A young woman was killed. Her name is Mahsa Zhina Amini.
Her crime? Not covering her head fully with her hijab in Tehran. Not her whole head, but part of her head; just to reiterate, she had on a hijab but it simply covered part of her head. That was her crime and for that she had to lose her life.
We should all be outraged.
Today I saw a video of a group of schoolgirls yelling at an education official who visited their school in Iran, most not wearing a hijab, showing their outrage, he had to leave the premises in shame. On the one hand I was terrified for them, for the repercussions of such actions but on the other, my heart soared because this generation of young woman, at such a tender age, recognise the importance of the freedoms we tend to take for granted in the West, an iota of which is not afforded to them. These are the realities we hoped to shield them from, the monstrosities women have suffered and keep suffering, the gruesome truth they need not have faced for a while yet, but here they are, fighting. They raise their voices in remembrance of Mahsa.
And so we too must remember her.
Remember Mahsa because she was but a young woman, not even clearly into the first innings of her life that was cruelly cut short by a barbaric regime upholding a barbarous law.
Remember her because she was Kurdish and her Kurdish name Zhina was not allowed in Iran.
Remember her because a regime is actively trying to reduce women to not even being seen let alone be heard.
Clothes are simplistic yet deeply political way of communication and expression and recognition and judgement; too many things all at once. Clothes are how the world perceives us before even making our acquaintance. Clothes are a method of communication so powerful, so controversial, that a regime propped up by men would feel so threatened by thread and needle spawn into garment and therefore would seek to exert control over a woman’s desire to clothe herself however it pleases her.
Clothes are a matter of life and death for women in Iran and other regimes like it. The progressive societies of the West are not exempt from this either. Clothes determine how we chose to be seen and wanting to recede into the background for fear of being seen. They reveal us to be show ponies prancing about in our fineries or work horses; a cog in the wheel of propping up society through toil because that is where society would have us. Clothes are our safety and our cloak of armour. They are how society determines if we as women are, deserving of the abuse we receive at the hand of abusers, the provocateur of harassers, and therefore worthy or not of any sympathy. Our clothes will determine that level of sympathy.
Whose name the women of Iran continuously chant as they defy a theocratic regime that wants to minimise or diminish them all together. Women taking to the streets, day after day, night after night despite the certainty of death, indeed many have been killed by police during these protests, yet many more turn out to shout louder. Women burn their hijabs in defiance, cut their hair in annoyance, dance in public as they dare those who see them, really see them, to deny them the right of such simple pleasures.
Because just in case you think this is simply about clothes; it is not. Whilst women in Iran fight for the right to choose whether to wear a hijab or not, women in France are fighting for the right to wear one if they so choose.
It about freedom and the right not to be owned by anyone. Women in Iran have seen their freedom curtailed by this theocracy that masquerades as morality;
They cannot leave the country without their husband’s permission.
The age of marriage has been lowered from 18, to 13, to 9.
Single women cannot check into a hotel.
Wearing a hijab in public is mandated by law and breaking this law could see up to two months in prison, fines and caning and in some case, like Mahsa’s death.
Women exist solely through the prism of men, in the context men enshroud them and in the limitations men impose on them.
This fight is not about wearing a hijab, it is simply about the sovereign right of a woman to be, to choose, to live freely anywhere in the world, to exist in a world that is not constantly diminishing her. This is a fight for freedom. A fight, women have been fighting for centuries.
Remember Mahsa because to do otherwise would be to deny every woman the right to freedom. This is about a woman’s decision to choose to be seen at a time of her convenience, to make a decision for her own welfare, to have agency and to use it as she pleases.
Remember Mahsa a young woman, who, a few days shy of her twenty-second birthday was killed by a regime that sought to deny her identity even in death.
No woman should ever be subjected to that fate.
Remember Zhina. Always.