The essence of this statement emanating a strong sense of sisterhood is widely evident in all the norm-changing uprisings we have had, beginning last century and another.
One such movement that has shaken the world is the one sparked by the death of this young, rising woman called Mahsa Amini in Iran.
SheSight Magazine pays tribute to this historical woman leading to the next women’s global revolution after probably the #Metoo movement that happened a few years back.
What is the best thing about crossing the milestone age of 21? A past to cherish, a present to rejoice in, and a future to look forward to.
But this was not to be for this young woman, all of 22. 13th September 2022. Clothed in traditional attire and her head covered with a scarf, Mahsa got down at a metro station in Tehran, looking forward to visiting her family. She had barely walked a distance, with her brother Kiarash Amini by her side, when the regime’s “Guidance Patrol” spotted her. The headscarf, they alleged, was not placed appropriately on her head. She was arrested right there and was transferred to the “Moral Security Agency”.
Mahsa’s brother was told that she was being led away to a detention centre for a “briefing class”, and that she would be free soon after. The next he heard was that his sister had collapsed while under detention and that she was admitted to Kasra Hospital for treatment. Three days later, on 16th September 2022, she died after having failed to come out of the coma.
Witnesses claim that she was hit mercilessly on her head while being lugged to the detention centre. A life lost to the rigid rules of gender oppression.
Born to a housewife mother and a father who is a government employee, Mahsa along with her younger brother Kiarash, grew up in the western city of Saqqez in Iran’s Kurdistan province. She was a shy and reserved girl as described by the people who knew her and aspired to become a lawyer.
The Iranian government has constantly denied any wrongdoing by the police. A heart attack has been given as the official reason for Amini’s death.
However, reports indicate that it was from a skull fracture due to heavy blows to the head according to the Associated Press.
The Back Story
Head scarves are, by law, binding on all women in Iran, irrespective of their religion or nationality.
Iran introduced a mandate on dress code for women, by their interpretation of Islamic standards in 1979. Women are not allowed to enter any government or public buildings or attend to their work without their heads covered. This rule also extends to all their public appearances.
There was mass-scale impassioned anger over Amini’s cruel treatment. Protests started within hours of her death, starting at the hospital where she was admitted, and quickly spreading to other parts of the country.
Hundreds were arrested and reports claim there were another hundred and probably more who were shot at and killed. An extensive Internet blackout and national social media restrictions were enacted as the demonstrations intensified.
To quell the protests, pro-government rallies were held in several Iranian cities in reaction to the unrest. These counter-protests have been described as “spontaneous” by the Iranian authorities. The pro-government demonstrators demanded the execution of the anti-government demonstrators and referred to them as “Israel’s soldiers” while yelling “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”. Iranian women then took to the streets burning hijabs and cutting their hair in public sending a message to Iran’s government that women do not belong to them; they belong to themselves. Students in various universities took the revolt to the next level by posting videos on social media supporting their detained friends and demanding the fall of the Islamic Republic. Students were also seen demolishing the walls that were built in Iranian universities to demarcate study spaces, for the two genders. Despite internet censorship that prevents users from accessing popular apps like Instagram and WhatsApp, techno-savvy youngsters have nevertheless been able to distribute recordings of their protests. Even schoolgirls have picked up the cause, taking their hijabs off while facing away from the camera.
Growing Global Support
What the world saw next was massive global support for the revolution in Iran. Many celebrities have expressed their dissent over the incident and have shown their support for the rioters. Britney Spears and her husband Sam Asghari have pledged their support for the Iranian people. Britney wrote, “Me & my husband stand with the Iranian people fighting for freedom”. Actress Nazanin Boniadi, born in Iran, referred to the current movement as “nothing less than the first female-led revolution of our time.” She quoted Bronwyn from her role in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: “Who among you will stand with me? Who among you will take the offensive?” Hillary Clinton tweeted: “Iranians are protesting for their basic human rights in the aftermath of the horrific death of Mahsa Zhina Amini. Iranians deserve to live free from violence and intimidation. The world is watching”.
