Recent protests fight for women’s rights in Iran

By Siobhan Elizabeth Ball

Elm Staff Writer

Thousands of people took to the streets of America’s capital on Oct. 22 to protest for women’s rights and against the injustice of the Islamic Republic in Iran. The chants heard throughout the city and across the National Mall were, “No justice, no peace,” “Women’s rights, freedom,” and “Say Her Name.” Beyond the sea of black, red, and green – the colors of the Iranian flag – one could see the Washington Monument, a symbol of democracy and freedom, an emblem befitting of their message and plight for liberty.

The protests were in response to the recent death of Kurdish Iranian Mahsa Amini, which led to a social media blackout, with restrictions on internet controls and access to social media platforms blocked.

According to TIME, Amini’s death was at the hands of Iran’s “morality police.” They have gained notoriety for their rough treatment of women deemed to be in violation of religious dress rules. Harrowing images of the unconscious and beaten 22-year-old, following the attack, spread like wildfire on social media, resulting in an outbreak of unorganized protests across Iran.

Videos on the social media platform TikTok went viral after the news broke, which led many women to shave their heads and burn their headscarves in solidarity, to protest Iran’s mandatory hijab law and brutal enforcement that led to Amini’s death.

TikTok influencer Camelia Katoozian posted a powerful video – that now has over 2.2 million views – after Amini’s death with a caption that read, “Iran went from being a country that crowned women to being a country that kills women for ‘improperly’ covering their hair,” alongside a slideshow of photographs of how the country has changed dramatically since the Revolution.

            The protests across Iran are part of a long history of feminist resistance that is a continuation of the struggle that was ignited following the Revolution in 1979. Amini’s death is the last straw for complacency and is a call to action.

Women flooded the streets in protest for six days straight beginning on March 8, 1979, International Women’s Day. It was the result of a decree issued by Ayatollah Khomeini making the hijab mandatory in Iran, they were branded as traitors and met with violence.

Removing the state-mandated hijab in public protest has become a universal symbol of rejection against the regime uniting Iranians across a spectrum of religious beliefs. Historically, Iran is a country where a man’s voice has been louder, but the determination and bravery of these women protesting show that they are leading the fight for change.

Across the globe, these protests are understood as the women in Iran’s opposition to hijab mandates and lack of autonomy over their bodies. But what is happening should not be reduced to simple resistance against the compulsory hijab mandate or rights to their bodies. It is much more than this. It is about a call for freedom of choice.

The world has viewed this 3000-year-old civilization over the past forty years through the disparaging lens of a theocratic dictatorship, controls and restrictions on information, and administrative and economic corruption which is far removed from the majority of its 86 million population.

The death of Mahsa Amini reignited the simmering anger felt by women across Iran, sparking a revolution demanding the end of the Islamic regime that held absolute power over the nation for far too long. To offer support to these women in Iran it is imperative that the international community who stand in solidarity do not think of these women as victims. Against all odds they survived gender-based discrimination and violence managing to make incredible progress in their public and private life. Now they must continue this brave effort to challenge a regime that should no longer be in power.

The essence of this movement is summed up perfectly in the chant that can be heard across the world: “Women’s Rights, Freedom.”

Photo by Siobhan Elizabeth Bell.

Washington College students recently witnessed protests about women’s rights in Iran on a school-sponsored trip to Washington, D.C.

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