Iranian Women Are Protesting, And They're All Using This Rallying Cry

<span class="caption">Iranians Are Using This Rallying Cry To Protest </span><span class="photo-credit">Maja Hitij - Getty Images</span>
Iranians Are Using This Rallying Cry To Protest Maja Hitij - Getty Images

On September 16, a 22-year-old woman named Mahsa Amini died in custody after being arrested by Iran's morality police in Tehran. Amini, who is Kurdish, had initially been arrested for wearing her hijab "improperly," but collapsed at a detention facility and slipped into a coma, according to BBC.

Since then, mass protests have broken out across Iran and the world, pushing for a change in Iranian leadership and an end to years of gender discrimination. After Amini's death, women have bravely opted to not wear their hijabs in public as a form of solidarity, sometimes burning them or even cutting their hair. The Washington Post has called these protests "the longest major demonstrations against Iran’s cleric-led security state." Meanwhile, Iranian authorities claim that Amini died of preexisting medical conditions, and have suggested that protesters are rioting after being "incited by third-party countries to destabilize Iran," the outlet says.

One of the most common slogans being used during these protests: "Jin, Jiyan, Azadi," translates to "Women, Life, Freedom," and Meghan Markle was even spotted recently sporting a T-shirt with the slogan on it. So what does the phrase mean, where does it come from, and how does it relate to Amini's death?

Read on for all the details about the rallying cry. Plus, details on the current status of the estimated 15,000 protesters that have been taken into custody since the movement began.

What does the slogan mean?

Simply put, "Women, Life, Freedom" is used to express the desire for, and commitment to, equality, safety, and choice for women in Iran.

Iranian women have demanded a role in their society for decades. After the Iranian Revolution in 1979 led to the ousting of the monarchy and establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, women saw their rights restricted and mandatory hijab-wearing enforced, leading them to speak out against the harsh dress codes and gender disparities they faced, per History Today. This struggle for equality has continued into the present day.

The formation of the morality police stems back to the pressure put on women to wear the veil following the Iranian Revolution from people on the streets and members of the police force. But that pressure only increased over time, and by the end of the Iran-Iraq war 1990, the morality police was formally established, per NPR. Now, women have to wear their hijabs, cannot wear tight-fitting clothing, and cannot have raised sleeves, per Time.

Flashing forward to present day, crowds began chanting "Women, Life, Freedom," during Amini's funeral, per History Today.

Where did the slogan come from?

The slogan was originally used during the Kurdish freedom movement in the late 20th Century, where members of the Kurdish women's movement used it in response to persecution from the government in Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria.

Additionally, "Jin, jiyan, azadî” was also associated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a socialist offshoot of the freedom movement, per LanguageOnTheMove.

What is going on with the 15,000 protest prisoners?

As of right now, roughly 15,000 people have been detained by the Iranian government for participation in the protests sparked by Amini's death. Over 1,000 people are already facing charges such as “waging war against God," and some Iranian legislators are asking for harsher punishments for the protesters, per The Washington Post.

In a sweeping vote, more than 220 of the 290 members of Iran's parliament voted in favor of using the death penalty for protesters, per CNN. However, it is not clear at this time how many detainees would be affected by this decision, what next steps are, or when harsher punishments, including the death penalty, might be put into action.

At least one protester in custody has been given the death penalty so far for committing “corruption on earth," according to The Washington Post, and at least 326 people have been killed during the protests, according to the Norway-based Iran Human Rights NGO (IHRNGO), per CNN. Others arrested also face charges that carry the death penalty, including a rapper named Toomaj Salehi, and the two female journalists who broke the Amini story, The Washington Post reported.

What else is there to know about the current situation?

While the protests roar on across the country, younger Iranians are facing intense threats from the morality police, especially since children and teens are putting themselves on the protests' front lines.

Iranian officials have shared that the average age of protesters is 15 years old, per The New York Times. And already, dozens have been taken to adult detention centers. Additionally, 500 to 1,000 minors are currently in custody, with little to no information being released on their statuses, The New York Times reported.

High schools and college universities have also been the target of raids, which have reportedly resulted in 50 deaths.

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