Woman, Life, Freedom: One Year Since the Death of Jhina Mahsa Amini and the Eruption of the Iranian Revolution

Photo by Craig Melville on Unsplash

On September 16, 2022, Iranian security forces brutally killed Jhina Mahsa Amini for allegedly wearing her state-mandated hijab improperly on her head in the capital city of Tehran. Importantly, Amini was Kurdish Iranian, an ethnic minority that has been frequently targeted for repression by the regime.

Over the last year, the world has watched in awe as young people, largely led by women, have taken to the streets in a highly repressive, authoritarian theocracy, demanding widespread and fundamental changes, in many cases total regime change, frequently chanting three words: woman, life, freedom.

The women and young people of Iran have shown the world that they desire to be free, to live normal lives, and to participate in the world instead of being isolated under an autocracy.

In response to this dream of freedom, the regime has responded brutally. The regime has shot live ammo, metal pellets, buckshot, and other projectiles indiscriminately into crowds, killing at least hundreds (but assumed to be much more) and maiming thousands. They have allegedly poisoned thousands of young school girls across the country, releasing an unidentified gas upon little girls that made them sick as a means of instilling fear upon the people. They have used sexual violence systematically to torture political prisoners of all genders.

The fascist Iranian regime has also arrested and imprisoned over 20,000 political prisoners since the uprisings began a year ago, with many facing the death penalty. Already, we have seen the regime execute by hanging at least seven innocent men—Mohsen Shekari, Majid Reza Rahnavard, Mohammad Mehdi Karami, Seyyed Mohammad “Kian” Hosseini, Majid Kazemi, Saeed Yaqoubi Kordafli, Saleh Mirhashemi Baltaghi—on fabricated charges (including moharebeh, a vague legal term meaning “waging war against God”) supported by confessions derived from extreme torture.

Among the people the regime unjustly and illegally holds hostage today are: Elaheh Mohammadi and Niloofar Hamedi, two journalists who broke the story of Amini’s murder; Safa Aeli, Amini’s uncle; Toomaj Salehi, rapper and activist whose music about love and freedom made him the voice of the marginalized in Iran; Mashallah Karami, the father of Mohammad Mehdi Karami whom the regime executed earlier this year; Farideh Moradkhani, a niece of Iran’s dictator Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has called for regime change; Mehdi Yarrahi, a singer who released a pro-woman song leading up to the one-year anniversary; Hanieh Tavassoli, a famous actress arrested for posting on Instagram that Jhina Amini is a “legend”.

Iran is one of the greatest perpetrators of religious fascism in the world, brutally repressing anyone who doesn’t closely abide by a highly politicized and strictly fundamentalist interpretation of Sharia. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recently released an eye-opening report detailing the way that religious minorities within the country are systematically violently oppressed—including Baha’is, Christians, nontheists, and Jewish people.

Despite direct threats from the regime about any gatherings and the example the regime already made of innocent protesters, on the one-year anniversary of the murder of Jhina Mahsa Amini, people from Tehran to Kermanshah to Zahedan to Tabriz to Isfahan, and more, gathered, protested, mourned, and organized for a free Iran, with hundreds of known arrests across the country. It is clear that despite the inhumanity of the regime, the Iranian revolution is still in full swing, evolving and adapting until the right conditions emerge to make freedom possible.

As progressive humanists, our fight for a pluralistic democracy and secular government is one with the Iranian people’s fight. The theocratic government of Iran has shown us the consequences of religion and state becoming one for over four decades. It’s crystal clear that the movement for a humanist society is global, as is the fight for woman, life, and freedom.