Kian Tajbakhsh in Public Seminar:
Zan, Zendegi, Azadi: Woman! Life! Freedom!
This is the stirring slogan of the protests that have erupted across Iran, triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year old Kurdish Iranian woman who was visiting Tehran with her family when Iran’s morality police detained her on September 16 for showing too much hair under her hijab (head scarf).
Led by predominantly young women and men in their late teens and twenties, the nonviolent protests are expressing a range of priorities. Beyond their frustrations at the indignities of being harassed and arrested for violating the Islamic dress code—not to speak of the danger of dying as Amini did—most are also expressing a desire to live under a different system of government. I believe we are witnessing something unprecedented in Iranian history: a feminist social movement. The renewed demand for accountable government and individual freedom—the liberal democratic ideal—has sprung up from the battle over the patriarchal control of women’s bodies and the paternalistic domination of public space.
Today’s feminist movement, women and men alike, is saying no: women will exist in public not as wards under the control of male guardians of religious law, but as equal citizens. They are demanding recognition of basic individual human dignity and liberty, such as modern individuals have come to expect.