Mahsa Amini, like so many young women, had dreams. She wanted to finish her university education and get married. Instead she was killed at the age of 22.
Nearly two months ago, her death sparked protests and outrage all across Iran and the globe. Yet, as with many crises cross-globally, Western attention has dwindled. As an Iranian American myself, I’d like to refocus our attention on what is still happening.
To recap, she was brutally beaten by the “morality police” of Iran and taken to a hospital where she fell into a coma and died three days after the assault. Citing her autopsy as proof, the government claimed that she already had an underlying illness that caused her death. Her family says she had no medical conditions and was healthy.
Since the start of the protests, the Iranian government has cut internet access and attempted to cover up each of the murders they’ve caused. Some videos have been shared to Western media. One, for example, shows Nika Shakarami, aged 16, singing in the middle of a protest. A second one of Shakarami showed her waving a burning hijab in the middle of the street.
From the videos, it’s clear she was a radiant young person, only wanting the freedom to express herself. Her voice was beautiful and reminds me of my cousin singing “My Fair Lady.” A few hours after the video was taken, she was murdered and raped by Iranian police like so many women had been before her, and will be after her.
My heart aches to think of what her future might have been.
She was missing for 8 days before being buried on her 17th birthday. At a recent protest in New York City, protesters reenacted her funeral, chanting, “Today was your birthday, my dear, but I say happy martyrdom, Nika.” No child should ever have to become a martyr.
According to my dad, this is the first time protests this large have occurred in support of women in Iran. Recent videos show thousands of people lined across highways and bridges, shouting their demands for better treatment. Even while our media has appeared to turn away, protests are still happening in major cities across the world.
Journalist Mona Eltahawy asked the question of these protests, “If women are volcanoes, as Ursula K. Le Guin once said, what happens when girls erupt?”
Eltahawy answers that the patriarchy is fucked. I would like to think so too. When a government is so determined to hide that they are murdering and raping the women and girls who dare tell them no, it’s all the more important that we erupt with them.
These protests, I think, embody the cause of feminism as a whole, and show exactly why it must be intersectional. Western media does a poor job at covering paramount moments like these when they’re in a non-white country. Every day I see notifications about new articles on Ukraine, while it took almost a month for NBC to publish an article on the protests in Iran. That article was about the coroner claiming Mahsa Amini didn’t die from being brutally assaulted.
Of course, what is happening in Ukraine is absolutely devastating. I just wish that our media held as much care for the crises of people that look like I do. Where is the coverage on Afghanistan? On Yemen? On Palestine?
Is that our role, as the United States? Drop a bomb and forget?
As an American woman and an Iranian woman, I urge us all to take care in what our newsfeeds don’t. Our fights are so intertwined, it’s urgent that we broaden our feminist lens to include a racial and international one.
As women in the United States want the right to choose, so too do the women of Iran. As women in the United States are individuals, so too are the women of Iran. So too are Muslim women in France. So too are transgender women. So too are Black women. Women deserve to be recognized and treated as individuals.
Every girl and woman we’ve seen die in the news was someone. Not just a wife, a mother, a daughter. But someone. We have to neglect the rhetoric that she belongs to others. She is a whole human being, apart from her role in someone else’s life. In her life, she was someone with thoughts and dreams and hopes.
Iranian women can be extraordinary when given the chance: Maryam Mirzakhani was a groundbreaking mathematician; Tahereh Mafi is a bestselling author; Christiane Amanpour is a world-renowned journalist. Iranian women have so much to give, but we must first give them the right to breathe, to live, to exist. Marginalized women shouldn’t have to be extraordinary to deserve our attention. Think of us not by our potential for giving to you, but by the notion that we are like you.
Hundreds of thousands of people are fighting for their rights and for their lives in Iran. They are livid and grieving. We must be livid and grieve with them. I see the protests still happening in our own country, for our women and Iran’s, and I hope so much that this continues.
A good place to start, for those of us who use Instagram, is the page Middle East Matters (MEM). They are an organization dedicated to posting unfiltered coverage of what’s been happening in Iran and other countries. Regarding Iran, they have posted updates, protest locations for us in the Western world and petition links.
Women are erupting. It’s scary. But volcanoes, after all, create new islands. So, to the women everywhere, I say, may the lava of your rage smooth over the unforgiving patriarchy and resculpt our cities and our countries into the lushest earth.