On 16th September 2022, Mahsa Amini was found dead in a Tehran jail cell. The Iranian government claim she died of natural causes, despite other protesters having seen her being brutalised by ‘morality police’ for not wearing her headscarf tight enough.
Sara Haghdootsi, the Iranian-American director of Win Without War wrote in an article for Ink Stick:
“Over the last few weeks, the entire globe has witnessed a glimpse of what I’ve known my whole life: Women in Iran are not to be messed with. Chants of “Zan, Zendegi, Azadi” — “Women, Life, Freedom” — are reverberating through the streets.
Feminism in Iran has been present throughout its history but continuously ignored or silenced. We have to call out this erasure. And it is essential to point out that this erasure wasn’t accidental.It was inspired by destructive, foreign colonial thinking and domestic patriarchy, neither of which are unique to Iran. I think back to the work of the scholar Leila Ahmed, who tells us of Lord Cromer, a British consul general in Egypt in the late 1800s who loudly condemned the veil and Islam’s treatment of women while also being a leader of the men’s league for opposing women’s suffrage."
"Cromer’s duplicitous move to cast himself as the voice for “voiceless” women is a dynamic that endures today and one that many of us know too well. Portraying women in Iran and around the world as “powerless” and in need of “saving” allows for an insidious “us” and “them-ing”: the “us” being those civilized in the west and the “them” being the savage brown men cast as animals and brown women who can either do nothing or know
It’s a narrative that hurts everyone. And racism only adds to the burden
for feminists in countries subject to colonial attitudes and violent toxic masculinity. It gaslights women into thinking that the violence they experience on a day-to-day basis is somehow utterly different. In reality, patriarchal violence is always about control, the world over.
When we look at the photos and videos of Iran, with women standing on top of cars, burning hijabs, and staring down armed police, one thing is clear: They aren’t damsels that need saving. Instead, they’re heroes who need solidarity. They need us to listen instead of talk over them. Their chants have made it clear that their demands go beyond the injustice of compulsory hijab to a deeper rage at the oppression they face daily at the hands of the Iranian government."