“When you read this, I could be in jail. It can happen at any time, as it has happened to many of my friends. Every time we take to the streets to join protests, we know it could be our last day of freedom. If they arrest me, I will be proud. Tehran’s prisons are filled with our best, bravest, intellectuals and activists.
We know this is our last chance and because of that we are ready to pay for it. I’m risking a prison sentence for my work as a journalist, that’s what my investigators told me,” writes The Times as it reflects the testimony of a woman protesting in Iran and the daily terror that women and girls are experiencing there.
Protests in Iran are not stopped or divided by class, ethnicity or gender, as others were before.
The death of Mahsa Amini touched many people. She was only 22 years old.
During these protests, people said: “She could have been my niece, my sister, my friend.” They put themselves in her shoes. They feel like they’ve lost a loved one and that it could happen to them. Mahsa did nothing wrong. And they killed him.”
All citizens participated in the protests without exception, including actors and teachers.
Even in the rich areas of Tehran and in the poor Kurdish cities, they are protesting for the same purpose.
“Some of my friends have come out to write slogans on the walls,” says a protester. The armed forces are everywhere on the streets, in uniform but also undercover.
“You never know if the guy protesting next to you is a member of the Revolutionary Guard in disguise. Everywhere on the street you see women walking with their hair uncovered. Some of us let our scarves hang over our shoulders, like we used to do in cafes and restaurants. Others are even more daring: they go out in jeans and a shirt, without a scarf. They are young, they are old. We see each other, say hello and tell each other that we look beautiful. Women like us are illegal in the Islamic Republic. But we are not afraid. One friend was shot in the neck in protests, another in the head. Many others were beaten and arrested. There was a time when I thought we were the last generation to be interested in politics, that our kids were only interested in TikTok and Instagram. I even caught myself saying, just a month ago, as I comforted a young woman who had been harassed by the police, that the Islamic Republic will continue to exist, so we must learn to live with it. How wrong I was. These teenage girls are braver than us. The other day I went to meet a friend’s daughter. She is 16 years old and until a week ago, she told me she was afraid to speak her mind. She then went to school and saw the bravery of her classmates as they stood up to the teachers and tried to join the demonstrations. All the anger she felt from the daily harassment, the humiliation of having to wear a scarf and cloak in 40 degree Celsius heat, the endless state-sanctioned violence, dissipated. When her teachers tried to stop her from going out and joining the protests, she took a book from her bag and tore the picture of the Supreme Leader on the front cover. “I started yelling at my teacher, all the words I’d been saying since I was six,” she told me. “I started to run away from the cage.” She was angry that our beautiful country would be wasted at the hands of a leader who only cares about power and money. But she is also proud, like me, of our people who are no longer afraid. “Beat us, try to calm us down, embarrass us. We are no longer silent,” she told me. “We are not going anywhere. It’s your turn to leave,” she says.
It continues: “The boys you said we should hide their hair have turned into men shouting for our freedom in the streets. The girls you tried to pacify have turned into women who stand up to the gun-toting guards you’ve given permission to shoot the children. You made us adults at the age of 13, 14, 15. We will sing and dance freely in our streets. I am so proud of these girls and their courage. We all are. One of my friends, a few years older than me, has been going to protests every day. A week ago, the armed forces asked her to wear the headscarf. She said no. They beat him with sticks. I looked at her legs and they were black with bruises.
However, I know that Great Britain, the USA and the West are not coming to save us. We all saw what happened in Afghanistan. This is our fight, our fight.
For the first time, I feel hope around me in Iran. Everyone around me is at risk of arrest.
But everyone is optimistic. We will continue our fight until they agree to leave. I know we will win. Maybe not today or tomorrow. But we have started something that cannot be stopped. And when the regime falls, I know the first thing I will do: I will go down to the center of the city, take off my scarf and dance, right there in the street.
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