NEWS CENTER - Even though I know that dozens of journalists are imprisoned, at a moment when I decided to gather my courage and go to Iran, I decide not to spread my departure process over time and to live by experiencing the risks, as I know that everyone I meet will make me reconsider my decision. And now I am in Iran.
On September 13, 2022, while Jîna Emini was at a metro station in Tehran with her brother Kiyaresh Emini, she was detained by Gaşt e Irshad (Morality Police) with a group of women on the grounds that she did not cover up according to Islamic rules. Eyewitnesses of the incident said that Jîna, who protested the insults of the police, was beaten, hit a corner of the police car, fell to the ground, and was later taken to the hospital. On September 16, Jîna died in the hospital she was taken to. As a result of the medical examinations that supported the eyewitness statements, it was diagnosed that Jîna died as a result of a cerebral hemorrhage. As the family took care of their daughter and announced this situation, protests started in the city of Seqiz, where Jîna was buried, and in all Rojhilat cities. Later, these actions spreaded to all of Iran. The protests, which started after the murder of Jîna and turned into a revolt against all the practices of the government, now left two months behind. Although hundreds of citizens were killed and injured and thousands were arrested during these two months, the people did not abandon the streets, creating a collective consciousness around the slogan "Jin Jiyan Azadi".
I DECIDED TO GO TO IRAN
Since internet access has been blocked in Iran since September 17, the public is not able to learn everyting that is happening in Iran. Breaking the internet ban with VPN applications is also not very successful. In a situation where journalists are also under great pressure and outside journalists cannot go to Iran to follow the developments due to the fear of being arrested and prosecuted as "agents", even the smallest information is of great value. In such an environment, the rapid spread of false information causes people to be more cautious about what is right and what is wrong. However, even a few seconds of images have a wide resonance all over the world. As a reporter for the Mesopotamia Agency (MA), I decide to go to Iran and Rojhilat to follow the developments on the spot, talk to people, learn how the families of the deceased approach these protests, and report the developments directly.
EVERYONE I SPOKE TO ABOUT MY JOURNEY SAID 'DON'T GO'
I would like to meet with the citizens I met in my previous visits to Iran and hear firsthand what is going on in the country. However, due to the internet problem, I have great difficulties in communicating. I contacted some journalists I follow in social media applications and ask about Iran. However, since they also live in the diaspora, I realize that the information they provide does not go beyond the images reflected in the social media. When I ask about the risks of visiting Iran in this process, everyone I talk to tries to explain with examples that it is not safe to go, that even an ordinary tourist cannot be safe in Iran during this period, and insist that I should give up even if I have made such a decision.
I HEADED OFF TO IRAN
Even though I know that dozens of journalists are under arrest, I decided not to spread my departure process over time, not to consult anyone else, and to live by experiencing the risks, as I know that everyone I meet will make me reconsider and think about my decision when I decide to gather my courage and leave out of fear. After convincing my family and colleagues on this issue, I headed off to the country I have visited twice before with great pleasure, out of fear of not knowing what might happen to me.
I AM IN IRAN, NOT KNOWING WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO ME..
After a 5-minute walk after the passport procedures at Kapıköy Border Gate, I reach Xoy-Razi Border Gate. After about half an hour of struggle between the concentration of daily border traders and the piles of goods tried to be transferred to Iran and brought from Iran, I manage to hand my passport into the hands of an Iranian soldier. After glancing at the seal of Turkey, he returned my passport and opened the barred door wide enough for me to pass, taking me through the crowd to the Iranian side. I went to the hall where the passport control point is located. Since there is no queue in the hall, passport control and process takes a very short time and I crossed over to Iran, where there is a half-hour time difference towards noon.
I TRAVELED THROUGH THE CITIES
After Xoy and Urmia, I visited Mahabad, Piranşehr, Bokan, Miyanduab, Seqiz and Tehran, the capital of Iran. I conducted interviews with young men and women who spearheaded the protests, with those injured by gunfire, with citizens who were beaten to death with electric batons, with high school and university students, academics, shopkeepers and families whose children were killed. Before I convey my impressions of the Iran tour, where I learned a lot, and our meetings, I would like to briefly describe the actions that lasted two months, their difference from the previous uprisings, and why the people did not abandon the streets, on the basis of both my observations and the common understanding that emerged in our meetings.
