One Question Quiz
A member of the Iranian community in Seoul cuts her hair outside the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Photo by Chris Jung/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A member of the Iranian community in Seoul cuts her hair outside the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Photo by Chris Jung/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

PoliticsSeptember 30, 2022

The hashtag #MahsaAmini and why it matters 

A member of the Iranian community in Seoul cuts her hair outside the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Photo by Chris Jung/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A member of the Iranian community in Seoul cuts her hair outside the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Photo by Chris Jung/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The story of Mahsa Amini concerns everyone, writes a New Zealand member of the Iranian diaspora.

It’s 10.15am and I’m late for my blood test. Reluctantly I decide to order an Uber, an unnecessary expense I could have avoided had I just got out of bed fifteen minutes earlier. But I’m not sleeping these days. I’m consumed with questions, frustration, rage, motivation, heartbreak and pride. My mind is on Iran. 

The Uber driver (Christopher) pulls up. I buckle up and after brief, requisite niceties I plunge head first into the question,

“Are you following what’s happening in Iran?”

As an Iranian-New Zealander, I hail from a family and civilisation that is no stranger to socio-historical turmoil. In fact, as is the case for millions of other Iranians,  this is the very catalyst that prompted my family’s exile and displacement in my early childhood. It’s also the reason why so many Iranians in Iran have been robbed of their liberty for four generations.

Iran protest in Aotea Square, Auckland (Photo: Negar Shirazi)

Upon Christopher’s request, I recap pertinent events of recent days. I explain that currently in Iran there is a nationwide protest that is ongoing and has since spiralled into a global outcry (for reference, the population of Iran is 80+ million, with the diaspora sitting at upwards of four million). Whether on the now bloody streets of Iran, in cities abroad or on virtual platforms, the Iranian community at large is up in arms, expressing revolt and disdain against its government aka the ‘Islamic Republic’. But what sparked this uprising?

Earlier this month, Mahsa (Zhina) Amini, a 22-year old Iranian citizen and Kurdish girl was tragically beaten to death by the state police of the Islamic Republic of Iran. During a brief trip to Tehran before starting her upcoming tertiary studies in microbiology, Mahsa was detained by Guidance Patrol, also known as the state’s “dress-code police” or “morality police” under the pretext of wearing ‘improper hijab’. While forcibly transported in a van to a detention centre (Vozara), she was violently beaten and eventually fell into a coma. Unbeknownst to her family, Mahsa was transferred to Tehran’s Kasra Hospital by the morality police, who claimed they found her unconscious in a street and had no idea who she was or what had happened to her. Two days later she was pronounced dead.

In the wake of Mahsa’s tragic death, hundreds of thousands of Iranians have and are taking to the streets to topple a totalitarian Islamic regime that has oppressed our people, separated our families and alienated us from the international community for over four decades.  

We are seeing an uprising of the Iranian people, spearheaded by courageous, inspiring, life-affirming Iranian women. Public figures including celebrities, filmmakers and footballers are openly criticising the government knowing that this may see the end of their careers and possibly their lives. Women are burning their hijabs and cutting off their hair to demonstrate protest, not only against mandatory veiling but everything it stands for: a repressive elite and its abuse of power; a surveillance government; a lack of freedom of speech and women’s rights; the source of extreme poverty; corruption; propaganda; laws existing under the guise of religion, including homophobic and misogynistic policies; ecological destruction, and the continuous regional and international crises to boot. 


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Though sadly not the first incident of its kind, the killing of Mahsa Amini was outrageous, deplorable and frankly barbaric and for the people of Iran, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Her death set off the eruption of underlying cultural and socio-economic tensions bubbling since 1979 when the Mullahs usurped the democratic revolution against the Shah. It has sparked the people of Iran to finish what they started at the cusp of pivotal change in 1979. This fearless and courageous fight for closure has been in the making for 43 years, or rather, a century if we factor in the constitutional revolution of 1905-1909. 

