‘To put yourself in someone else’s shoes.’
As silly as this may sound, the shoes I always envisioned in this saying were Dorothy’s iconic shining red heels. In the past months, these ruby slippers have been replaced by ordinary trainers, not sauntering down the yellow brick road but marching fearlessly along the blazing streets of Tehran, Mahshad, Zahedan etc. Unlike Dorothy, the dignity of Iranian women and girls, the basic needs of life they’ve been deprived of, and their freedom cannot be achieved with a simple click of the heels.
When I put myself in Nika Shakarami or Sarina Esmailzadeh’s shoes, I am in absolute awe at their sheer bravery.
With only their courage and defiance to protect them, they, alongside thousands of other protestors, burn hijabs, publicly cut their hair, dye fountains blood-red all whilst knowing the active risks they are exposing themselves to. But they don’t care. The prospect of a brighter future empowers them, so much so that the fears that kept previous generations repressed doesn’t affect them. Did Nika and Sarina know their fate? Would they have still protested knowing they would be killed brutally under police custody? Nika and Sarina were both 16 years old when they died, roughly the same age as you and I.
All these protests and why they started may still be unfamiliar territory for you, so let me explain:
On the 13th September this year, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was arrested by the “morality police” while visiting Tehran with her parents. Why? Because she was disobeying the mandatory hijab law. The evidence for this accusation? Because a lock of hair was sticking out of her headscarf. Detained for three days, in conditions I simply cannot bear to describe, she was taken to hospital later in a coma and passed away on September 16th 2022.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the initial weeks following the death of Mahsa. Continually refreshing my Instagram feed to see videos of fearless Iranian protesters filled my pessimistic heart with a burning joy. The final words of Sarina before she left to protest was recorded in a video where she asks “Could it really happen?”, referring to a change in Iran’s regime, a question which currently permeates the thoughts of the Iranian diaspora worldwide and unfortunately no one has the answer to.
Perhaps, we can obtain this answer by looking to the past. The situation in Iran in many cases can be likened to Feminist Movements such as the Suffragettes Movement. The struggles of the 20th century British women to gain the right to vote was certainly difficult, with the Suffragettes portraying a similar fierce determination which Gen-Z Iranians convey today. However, as actor Omid Djalili phrases so perfectly, the Suffragettes Movement was a “fight against the patriarchy” in order to gain a foothold in a “man’s world”. Iranian girls and women are also fighting for equality but must simultaneously tear apart a corrupt regime with their own bare hands.
Writing about my own country in such a negative light deeply saddens me. Being Iranian has formed such a large part of my identity and I love my country and people very much, who are nothing like the inhumane Iranian regime. To see the pain they’re going through and to think that I could have suffered the same fate as Nika or Sarina if I lived there, is a thought that haunts me day and night.
I think it’s time we put ourselves into the shoes of the Iranian girls, of the Iranian people, and be inspired by their relentless bravery and tenacity. It is the Gen-Z Iranians who are standing shoulder to shoulder at the forefront of this revolution, bearing the scars of rubber bullets and baton strikes. It is Gen-Z worldwide who will rise in mutiny to fight for a better world.
By Brampton Student