The roar of Iranian women: An Iranian refugee's account of oppression and protest

Throughout my short life, I have seen women begging for their lives and freedom. Freedom is something that a lot of women around the world are still fighting for. My family, my parents and my grandparents have all lived through this. 

Before the death of our last King, Iran seemed like a proud country that heavily practised women's rights and freedom. Women had freedom of speech and the right to live their lives the way they pleased. After the death of our King, Iran was handed to Mullahs - otherwise known as religious leaders. Mullahs completely destroyed the country, despite obligations that the leaders had with the international community and United Nations on how to run Iran peacefully.

Since Mullahs took over the country, multiple people who have chosen to speak out about the treatment of citizens have been quietly murdered. Journalists, children, teenagers and pregnant women have all been on the receiving end of violence and death, all due to the fact that they spoke up for themselves and the state of their homeland. 

Khomeini had feared that one day women would take over his rule and gain the power to speak out and be heard about the predicaments they have been faced with, and the violence that they have endured at the hands of the Iranian government in the last few decades. This all started when Khomeini arrived in Tehran, the capital of Iran, in February 1979. Since this time, the rules and laws put in place have become even more restricted in spite of the obligations enforced with the United Nations and under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Recent protests have led Iranians with pain and sadness - as has been the case when other protests have previously taken place. For example, on the 15th of November 2019, a peaceful protest led to the death of 7,500 innocent civilians. The protest that took place was a fight for freedom, women's rights, economic issues and brutality caused by “morality police.” After this took place, many people went quiet and stopped fighting in fear of losing their loved ones and their own lives, all due to the regime taking place filled with violence and abuse.

On the 16th of September 2022, Mahsa Amini was taken away by the “morality police” under the guise of being educated about her hijab and the correct way that a woman should dress, however this innocent woman never came back to her family. Mahsa died after being in a coma as a result of how badly she had been beaten. 

After her death, protesters quickly took to the streets all over the world to seek justice for her death, as well as the basic rights that all women should have regardless of age, race, education level or socio economic background. Law enforcement, public security police, intelligence and morality police have been beating and killing people to silence them about Mahsa Amini’s death and the treatment of women and girls across Iran. 

Hadis Najafi was brutally beaten and suffered traumatic injuries to her face and head. Not only was she beaten horrifically, it has been alleged that she was also sexually assulted by public security police.

Nika Shakermi was another young victim, she had been missing for 9 days. Her body was returned to her family after she had been beaten and raped by revolutionary guards. After returning her body, guards had asked her family to silently get over her death.

25 year old Shervin was arrested for releasing a song named Baraye that was dedicated to Mahsa Amini. This song is about the dreams that women in Iran have to be free. 

The freedom to dance in the street. 

The fear of kissing loved ones.

The fear we hold for my sister, our sisters and your sisters. 

For women, for life and for freedom. 

As a young Iranian female refugee, I feel remorse and saddened by what women in my country are struggling with everyday of their lives. As a child, between the ages of 7 to 10 living in Tehran, I was told to cover myself while going to school or leaving my home to go anywhere. 

I listened to what I was told and lived in fear. Everyday before stepping out in public, my family and friends would warn each other: “Be careful they will kill you, don’t go into morality vans you might get raped, they might come after your family and you will all be in danger.” Growing up with this fear instilled in me, I always questioned if this was just the way of life for a woman and whether this was normal. I never knew that this was not the way that women around the world lived their everyday lives. 

The flag of Iran has a lot of history behind it. The “Sun and Lion” clearly shows that we are all strong people. We can all help. We are each other's voice. We are women and we hold the power to be the strongest in the world if we all stand by each other side by side supporting one another. If we stand side by side, like the Sun and Lion of our country's flag, we would be strong enough to shine like the sun and roar like a lion to seek justice for the inhumanity and injustice that our people are going through. 

Spread the word. Stand for our rights.

By Khatereh