In this time, the Islamic state has committed countless horrific violations against the people of Iran; law enforcements ensure citizens are at best suppressed and at worst captured, tortured and killed on a daily basis, over fundamental things that we in the free world would deem normal and ordinary. You could argue that in the Islamic Republic of Iran, more things are illegal than legal, including but not limited to: alcohol consumption, partying, dancing, satellite TV, unisex swimming pools and gyms, having a dog, secularism or converting to another religion, a woman’s right to divorce or leave the country without her husband’s consent or sing or dance or step out in public without hijab and manteau, let alone wear a bathing suit. The list goes on. 

Today, the people of Iran are demonstrating that should the state yield to easing the laws on the hijab, this alone is not enough. They do not want to live in a dictatorship. They want to see the back of the Islamic Republic and everything it represents. Make no mistake, this is not a war against Islam, but a fight to divorce state from religion, a fight for liberty, dignity and social justice across the board. They are making it unequivocally clear that the Islamic Republic is not Iran, it is holding Iran hostage. 

However, the state’s response to the people’s resistance has been to crack down further. Currently on the streets of Iran, innocent people who are simply protesting for their human rights are being beaten, shot and killed by the police,  including a 22 year old girl who was shot to death with 6 bullets, homes are being raided, and the journalist who broke the story and released the first image of Mahsa Amini’s death is in police custody. Meanwhile the government has implemented a nation-wide internet blackout to obstruct global awareness surrounding this momentous uprising and the brutal, savage, oppressive human rights violations literally taking place at this very second. Those inside Iran cannot tell their story, and for Iranians outside Iran, who cannot reach our familes, posting and speaking on politically charged themes is not without risk of harassment, torture or death for loved ones inside Iran. 

If you are among those with the privilege of free speech, please speak out; in the same way you spoke out against the war on Ukraine. This is especially important considering Putin has been using the Islamic Republic as an ally and bargaining chip vis-a-vis the international community for many years, be it in the joint military support of the dictator of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, in the killing of hundreds of thousands of Syrians and forcing millions more into exile, or in the war on Ukraine and the drones supplied by the IRI to Russia. Helping the Iranian people in their struggle to establish a democratic system will automatically and by definition change the balance of forces and perhaps present the opportunity to address the Russia-Ukraine historical conflict via diplomatic solutions.

TL;DR the treatment of the Iranian people, along with the internet blackout that has ensued, is an atrocious breach of human rights, and to claim the A-Z of this abhorrent and unjustifiable death has triggered the collective deep-seated trauma for Iranians both inside Iran and in exile is an understatement. If you are reading this, I urge you to be the voice of a silenced people. The international community must not underestimate the impact of our engagement with this. Spread the word TODAY. Amplify their voices TODAY. It is critical that the global outcry over the death of Mahsa Amini maintains momentum and tangible measures follow to hold our leaders accountable in granting freedom for the Iranian people by condemning the Islamic Republic’s authoritarian regime. Enough is enough. 

One small action, be it sharing a social media post, attending a demonstration, signing a petition, having a conversation, or using a hashtag (#mahsaamini), can be instrumental in changing the trajectory of an entire nation. We the people have the power. It lies in our voices and in our numbers. We, especially women in New Zealand and all over the free world, must exercise our freedom of speech in any way we can; to raise our voices in solidarity with the people of Iran, and demonstrate we are consistent in our conviction and belief in freedom, democracy and fundamental human rights. 

Here are a few things you can do to help the Iranian people:

  • Share and repost footage of protests and relevant content to all social media platforms, using the hashtag #mahsaamini.
  • Sign the petition to engage the UN Human Rights Council to help tackle impunity for grave crimes in Iran.
  • Attend/organise local demonstrations/protests/rallies outside the Iranian embassy of your country or in your city.
  • Contact MFAT, urge them to an independent UN mechanism now to investigate and demand they speak out against the human rights violations in Iran and revoke the legitimacy granted to the authoritarian Islamic Republic of Iran.
  • Contact MPs like Golriz Ghahraman to give further visibility to the issue.
Keep going!