On Sept. 16, Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian, was pronounced dead while in the custody of the Iranian morality police. Following the announcement of her death, the women’s rights movement in Iran gained traction and swiftly spread across dozens of surrounding cities in Western Asia.
During her visit in Tehran, Iran, Amini was arrested and beaten after the capital’s authorities noticed a few strands of her hair were revealing from under her hijab. Amini’s death catalyzed a stream of protests across the streets of Iran where protesters were met with police brutality.
Ethnic and Women’s Studies Assistant Professor Shayda Kafai explained that the significance of this movement is not isolated in Iran alone but rather a global phenomenon. The conversation at hand is the feeling of impotence and the lack of freedom that women have over their own bodies.
“Patriarchy does not have place on a woman’s body,” said Kafai. “Sexism, governmental politics, religious politics do not have a place on a woman’s body and the goal should be freedom and autonomy.”
Beyond the senseless brutality towards women, there has been an effort to silence those who wish to speak up and seek help. For many, internet access and messaging has been limited however, several videos and photos of hijabs being burned and graphic images of the violence towards protestors have been leaked.
The New York Times reports that the ministry of intelligence threatened to punish those involved in the protests under Sharia law. The law governs daily life and religious rituals of the Muslims within the country.
According to Kafai the Iranian women’s rights movement is an eye-opener into the government policy in Iran, where religion dictates women’s treatment.
“It’s definitely an entity that’s meant to police normative rules, normative religious rules around normativity and modesty and what that’s supposed to mean for women,” said Kafai.
College of Education and Integrative Studies Professor Shahnaz Lotfipour expressed her concern for the younger population in Iran fighting the political and moral war against the regime.
“Thousands and thousands of people are on the streets because they don’t see any future for themselves in that country,” said Lotfipour.
According toLotfipour, the frustration that many feel stems not only from individuals risking their safety but also the lack of humanitarian support. Lotfipour said she wishes for the support of other countries to be provided not through moral support nor monetary aid for weaponry but through activism.
“University faculty and students are an elite group of people in any society. They need to get more involved in what’s happening in this country and all around the world,” said Lotfipour. “They should know more, they have more to say about this situation.”
According toTime magazine, protestors are being met with tear gas, bullets and beatings but have been relentlessly chanting “women, life, liberty” in their fight to make their voices heard.
“It’s a shame of humanity what is happening in Iran. It’s not even right,” said Lotfipour. “Nobody is supposed to die or be imprisoned for what they wear or how they show themselves.”
The women’s rights movement’s impact on the world is what Womxn’s Resource Center social justice leader Piper Bridgman describes as being a cause of the butterfly effect. She explained it to be the ability to recognize that one life affects another, and it is important to stay aware of what occurs outside of one’s personal world.
Women from all around the world have shown solidarity with Iranian women by cutting their hair off on TikTok, in photos and during the protests. Thousands of citizens walked through the streets of downtown Los Angeles on Oct. 1 in demonstration of their support for those in Iran.
Bridgman said there is a need of community and support during times like these, especially for those who feel more impacted than others.
“Our job (WRC) is to be there for our students to make sure that they have resources and to work with the communities on campus that speak for these groups that also provide their own resources,” Bridgman explained.
As these protests continue, the Iranian women fight for their right to simply exist. Kafai asks the campus community to be mindful of what happens when ideologies and systems of power are enacted on one’s body in tangible ways.
“I think very powerful things can happen when young folks dream about futures that are distinct from what they’re living in but also futures that they know they are deserving of,” said Kafai.