Mahsa Amini is Rosa Parks by another name. In another country, in another era, she is the embodiment of the same spirit. With a different twist of fate. But let the untimely, tragic custodial death of the 22-year-old Kurdish woman at the hands of morality police in Iran, leave no one in doubt — she will impact history no less.
Since the fateful day in 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini brought the downfall of the decadent but liberal government of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and founded the Islamic Republic in the Shia majority nation, one of the many strongly enforced rules was of women covering their heads and bodies in public. No exceptions allowed.
Mahsa Amini rebelled. While being accompanied by her brother, she refused to wear it. She defiantly removed it and hurled it against the hubris of the dictatorial, patriarchal power regime of Iran. She was arrested and killed. And her death fuelled a revolution.
Hundreds of women in Iran joined in defiance, and not only removed their headscarf but also set it on fire in public. They chanted slogans against Ayatollah Khomeini. More women joined. And then their menfolk began joining, and burnt banners with the pictures of the ruling elite of Iranian dictatorship, past and present.
The protests spread, and as per the last reports of Friday, over 80 cities across the country are witnessing these unprecedented scenes of defiance.
Mahsa Amini and her sisters in spirit are not against Islam. They are perhaps not feminists either. They may or may not be fighting for democracy as we know it. They defy labels too; and must simply be recognised as human dignity and freedom’s greatest champions.
Born in a theocratic dictatorship, opportunities for jobs terribly minimal, with little or no platform for international travel or interaction, brought up on a censored media, little to no access to works on history, entertainment, arts and literature from the free world — these words would not be easy references for them.
Born as slaves to a patriarchal, oppressive, dictatorial regime, a society destroyed by war and alienation from the world order, unconnected in the Internet age, it is a peerless and magnificent spectacle that the ideas of freedom were not merely discovered by them, but almost invented within their tormented souls.
With a passion unsurpassed or matched, the defiant sisters of Mahsa Amini are lighting a fire that could get smothered, stamped and destroyed with ferocity, or become so powerful, that all doubt and confusion would be burnt to cinder, and the light of liberty will spread to dark corners in dictatorial and undemocratic countries across the globe.
Because this is the world’s first political revolution totally led by women. And they are declaring the same spirit, in a different language, as their spiritual equivalents across human history, their peers, who heralded the French Revolution or the American War of Independence.
We must stand and salute them as the only form of fraternity and solidarity to offer, and be amazed — how fearlessly and uncompromisingly do people fight for freedom in enslaved lands, and how easily do those who are free in democratic nations give it up.