“Woman, life, freedom!”: Iranian Kurdistan burns, plagued by protests over the death of Mahsa Amini

“Zhin, Zhian, Azadi!! Zhin, Zhian, Azadi!!” (“Woman, life, freedom!!”). This is the slogan that has spread over the past week throughout Iran in solidarity with Mahsa Aminithe young Kurdish woman who died on September 16 in a Tehran police station, after being arrested for wearing the hijab or Islamic headscarf incorrectly.

It has been the most shouted motto, together with “Death to the Dictator” -in reference to the Guide of the Revolution, Ali Khamenei- by hundreds of thousands of demonstrators who have not hesitated to violently confront the Police. The popular demand is already significant enough to unite the values ​​of women, life and freedom against the restrictive regulations on women’s clothing, something that is unprecedented in Iran if one takes into account the massive nature of the protests, extended by a hundred of cities in the country.

But it is also unprecedented for that slogan to be shouted in Kurdish, the Indo-European language spoken in Iranian Kurdistan, thus showing a clear act of solidarity on the part of the rest of Iran towards this region bordering Iraq and Turkey where between ten and eleven million people live. There is also the circumstance that Zhina (the one who gives life), the Kurdish name that her parents could not give her when Mahsa was born 22 years ago in the town of Saquez, is linked to those “Zhin” and “Zhian” of the chanted motto and has the same etymological origin as the Latin family “gin” or “gen”, from which the words gynecology or misogynist come.

Until now in Iran there had been no such show of solidarity with the Kurdish people, despite the fact that on successive occasions, since the very establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, people have taken to the streets to demand autonomy and freedom, which which has given way to a brutal repression by the Pasdarans (Guardians of the Revolution), who militarily occupy this territory of 125,000 square kilometers divided between the provinces of Western Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, Kermanshah and Ilam.

You have to remember that Iranian Kurds were the first to rise up against the Islamic Republic led by the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI), a member of the Socialist International. During the same year, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini declared “holy war” against them. Since then, there have been periodic outbursts in the Kurdish provinces for whatever reason, which immediately spread like wildfire throughout the region, without until now finding the support of the rest of the Iranian population.

Column of ‘peshmergas’ (guerrillas) of the PDKI, during one of their incursions through the border mountains between Iraq and Iran. PDKI (assignment)

This time this has not happened. As soon as the first protests broke out in Saquez, the city where Zhina was from, and the spark set fire to the rest of the Kurdish cities, popular protests immediately began to take place in other regions. Only in Kurdistan have sixteen deaths been counted until this Saturdaymore than seven hundred injured and close to a thousand arrests.

Bearing in mind that state television has admitted 35 deaths in this new wave of protests, it is estimated that the total number in Iran as a whole could even approach half a hundred. In Kurdistan, the four deaths stand out in the city of Urmia, next to the lake of the same name, and in the nearby town of Shino, where three other protesters died. At least two of the insurgent cities -Hasan Abad, near Sanandaj, and Oshnaviyeh, south of Urmia- had remained in the hands of the protesters until this Saturday, according to what was reported to Public Rahim Kaderi, representative of the PDKI in Spain.

As has been widely reported in the international media, Zhina Amini died on September 16 when, while visiting Tehran, she was detained by one of the “moral patrols” and taken to the police station. According to the government, she was sent to a “re-education” center for wearing the hijab incorrectly and subsequently suffered a sudden heart attack, something her family strongly denies.

severe blows to the head

The same Iranian opposition source has informed Public that, when Zhina was transferred to the hospital, severe blows to the head were detected. He also assures that, when the body was delivered to his father, the authorities prevented him from opening the coffin to see the body of their daughter, forcing the family to bury her at dawn to prevent rallies and possible protest demonstrations from taking place.

However, on the same day of the funeral there was already a massive demonstration in Saquez, with the result of one death and numerous injuries, later spreading the wave of protests to some thirty Kurdish cities, especially when on September 20 the Coordination of Kurdish Parties called for general mobilization.

This unitary body is basically made up of the PDKI and the Communist-oriented Komala (Society). Precisely the intervention of these parties indicates another difference between the demonstrations registered in Kurdistan with those of the rest of the country, where the popular mobilization has a more spontaneous character and there is no clear political direction of the protest.

Both organizations, the PDKI and Komala, have for decades maintained an armed resistance and sporadic clashes with the Pasdarans who, in turn, often bomb the areas of Iraqi Kurdistan where these two parties have their bases.

Map of own elaboration that shows with black and red stars the cities of the Iranian Kurdistan where the main popular revolts have taken place
Map of own elaboration that shows the cities of the Iranian Kurdistan where the main popular revolts have taken place, with black stars (localities where deaths have been registered) and red (areas where the protests have spread).- Manuel Martorell

The Kurdish regions have also distinguished themselves during these four decades of the Islamic Republic for presenting a particular resistance to Islamic norms on women’s clothing, since, traditionally, women Kurdish women wear colorful garments totally opposed to the dark and gray tones dictated by official regulations.

Kurdish women have given their main battle to maintain their traditional way of dressing in wedding celebrations, in which they dance, often holding hands with men, without hijab or other clothing that hides their colorful outfits.

Precisely in one of the videos circulating these days you can see Zhina dancing in one of these wedding, which, at first, were “dissolved” by the Police, locking up the couple in the police station. Later, given the impossibility of arresting all the couples who were getting married, the authorities chose to impose a fine on the contracting parties to finally tolerate weddings as the Kurdish population has always celebrated them.

Something similar is happening throughout Iran with the obligation for women to cover their entire bodies, from head to toe. The Iranian woman has been imposing her own way of dressing until reducing that imposition to only partially covering her hair with a scarf.

The government of ebrahim raisi has tried to redirect the situation with the expansion and relevance of the aforementioned Moral Surveillance Patrols, in charge of ensuring that women wear the hijab properly in public spaces.

It was one of these patrols that arrested Zhina on September 13 and sent her to a detention center, provoking the current outbreak of violence that for the first time unites men and women en masse against the hijab, whose public burning also has no effect. precedents in these forty years of the Islamic Republic.

The leader of the revolution, Ali Khamenei, and the Prime Minister, Ebrahim Raisi, now have to decide whether, in order to save the fundamentalist regime, they loosen the pressure on women, which will lead to the progressive disappearance of the hijab, or unleash, as on previous occasions, a new repressive escalation that will only broaden the social base for a future and new Iranian revolution.


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