FROM MONARCHY TO ISLAMIC REPUBLIC
In 1979, Iran transformed from a monarchy led by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to an Islamic Republic based on Islamic law and Shiite sectarian belief under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. After the Shah was overthrown by the joint struggle of liberal, left and Islamic groups, Ayatollah Khomeini took over the administration. But Khomeini soon purged liberals, leftists, moderate Muslims, and opposition groups. He arrested some, exiled some, and executed others. With the change of regime in 1979, the mullah regime gradually became institutionalized in state offices and continued to intimidate the society.
HOPE FOR A NEW IRAN
Although the peoples rebelled against it from time to time, people could not achieve any gains against the 43-year-old Islamic Republic of Iran and could not create a change in the regime. However, the slogan "Jin Jiyan Azadi", which started in Rojhilat with the murder of the Kurdish woman Jîna Emini and spread in waves all over Iran, excited every Iranian living both within the borders of Iran and in the diaspora.
With the belief that a new Iran will be established, Iranians tried to make their voices heard all over the world. Our interviewees emphasize that for the first time, all peoples and faiths are collectively trying to establish a new Iran instead of the Islamic Republic of Iran around the hope of a new life in Iran.
WHAT MADE IRANIANS BELIEVE IN CHANGE THIS TIME?
Everyone we asked about how this uprising is different that the others that it made all the Iranians believe in change, everyone says, "This time it is different. They examplify the uprisings in 2009 and 2019. In 2009, people took to the streets with the demand of democracy and the movement was supported by those who oppose the practices of the regime. However, these demonstrations were limited to the urban middle class only. In the following years, the workers raised their voices for the workers to be paid, because the farmers could not get paid for their labor. In other words, each group went out to the streets to solve their own problems. In 2019, the common goal was cost of living and economic issues. The poor were participating in the demonstrations and they paid a high price.
However, in the actions that started on September 17, which turned to an uprising in two months, the middle class, the poor, the students from almost all provinces of Iran, including Kurdish, Persian, Azeri, Baloch, Arab regions, united around the slogan "Jin Jiyan Azadi". This was what made this uprising different, according to the people. Almost every citizen I interviewed said, "Yes, there is a high cost of living, yes we are dealing with a serious economic crisis, yes our money worths nothing, but this time, people did not take to the streets for any of these reasons. We took to the streets to stand up for human dignity against the murder of Jina. Because human dignity is everybody's problem."
HOW DID 'JIN JIYAN AZADÎ' TURNED INTO A UNIVERSAL CLAIM?
Citizens who do not abandon the streets at the cost of death, injury, arrest and torture demand their shattered lives, their wasted youth, their unfinished memories and a life of dignity that they have been deprived of. "We want a new life," they say. They formulate this with the slogan "Jin Jiyan Azadi". Everyone, from high school students who have not been directly exposed to the oppression and persecution of the regime, to senior citizens who have felt all the pressures of the 43-year-old regime, says: "If a woman is a prisoner, life will be without dignity, a life without dignity has no chance to be free. Therefore, freedom can only be achieved with dignity. A dignified life can only be possible with a woman."
The outstanding demand and formula on our Rojhilat and Iran trip was this. Collective suffering can only be healed by collective assertion. This collective claim was shaped by the slogan "Jin Jiyan Azadi" and turned into a universal claim.
OBJECTION TO LIFE WITHOUT HONOUR
Ideological and political surveillance in Iran has made everyone's life a nightmare. Especially women. The situation is almost the same in all the countries of the Middle East, and objections are raised almost everywhere against life without honour. In some countries, administrations change as a result of these objections. However, there is a big difference in Iran. The Iranians we spoke with explain this difference and draw attention to the leading role of women. With the slogan "Jin Jiyan Azadi", they point out that the rebellion in Iran is different from all the rebellions in the Middle East.
SLOGANS RESONATE IN THE CITY AFTER SCHOOL HOURS
The slogans of middle school and high school students "Death to the dictator" and "Jin Jiyan Azadi" are raised in the city centers, especially during lunch breaks and after school. In order to prevent this, I learn that the school principals threaten to "hand over the students to the regime forces", but to no avail. However, we have been witnessing that parents are waiting for their children in front of the school, with the regime forces increasing the dose of violence recently.
