‘It’s Like a War’: On the Ground at the Iran Protests

Mahsa Amini’s death ignited a movement. In the weeks since the 22-year-old, who is also known by her Kurdish name, Jina, died in police custody after being arrested for allegedly “improperly” wearing her hijab and “tight” pants, protests have erupted daily in Iran. As the nation’s young women lead the call for gender equality, freedom from prosecution, and the fall of the Islamic regime, the ramifications of Amini’s death are rippling across the globe, with Iranian women cutting their hair in solidarity and filling the streets of far-flung cities.

Inside Iran, the stakes of protesting are life and death. According to the United Nations, as many as 23 children have been killed during the uproar; other human rights groups have reported at least 222 known fatalities. An October 15 fire inside Iran’s infamous Evin prison, which houses dissidents and journalists among others, killed at least four and injured 61. Iranian officials told the public that two 16-year-old girls fell to their deaths from a high building. One of the teen’s mothers says she was actually beaten to death by police, and the other was reported by Amnesty International to have been beaten to death. And yet, despite the danger to themselves and their families, the women of Iran are not backing down. To understand more about what it’s like to be a young woman in Iran right now, Teen Vogue spoke to Neda, a 28-year-old woman who lives in Tehran. We granted her a pseudonym to protect her privacy.

Editor’s note: Teen Vogue provided questions to Neda’s English and Farsi-speaking cousin. The cousins spoke over WhatsApp and the U.S.-based cousin recorded the conversation and translated it into English. This conversation has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Teen Vogue: What has it been like to be part of the protests?

Neda: It’s like a war, except we’re getting attacked by our own government. It’s a new level of evil. They have no mercy this time and they are fighting with everything they have. They’re beating everyone with batons on the streets. I’m still hurting and have bruises since I protested on Wednesday, but I am protesting again today. I feel like they feel threatened this time, so they’re pulling any savage tricks they can. It’s cruel. It’s ruthless.

They’re doing things you cannot imagine to stop the protest. Doesn’t matter if you’re driving, walking, chanting, helping, praying, writing on the walls, or just honking. Doesn’t matter how old you are or what situation you’re in. If they see any form of resistance, they’ll try to shoot you if they have bullets left. They’re constantly planting fear and fear is their main weapon — no matter the cost.

TV: Can you talk more about what it’s like to be a young woman in Iran right now?

N: We are being denied basic human rights and for over 40 years we have been treated as inferior in society. Our testimony in court is worth half as much as a man’s.

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