Seven young schoolgirls in Tehran turn their back to the camera, let their hair free, and sing in their classroom what is now deemed the national anthem of the uprising in Iran.
“Baraye”, which translates as “Because of”, was composed by young singer-songwriter Shervin Haji-pour using tweets that stormed Twitter listing the reasons behind the new uprising in Iran.
Because of… poverty, repression, gender segregation and discrimination, corruption, censorship, environmental degradation, violation of sexuality rights and bodily autonomy, discriminatory economic policies, and political brainwashing. These are just a few of the reasons that Iranian people are taking to the streets and to social media in Iran, chanting “Women-Life-Freedom.”
“Life” and “Freedom” were reclaimed by feminists in Iran to re-centre the feminist narratives on what a reimagined feminist peace will look like – one where women and minority groups are free to use their real names or to express their sexual and gender identities without fear of persecution and death. One that is rights-based, and where social and economic constructs don’t only advantage the kleptocratic elite and those in power. One where colonialism is not reproduced by the Iranian regime to suppress and control ethnic minorities, and one where the environmental resources and animals are not threatened with degradation and extinction.
They know that their bodily rights and integrity are the nexus point of the larger authoritarianism of state violence, surveillance, and control. Those young schoolgirls, as all women in Iran, have been banned from singing in public spaces since 1979.
Now, women and girls, and behind them hundreds of students, teachers, and factory workers from all across Iran are rising up once again against the gender apartheid. They are defying patriarchal authoritarianism, discrimination, and persecution of women and ethnic minorities.
The feminist uprising in Iran is telling us once again that women’s bodies have long been the battle fields of patriarchy and authoritarian regimes. Through forced and at times militarised bodily control and policing, the oppressive systems control the ‘spaces’ that women can have access to and control over. Stigma, morality, and decency are but some examples of the tools that these oppressive regimes use to confine and control women, their bodies, and their voices, thus alienating them from public spheres and spaces. The use of sex-based crimes against women in times of conflict can be seen on the same continuum of controlling women’s bodies as revoking women’s abortion rights.
The image of Jîna Amini (Mahsa), whose brutal death fuelled the uprising in Iran and around the world, has been multiplied by all the other images of women, men, and the younger generation in Iran and in other countries such as Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria who joined her in standing up for Women-Life-Freedom. They did so in solidarity, but also to showcase the multiplicity of feminist uprisings and to add complexity and intersectionality to the feminist struggles against structural and patriarchal oppression and discrimination.
 Mahsa’s real name was Jîna, which means ‘life’ in Kurdish. Jîna Amini’s Kurdish identity has been erased, thus obscuring her Kurdish identity, by both the Iranian regime and the media. Even in her death, she was only known as Mahsa.