YOUNG PEOPLE ARE HOPEFUL FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THEIR LIVES
This situation, which we witnessed, confirms the words of those who spoke to us that "youth and students under the age of 18 are leading these actions". Again, the fact that a significant part of those who have lost their lives as a result of the direct fire of the regime forces are under the age of 18, shows that middle and high school students are actively taking part in protests on the street. One source, who was also injured in the demonstrations, attributes this to the energy of the youth, their desire for a better future, and an objection to their lives being shaped against their will, even though they have not been physically and directly subjected to "regime pressure" to date. Children and young people, especially between the ages of 15 and 25, state that they will not remain silent if their future is determined by the "old people" who hold the power of the country.
The young people we interviewed stated that they lost their faith in the existing system and the politics that govern the country, that they retreated to their own world especially in the last ten years because they did not believe that this could change with elections, but that they took to the streets with the hope that they could achieve their dreams with the latest demonstrations.
'THE DEMONSTRATIONS ARE AT A POINT OF NO RETURN'
Everyone states that "young women and men" leads the actions that started on September 17, adding: "However, at this stage, their families, who tried to keep those young people off the streets at first, are now shoulder to shoulder with their children." With this situation, it is emphasized that the demonstrations are now at the point of no return."
The women we interviewed point out that their struggle cannot be limited to the protests reminded us of their 43-year struggle against the oppressive practices of the Iranian regime.
WOMEN HAVE NOT TAKEN TO STREETS FOR THE FIRST TIME, BUT THEY ARE THE CLOSEST TO GETTING RESULTS NOW
Emphasizing that they paid a great price but they are close to getting results, the women say: "One of the first orders of Khomeini after 1979 was on hijab. He ordered women to cover completely. In his cities, women took to the streets and showed their determination that they would not sacrifice their freedom to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Khomeini was then forced to deny his words and declared that hijab could not be compulsory. However, in late 1980's Friday sermons, he signaled a 'cultural revolution' and sharia rules, the mullah regime gradually spreaded to all segments of life after that. Universities, the home of science, raised their objections against this, but they were suppressed by the Besic (paramilitary forces financed by the regime). This continued until 1983. In this period, since the public's agenda was busy with the Iran-Iraq war, he succeeded in establishing the Khomeini regime more quickly. Academics and teachers in universities were purged, women were tried to be excluded from life completely. However, women have never accepted this. For 43 years, women have carried out all kinds of actions against this regime. Millions of women were tried to be humiliated, accused of immorality, detained, arrested and even killed by the Gaşt-e İrshad. However, families often had to hide that their children were killed by these forces due to repression. This fear was broken with Jîna Emini."
KURDISH PEOPLE STANDING WITH JÎNA CAUSED A BREAKING POINT
After Jîna Emini's death, her family did not bow to pressure and announced that their daughter were killed by the police, two female journalists named Nilufer Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi (both arrested) shared this with the public, and for the first time "Jin Jiyan Azadi" slogans were shouted at Jîna's grave in Rojhilat's Seqiz city. With the rise of the slogan, first all the cities of Rojhilat and then the cities of Iran took to the streets. The actions that started against compulsory hijab spread in waves and evolved to protect human dignity.
In the protests that lasted for more than two months, the Iranians put all their differences aside because they acted with the idea that "With the freedom of women, society can be free", they are fighting shoulder to shoulder for the change of the Iranian regime.
NOTHING IS SAME IN IRAN ANYMORE
Regardless of the outcome, everyone we interviewed thinks that they have achieved some gains with the protests that have developed in the last two months. We observe this change in the streets and market places of Rojhilat and Iranian cities. Not only in big cities, but also in towns and villages, people fearlessly taken to the streets for a dignified life and build a new nation based on women. The words of the father of Muhammed Hesenzade, who was killed by the regime forces in Bokan city of Rojhilat on November 17, at his son's grave, were remarkable: "In the past, hardworking, honest and conscientious people were said to be like a man. Now if a man wants to be a decent man, he should be like a woman, because women are more persistent than men."
AS THE REGIME VIOLENCE ESCALATES, PROTESTS GET MORE CROWDED
Again, whether the regime declares it or not, the streets show that Gaşt-e İrshad has no power. In the cities of Rojhilat and in the center of Tehran, we observe that women, compared to previous years, fearlessly, with their heads held high, stand against compulsory hijab. As the dose of the attacks increases, the number of people who go out to the streets also increases. People show that they do not and will not give in to fear, a little more resolutely with every citizen they bury.
Tomorrow: Xoy and Urmia: The people suffered greatly from the Iranian regime
MA / Abdurrahman Gok