Letter to the Editor: The unrest in Iran

Photo courtesy of Blake Israel

It has been one month since the nationwide protests in Iran were sparked by the brutal death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman. 

Mahsa was arrested by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s (IRI) Morality Police for partially exposing her hair while wearing a hijab, which is considered a violation of the IRI’s mandatory hijab law.While in custody, she was severely beaten and eventually died from brain trauma. In the wake of Mahsa’s tragic death, civil unrest has grown throughout most of the country to a scale comparable to the1979 Islamic Revolution. 

Thousands of protesters across the country have taken to the streets to demand justice for Mahsa Amini and an end to the brutal regime that is the Islamic Republic.  

The initial demonstrations were led by brave Iranian women and girls who filled the streets chanting “Zan, Zendegi, Azadi” (Farsi for “Women, Life, Freedom), while taking off their hijabs and burning them in solidarity. 

Today, this movement has united people across different socioeconomic, religious, ethnic, generational and geographic backgrounds. People across the country, especially Generation Z, have joined in protest of gender, religious and ethnic apartheid, government corruption, economic and environmental crisis and a corrupt theocracy.  

The IRI’s security forces have responded by suppressing the protestors with violence and intimidation, which has led to thousands of innocent people being tortured, injured and detained at the infamous Evin Prison. 

The government is also suppressing and secretly killing dissidents by controlling the media and social networks, which is a violation of basic human rights.  Of the thousands of innocent victims, two 16-year-old girls, Nika Shakarami and Sarina Esmaeilzadeh, were fatally beaten by security forces while protesting. Their deaths further ignited the protestors while giving the movement new symbols.

University students and faculty across Iran have also joined the protests despite being shot at and detained by security forces. 

The brutality and violence against schoolgirls, university students and women continues to this day with no signs of remorse by the Islamic Republic.   

These recent uprisings have inspired iconic Iranian figures to raise their voices and express their solidarity in protest, both in Iran and around the world. 

Human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and human rights activist Narges Mohammadi were both tortured and imprisoned for years. These activists, and many more, have certainly been influential to the women’s movements in Iran.    

The struggle for women’s rights and freedom has been ongoing for over a century in Iran. 

In addition to enforced hijab laws, IRI laws discriminate against women when it comes to marriage, divorce and child custody, inheritance, citizenship status and even their right to travel abroad. Women are jailed for singing, dancing and sometimes for wearing too much makeup. The attitude toward women’s rights has become more suppressive and violent since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.  

Since the rise of the Islamic Republic, their oppressive policies have impacted not just human rights but also economic and environmental rights. By arresting environmental activists, the Islamic regime has tried to hide environmental disasters such as the drying up and mismanagement of natural water resources, which affected more than half of Iran’s population and caused forced migration of many people throughout Iran.  

The IRI has paralyzed every attempt led by the Iranian people protesting the regime. 

In 1999, Iranians protested for freedom of the press. In 2009, Iranians protested election fraud and corruption. In 2017, Iranians protested the government’s economic policies. In 2019, Iranians protested hiked gas prices. In 2022, Iranians are protesting [for] women’s rights, human rights and democracy. All of these protests have resulted in the death and detainment of tens of thousands of Iranians.  

Systematic oppression, abuse and violation of human rights is not limited to the women of Iran. 

Since the Taliban re-takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, Afghan women find themselves once again oppressed and imprisoned. After decades of progress toward gender equality, Afghan women are restricted from attending school, working and traveling alone. 

Western countries are also experiencing a rise in gender inequality and discrimination. This year, Roe v. Wade was overturned, leaving American women to fight for bodily autonomy.

Less than 60 years after this century’s biggest feminist movement, women all over the world are still working to dismantle systems of oppression. Now is a crucial time to stand in solidarity with the Iranian community, by listening to their stories, and sharing the plight of the people in Iran who are using their voices and risking their lives to fight against the brutal dictatorship of the Islamic Republic. Listed below are a few ways to support the people of Iran:   

Contact your state senators and representatives. Ask them to hold the Islamic Republic accountable for the killing, torturing and imprisonment of thousands of innocent lives.   Tell the United Nations to remove the Islamic Republic from the UN Women’s Rights Commission.   

After all, as Saadi Shirazi said, “Human beings are members of a whole, in the creation of one essence and soul. If one member is afflicted with pain, other members uneasy will remain.” 

#MahsaAmini #Iranianwomen #WomenLifeFreedom 


Anonymous Iranians at Georgia Tech