Zhina (Mahsa) Amini
زن٫ زندگی٫ آزادی
If I try to describe how I feel, I can’t quite pin it down: outraged, helpless, beyond resentful…boiling with brutal thoughts of what I want to do to the savages who kidnapped my country and haven’t faced any punishment for the 40+ years of violent fascism. I see red when I walk down the street. I have violent thoughts. People are talking to me but I don’t hear them. I look around– how are people acting normal? Like nothing is going on? Where did all the feminists go? I want justice and for Americans to pay attention. I want people to care about Iranian women. Mahsa Amini was 22. Zhina was her Kurdish name Iran banned her to use. It means to live. They killed her. Murdered her. And that’s not fair.
But seeing the response and protests since have brought up new feelings. Smarter, more informed Iranians have described this much more eloquently than I ever could, because Iranians are poets at our core. Here is how it’s described by Hoda Katebi*:
“I’m proudly watching Iranian women lead protests in the face of intense and familiar police brutality with a simple but powerful slogan: “women, life, freedom.” (Originally started in Kurdish in Jina (Mahsa) Amini’s hometown - Jin Jîyan Azadî - which has been spread and translated into Farsi - زن٫ زندگی٫ آزادی)...Women wearing the hijab, not wearing it, or lighting it on fire atop a car in front of the “morality police” — are standing side by side against a state’s co-optation of religion and weaponization of hijab that harms us all, and instead demanding freedom and liberation on all fronts…is not simply a poetic or romantic phrase protestors are yelling, but is a tangible and specific set of demands: people want bread, work, and freedom. Specifically, that women’s rights are centered in the progress toward collective liberation, which encompasses more than just dress code, but an entirely new socioeconomic system.”
Criticizing the regime’s violence and the people’s frustrations with blatant human rights violations are nothing new for the Iranian diaspora; we live everyday of our lives knowing we don’t have a home we can recognize and the world doesn't know our true story and history. This has been the violent legacy of the Islamic republic since its birth in 1979. We have lost family and friends to executions in the name of religious fundamentalism and a sick, twisted, politicalization of faith that pins us against each other. The regime is not the revolution. The Iranian people have been, and always will be, the true revolutionaries. It runs in our blood. We will not be robbed of this by religious fascists again.
I’m writing this because I can’t focus on any work, my diet is all over the place, I sleep too much, then not enough…I check my phone every few minutes, refreshing the same social media pages sharing news and videos from the ground in Iran. Refreshing and refreshing, wanting to be as informed as I can from so far away. The more I see, the more I feel. I feel vengeful to take down anyone hurting my Iranian brothers and sisters. I feel inspired by the rage and true fearlessness of my women standing up to fascists. Iranian women are screaming “death to the dictators” as I type this, knowing the threats on their lives for their protest. I want to be there fighting by my people’s side and feel like such a coward just hiding behind my screen thousands of miles away from them.
I also keep refreshing my family’s Whatsapp chat. It’s so chilling to see the messages stop coming in, to hear nothing but silence. Messages getting sent, but not delivered. I try to send them resources on how to access the Internet, but are they even seeing it?
My heart goes out to everyone in Iran protesting and standing up for what’s right. We are witnessing a liberation movement led by Muslim and non-Muslim women, hand in hand, fighting for each other’s prosperity. Any other interpretation of the events going on right now (from both the right AND the left) further separates us and patronizes this movement. This is about state violence. This is about police brutality. This is about controlling women’s bodies. This is about liberation for women, ethnic minorities, and LGBTQIA folks from every corner of the world. SHARE THE VOICES OF IRANIAN WOMEN. OPPRESSORS WANT US TO BE SILENT.
Breathe and take a moment to be nuanced, thoughtful, and informed.
Say her name: Jhina Mahsa Amini.
*Update: Upon research, Hoda Ketabi is associated with NIAC, an organization that does NOT represent me as an Iranian American. I do not support Hoda or NIAC by any means and call for a dismemberment and investigation of the NIAC organization.