On Sept. 16, 2022, Mahsa Amini, also known as Jina Amini, died under suspicious circumstances in Iran. She had been picked up by “morality police” for allegedly wearing her hijab incorrectly. She later died, and her body showed signs of brutality, according to various news outlets. Her death sparked protests and emboldened a movement.
The slogan that has emerged from the movement is “Women. Life. Freedom.” According to a Eurovision article, it can be traced to women in the Kurdish National Liberation Movement in Turkey and specifically the writings of Abdullah Öcalan. He wrote “the first form of oppression that must be tackled is the oppression of women, since it leads to all other hierarchies.”
There is so much diversity in what it means to be a “woman.” We can engage in all sorts of discussions of intersectionality with race or ethnicity, sex versus gender, binaries and understanding of relative op- pression, but that discussion takes place when there is a baseline level of freedom and safety.
Around the world, we see various regimes make no distinctions based on intersectionality. To be a girl or a woman — or just not male — means you are subjected to incredible restrictions and violent enforcement of those restrictions.
Globally, one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Globally, there are gross pay inequalities based on gender. More than 90 million women live in countries that ban abortion, and so many have significant barriers to contraception, due in no small part to U.S. foreign aid policies that ban the discussion of abortion and require promotion of the “ABCs” — abstinence, be faithful, use a condom — despite clear data of its ineffectiveness.
So many countries deny basic rights to exist in the public sphere or obtain an education to women. Sometimes the inequity feels intractable.
And yet, the streets are filled with people of all genders, protesting. Within the first week, approximately 1,200 people were arrested and more than 75 people were killed. Yet, the protests continued. By Nov. 29, at least 459 protesters had been killed, including 64 minors. There have been at least four men who have been formally executed: Majidreza Rahnavard, Mohammad Mehdi Karami, Mohsen Shekari and Seyed Mohammad Hosseini. Yet the protests continue.
These protestors are engaged in the most amazing acts of courage, largely led by women and a relatively simple act of defiance — removing their headscarves. It’s an incredible act of bravery in the face of the very real consequences of potential brutality and death.
To be willing to risk your life for Women, Life, Freedom is inspiring. These protests, these incredible acts of courage, demonstrate that people will fight against tyranny. People will never stop believing in and fighting for freedom.
Read more of the Jan. 18-24, 2023 issue.