News of Mahsa Amini’s death has swept through Iran and its diaspora like wildfire, capturing the imagination of millions. While Iranians have grown somewhat accustomed to the regime’s many abuses, Amini’s brutal murder by the hands of the morality police hit a nerve – so much so that thousands have chosen to defy Tehran’s theocratic rule by burning what they believe to be the most outward symbol of their oppression: the mandatory headscarf.
In a poignant show of solidarity, hundreds of women have taken to social media armed with scissors to remove what the regime refuses them – the freedom of loose locks of hair cascading down their shoulders.
Their heads shaven, defiantly proud of their gender, dignified in their rebellion, Iranian women have torn through the very cage the clerical class wants to forever keep them in. Before such images, one cannot help but hope that Iranians will see this fight through and reclaim the very air that they have been denied for so long.
Courage today rhymes in Farsi, and we ought for our voices to join theirs so that religious extremism could be once and for all denounced, challenged and more importantly relegated to the past.
Cutting across all party lines, denominations, and ethnicities Iranians both within and without are raging against the regime, calling for an immediate end to the bigotry of a system that demands of them more than they are willing to give – complete and utter subservience to the fanaticism of the ayatollahs.
Beaten with a savagery that defies comprehension over an affront that quite frankly only ever existed in the theocratic minds of the regime’s religious gatekeepers – the morality police, Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman had her skull bashed in so violently she never stood a chance. Battered to the point of death for she chose to exercise her religious freedom, Amini’s name has become a rallying cry for Iran’s revolutionary movement.
And though few media have designed look Iran’s way, so busy they have been with talks of normalization with Tehran, it doesn’t make the Iranians’ desperate bid for regime change any less valid.
It is often at the very end of all things, when all that could be ceded has been ceded, just as individuals find themselves with their back so far up against the wall that courage is found to move forward. No regime and no dictatorship however malign and brutal can ever endure the test of time without its people’s acquiescence. And since it is in the nature of violent regimes to wield oppression and fear to force compliance, rebellions always come at a great cost. Such is the price of freedom!
For decades now, Iranians have toiled against the regime, calling for democratic reforms they know remain out of reach, for their land stays under the control of a religious elite whose hands are drenched in blood – the expression of fanaticism of which tenets include religious genocide and ethnic cleansing.
But for all its ferocity Iran’s regime cannot endure forever; history teaches us as much. It may be that the clock struck midnight on Tehran, for indeed there are crimes so brutal and unpalatable they demand a rebuttal – regardless of cost, beyond fear of reprisals and concerns for one’s well-being – for turning away in silent submission would be the equivalent of becoming an instrument of terror.
Islamic Republic pushing beyond acceptable limits
THE ISLAMIC Republic pushed well beyond the limits of the acceptable when it claimed the life of young Amini, a crime it denies by alleging she succumbed to a cardiac arrest.
Words fail before the injustice of her death, and yet she is but one of many who everyday fall prey to the ayatollahs’ religious fanaticism, the victims of a system that demands women to be so completely disappeared that their existence alone becomes an affront to the ayatollahs’ self-righteous moral sensitivities.
Unchecked and unchallenged, the Islamic Republic is doubling down on its repression campaign, acutely aware that anything short of mass murder could be read as a sign of weakness before growing popular discontent. What we ought to read in Iran’s rage is an admission of its regime’s undoing – if only we could master the courage of our opinions and demand that Tehran is held accountable for its crimes.
Iranians may yet beat us to it as they take to the streets, calling for freedom and reparation. I would argue this comes not a moment too soon. Amini’s tale is that of her people – a people whose lives were forfeited long ago by a clergy whose ambitions are to paint an entire nation in the abominable colors of its religious fundamentalism. That is the reality of the Islamic Republic, a reality we have been only too keen to sustain in our failure to challenge it.
I fear our complacency before the threat of Islamic fundamentalism, as that expressed by the Iranian regime emboldened its ideologues to the point they believe themselves above all laws and beyond all reproach. And though we cannot ask to police the world, we certainly can demand that laws are respected and terror met with formidable resolve.
We must realize that our apathy is putting the very integrity of our democracies in jeopardy; our inaction has allowed for a space within to be carved out, leaving us open to terror assaults. When our most cardinal right to defend ourselves before Islamists’ attacks is challenged on account that our rebuttal would translate as religious intolerance, we must take stock of the ground we lost and admit that the Rubicon has indeed been crossed.
And if a nation can unite behind a cause, then imagining institutional change by way of a sweeping revolution does not require much in the way of intellectual gymnastics. We may soon learn that Amini would be the threat to undo the regime’s fabric, the one crime Iranians cannot overlook for her death speaks too loudly of the terror they must bear and can no longer bring themselves to tolerate.
The writer is a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society.