“Every woman deserves to live life on her terms, free from tyranny and fear. Mahsa Amini didn’t get that chance, and I remain in awe of the courageous protestors risking their lives to make sure that others do. To the women of Iran, I stand with you”, wrote Melinda French Gates on LinkedIn.
Not just the known public faces, but also other forward-thinking people from around the world have been extending their support to the cause. Professional networking platform LinkedIn has been witnessing unfiltered views from corporate professionals across industries.
Maryam Ghadiri, – Life fulfilment & leadership coach, Researcher, Storyteller & Entrepreneur expresses: “This is a women-led movement supported immensely by men and United us all over the world to fight for freedom, women’s rights, and justice.”
The stakes are incredibly high and the danger of speaking out is overwhelming. Yet, schoolgirls are taking to the streets to speak out about their own experiences and to call for justice. They’re shrewdly and effectively wielding technology, and especially social media, as a force for good and as tools for global awareness, community mobilization, and democratization
I want these protesters to know that the rest of the world sees them and admires them. As for the girls, I’m in awe of their bravery and resilience, even while acknowledging that I wish we lived in a world where girls didn’t have to be quite so brave, quite so resilient. As a mother and educator, I can’t think of better role models for standing up for what’s right for my children and students everywhere.”
~Tarika Barett – CEO of an International non-profit organization
Yusuf Z. Zakir – Chief Diversity, Equity, and inclusion officer at a leading litigation law firm, says:
“Today, the Iranian women are fighting back, and we should support them. No government should tell women what they can or cannot wear (including, even, prohibitions on headscarves like those enacted in France), nor should any government tell women what they can or cannot do with their bodies (that’s for you, U.S. Supreme Court).”
What does #MahsaAmini convey to us as Women?
No, it is not just about a piece of cloth. Head scarf the contention is only an indicium. Rallying cries of “Women, Life, Freedom” cannot be just about keeping your head uncovered. Not that shallow! The Mahsa Amini movement has so much more to it. This huge uprising, this female emancipation, has to have some deep-rooted sentiment, that probably has never found an outlet.
Where is this fury coming from? And why has this rage spread like a wildfire across the world?
Can we not see that this uproar is rooted deeply in the unequal distribution of power and resources between the two genders, the stereotypical definition of gender roles, and years of oppression by one gender on the other?
Women from all around the world coming together for Mahsa’s cause are only echoing their individual feelings of resentment; resentment over being controlled by rigid patriarchal societies, irrespective of the regions of the world.
It is the fight to break open from the shackles of stubborn and unjust societal directives. And what does #MahsaAmini convey to us as women?
Uplift each other. Rise and roar. Bring in the change. Here’s to the untapped and unshaken power in you!
I am Mahsa and I want my freedom; the same freedom that my fellow humans, take as their entitled right.
I want the right to choose, I want the power to decide.
To me, being a woman means being a valued citizen of the world. It means being able to be both tender and tough. It means having the privilege to fight for my rights. It means being able to have full control over my entity, my existence, my future, and more.
Above all, it means being unabashed and relentless for who I am, and what I want.
I am a real human, in flesh and blood, just like you, my fellow society beings. I deserve to be heard.
Being a woman might bring in a forlorn handicap of bigotry, misogyny, and prejudice., but trust me I wouldn’t trade my womanhood for anything. Because I strongly believe that there has never been a more enthusing time for women.
The humongous solidarity and sisterhood that I am witnessing, for my cause, all over the world, gives me hope. Our shared experiences of oppression, exploitation, and abuse have brought us together and I am elated that I am a part of this aggregated force of womankind.
There is certainly a long way to walk, but the tides are changing. We are letting the world know that we have started to understand what we want.
We have ushered in a new era of not staying silent anymore. This established social order at large is bound to fall in place, sooner or later.
Yours truly, MahsaAmini
You are Mahsa, I am Mahsa
We want our life, our freedom