It has been over a month since Iranians began protesting on the streets of Iran against an oppressive regime. The trigger for the campaign, which is also being picked up in schools and universities, is the death of Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody in a hospital in Tehran.
he had been held for not being modest enough in her dress. What many people may not know is that Mahsa was a Kurdish Iranian whose real name, Jina/Zhina, was replaced with a Persian name. Losing one’s identity is one of the factors that drove people onto the streets.
The protests have spread to other countries on social media, mainly led by Iranians living in diaspora. Some of these people now also call Ireland home.
Iranians around the world are watching the unfolding events with concern. Many generations of them fled Iran. They left the country after the Iranian Revolution (Islamic Revolution) began in January 1978. Many understand and empathize with their struggle.
In this multifaceted story, the plight of the Kurds, despite their suffering, is often overlooked or ignored. For decades, her struggle for recognition in Iran and around the world and her campaign for basic human rights have largely stayed off the radar of the international community.
We saw the Kurdish genocide in Iraq and the brutal rape and murder of Kurdish women in Afghanistan and Turkey.
The death of Ms Amini sparked this current movement, but there have been previous uprisings, most recently in 2019 when the government also shut down internet connectivity to discourage Iranians from pointing out human rights abuses. This tactic worked. There are very few correspondents there, and accurate information is difficult to verify due to the lack of an internet connection.
Much Irish and international media reported on the death of Ms Amini and the ensuing protests in response to women’s rebellion against wearing the hijab and portrayed it as a women’s rights issue. But that simplifies a very complex issue. There is a deeper and historically significant element to what has happened on the streets of Iran over the past month. It also touches on the oppression of people and their human rights.
Western sanctions against Iran have pushed the economy into inflation at an estimated 60 percent.
The people of the country are innocent and not complicit in their government’s actions abroad. Yet it is they who bear the economic and social penalty while their leaders prosper. Further sanctions against Iran for current human rights abuses will only hurt its citizens even more.
In the West, the narrative is too simple. The situation is presented as “two-sided” where the protesters are engaged in an internal struggle with a government and leadership they have chosen, and therefore the West should stay out.
However, I would argue that this is a moment when the West should stand in solidarity with the Iranian people.
Flat symbolic gestures such as “cut your hair in solidarity with Iran” as seen on our social media feeds do not address the broader issues.
The roots of the problem go deeper and also touch on patriarchy, theocracy, Islamophobia and colonization by Western countries.
The European feminist lens of “giving women freedom” and “fighting patriarchy” doesn’t get the whole picture. There is not a single issue here like repealing the 8th Amendment movement.
To grapple with the complexities of the unfolding unrest, Western governments must question the politics of interference much more broadly.
A simple “white savior” analysis following an agenda to “liberate the poor oppressed women of Iran by abolishing the compulsory hijab” is inappropriate when also judging our sisters in Iran and elsewhere who advocate it choose to cover up their beliefs and protect their own agency.
Many people in Ireland posted photos of women in Iran wearing miniskirts in the 1960s and 1970s. They draw comparisons to today’s women in their black body coverings.
Her point is, “Look! They used to be like us! Let them be free!” But Iran was not free under the Shah’s rule. The secret police (Savak) have killed, imprisoned, silenced and forced into exile artists and journalists.
Many inside and outside Iran were happy to see the Shah’s departure.
Many Iranians, then as now, are secular and culturally Muslim in politics but do not practice. Many also want democratic government and the freedoms that many in the West take for granted. The anthem of the movement baraye (“For/Wegen”) expresses very well what they are protesting against. Written by Shervin Hajpour in September, the song has had over 40 million views on Instagram.
It asked: “Why are you protesting? … For my sister, for your sister, for our sisters?” Shervin removed the song from his Instagram page. He was arrested by security agents from the Islamic Republic of Iran.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/framing-the-protests-sparked-by-mahsa-aminis-death-as-a-womens-right-issue-is-simplifying-a-very-complex-situation-in-iran-42074126.html Presenting the protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini as a concern for women’s rights oversimplifies a very complex situation in Iran