What’s been going on in Iran over the past six weeks has been both heartbreaking and inspiring to watch, and so we felt compelled to learn more about the situation and help broadcast the reality of the current uprising.
We made contact with a woman in Tehran who was kind enough to share some voice notes with us over Telegram explaining the socio-political context of this feminist revolution, what it’s like to live under the dictatorship, and how they are navigating these protests with such heavy internet restrictions. Below we share transcriptions of some of these voice notes. Her identity is hidden for the benefit of her safety.
“I’m a citizen of Tehran. And as much as fear lets me, I try to do anything I can to help with these protests… We can say it started with the death of Mahsa Amini — or for a better word, murder. She was arrested by the Morality Police and they beat her and she went into a coma and was pronounced brain dead. It enraged everyone in Iran. Maybe in the world. People were mad. People were furious. It sparked a protest. I remember that night people were out in the streets in front of the hospital protesting and didn’t know if she was alive or not. But that was the starting point, and it’s growing and affecting many groups of people. It was I think the tipping point of society in Iran collapsing — that people felt like, ‘Okay, this cannot happen… This is where we should stand’. I think it wouldn’t be fair to call it anything other than a Feminist Revolution.”
“The Morality Police are these soldiers of the Islamic republic all over the city with these vans in popular crowded places where they basically kidnap people — basically just women — based on how they’re dressed. And personally, I think it’s not just about dressing because we’ve seen people dressing modestly arrested by the Morality Police and then people who wore “revealing clothes” and the Morality Police didn’t have anything to do with them. So in my opinion it’s more about creating a power dynamic between the authority of the Islamic Republic, and the people. Their whole purpose is to induce fear into the everyday lives of women.”
“You could call it a gender apartheid right now because everything is separated. Different schools, different parts of the bus from men, different backends of the subway, one for men, one for women. We cannot go to stadiums to watch football or any kind of sports. I cannot travel without the permission of my father, or if I’m married, the permission of my husband. A women always has this male person who dominates her or has ownership over her. It’s no question that women are being oppressed here.”
“The main challenge I think is communicating. It’s, I think, just as described in dystopian novels. George Orwell’s 1984 or something. We can relate to it. Every time you step foot outside you can see an IR agent as Police, a guard, or even plain colour. The internet is heavily filtered and censored and all the Iranian apps and websites are forced to share the information of their users with the government. If you text your friends saying let’s meet for a coffee, you could expect the government to know where you’re going. We know that we are being tracked on every step that we take, so the only place left for us is for example Twitter or Telegram, and we have to use VPNs to access them. And even IR agents have malware disguised as free VPNs that people use but they actually let the government access your data.
“In the early days of the protests I saw a tweet that was really inspiring to me that said ‘If they cut it out altogether [internet], you know what to do’. People know that they have to get out and protest. There isn’t a designated square, everywhere is crowded as everyone is protesting… I saw another tweet that said ‘Wherever you are, just come forward. Come a step forward’. I find all these so inspiring — we don’t need anyone to tell us where to gather, where to protest, people just go out. And in my experience, as I have been to these protests, just everything seems normal, everyone is doing their job. And then suddenly, someone screams out a slogan or something and people join them, people are ready to join, like anywhere, anytime. I saw shopkeepers coming out of their shops and joining the protest. This is very strong. It's very inspiring. It gives us hope.”
“In the night, people go out in the streets and fight. Face to face, with their bodies. People go out on the rooftops and chant slogans saying ‘Death to the dictator’. [People] don’t need one huge poster saying let's go out on this date to this square to protest, it’s more decentralized. It’s diverse and local. And it distracts the guards and the police forces, and I think it’s more effective.”
“I remember the last kind of huge protest in Iran there was a leader who would tell people what to do and the government arrested the guy and he is still as we speak in house arrest. And so people saw that as a flaw in the revolution. That’s the approach of the government — they arrest the leader and expect it to end. The Police are looking for a face, and I know this is the approach because a lot of my friends have been arrested and questioned by these police forces and the government asks them ‘Who’s your leader?’ and they say ‘No one tells me what to do, I just decide that I want my rights and I’m going to protest for it’.”
“The exact day that the mandatory hijab was passed as a law , women protested against it. But there hasn’t been a protest going on this long. All of the protests since finished in a week or even a couple of days. None of them went over a month. And now it’s been, I think, forty-six days.”
“Many people believe that the hijab is the Achilles heel of the Islamic Republic. The Berlin Wall of Iran. And if we protest the hijab then we’re protesting a lot of laws currently being executed in Iran. There have been conversations about the idea that if tomorrow, hypothetically, the government announced that there would be no more morality police and the hijab was mandatory no more and women can dress however they want — would we be satisfied?... Well, what about the fact that girls are forced into marriage at the age of nine? What about the law that allows men to kill their daughters and not face any serious consequences? They might just be jailed for a year or two. The Islamic Republic allows that.”
“We’re out here in the streets dying. We’re facing armed police, fighting with literally our lives, and so people get offended when some New York Times reporter wrote that people are protesting against [US] sanctions… We are not asking America to lift up the sanctions. We’re not asking anyone anything. We’re just out here to overthrow the government.”