Iran faces global feminist showdown as Los Angeles joins the protests

Newsha Niazmandi was born and raised in Iran and moved to the United States when she was 17. In recent days, her thoughts have focused on another young woman who lived in Iran and whose death has touched a global nerve.

Mahsa Amini, 22, died last week after being arrested by Tehran’s moral police, accused of not wearing the hijab correctly. Days of street protests in numerous Iranian cities turned deadly as protesters burned their veils and cut their hair in spite of strict dress codes.

“It’s a question of feminism. Everyone should understand that women are fighting for their freedom, ”said Niazmandi, one of hundreds of protesters who gathered outside the Wilshire Federal Building in Westwood on Wednesday evening.

“They are going to the streets trying to protest and are being shot down,” he said of people in Iran. “If you see the videos over there, they don’t care if you’re a woman or not; they don’t care if you have hijab, they just want to crush you. “

The hijab, a headdress worn by some Muslim women, has been mandatory in Iran since the 1979 revolution. The United Nations Human Rights Council says the Iranian Morality Police has cracked down on women they accuse of not wearing the hijab correctly. hijab, the Associated Press reported.

According to the UN body, videos have emerged showing women being beaten with batons, thrown into police vans and slapped in the face for not completely covering their hair.

Amini was born in Saqqez, western Iran, and was traveling to Tehran with her family when she was arrested on September 13. She died three days later. Police denied that she Amini was mistreated and claimed she died of a heart attack, while her family claimed she had no heart problems and was in good health, multiple media reported.

UN-linked independent experts said Amini was beaten by the morality police, but did not provide evidence. The UN human rights office has called for an investigation into his death.

“Iranian security forces will continue to feel encouraged to kill or injure protesters and prisoners, including women arrested for defying abusive mandatory veil laws, if they are not held accountable,” said Diana Eltahawy, Deputy Director for the Middle East of Amnesty International, in a statement Wednesday.

Los Angeles is home to most of the people of Iranian descent outside of Iran. Many live in Tehrangeles, a Persian enclave in Westwood that began in the 1960s and grew up after the 1979 revolution. There were 87,000 people of Iranian descent in the city in 2019, according to data from the Census Bureau.

Many in the community are now taking to the streets of Los Angeles in solidarity with protests against Amini’s death around the world.

“Similar to George Floyd and what happened here in the US, people in Iran are just fed up and want women to have their rights,” said Jon Asghari, who lived in Iran as a child but moved to the country. United States from about 15 years ago. The 28-year-old said he was just the “minimum” to show up at Wednesday’s protest and help “spread the word”.

Ariana Siddiq, 22, said Amini’s death was particularly concerning because it could happen to any woman in Iran.

“I could have visited Iran and my hijab may have fallen slightly and I may have been killed in Iran,” she said during the protest. “If that happened, America would do something about it since I’m an American citizen.”

In the ongoing riots between protesters and Iranian security forces, at least nine people have been killed since the demonstrations began over the weekend, the AP reported Thursday. The protests coincide with President Ebrahim Raisi’s visit to New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

Iranians reported widespread internet blackouts after the country blocked access to Instagram and WhatsApp and completely shut down the internet in parts of Tehran and Kurdistan in an effort to crack down on growing dissent, the Guardian reported.

Raisi attempted to deflect outrage over Amini’s death while speaking Wednesday at the UN General Assembly. He referred to migrant children detained in the United States and the difficulties faced by Palestinians.

“Human rights belong to everyone, but unfortunately they are trampled on by many governments,” said Raisi.

Emily Doyle, 23, whose mother was born in Iran, said she struggles to speak out against Iran because she is concerned about the negative opinion many Americans have of Iranians. But in the end, she believes it is important to defend women’s rights.

“[Iran doesn’t] have the internet right now, “Doyle said.” They took away Instagram and now I think the internet is out of order in Iran. This is part of why being here is important, because we have the internet and we can continue to spread the message of what is happening”.

Siddiq stressed that Iranians in America should speak up because they have more freedom to protest.

“It just proves that we have to be the ones who do it,” he said. “We are less likely to be killed than in a country like Iran. Women are killed for protesting. If you are in the United States and are able to protest, you might as well. If they have no voice right now, we must be their voice. ”

Niazmandi said she understood what it feels like to “be oppressed” and “damned by your society as a woman” because she had attended a girls-only school in Iran and had to adhere to a strict dress code, including a requirement to wear. hijab and to cut her nails to a certain length.

“I want to be there,” he said of Iran. “I want to go out and I want to show my hair, and I want to be the person who burns the veil. When I see women without the hijab in front of the police knowing that they will be beaten at some point, it is inspiring and courageous. They’ve gotten to the point of despair that they just have to stand there and say, ‘Hey, look at me. I’m without a hijab and I’m here for my human rights. ‘

“This had to happen at some point, and now it’s happening, and I’m really happy for them,” added Niazmandi. “I’m also very sad because it’s not happening for free. They are making a lot of sacrifices over there. “