When I heard that a young Iranian woman, 22 year old Mahsa Amini, had died in police custody after allegedly being beaten so badly she suffered a fatal head injury, my British-Iranian blood ran cold.
Mahsa had been detained for an alleged hijab violation.
The undemocratic election of Iran’s Islamic government and the forcing of compulsory hijabs onto women – plus the human rights violations and sexist oppression – that has ruled over the Iranian people, and especially its women, has lasted for over 40 painful long years.
This death of an innocent woman has rightly sparked mass nationwide protests in the country.
The women of Iran are so rightly filled with decades of rage, despair and the desire to finally have their free will and freedom reinstated that they have taken to burning their hijabs in public and even cutting off their hair in protest.
Videos of these protests are slipping through to the rest of the world and it is both terrifying and sad to watch.
The fact women who want the right to show their hair in public are snipping it off in protest is tragic.
As a British Iranian who has visited Iran countless times throughout my life, as a child, a teenager, a young woman, a grown adult… I cannot begin to tell you how courageous these women truly are.
I have walked those Tehran streets in my mandatory hijab and loose fitting specially-bought clothing and seen the so called ‘morality police’ eyeing me head to toe for any breach.
No nail polish. No make-up. No wisp of hair out. No coat or cover-up too tight. No ankles! No collarbones!
Every time I walked past the huddle of officers – because they were never alone, preying instead on women in numbers like a pack of wolves – I held my breath and kept my eyes down, praying they wouldn’t find some reason to arrest me.
I saw with my own eyes women being violently shoved into the officers’ vehicles and witnessed the look of utter fear on their faces as they were driven away.
An absolute loss of human rights could befall me any time I set foot in Iran to simply spend time with my family.
During the 1979 Revolution that ushered in Islamic rule in Iran, my uncle was executed by midnight gunfire after being denied access to a lawyer, his family or a trial.
He was murdered by the same government that now has ‘morality police’ prowling streets looking for women like Mahsa to hassle and arrest.
Those officials killed my uncle with a bullet between the eyes and dumped his body in an unmarked mass grave that is now used as a rubbish tip – and remains guarded 24/7 by police guards – simply because he gave food and shelter to people who lost every worldly possession overnight during the Revolution.
My grandmother went to her grave not ever being able to visit her youngest son’s.
The echoes of my uncle’s execution ring through my mind because that’s what the homeland of my parents has become since the Revolution: a place of human rights breaches, oppression, sexism, misogyny and daily fear on a scale people in the West cannot even begin to comprehend.
That is why I am writing this article anonymously. Even though I pen it with pride, my fear for my family who remain in Iran remains.
And that’s why reading how Mahsa was treated gives me chills.
Now, a nation of women mourn Mahsa and fight for their own freedoms whilst facing barbaric treatment from their fellow countrymen who continue to support these crimes against humanity.
I am filled with admiration for those unbelievably brave women risking their freedom and life on the streets whilst trying to end this heinous oppression.
I wouldn’t have the guts.
But what makes me so sad is that I know no matter what they do, their lives will not change for the better until the rest of the civilised world lends overt vocal, political and financial support to these women.
The fact that as these protests take place, president Ebrahim Raisi was still given a seat at the UN blows my mind. Why is the world giving this man a platform?
He had the gall to ask Christiane Amanpour to wear a headscarf. When she rightly refused, he cancelled the interview. His actions clearly endorse those of his ‘morality police’.
Unless the world speaks out and lends its support to the Iranian people in useful ways; unless we stop giving Iranian government officials any platform, support or help and until we instead start giving greater refuge, air time and tangible support to the women and men fighting the oppression in Iran, they will never break free – despite their rage, determination and numbers.
Instead, young people like my beautiful, talented, smart and driven female Iranian cousins will continue to see their talents wasted, their lives oppressed and bodies regulated till their dying breaths.
Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing Ross.Mccafferty@metro.co.uk.
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