“It’s a really beautiful moment,” says Hoda Kateby, a writer and community organizer based in Chicago. “It has been terrifying and inspiring for Iranians both in Iran and outside it.”
Defying judicial warnings following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa (Jina) Amini, Iranians have been protesting on the streets across their country for the past 14 days.
Amini, who was a member of Iran’s Kurdish minority, was arrested by ethics police in Tehran because of how she chose to wear the hijab. She fell and died in police custody. In a show of solidarity, some women have covered their heads. Others have pelted stones at police officers raising slogans “Knowledge, Freedom, Freedom” Or “Women, Life, Freedom”.
In solidarity, the chant of Kurdish origin is being heard by the Iranian diaspora around the world. Across the US, Iranian Americans have responded by holding protests in cities such as Washington DC, New York, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“Now we all have the same demand inside and out [of Iran]Isha Momeni says.
Momeni, a lecturer in the Department of Gender Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, has participated in solidarity protests in Los Angeles, one of the largest Iranian American communities in the US and where more than 100,000 Overseas members live.
A Kurdish-Iranian filmmaker based in Los Angeles for Silent Dolatshahi, the hijab is a powerful symbol of resistance. Since the government controls bodily autonomy, “Iranian women are killing the government in the most important place,” he said.
“Ten years ago, when people believed the election had been stolen, people were asking ‘where is my vote? Dolatshahi says, referring to the Green Movement in 2009. “The chants have changed a lot, no one is talking about reforms. Now people are demanding change of government.
In addition to women’s leadership, “what sets this movement apart from the previous movement is its ability to unite people around a common goal”, says UCLA professor Momeni.
In 2008, Momini was arrested and jailed in Iran after marching with 3 million people during the Green Movement insurgency. She had traveled to Iran to film a documentary on women’s rights. “At that time, people were not demanding structural changes. It was about citizenship rights. It was about corruption,” she says. “It had a reformist approach.”
However, today women are removing the scarves from their heads as a way of demanding infrastructure change.
Chicago-based Ketebi, who advises activists in Tehran on technical issues, agrees that this rebellion stands apart from others. “The protesters’ slogans are not only abstract or romantic ideals and idioms, but they are actually very concrete demands that Iranians have been demanding for decades,” she says.
Some of these demands are physical autonomy in public places as well as economic justice, including the rights of workers, teachers and students. She stresses that “there should be no gender delay in progress”.
Iranian diaspora in other parts of the world are also playing their part. In Freetown, Sierra Leone, Priscilia Kounkou Howeda is tweeting videos of the protests, sharing artist-designed graphics and championing the rebellion on her site. Collective for Black Iranians and his Twitter Fodder.
“What is being pushed to the fore is the story of hair in the wind. To me, it’s a reductive narrative,” Howeda says, referring to a popular social media post featuring hair on a flag flying in the wind to signal freedom from the mandatory hijab.
Instead, Howeda prefers to support the “lower-class” minorities who are running the demonstrations and demanding freedom from discrimination. “It’s about freedom from state-sponsored violence,” she says.
Kurds in Iran, who make up 10% of the population, cannot speak their language, explains Howeda. it is not taught in schools and they are Afraid to use his Kurdish name, Amini is also widely known as Mahsa instead of her Kurdish name Jina. The protesters, she says, are calling this discrimination, while also calling for an end to the compulsory hijab.
As the protests continue, the Iranian government has imposed internet blockades, arrests and tear gas shells at protesters. The US and the European Union have responded to threats of further sanctions.
However, Howeda, Dolatshahi and Katebi strongly oppose the restrictions.
“I think what we need to focus on is coming out of Iran. And the people of Iran, we don’t hear anyone calling for sanctions,” Dolatshahi says.
Howeda points to the chants on the ground: “I don’t want how it used to be, and I don’t want what I have now, no shah, no leader [supreme leader]“As a sign of what the people of Iran want, she says. She said the sanctions are politically motivated.
Sanctions encourage radicalization in Iran, says Katebi, strengthens the government, which can strengthen funding. The effect, all three agree, will financially harm those on the streets demanding government change.
Daulatshahi was also dismayed by the opportunity that Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi had to address world leaders at the United Nations only last week, even as protests rocked the country.
Raisey, whom he refers to as the “president of the dictatorship”, should not have been allowed to travel freely to America, “because people were being killed by his orders”, he said.
Instead, Dolatshahi urged foreign leaders to “listen to the people of Iran, to speak up, and they need to put pressure on the Iranian government and Iranian officials”. They need to be very careful not to influence those who are fighting the system.
He also called for the lifting of sanctions that have affected the people of Iran economically, calling them “violent and unnecessary like a dictatorship of extremists”.
“The basic purpose of sanctions”, Momeni says, “is to create a serious economic crisis in a country to turn the masses against the regime, and therefore to trigger a policy or even regime change. could.”
In the case of Iran, it continues, it has strengthened the Islamic republic and destroyed the middle class. “Even if we believe that sanctions played a role in regime change, they had devastating long-term effects. To name a few, it dissuaded Iranians from participating in [the] The global economy has caused a generational shock [and] Increase in gender violence,” she says. And it is this generational loss that is forcing the youth to take to the streets demanding change.
Momini urged the international community to recognize this and end sanctions to support the movement. She says she has received emails from individuals and organizations wanting to donate money to support the families of prisoners in Iran, but because of sanctions, “there is no way to send money to anyone.”
Joe Biden moved to ease sanctions on Internet communications in Iran to “support the free flow of information” and Ketebi thinks it was the right move.
She urges the US government to continue in this vein and “lift the sanctions that are holding onto the Iranian people, and are directed toward medicine, aid, as well as other very basic things that harm the Iranian people.” are reaching land including women, workers and ethnic minorities”.