This Brief offers an Iranian student’s perspective on the ongoing protests and women’s movement in Iran. CAS commissioned the Brief in order to help make more visible to our community the events in Iran as well as share the perspectives of a member of our Iranian student community. The views expressed in the Brief are not necessarily those of CAS or the University of Colorado.
WEEK 1: WHAT IS HAPPENING IN IRAN AND WHY IT MATTERS
Today marks the 40th day after the killing of Mahsa Jina Amini on Sep 16, 2022. She was a 22-year-old woman taken into custody and killed by “morality” police for her “unsatisfactory” hejab*. This unofficial police force has been oppressing and assaulting the women of Iran for years and it has only grown more violent and absurd with time. Oppression of women in Iran is not limited to how they are required to dress (failure to comply has led to them being arrested, lashed, and even killed,) it dictates their eligibility for jobs (illegal to be a singer or a pilot,) legal age of marriage (9 years,) traveling abroad and divorce (both only permitted by the husband/male guardian.) Over 40 years of such gender apartheid under the Islamic Republic fueled unprecedented uprisings across Iran that are led by women – and now by female students. Since the day of Mahsa Amini’s death, daily large-scale protests with the slogan ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ (‘Zan, Zendegi, Azadi’,) have evolved into revolution-seeking rallies and strikes; people of Iran are demanding freedom, a once and for all end to the current regime which is the cause of years of growing injustice, corruption, abuse of human rights and dictatorship. However, unfortunately but as expected, this regime is implementing every possible oppressive method to silence the freedom movements:
- Extreme slowdown/shutdown of internet across the country
- Suppressing voices of Iranians and allies on social media (especially Instagram)
- Beating, arresting, assaulting, and shooting unarmed civilians (including teenagers and children!)
- Home arrests, torture and execution of activists, athletes, artists, and intellectuals
- Raiding universities and schools (even elementary) followed by killings, beatings, and assault of female students
- Intentionally set fire and gunshots in the notorious prison, Evin, where the majority of detainees are held as “political prisoners” and under very harsh conditions (e.g., no medical attention even for severe injuries)
- Genocide in regions with ethnic minorities
And the list continues. Throughout all this, the government completely denies everything (for example, claims absurd excuses for the rapes and killings of young women, such as suicide and overdose,) continues to violate basic human rights every hour of the day, and somehow prevents a wider global span of media and action regarding the outrageous injustice and the ongoing revolution in Iran.
Nonetheless, Iranians inside and outside Iran are doing their best to draw attention to the bravery and resilience of people of Iran who are chanting the powerful slogan ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ wanting their freedom back and the Islamic Republic gone. As a result of their efforts, several news streams have had articles and reports on this historic revolution by the women of Iran. Furthermore, there have been two Global Days of Action for Iran, on Oct 1st and 22nd, where nearly 100,000 people rallied for the freedom of Iran and showed support and solidarity with Iranian women who are putting their lives on the line for an end to the systematic oppression of women (and gender/ethnic minorities) in Iran.
Although we are grateful for the authorities’ statements and public attention so far, it is not enough. This women-led revolution is facing unimaginably tyrannical subjugation and needs the support of not just all women, but all humanity. The western governments, above all the ones standing for human rights, must immediately condemn the brutal Iranian regime with strong actions, and hold it accountable for the numerous crimes against humanity that are not to be tolerated in the 21st century. In order to do so, there are simple and quick actions you can take:
- Sign the petitions that are addressing these concerns:
- Sign the open letter from global women leaders and advocates urging the UN Member States to head the call of Iranian women and remove the Islamic Republic from the UN commission on the Status of Women
- Continue to learn** and talk about Iran’s women’s revolution in the making, tweet and post tagging UN associates and political figures to demand effective action
- Call your senators and representatives and have them:
- Address the petitions
- Work to modify the sanctions on Iran to be imposed on the members of Islamic Republic government and its security apparatus (instead of targeting the Iranian people)
At last and again, I would like to encourage you to stay informed and active about Iranian women making history, to help be their voice, and to stand with them and all the women around the world – in words and actions – to own their agency and freedom.
*Hejab is used here to better describe the “Islamic” dress code in Iran. Conventionally, hijab is used when globally talking about Muslim women veiling their hair, neck, and chest; headscarves are a frequently used form of hijab. Hejab, on the other hand, is a “modesty” rule prescribed in Iran to a woman’s body from head to toe. Thus, policing the Iranian women’s hejab is not only controlling how they cover their head, neck, and chest, but also the attire over their torso, arms, legs and even ankles.
