In recent weeks, protests have spread across Iran in the most recent uprising of the Iranian people against the islamic republic. The most recent protests have been in response to the death of Mahsa Amini, who died at the hands of the morality police on Sept. 16 after being arrested for improperly wearing her hijab.
Local Iranians at UCSB spoke to the News-Press recently about the death of Mahsa Amini and the uprising of the Iranian people as well as their experiences under the Islamic republic for the past 44 years.
The News-Press was able to speak with three locals about this issue. Soha Saghazadeh came to America in 2016, to pursue a degree in film and media studies at UCSB. Dr. Aazam Feiz came to America in 2007 to pursue her Ph.D. in linguistics at the University of Florida. She now lives here with her husband and daughter and is a lecturer of Persian language and literature at UCSB. Atieh Taheri, is a Ph.D. student of computer and electrical engineering at UCSB, who previously studied in Iran.
“I think we should look at the killing of Mahsa as the latest incident of a long history of the signs of oppression and systematic violence against women particularly, as well as other marginalized bodies. Oppression has increased in the last decade, which also led to these incidents and is building on top of these events,” Soha Saghazadeh told the News-Press. “This case particularly has been crucial because in the last few months we had other incidents regarding women and the hijab. This includes an incident where an activist woman opposed the morality police and her video went viral. She was detained by the police who broadcast her forced confession. Forced confession is intended to scare women into not standing up. Another reason for the mobilization across the nation is oppression of ethnic minorities. All minorities are connected in this issue. For the first time, women’s issues have become the central point of the social uprising.”
“People have been oppressed because they don’t have freedom. They are playing a role. They are alive. They are not free. They cannot work easily,” Dr. Feiz told the News-Press. “People of different ethnicities are more oppressed. The regime does not like religious minorities. Belongings and houses are being seized. One month ago, a village was seized, these people have no place to go. Every woman who wants to go out of Iran needs a notarized note from her husband or father with permission to travel outside Iran and a stamp in her passport. A woman needing surgery in Iran needs her husband’s permission to have an operation. In court, two women are equal to one man.”
“A wife receives one eighth of her husband’s belongings if he dies,” Ms. Taheri told the News-Press.
“This incident is the one that receives the most international pressure, it’s not the singular event, it is the latest one. This time the media has covered it a lot, but it is by no means the only incident. It is the most progressive, fundamental and inclusive event, but it has a history and it is building on this history,” said Soha Saghazadeh.
“The people of Iran have been very patient, too patient. After more than 40 years, people have reached the conclusion that extremists and reformists are two sides of the same coin. They have nothing to lose, the currency is weak. People don’t see a bright future in front of them. Women, minority races and Kurds have been targeted in Iran. Iran is a rich country with resources, but people in Iran cannot afford to buy food or have a good marriage,” said Dr. Feiz.
The News-Press asked about how Iranian women feel about wearing the hijab. “Some women, if they are religious, may like to have it. But this is not the majority of women.Now it is a rule every women has to have a hijab even if they are not muslim or not from Iran,” said Dr. Feiz.
“Even those wanting to observe the dress code do not agree with the hijab being mandatory. It’s a protest against forcing the hijab. The very first protest after the establishment of the Islamic regime was by women. Everyday they have resisted, trying to navigate the boundaries and pushing the boundaries of the proper hijab. The compulsory hijab is the manifesto of the Islamic republic of and its systemic misogyny. It symbolizes all other systemic oppression and is tied to the foundations of the Islamic republic, targeting the fundamental base of the Islamic republic,” said Soha Saghazadeh.
“You can’t go to school to study if you don’t have a hijab. The regime has tried to undermine the problem by claiming there are more serious problems,” said Ms. Taheri.
“The hijab is important so it is obligatory. Starting at age six girls must have a hijab when they go to school. It is obligatory so they get used to it and don’t question it,” said Dr. Feiz.
“The issue of the Islamic republic as a regime is not about observing islamic codes. The regime shows women wearing an improper hijab and applying the dress code how they want. The Islamic republic doesn’t have any morals. It’s about power and controlling women’s bodies. There are no clear guidelines in morality police code for hijab and it is completely arbitrary and up to the discretion of the morality police officer and who they want to target,” said Soha Saghazadeh.
Ms. Saghazadeh and Dr. Feiz both emphasized that prior to Iranian elections the morality police are very apathetic about the enforcement of the hijab and how it should be worn because they want people to vote, despite the fact that the elections are rigged. However, after elections there is a crackdown on the enforcement of hijab wearing.
Every Monday-Friday UCSB’s Iranian Academic Community tables from 12-2 p.m. in front of the UCSB library to inform people about what is going on in Iran. Also Monday-Friday at the corner of Hollister Ave. and Storke they hold signs and inform people of what is going on in Iran. This takes place from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on weekdays and at 11 a.m. on the weekends.
The internet has been shut down in Iran for almost a week, leaving the people in Iran with a greatly reduced voice. On Saturday, the Iranian Academic Community held a “Freedom for Iran” rally at the Stearn Wharf Pier.
“What we demand from the international community like the UN and the U.S. government is that they have to look at the ways they have tried to navigate the Islamic republic. Everything they have tried has made it worse. We do not want a war. There has been no call for a military intervention from those in Iran,” said Soha Saghazadeh. “At the same time, the way U.S. sanctions have worked until now is that it has made the vast majority of Iranians continually poorer and the republic continually richer by circumventing sanctions. We cannot even raise money to send to people in Iran due to the sanctions. The Islamic republic has joined the UN council on women’s rights. The hypocrisy of this is that the international community doesn’t care about the Iranian community, the international community cares about its own interests. What we are asking is that instead of making policies and leading the fight against the republic, that the international community get behind the Iranian people and do what they want.”
“The Islamic regime in Iran are not normal people, they are very sick. Muslims believe that if virgin women are killed they go to heaven. So the regime rapes women one or two nights before their executions, because they believe the women have not done anything wrong and so they should have one sin before they die,” said Dr. Feiz.
According to Ms. Taheri, “The Handmaid’s Tale” is the story of the people in Iran. Soha Saghazadeh confirmed that the novel is based on the experience of women in Iran.
“The republic is a death making machine. The chant of freedom for women is the most radical chant that we are all trying to elevate; it is the antithesis to the Islamic republic,” said Soha Saghazadeh.
“The problem in Iran is not only the problem of Iran. The Islamic republic is like cancer, this is a problem of the whole world,” said Dr. Feiz.