish woman. The Islamic Republic didn’t even recognize her name “Zhina,” forcing her to use “Mahsa” as her official Persian name. If the mandatory hijab is a sign of Islamic Republic’s existential misogyny, then the ban on speaking languages other than Persian is a sign of its existential racism. Systemic racism in the Islamic Republic has hurt ethnic and racial minorities like Kurds, Baloch, Arabs, and Afghans, who are often also religious minorities. Mahsa Zhina Amini’s name reminds us that we need to pay attention to the place where racism and sexism meet, which is a dangerous place where structural discrimination meets.
There are many social, cultural, economic, and political roots to the uprising in Iran right now. It builds on past mass protests, which are happening more often and in more places. It wants the Islamic Republic to pay for all the bad things it has done since it started. In the past, protests have also tried to get rid of the Islamic Republic. But women’s rights have never before been the cause of a nationwide uprising. Women’s brave defiance of a law that defines the Islamic Republic has never before gotten so much support from both women who choose to wear hijab and men who have gotten a lot out of the regime’s gender apartheid for decades. Never before have the voices of ethnic minorities become the unified, yet diverse, voice of a nationwide movement. Iranians have come up with a chant that goes against the Islamic Republic’s philosophy of making people die, as well as its racism and misogyny.
Then, let’s say “Women, Life, Freedom” to show our support for the women and men in Iran who are risking their lives to spread this Kurdish chant by shouting its Persian translation all over the country.