My name is Sarah. I’m a twenty-two-year-old student in the capital, Tehran. I share a story that doesn’t just belong to me—it’s also the story of many inside my country, Iran.
Throughout my life, I’ve learned that my country is different and its rules are difficult. I’ve also learned, while growing up, that I must not speak out about my rights; otherwise, I could be imprisoned, exiled, or even worse. Here, in my country, I could die for not approving of the Islamic Republic’s laws, which have oppressed my generation and generations before me.
Until the age of about thirteen or fourteen, I knew very little about the obligations women and young girls faced in my country—particularly mandatory hijab. Imagine suddenly going through such a shift in your life and not even being prepared for it, since your family never formally introduced you to this piece of fabric that could cause trouble.
My teenage years felt so lonely because I was lost and confused. Just like many other families, I grew up in a non-conservative household. I had all the freedom a girl could want at home—whether it came to how I dressed, who my friends were, or when I could go out—but the outside world very different. It felt like I was living two completely different lives. You see, anything in Iran can easily be a crime, including showing some hair.
This time, we saw a so-called “crime” lead to the death of a twenty-two-year-old Kurdish woman. The woman whose name has been heard around the world.
Her name was Mahsa Amini. Her actual name was Jina Amini. Jina is a Kurdish name, but, in my country, people are not allowed to choose their names based on their ethnicity. Jina’s “crime” was not wearing her hijab in the way prescribed by the regime. She was beaten by the morality police and later died—we believe as a direct result of her treatment at the hands of the authorities.
The morality police are always there on our streets waiting for us. I can’t even begin to tell you how unsafe I’ve felt whenever I wanted to go out. Or how many times I’ve nearly crashed my car just because I was trying to fix my hijab while driving because there were morality police up ahead.
Imagine the whole world being your prison. That’s what it’s like to live in Iran.
Our beautiful Jina is not the first victim of the Islamic Republic, but she has become our martyr. Now the whole country has risen in her honor. But the regime doesn’t even know what honor is. They are oppressing us in the harshest and most inhumane manner. If you don’t believe me, just look at the videos filmed on our streets and uploaded onto social media for the entire world to see.
I have witnessed with my own eyes how one member of the security forces shot a young man to death in Tehran. Where in the world have you seen executions carried out by officers that are meant to maintain our peace and safety?
My message to you is that we are not tired of fighting because we know that the destiny of our nation lies in our own hands. But, to you, I can say: take the time and educate yourself on Iran’s history. We weren’t always a sad people or a people who suffered. There was a time when Iran was free and happiness wasn’t a crime. I was privileged enough to study English and have access to sources in English, which is important, because the censorship in our state media and even educational resources is incredibly damaging to the way that young minds develop. Having that privilege allowed me to pursue intellectual independence. In my country, that is the most dangerous way of fighting against ignorance.
You could be a spark of hope in our dark days. Tell the world about us and let the world know the names of those we have already lost: Mahsa Jina Amini, Hananeh Kia, Ghazaleh Chalavi, Danesh Rahnama, Reza Zare, Zakaria Soleimani, and many others.
Tell the world about the brave freedom fighters, activists, and journalists—like Niloufar Hamedi, who first reported on Mahsa Jina Amini—who have been arrested at protests or in their homes. For the first time in a long time, the whole country has taken action. This time, we will not be silenced by the government’s bullets. For every fallen, many rise in the name of freedom.
This isn’t just my fight. This could easily be your story had you been born in my time and my country. To all the brave and beautiful people out there who know what freedom feels like, be our voice. Hold your authorities accountable for closing their eyes and ears to our cries for help. More importantly, hold the Islamic Republic accountable for the atrocities they are committing against the people of Iran.
Better days lie ahead for us.
And, with that, I leave you a poem by the Persian poet Saadi Shirazi:
Human beings are members of a whole
In creation of one essence and soul
If one member is afflicted with pain
Other members uneasy will remain
If you have no sympathy for human pain
The name of human you cannot retain
Sarah is a 22-year-old student from Tehran, Iran.
Wed, Jun 8, 2022
On May 23, a ten-story commercial tower came crashing down on people’s heads in Abadan. With each body recovered from the ruins, public anger crescendoed, leading to ongoing street protests in multiple areas in Khuzestan province and beyond.