No one can predict how a revolution starts. Nor can anyone know when one injustice will be what causes a people’s fury to overcome their fear. In 2011, in Tunisia, a street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, sparked an uprising by setting himself on fire. In 2022, in Iran, the death in police custody of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, has brought Iranians onto the streets in every corner of the country.
Amini and her brother had traveled from Saqqez, a city in Iran’s Kurdistan Province, to visit relatives in the capital, Tehran, when, on September 13, the so-called morality police arrested her for improperly wearing her hijab, or headscarf. Three days later, she was declared dead. The authorities claim she died of cardiac arrest. According to a U.K.-based independent Iranian news site, the CT scans of her skull showed signs of fractures.
Each time I see the images of her lying in a coma in a hospital bed, I cannot help thinking that I could have been Mahsa Amini. I was a girl in Iran in 1981, when a law making the hijab a mandatory dress code for women first came into force, two years after the Islamic Revolution. And I was a teenager when the morality police began making the rounds, stopping and arresting people on a whim, sometimes on no more pretext than a few strands of hair peeking out from under one’s scarf.
One August day in 1984, thickly wrapped under my Islamic uniform and headscarf when the temperature was intolerably high and the water fountains in Tehran had been shut off in observance of Ramadan, I began thinking that I would not mind dying if those who had made our lives so miserable were to die along with me. I left Iran later that year, but today I feel what so many Iranian women feel: We are all Mahsa Amini. [Continue reading…]
Previous protests — over fraudulent elections in 2009, economic mismanagement in 2017 and fuel price hikes in 2019 — have been ruthlessly suppressed by Iran’s security forces, and this time may be no different. Yet, for the first time since the founding of the Iranian Republic, the current uprising has united rich Iranians descending from high-rise apartments in northern Tehran with struggling bazaar vendors in its working-class south, and Kurds, Turks and other ethnic minorities with members of the Fars majority.
The sheer diversity of the protesters reflects the breadth of Iranians’ grievances, analysts say, from a sickly economy and in-your-face corruption, to political repression and social restrictions — frustrations Iran’s government has repeatedly tried, and failed, to quash.
“The anger isn’t over just Mahsa’s death, but that she should have never been arrested in the first place,” said Shadi Sadr, a prominent human rights lawyer who has campaigned for Iranian women’s rights for two decades.
“Because they have nothing to lose,” she added, “they are standing up and saying, ‘Enough of this. I am willing to die to have a life worth living.’” [Continue reading…]