My country, Iran, changed on September 16 forever. So did my life, like so many other young Iranians.
There have been persistent demands for an end to tyranny ever since the Iranian people heard about Mahsa Amini, an innocent young woman, being beaten, arrested, and ultimately killed by the “morality police.” It was the culmination of an explosive situation that had been developing for years.
After hearing about Mahsa’s death, I went online to find that all of my friends and acquaintances leaving all else aside to vent their anger and sadness. And soon thereafter, we all took our outrage with us into the streets.
My outrage grew whenever I was reminded that one of my fellow countrymen had her very life snatched away from her because a few strands of her hair were out of place.
I kept telling myself that Mahsa was like my own sister, and if I did not take action, then thousands of my brothers and sisters would be killed under false pretenses, too. I knew that whatever risks I might be taking by confronting the regime, they would only be a reflection of the risks I had already faced on countless occasions just by trying to live under the thumb of the fundamentalist dictatorship.
I myself had previously been summoned by the “morality police” and forced to sign a commitment to uphold their ridiculous regulations. I had also been humiliated by my university’s security guard and by the school administration, because of my hairstyle. It was an awful feeling and only a tiny fraction of what Iranian men and women are forced to endure every day while the system scrutinizes every inch of their clothing and every move they make.
Many of my loved ones urged me not to go to the demonstrations, fearing that I would be in danger. But I joined the protests almost immediately, and I have remained engaged ever since. It is difficult to behold the look of anxiety on my mother’s face when I leave, but when I return home I feel encouraged by the thought that this emerging revolution will allow her to live the rest of her life in a free, democratic Iran where women are respected as they should be.
I may have a particularly clear image of that future in my mind as a member of the Resistance Units that have been established across the country in recent years by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK). The example set by my colleagues also reminds me every day that it would be better to die for the democratic cause than to accept endless humiliation under the mullahs.
I have seen many fellow Resistance Unit activists of the MEK arrested and injured over the past two months, but we keep fighting.
On one of the first days, security forces on motorcycles attacked my group as a demonstration was just beginning. When we ran away, they chased and shot at us. When I looked back, I saw my friends being savagely beaten. When one young woman cried out for help, the suppressive forces hit her on the head with a baton. We tried to go back and help her, but as soon as we moved in her direction, the officers started shooting at us with pellet guns. The innocent cries of the young girl have not left me ever since.
I was struck in the arm by a pellet gun but could not go to the hospital, because regime authorities identify protesters by their wounds and arrest them when they seek treatment. I was treated instead by a doctor who is a friend of my family. There were, of course, limits to what he could do. My arm still hurts. But it does not hurt nearly as much as the memory of being unable to help my fellow protester as she cried out.
If anything alleviates that pain, it is the knowledge that neither she nor any of the victims of this latest crackdown will have suffered in vain. The authorities have killed hundreds of people so far, but the survivors continue fighting back, and the uprising has not subsided one bit.
The people fight back with no equipment to defend themselves. Women in particular have shown tremendous bravery in helping to spread the message of the Resistance Units, condemning not just the morality police or the current leadership but the entire regime.
My colleagues and I are guided by a saying: When the oppressor is on the frontline and continues his cruelty, the only way to deal with him is in the street, and we will not return to our homes until the day of victory.
We hope that the international community will be similarly guided by our commitment to the cause.
Western governments should recognize the Iranian people’s right to defend themselves, and they should isolate the regime completely, by closing its embassies and recalling ambassadors. They should also recognize that the youth of Iran are bravely fighting for a cause that will improve life for everyone, women most of all.
With the destruction of this regime and the coming of a democratic government, the women and girls of Iran will reclaim their lost rights and be equal to men. They will never again have to be sad or depressed about the rights they are denied, and they will never wish they were men.