I have been completely silent for the past year and a half. After the birth of my second child I took a year of maternity leave which left me out of workforce and away from what was happening in Product Management world. Pandemic also left me exhausted feeling that I need to simplify and focus on fewer things.
However here we are! The reason for this comeback post is two fold: My world has been rocked since the protests broken out in Iran in September 2022 and I need to record and remember how I feel about all of this and I still care about this blog and love to share what I learn along the way even if I’m slow at it.
What is Women, Life, Freedom about?
You may have heard about the death of Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian girl beaten and killed by morality police and the protests that has erupted since Sept 2022. So far around 20,000 people have been arrested, raped and tortured. 500 + people have been killed (including 60+ kids) and 4 protestors were executed behind closed doors through forced confession, a hurried sham trial or access to a lawyer. The revolution is still going though the dictatorship acts with such brutal barbarity that is astounding even by Islamic Republic standards and western countries indifferently standing back and looking in on the ongoing the bloodshed. But let’s unpack this mess a bit more:
I have a confession to make; I’m deeply uncomfortable around police officers. If I see an officer approaching me I clam up, my heart rate goes up, my hands sweat. Even if he smiles and ask me questions in a friendly tone I can’t seem to smile back I answer them concisely and curtly as my throat gets dry. I’m nervous and want this conversation, this interaction to be over, I want them to go away. Having Police officers or anyone in official uniform for that matter doesn’t elicit any feeling of safety in me at all but why?
It goes back to my past experience growing in Iran. Growing up we were forced to have hijab, to cover the hair and dress modestly (this meant wearing shapeless long smock over your cloths). It didn’t matter that you didn’t believe it, you didn’t care for it, it was the senseless law that was severely enforced even though the government was much more for lax about enforcing other important laws or managing the country for that matter. So when you were outside say walking in the street, shopping or eating in a restaurant if you were a young girl specially unaccompanied by parents or older folks when you see a police officer (angry looking officer or a woman in chador) you knew it was trouble. They asked you to pull on your scarf forward so the hair doesn’t show, they asked you why the smock is not long or loose enough and it showed your body and if you had make up they handed you a handkerchief to wipe it away. Argue back and you’d be taken many times forcefully into the police van and withheld in police station until an elderly male figure of the family comes, pays a fine and bails you out. I won’t even start about police raiding your home if you were to have a party with boys, music and booze!! These two comics from Persepolis by Marjan Sartapi really sums up the experience.
Iran’s Islamic rules have been suffocating for a long time: As a women you need your husband’s, brother’s or father’s permission to work, go abroad, you can’t divorce your spouse (he has the right to divorce you) or have custody of your children. You can’t be a judge cause you’re too emotional! or study mining cause its too masculine! You can’t sing and very recently you cant access birth control pill cause hey supreme leader wants to triple the population.
All these experiences have been table stakes in Iran for the past 40+ years but for the past 4 years add to the mix the extreme government corruption, a crippled economy resulted from crushing sanctions of Iran nuclear deal, pandemic and lack of vaccines and Islamic government’s very own revolutionary guards shooting down PS752 airplane full of innocent people and you get a better picture on why Iranians can’t take it anymore. Even though I don’t live not in Iran anymore I really identify with the sentiment of “I can’t breath”. This dictatorship must go and something better must replace it.
This is why you see pictures and videos of so many young people specially women risking their lives to come to street to remove and burn their headscarves, cut their hair and protest. They know first hand to expect beatings, rape and sexual assault from official police and plain cloth militia, imprisonment, solidarity confinement and heavy handed sentences that leaves unable to study, work or leave the country but they still take take part. This is why for the first time in my life I can’t stay on the sideline anymore. All my life I thought if I put my head down, work hard and stay out of regime’s way I can have a fulfilled, normal life but I’m not sure anymore. It seems that the more you try to stay out of regime’s way the bolder they get to crush your neck until you can’t breath anymore.