"If we want to prevent our society from being plunged into corruption and turmoil,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, “we should keep women in hijab.”
We have heard such ridiculous statements over the years. In Iran, India and elsewhere. Women have once again dared to be out on the streets in defiance of everything that curtails their freedoms.
They have died, been injured and yet, they are protesting against the regime in Iran that makes the hijab mandatory. They have chopped their hair in a symbolic gesture and any such revolution led by women who have joined in from across the various strata of the society needs to be acknowledged and applauded and supported because we, as women, are still fighting to even exercise basic rights and to enjoy basic freedoms. There are stories of oppression of women everywhere. In India, women in Karnataka have fought to wear the hijab. What we choose to wear should be our decision and not dictated by the state or the custodians of religion. Not all revolutions succeed and that’s not the point of uprisings. The point is that we can and must fight against antiquated views. That is hope and hope is powerful. It sustains us. The Shaheen Bagh movement led by common Muslim women at first, and later joined in by others, are historic moments. The force with which they are subdued indicates the fear of the state when it comes to women. Jina Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody in Iran for simply not covering her hair enough and the ensuing protests led by women against the Islamic Republic in Iran also challenge assumptions in global politics and the western feminist discourse. They tell us that women are rejecting gender and religious violence and are demanding dignity and rights in the face of extreme violence and religious sanctions. These women are against any justification of authoritarian political system and that matters to all women across the world. ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ is not limited to Iran only. I read about a young woman called Hadis Najafi. The 23-year-old had made a video of herself walking in the protests and saying that she is joining the protests and in the future, if she sees that Iran has changed, she would be proud that she was a part of the demonstrations. She was shot and never made it back home from the protests. There are many like her.
This issue is for all the women who continue to fight for their rights over their own bodies and for equality across the world. It is a homage to those who died in Iran.
(This appeared in the print as "Zan, Zendegī, Āzādī": "Women, Life, Freedom")