Although there are many countries that reveal the dangers theocracy poses to women and sexual minorities (including the United States with its growing Christian nationalism), Iran is near the very top.
The situation in Iran is especially tragic because the Iranian people have openly, courageously rebelled for more than a year — marching, removing hijabs in gleeful protest, daring to challenge religious authorities and demanding the end of the clergy-led government — and yet nothing changes.
The death of Mahsa Amini, 22, in September of last year after being interrogated by religious police because some locks of hair were escaping her headscarf, sparked the heady and exultant “Woman, Life, Freedom” protests. Now yet another murder at the brutal hands of governmental guards of a young girl for uncovering her hair has occurred. It was announced on Sunday that “the brain death of Armita Geravand seems certain,” according to Tasnim News.
The lovely 16-year-old with a pixie haircut and no headscarf was on her way to class on Oct. 1. She was vital and healthy when she stepped onto a subway train. Minutes later, she left in a coma on a stretcher. Iranian officials first ludicrously insisted she fainted because she skipped breakfast and had hit her head. The New York Times cites individuals familiar with the situation saying Geravand and two of her friends argued with officers enforcing the dress code. An officer pushed Geravand, who fell, hit her head on a metal object and suffered cerebral hemorrhaging.
The image (above) of Armita Geravand was posted on the platform formerly known as Twitter, by Fatemeh Heidari, whose brother was shot in protests last year, one of at least 500 people killed by the government during the uprisings over the past year. The social media script reads: “Sweet Armita! Brave and beautiful girl of my land. They killed you, took your thin body hostage.”
The outrage of this brutal snuffing of young life is compounded by the injustice toward the two journalists who covered Amini’s case. On Sunday, they were sentenced to years of prison for “cooperating with the ‘hostile’ government of America,” the New York Times reported. Niloofar Hamedi, one of the two, had bravely taken the famous photograph of Amini intubated in the hospital that exposed Amini’s murder.
Why do male religions obsess over women’s hair, and demand it must be hidden, faces veiled or entire forms swatched in burqas, as in Afghanistan? It’s not just the Muslim faith. The Christian New Testament teaches that women must humble themselves and cover their heads while praying. Orthodox Judaism bars women from showing their hair in public after they wed. They must cover their hair with a headscarf or wear hideous wigs. All of these dogmatic rules have to do with suppressing women, treating them as possessions to be controlled and imposing a false modesty that stems from patriarchal dogma branding women and their bodies as sinful and shameful.
It is truly heroic that despite the killings and crackdown, Iranians like young Geravand continue to seize freedom as their due.
Showing hair should not be a death sentence for any girl or woman. For women to have life and freedom, instead it is theocracy in so many countries that must die.