Protests in Iran: The Terrifying Fight for Women’s Rights

Dalianny Corporan

The sudden death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman in Iran devasted millions around the world, leading to mass protests for women’s rights in a country that leaves its citizens fearing for their lives.

On September 16, 2022 a Kurdish woman named Jina Amini (publicly known as Mahsa Amini) was on her way to the city in Iran with her brother when she was stopped by the Iranian Morality Police for not wearing her hijab “properly.” She was taken to a Re-education Center which is normal routine for Iranian residents making civil violations. However, Amini was beaten into a coma while being detained and tragically died two days later in a hospital.

Jina (Persian name, “Mahsa”) Amini.
Source: Islamic Networks Group

Her shocking death ignited the world and there have been national and worldwide protests for justice and women’s rights in Iran. Women are daringly cutting all their hair off and burning their headscarves in front of the police in protest to the extreme dress-code and oppressive laws against women in Iran.

Many young Iranian citizens now are unsafe since they are being killed by the police in these protests. The majority of Iran’s population are Gen-Z and Millennial youth. One of the most known victims is 20-year-old Hadis Najafi who was shot six times by the Iranian Police during a protest for Amini. As of today, there have been at 92 people killed in these protests.

Hadis Najafi was fatally shot down by the Iranian police during a protest for Amini. She was 20 years old.
Source: Sky News

The authorities restricted access to internet in Iran, so residents could not record the atrocities going on in the country, further silencing their voices. Iranian citizens even feel in danger even inside their own homes as the police rampage the streets at night looking for protesters.

There was a time where Iran was more liberal where women dressed more freely and had more rights to an education and independence and not restricted by extreme, oppressive law. Iran changed radically after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran Before the Revolution

According to the Business Insider, from 1941 to 1979, Iran was ruled by King Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the Shah. His government was very different than the Islamic State of Iran today. Even though his dictatorship restricted political freedom, there was more cultural freedom since he wanted the country to adopt Western-oriented secular modernization.

Iran before The Islamic Revolution. Tehran University Students in 1971.
Source: Rare Vintage Photos.

Under Shah’s regime, Iran had more economic and educational opportunity. Great Britain and the United States were allies to the country. However, his growing authoritarian rules and removal of a multi-party rule led to the notorious revolution.

There was an emphasis and Persian identity, and tribes were excluded. The Shah wanted to make religion observation subservient to the country and even banned veils. Women were also encouraged to receive an education. Many people disliked the Shah’s pro-Western government including Communists and religious members.

The revolution started as a popular movement lead by backlash against government extravagance, corruption, brutality, and suppression of people’s rights. On January 16, 1979, Reza Shah fled Iran during the Iranian Revolution.

Iran after The Islamic Revolution

Now 40 years later, Iran is far from Reza Shah’s government. After the revolution, people who were part of The Shah’s regime or opposed the new Islamic state got executed or held hostage. The new regime became unstable, violent, and oppressive on another level.

The recent protests and internet shutdowns are not the first. In November of 2019, also known as “Bloody November,” there were deadly protests against the sudden rise in fuel prices and it is estimated at least 304 people were killed according to Amnesty International.

Iranians Using the Internet as a Voice

The government has been gradually taking the internet away from the Iranian people such as cutting off social medias such as Instagram and What’s App, so young Iranians are making sure to post as much as they can before they lose their privileges completely. The posts are heartbreaking, but also showcases the bravery of the Iranian people, especially the women.

This is a TikTok video of a young Iranian girl scared for her life, pleading for the world to help.

“As you can hear my accent, I am a Persian girl… I was hanging out with my mom, and I came in my room, and I’m cut out from everything around the world. I can barely text my friends. I have absolutely no internet connection… I don’t know where my family is… I feel like I’m trapped in a small case and there is nothing I can do because I don’t have a voice. This has happened before… I just hear a lot of people are getting killed on the streets. They are getting beaten to death… I have my human rights. I just want them. I want nothing more. If you don’t stand with me, I am going to lose my faith in everyone.”

This is a TikTok video of another young Iranian girl using the “GRWM” which stands for  “Get Ready with Me,” a TikTok trend of dressing up and getting ready in front of the camera for entertainment, and using it to spread awareness about the deadly protests in Iran calling the video “Grwm to get killed in Iran” as she dresses up before a protest.

This is another TikTok video of a young Iranian woman cutting her hair in front of the Iranian police. This is brave action because the female protestors have been getting killed by the police and its rebelling against the oppressive Islamic state of the nation.

Iranian-born actress Elnaaz Norouzi posted on Instagram about her experience with the “Morality Police” in Iran.  

“A few year backs in Iran… I was taken by the morality police because my pants weren’t wide enough… I was taken in a van, the same van Mahsa was in, and I was taken to the re-education center… they took my passport, and they took my phone… the way they scare you… they take you in for the weirdest reasons, for your nail color, your hijab… I don’t want any woman to live like this… what happened to Mahsa could’ve happened to me…”

How to Help

There are petitions on change.org to help Iranians who have been arrested and facing execution for current and previous protests, and being part of the LGBT. When on social media, it is important to share and repost related to Iran to keep spreading awareness.

Change happens when people come together when fatal atrocities happen, for instance with the death of George Floyd and the bombings of the Gaza Strip in Palestine, the people are changed for forever, and the lives lost will never come back, but the people will make sure they will never be forgotten.

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