By Nasrin Parvaz
Women, life, freedom. These words have become the rallying cry for protest that has erupted in the wake of the murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iran’s feared morality police. They are shaking the Iranian regime to its core.
Unlike past movements, this uprising cuts across generations and social classes. For young Iranian women, Amini’s death ignited an explosion of pent-up fury at the regime’s suppression of women’s rights. For older activists like me, it has reopened the scars from previous uprisings and breathed new life into the decades-long struggle for freedom.
Demonstrations began in Tehran on 16 September soon after news of Mahsa’s killing broke. Within hours, women appeared in the streets, burning their hijabs and calling for justice. Within days, the protests spread. In towns and cities across Iran, schoolchildren have abandoned their classrooms to join the masses thronging the junctions and blocking streets.
The regime’s violent response has been brutal. Killings of protesters began immediately and hundreds have already lost their lives. Last Friday in the south-east city of Zahedan, as many as 91 people were killed when state forces opened fire, including five children. Doctors certified that they had been shot from behind. Despite the regime shutting down the internet across the country, videos of police violence continue to leak out, further fuelling public rage.
Universities that have acted as staging posts for protests are now under attack from regime forces. Last Sunday, police fired on peaceful protesters at Tehran’s Sharif University of Technology and at least 40 students were blindfolded and taken away in vans. Like so many parents in Iran, their families have no idea where they are. After 16-year-old Nika Shahkarami’s battered body was returned to her family by police after she disappeared at a protest, many fear the worst.
The roots of this uprising that Iranians are already calling a revolution can be found in a collective anger that has been suppressed for half a century. I became politically active soon after the Islamic regime took power and introduced its sexual apartheid laws. In 1982, I was arrested and taken to Joint Committee Interrogation Centre where I was tortured.