The death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian who died in police custody in Iran, has lit a fire in the hearts of millions of women around the world. Amini’s death is just one example of the heinous acts committed by Iran’s law enforcement group, known as the “morality police”. Exercising an oppressive rule over the Islamic Republic, the morality police enforced an extreme theocratic regime for decades. Only now, enraged by Amini’s death, have the women felt brave enough to fight for their freedom. The results led to an unprecedented rebellion against the political powers of Iran.
As a woman, I never felt compelled to bite my tongue lest my words threaten my life. I have never felt unable to express my religious beliefs for fear that my choices would lead to retaliation. As a result, I’m guilty of taking my freedom for granted – as many of us are. That is, until injustices happen, like the murder of Mahsa Amini, reminding us of the horrific reality that deprives women of basic human rights in countries like Iran.
While almost all of the world, despite secular countries such as France or Switzerland, allows women to choose how they symbolize their religious faith, in Iran this freedom of choice has been stolen and the refusal to wear the hijab is prohibited, making it a punishable act. criminality. Thus, Amini’s “allegedly” inappropriate wearing of the hijab, a head covering that indicates women’s religious faith in Islam, led to her untimely death. This has exacerbated the violation of women’s rights within the Iranian state, which has seen Iranian women forced to respect the wearing of the hijab in accordance with the law, on pain of reprisals.
Specific details regarding Amini’s death have been twisted by Iranian authorities. Although the otherwise healthy 22-year-old died in Iranian police custody, state reports claimed that Amini’s death was simply due to a heart attack. However, her family released statements indicating that Amini received bruises on her body, revealing the true brutality that led to her death – at the hands of the morality police, or Gasht-e Ershad. The “Gasht-e Ershad”, which literally translates to “orientation patrols”, are a sub-section of the police that deal specifically with ensuring that Iran’s Islamic ideals are upheld, including including by maintaining the “correct” dress code.
On Tuesday, November 15, marking the 60th day since Amini’s death, Iranians continued to show their outrage at the brutal regimentation of Iranian women, propelling masses of protesters.
Thousands of university students collaborated in the protests, including students from the University of Tehran, the city where Amini’s death took place. During these protests, female students began to remove their headscarves in a bold act of opposition to the marginalization of women, despite the threat to their lives.
Demonstrations have also taken place outside Iran’s domestic sphere, with tens of thousands of people marching in solidarity with Iranians in Berlin. Men and women took to the streets of the German capital, waving the Iranian flag and signs reading “Women, life, freedom”. Support for Iranian protesters following Amini’s death has also led to an influx of people on social media, while the response from mainstream media has been rather limited by comparison.
Activist Malala Yousafzai took to Twitter to post a video expressing her solidarity with Iranian women. In her video, Malala said, “No state, entity or individual has the right to decide what a woman should do with her body, what she should wear and how she should dress.”
Tik-Tok is another tool that has been integral in raising awareness of Mahsa Amini’s death. The video-centric platform has been used by women who post videos of themselves cutting their hair, accompanied by Tom Odell’s evocative song “Another Love”. The song and the act express the harmonious and united front that women around the world adopt in support of Iranian women.
People have also taken to Instagram to express their frustration with Iran’s leadership. Platform users have shown their support by posting images of Amini and demanding urgent action against Iran’s patriarchal political system.
Priyanka Chopra was one of many celebrities who took to their public platform. Taking to Instagram, the actress and model asked people to “stay informed and speak out” so that “Iranian women’s voices can no longer be silenced”.
A slew of these posts were accompanied by the hashtags #WomanLifeFreedom #MahsaAmini #IranProtests, catching the attention of thousands of social media users. This has been vital in combating attempts by the Iranian government to impose mass censorship on Iranian citizens, including cutting off their internet access.
Censorship of Iranian protesters has also been enacted through violence. Authorities opened fire on protesters and, according to the Iranian Human Rights Association, “at least 253 people, including 34 children and 19 women, have been killed in the ongoing nationwide protests.” [as of 15 November].” Therefore, the continued use of social media platforms is essential to ensure that women’s voices are freed from the shackles of oppression that regulate society in Iran.
Whether protesting physically or through digital media, showing solidarity with Iranians is vital at this time. The Iranians need our support more than ever; they need our voices because theirs have been brutally silenced, and they need to see our solidarity if they are ever to succeed in overthrowing the state and its despotic subjugation of women and their bodies.
All women deserve to live without fear. All women deserve the right to freedom.