Being an Iranian woman is a heavy birthright. It comes with knowing true and profound feminism, while knowing violent oppression from the government that rules our homeland.
And for millions of us, that means displacement.
My parents and I were granted political asylum in Aotearoa, New Zealand when I was nine years old. We were never to return to Iran. Like most Iranian refugees, as long as the Islamic regime remains in power, our fear of persecution persists.
We have missed births and deaths of loved ones. But what the world has learned in the past 55 days of revolution in Iran is that Iranians in exile have never lost our fervent connection to the plight of our people back home.
I hope this will send shivers down the spine of the Iranian regime.
What is amazing is that our movement today is global, led by the breathtaking courage of protesters in Iran and amplified by Iranians everywhere. None of us have slept a full night in the 55 days since the murder of Mahsa Amini, the young Kurdish woman who was killed by ‘morals police’ while her hijab was deemed worn. inappropriately. She has become the symbol of our pain. Each of us has experienced the violence of this regime. Every Iranian knows someone whipped, detained, tortured or killed.
But oppression has never been an integral part of Iranian culture. We know our rights. We know what democracy should look like. The 1989 Iranian revolution was one of the greatest people’s revolutions in living history because Iranians understood that the secular dictatorship of the Shah was never good enough. Our parents fought against inequality, and although their revolution was hijacked by a far more violent and oppressive dictatorship, they never stopped fighting back.
I was old enough when we left to still remember the hijab I had to wear to school, the terror my mother felt every time we left the house. Check, recheck his coverage. My mom has since said she doesn’t understand how I leave the house without lipstick.
It was his armor. For Iranian women, the patriarchy told us to be colorless, shapeless, desexualized. Iranian women have never stopped fighting against this. Lipstick was not just about resistance to Islamic dress, just as the protests in Iran today and in the green movement of 2009 are not just about the brutality of the application of hijab. Feminism has become the front line of Iranian resistance, for human rights, democracy and regime change.
Last month, in faraway New Zealand, we met at the Iranian Embassy. We knew the ambassador was inside. We shouted songs: “We will fight, we will die, we will take back Iran.” We danced and sang about women’s rights. We held each other. Police officers dispatched to ensure public safety told us that the ambassador was inside, reporting a public disorder. But protesting is not illegal in Aotearoa.
The diaspora movement of Iranians has the power of freedom. We get to criticize our Western governments for their inaction on Iranian human rights. In my case, I am elected to the New Zealand parliament as the first refugee and woman from the Middle East. I meet with our Minister of Foreign Affairs and our Prime Minister to explain to them exactly what we need.
What we need is to freeze Iranian assets and bank accounts. Ban their funding mechanisms, designate them as terrorists known to be responsible for atrocities against our people. This must include the leaders of the Revolutionary Guards, who assassinated Mahsa, who tortured and killed with impunity for 43 years. This is now the position of most Western nations, a historically strong response that must in part be seen as a reflection of the diaspora movement.
Separating so many Iranians from our homeland is one of the worst impacts of this regime. But it could also be the vehicle of his downfall. We grew up in freedom, and we will not rest until all of Iran is free.
Our soaring song will only intensify to that day, zan, zendegi, azadi. Women, life, freedom.