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“Women, Life, Freedom”: The hundred-year oppression of the Kurdish people

On the 13th September, 22 year old Mahsa Amini was arrested by Iran’s Morality police for supposedly wearing her headscarf inappropriately. After three days of torture and brutal beatings, Amini died in custody. She was murdered by the Iranian government and their perceived impunity for violently oppressing Kurdish peoples. Her death has added ferocity to protestors in Iran demanding liberation from the oppressive Islamic Regime.

The Morality Police in Iran are responsible for monitoring Iranian citizen's attire. They are imbued with the power to arrest any person they feel is dressed inappropriately, whether that be that their hijab has fallen down, or that their clothes are considered too tight. Held in police stations overnight, the detainee is expected to declare commitment to changing the way they dress. In Iran, women are required by law to wear a hijab, as is also the case in Afghanistan but nowhere else in the world. This law has nothing to do with instating Islam as the state religion in these regions. Instead, these laws violate human rights and sanction the oppression and silencing of women living in Iran and Afghanistan. The President of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, sat at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this year. He has not faced repercussions for committing crimes against humanity.

Following the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1922, the land was divided into four Nation States: Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Kurdish people living across all regions have since faced marginalisation, exclusion, oppression, and suppression, being denied political recognition, forbidden from speaking the Kurdish language, and left internally displaced in regions across the Middle East. Western states have known of the oppression of Kurdish people and have chosen either to ignore it or in some cases be complicit in it.

In 1953, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddegh, was overthrown following Western intervention. His crime was that he tried to nationalise Iran’s oil supplies. With assistance from Great Britain and the United States, monarchy was reinstated in Iran and Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi ruled Imperial Iran until 1980. During his rule, the Shah used a CIA-trained institution to spy on Iranian people, torturing and killing people who expressed opposition to the capitalist system and to his rule. Under the Shah, Iran was a strong ally to the West in the Cold War.

The West has an extensive history of breaching laws of democracy and staging interventions in reaction to perceived threats to the capitalist system. In 1956, Britain and France (unsuccessfully) attempted to overthrow President Nasser of Egypt after announcing his plans to nationalise the Suez Canal. In 1966, the first prime minister and president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown, having survived six assassination attempts, in consequence to inspiring and encouraging independence movements throughout the African continent.

Wearing hijab became compulsory for all Iranian women in 1983 following the idea of hijab law introduced during the 1979 Islamic revolution. Since the inception of this law, Iranian women and men have fought tirelessly to end the violence and oppression of women in Iran. Following the murder of Jina Amini, protests have become global. In Iran, there have been reports of over twenty-thousand protestors being arrested and over four hundred murdered at the hands of the brutal Islamic Republic regime.

The slogan “Women, Life, Freedom” has been adopted the Kurdish language, first used by Kurdish women’s liberation groups in Istanbul in 2006. It is being chanted so women are seen, so Iranian people are seen, and so Kurdish people are seen. But with visibility, liberation must follow. Clothing is a personal choice. Religion is a personal choice. Now, it is required of the international community to stand for human rights and stand for the rights of women, the right to life, and the right to freedom.

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