**Note that some sources are unofficial due to internet shutdown and journalists arrests in Iran.
WEEK #2: SINCE MAHSA’S “CHEHELOM”…
“Chehelom”… is Persian for fortieth, it also refers to the 40th day after a person’s death in Iran. It is a particularly respected day to gather with family, friends, and even strangers to mourn for the deceased as if they passed away yesterday. Chehelom is the last time before the death anniversary that people join the grief of and support the family of the lost one, and pay tribute to the beloved of a family, and the contributing member of a town or city. Mahsa Amini’s Chehelom, 26th of October, was also to pay tribute to the Kurdish daughter of the entire Iranian nation, to celebrate the young life of an innocent soul taken by barbarism of the Islamic Republic (of Iran.) As her death marked the beginning of the ongoing revolution in Iran, an unprecedented mass of mourners was expected. Hundreds of Iranians marched to Mahsa’s grave amid all the roads blocked by the regime’s security forces, and demonstrations and protests were widely held in her memory throughout Iran. Mahsa’s Chehelom was clearly additional fuel to the unbeatable spirit and bravery of the Iranian freedom-seekers every day and night since September 16th, in each city of Iran.
As a result of the significance of this day, and in addition to the constant armed repression of the protesters, the government caused two disasters on October 26th to distress and distract the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement. A mass shooting in Shah Cheragh, an Islamic sacred site in Shiraz, led to the killing of more than 10 pilgrims. Metropol, a ten-story tower in Abadan, was brought to collapse – for the second time in the history of this regime – and left dozens killed, injured, or missing. The Islamic republic publicized the Shah Cheragh massacre as an ISIS terrorist attack even though evidence like videos and eyewitness statements has sufficiently questioned the ISIS claim and pointed all the accusations back at the regime. No entity announced responsibility for the collapse of Metropol. While the brutal security forces were cracking down on the protesters across the country and the state media was busy spreading the ISIS sham about the shooting in Shah Cheragh, a second massacre took more lives in Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchestan, following a complete internet disruption in the region. Due to this internet disruption and very limited access to media and communication technologies in Sistan-Baluchestan, we will sadly never grasp the true gruesomeness of the two massacres that occurred in Zahedan.
The gravity of the violent crimes by the Islamic Republic during the past 47 days is unfathomable, and their frequency is impossible to keep up with. The inhuman brutality expands beyond the unarmed protesters and reaches civilians in their daily activities, even children. Mona Naghib was only eight years old when she was fatally shot by the regime forces on her way to school in Sistan-Baluchestan. Eyewitnesses in the Evin prison have only now relayed horrors on some details of the building fire and shootings of October 15th; a firefighter allegedly found 140 killed on the prison ground, and two detainees informed their family that the detainees from different wards were batoned and shot, or in the best case, medically untreated and left in critical condition. Raiding of the schools, which started with Sharif University, has spread so vastly that it now includes dorms as well – despite this life-threatening danger, students’ protests and anti-regime slogans have grown to create a country-wide wave of school-youth wanting an end to the Islamic Republic. Furthermore, the Islamic Republic has allegedly flown in 150 Iraqi forces to strengthen their protest suppression ability.
The number of killings, including kids beaten to death at school simply for chanting “Zan, Zendegi, Azadi”, and of civilian arrests are alarmingly increasing, more than 280 killed and thousands arrested only in 45 days. Considering the lack of reliable internal media, the internet shutdown, and numerous threats to the families of the victims, those numbers can only count as an extreme underestimation. Although that reduces the observable scale of the regime’s crackdowns, there are ongoing efforts to unofficially collect a list of known victims of Iran’s women’s revolution reported by civilians from different cities. On top of all that, the regime is in the process of holding public trials for some detainees for which the Iranians are deeply concerned about the resultant sentences. Several have already received a death sentence through a single trial session and in the absence of their attorneys.
With all the traumas and tragedies so far into the women’s revolution in Iran, Iranians are more motivated and hopeful than ever. Unlike the clerics’ theocratic ideologies of the past 43 years, this revolution, led by women and the young, is based on an exclusive but unanimous idea, freedom in the form of secular democracy. Decades of injustice and corruption in the totality of the Islamic Republic regime has left no hope for any reform of the existing system, and when accompanied with the current violent burst of oppression, massacre, and genocide, it has magnified the revolutionary force of “Woman, Life, Freedom” among the Iranians. We are witnessing daily evolution of this movement among ages, ethnicities, occupations, and major industries. For instance, the nationwide strikes that gained momentum by the strike of the workers in oil and petroleum plants in southwest Iran have now extended to other oil and gas sites, steel and sugar production companies, mining sites, various bazaars, and more.
We continue to look forward to your support, solidarity, and most of all, your helpful actions. Please, keep talking and sharing content about Iran. The list of helpful actions from last week still holds and is encouraged. The global conversation on Iranian women’s revolution needs to stay alive and progress to definitive actions to prevent further enabling the Islamic Republic in destroying the Iranian nation. Canada has already begun to legislate against the regime’s dependents and violent security forces and has voted for removal of the Islamic Republic from the UN commission on the Status of Women. The open letter concerning the latter (#2 mentioned also in last week’s brief) has been signed by more female leaders, including Michele Obama and Hillary Clinton. November 3rd is planned by some revolution supporters to be an International Call Day for Freedom in Iran to call political figures and news agencies to demand a firm stance and address action #4 on the list published in last week’s brief.
Thank you for your awareness and advocacy. I hope to come back next week with less bad news and more good ones.