Until we are all free, none of us are free.
Not that we have any illusion that we are free in the U.S. when it comes to gender. Nobody forces us to wear compulsory hijab. But we have countless double-standards and rights provided only in hierarchical tiers that keep us in our place. With those with the least access to power at the bottom.
There is a beautiful, powerful, critical women’s revolution happening in Iran. It started with the murder of Jina (Mahsa) Amini. She was a Kurdish Iranian woman who was arrested on the street in Tehran while on vacation by the morality police because some of her hair was showing from under her hijab.
The morality police took Amini into custody. Their job is to roam the streets making sure women are properly dressed and covered, including all of their hair. They beat her until she went into a coma, and subsequently died. The government takes no responsibility and has claimed she died of a heart attack.
This event has outraged and sparked a revolution in Iran that is momentous.
Masih Alinejad, an Iranian woman living in exile in the U.S. says:
“This is a women’s revolution against a gender apartheid regime…”
“The compulsory hijab is not just a small piece of cloth for Iranians. It’s like the Berlin Wall. I keep saying that. If women can successfully tear this wall down, the Islamic Republic won’t exist.” (CNN, 10/7/22)
Iran, A Short History
I was a seventies child, so I remember very well the Iran Hostage Crisis. I was only 8 years old so I didn’t understand it, other than that another country named Iran was holding many Americans hostage and people were upset.
My neighbor put a bumper sticker on their mailbox that had a cartoon giving the bird that read, “Hey Iran!” There was a lot of anti-Iran sentiment at that time.
But what led up to that, and to a nation state that has strict rules for how women can dress, including covering every strand of their hair? Was it always that way?
Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was in power for decades and the people demonstrated to overthrow his monarchy, at a time when they perceived him as increasingly aligned with western values.
According to Kallie Szczepanski, “Middle-class Iranians, leftist university students, and Islamist supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini united to demand the overthrow of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. From October of 1977 to February of 1979, the people of Iran called for the end of the monarchy but they didn’t necessarily agree on what should replace it.” (ThoughtCo, 11/24/19)
Pahlavi was forced to flee the country, and religious scholar, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was put into power. This new Iranian leader brought the Isalmic State, and with it, strict rules for how women would dress. The state created the morality police to enforce the new rules.
Now in his 80s, he has led Iran for three decades, one of the longest serving rulers in the Middle East. The U.S. has a complicated relationship with Iran, especially regarding oil interests and nuclear arms. Iran’s current president, Ebrahim Raisi, has been “accused of crimes against humanity for overseeing the execution of thousands of dissidents in 1988.” (WAPO, 9/22/22)
The New Revolution
We should all be paying attention, and giving our support to this remarkable, momentous uprising of Iranian women (and the men who stand in support of them), to change the oppressive, diminutive double-standards that keep Iranian women as second-class citizens.
You may have seen images of women publicly cutting their hair, including doing so on social media. This is a powerful act of resistance. They are calling on all women to burn head scarves and to cut our hair in solidarity. Many have been subsequently killed or harmed for this act of resistance, and they are not backing down.
This is huge. Iranian women are speaking out and with the wide support of men, and many of us around the world. The Islamic Republic could topple.
Unfortunately, Jina (Mahsa) Amini is not the only person to give her life for this battle for women’s rights in Iran. The organization Iran Human Rights says Iran’s security forces have killed at least 185 protestors after several weeks of demonstrations.
The chant that rings out at demonstrations in Iran “Women, Life, Freedom,” is a Kurdish chant, “Jin, Jiyan, Azadi.”
The government is arresting hundreds of demonstrators, and taking people from their homes in a preventative move to squash dissent. There are now over 1,200 political prisoners who face grave danger of torture and murder.
Please follow, listen to and support the women of Iran. All of our freedom depends on this solidarity. We are impacted by the treatment of women, and all people the world round.
Freedom and new rights are never just given. They are fought for. Let’s stand with them.
Jin, Jiyan, Azadi.
How to help the Iranian people:
You can contact your representatives to speak out against human rights abuses in Iran, share factually correct news about what’s happening inside Iran on social media, and participate in solidarity protests in your city.
Please speak out, have conversations about this, make your voice heard and stand in solidarity.
Photo of Iran Protest via Sima Sabet on Twitter (IG @simaa_sabet)