13 October 2022
In the wake of the recent death of Mahsa Amini, the people of Iran are fighting for very fundamental and basic human rights.
Mahsa Amini was a 22 year old Iranian-Kurdish woman who was arrested and detained by the Iranian morality police (yup… the morality police are a real task force who exist to enforce Islamic shariah laws, particularly those pertaining to dress codes, in public). The very legitimacy and legality of the morality police’s function should be called into question, particularly as my research into the task force shows a disproportionate targeting of women and an unclear guideline on what is appropriate and inappropropriate, thus giving rise to significant ambiguity and interpretation for the morality enforces to just arbitrarily arrest women. Mahsa was unfortunately one of the worst examples of this. On 13 September, she was detained for “improperly wearing a hijab.” During her detainment (at around day 3), she suffered so many injuries and blows to the head at the hands of the morality police that she fell into a coma and died shortly after.
Since her unjust and cruel death, the people of Iran (and courageous women at the forefront of these protests) have poured into the streets and demanded justice for Mahsa but more than that, for basic human rights. Iranians were calling for an end to the morality police and any such suppressive laws that target women like the hijab mandate that Mahsa was arrested for violating. Protests have now evolved into a far wider anti-government movement to fight for autonomy. To put this in perspective and make those of us who are so far removed from this really understand the gravity of this, the people of Iran really are fighting for rights so fundamentally basic that the rest of us wouldn’t think twice about it. Non-exhaustively, these are things like the autonomy over their own body; to eat whatever food they want, to read or write whatever they want, to study whatever they want, to be able to express an opinion about what they want to.
Brave school girls have been throwing their compulsory hijabs off and waving it around whilst yelling “death to the dictator”.
Additionally, there are further restrictions implemented for unmarried women - most of us would think it’s absolutely unimaginable as a single woman to not be able to fly to a different city or travel or even check into a hotel somewhere but they really can’t even do this without being questioned or even jailed. The people of Iran don’t even have the choice or autonomy to practice whatever religion they wish to, nor the choice not to practice any religion at all. These are fundamental rights many of us take for granted, but Iranians have been getting arrested and killed for the last half a century for these laws.
The government has shut down the internet (calling this an internet blackout) in an attempt to cover up the free flowing information and to silence the population of Iran in order to perpetuate and control their own narrative of what is happening. They don’t want us to know that one of the biggest women’s rights movements in the world is happening right now, and it is particularly revolutionary with teenage to middle aged women exemplifying courage that their predecessor generations have never shown. Women are taking to the streets, removing their hijabs and cutting their hair. Brave school girls have been throwing their compulsory hijabs off and waving it around whilst yelling “death to the dictator”. The valour and boldness of these women are astounding and whilst the death toll of protestors is unknown due to the government’s intentional restriction on media coverage, we know it is significant. Women across the country have also started posting protest videos of them taking off their hijab, cutting their hair, and men and women are fuming at the regime.
Anti-government protests have now spread to over 50 cities, and worldwide protests have been sparked as people are angered and outraged. As Iran now enters its 3rd-4th week of protests, Irani’s are still creating content and sharing posts about what is happening in Iran, all the while knowing that even just making a Tik Tok about it is putting themselves and their family in danger.
Why do they continue to do this? They are sick of being oppressed and unheard; sick of a political regime which silences any dissenters, artists, writers, journalists, film-makers or people who show disdain towards it. Protestors are determined to get their message out despite the heavy restrictions to internet access.
So how can we help? Well, now is the time to show the Iranian people that we are with them by standing in solidarity and sharing information about this. We need to amplify Iranian voices on social media, particularly as the government attempts to suppress information and disrupt internet access. Every post we share helps the people who are risking their lives for freedom keep on going and make them know that they are not alone and that they can overthrow this brutal regime.