Iran’s Fight for Women’s Life


“Woman, life, freedom.” These are the affirmative words that have unified women in Iran to demand a voice. Mahsa Amini, a 22 year old detained by Iran’s so-called morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab improperly (defined by Oxford Dictionary as “a head covering worn in public by some Muslim women.”). The religious meaning behind a hijab is that it is to be used as a veil or barrier to protect Muslim women from the eyes and lust of the outside world. Although this encounter is relatively common and happens quite often, what struck the public was her sudden death two days later (September 16th). Police claimed she died because of a stroke and cardiac arrest, yet witnesses say differently. Several witnesses say she suffered multiple beatings in the head. This information was later validated when graphic photos of Amini in a hospital were shared online. Protests started no later than 3 days after the news.


Since the tragedy, women have gathered in more than 50 cities across Iran to protest the life that was lost. The young women show their solidarity by burning their headscarves, chanting “woman, life, freedom”, and holding speeches on the matter. Women and girls are also cutting their long hair as acts of defiance. “Women cutting their hair is an ancient Persian tradition also found in ‘The Shahnameh’” (Atashi, 2022). Actresses like Marion Cotillard and Juliette Binoche posted pictures of their cut hair in support of the brave women in Iran. “Respect to the brave, defiant, fearless women of Iran… All those who have survived and resisted for decades, those taking to the streets today, and Masha Amini and all young Iranians like her” (Jolie, 2022). 


As of September 24th, authorities have murdered as many as 36 people during protests. Examples like Sarina Esmailzadeh, a 16 year old who said she wanted her generation to live like young people in New York. Hadis Najafi, a 22 year old, recorded a video on her phone as she made her way to a protest. She hoped to look back on change, but was shortly shot to death. Nika Shakarami, a young art student was last heard of on September 20 when she quickly called her friend to say that security forces were chasing her down a street. More than a week later, her family was forced to retrieve her body from a detention center in Tehran. The government claimed she passed after falling from a rooftop.


As of now, the regime has failed to respond. The president, Ebrahim Raisi, expressed condolences and publicly admitted “weaknesses and shortcomings” in the Islamic Republic. However, he appealed for unity “to render our enemy hopeless”. Those in power have  gained control over the media, causing information to be extremely scarce and frequently outdated. Nonetheless, as a community, there are ways to show support, unity, and solidarity. 


According to Time Magazine, there are several ways to support the courageous Iranian women. Donating to the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), one can contribute to their engaging work with the local community. The CHRI focuses on researching human rights violations happening in Iran to ensure the cases are shared and reported. The organization offers accurate information and is also used to create policy briefings for government leaders. You may contribute here.


Other options include signing petitions in order to tackle the impunity in Iran. The petitions will ask for an independent United Nations mechanism that will hold Iranian officials accountable for their actions. A petition that urges leaders of democratic countries to act is Staying informed can be the best way to use political power. Supporting the Iranian women within Puerto Rico can help bring greater attention to the cause. Following social media accounts that support the cause can help stay up to date on news and upcoming events. The instagram account Middle East Matters’ has been strictly posting information on the protests, and where they have been held globally. If you cannot attend protests yourself spreading the message by sharing and sending information will help bring attention to the cause.