Death and its harvest are a natural cycle of nature. A grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die to produce the harvest. The death of Mahsa Amini is that grain of wheat, but with a violent harvest.
When the simile of a grain of wheat is applied to humans, it becomes the bread of tears. Particularly if you live in a land where it is illegal for a woman to feel the wind in her hair. Entire generations that have never known freedom.
Beautiful Mahsa Amini
The death of beautiful 22-year-old Mahsa Amini exploded into national and international outrage, following decades of disillusionment and suppression. The protests in Iran have spread to at least 50 cities and towns, with over 50 deaths, hundreds injured and 1,200 people arrested. And that is just the beginning of death and its harvest in Iran. The police continue to crackdown in an attempt to quell the rioters.
Oppression, repression and clerical control have led to this violent bread of tears. The death of Mahsa has once again tipped the people to openly react against restrictions on personal freedom, overzealous enforcement on the strict dress code for women, and the severe restrictions of an economy reeling from sanctions. A new generation fighting for a freedom they have never known.
Morality Police Death and its Harvest
Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, it has been compulsory for women in Iran to wear the hijab. The morality police are charged with enforcing that and other restrictions, specifically targeting women. The rights of women to be treated fairly and with dignity is violated.
Mahsa was arrested by the morality police for wearing the hijab headscarf in an ‘improper’ way. She was visiting the capital from her home in the western Kurdish region. The morality police claimed Mahsa was wearing the hijab ‘too loosely’. Three days later, she was dead, ostensibly dying from a heart attack. Iranian authorities insist that Mahsa was not beaten and are clamping down on dissidents, “Who take irresponsible positions and incite violence by following the United States, European countries and anti-revolutionary groups.”
The Iranian army says it will confront its enemies to ensure security. They claim it is a foreign conspiracy targeting the stability of the Islamic Republic. “These desperate actions are part of the evil strategy of the enemy to weaken the Islamic regime.”
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards called on the judiciary to prosecute: “Those who spread false news and rumours about the young woman’s death. They endanger the psychological safety of society and need to be dealt with decisively.”
Despite the threat of imprisonment, beatings, bullets and death, women continue to burn the obligatory headscarves. Hair is being cut publicly in a display of solidarity. Grieving mothers want their voice to be heard.
The government retaliated by restricting Internet access, to limit the general population from knowing what is happening. This was also an attempt to stop the news getting out to the international community.
Counter Demonstrations Fuel Death and its Harvest
Security forces have arrested one of Iran’s most prominent civil society activists and a journalist. She played a key role in exposing the case of Mahsa Amini. Other vocal activists for freedom of expression have been arrested, or shot, including a photojournalist and two of the country’s acclaimed filmmakers.
State-organized demonstrations have countered nationwide anti-government protests, which can only lead to more death and its harvest. These marchers call for the execution of ‘rioters’, who they claim are ‘Israel’s soldiers’. They shout, ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel’. These are common slogans the clerical rulers use to stir up support for the authorities. The government-organized crowd chants, “Offenders of the Quran must be executed.”
The protestors shout back, “We will die, we will die, but we will get Iran back!” There are around 100,000 followers to the anti-hijab protests. How many more deaths will occur and what will the resulting harvest be? How many more mothers will lose their daughters, their sons? Freedom has a bloody price.
The 2019 protest against the government’s hike of gasoline prices, led to hundreds being killed in the police crackdown. It was the deadliest violence since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. 2022 is heading in the same direction.
Demonstrators in numerous countries, including Ahvaz, Isfahan, Qom, and Tabriz have joined in anti-oppression marches. In Western nations, Iranian communities have rallied to support the women in Iran. One interviewee said, “What morals encourage people to violate and abuse others? They fabricate the religion of their desires. The government weaponizes the name of religion to use as a front for sick actions.”
Those of us who are blessed to live in an open society, where we are not afraid to walk down the street and the freedom of the individual is protected, can only empathize with women such as Mahsa. They live in a place where there is a massive gap between state and society and personal liberty is severely restricted. Iranian women are not allowed to “Let their hair blow in the wind.”
Sanctions have only a limited effect as countries such as Iran are being isolated from the international community. We are helpless bystanders, yet it is not so long ago that our societies had limitations on women. There have been many female pioneers who have changed the world, and no doubt there will be many more. Disability in any form, cannot define who we are.
As women we have a voice in our sphere of influence. We must use it to good, as we influence not just the immediate people around us, but generations to come. In our own way, we are a grain of wheat that produces a harvest, for the good or to the detriment. We have the freedom to know what it is to let the wind blow through our hair.
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