The protests that started in Iran after the murder of Jîna (Mahsa) Amînî by the morality police on September 17, completed its first month. Feminists in the diaspora also organized quite actively during this time. We started to think about what we can do since we are already in contact with them. The first thing that came to our mind was to produce content in Turkish, and we sent all the questions that came to our mind to our friend Asadeh from the group organized under the name “Feminists4Jina” in the diaspora, mainly in Berlin but extending beyond that, too. We wanted to ask our friends what they did during the protests, how they felt and what we could do. Yara answered our questions.
The collective of feminists from Iran (Feminists4Jina) called for global action on October 2 and simultaneous actions were held in dozens of cities in different countries. During that time, the protests became more widespread, and the violence used by the regime to protect itself intensified. During this period, 82 people were killed in Balochistan.  At the same time, Nagihan Akarsel, a member of the Jineolojî committee, was murdered within the borders of the Northern Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government . Feminists from Iran, Kurds, the Middle East, and Germany had marched together in the action for Nagihan. That’s when we realized that questions like “what’s going on in Iran, can you provide an analysis?” were more of a burden than a benefit for our friends. All white European feminist groups were already doing this, expecting them to come everywhere and summarize the situation, to know immediately the total number of deaths according to the latest figures, and to count the names of the dead one by one. We understood that the comprehensive analysis and information we wanted could be found by searching the internet, and that we, as Turkish feminists living in the diaspora or in Turkey, could access this information. An interview on the subject was also published in Çatlak Zemin at the same time.
Then, we started to realize something else. Our Iranian friends were slowly transforming into one body. They were mostly queer feminist subjects, with a small number of cis-males showing up in solidarity. All together, they were eating, drinking, sleeping, waking up, going on the streets to protest and to meetings, and reading tweets like there is no tomorrow. Work, family, personal responsibilities, self care were no longer important because a feminist revolution was taking place on the streets of Iran. That’s why we changed the format of our interview to also include what our friends have been up to, how they felt, and what we could do during this process. The Feminists4Jina collective, along with a number of other groups, are getting ready for a centralized protest in Berlin scheduled on October 22. We wanted to talk to our friend Yara, who is a member of the collective, about her feelings during a moment when it feels like all is possible; and to remember what it was like to carry all the losses and the hope that something good will come out of this process. Because hope is contagious. We have learned that while the violence experienced in Iran is so intense, and the access to the internet and to report the news is so limited; therefore, the first thing to do is to keep what is going on in the country on the public agenda and disseminate the news as much as we can.
In a video interview with American academic Manijeh Moradian on the Jadalliya website, she was asked if the actions that began with the murder of a young woman by the morality police under the pretext of mandatory hijab had turned into a broader anti-regime framework. We find her answer important: The Iranian state itself is based on the control of the female body through the hijab law. Therefore, instead of thinking that this demand has turned into a bigger action, it is important to understand how big this demand is and how it is a demand that encompasses all other demands against the oppressive regime. Because nation-states create themselves through the control of bodies, and feminist demands are not secondary demands, they are demands that allow us to take life back into our own hands. That’s why women, queer communities, and men in solidarity with them organized a feminist resistance behind this demand, and the slogan of this resistance was “Jin Jiyan Azadi”.
Another important point is that this slogan did not appear out of nowhere and it has been used by Kurdish women for the past 40 years to organize. Today’s resistance relies on the experiences of this organizing. In return, the power of this organizing is getting attacked by the Iranian regime who is intensifying its attacks on the state of Kurdistan. Hijab (mandatory veiling) works at a specific intersection where the nation state of Iran is building its own discourse against the West, limiting different sections of society’s access to power and rights, and keeping women and other minorities under its control. The resistance against hijab is determined to shake these pillars of the nation state. These protests we are witnessing now are of a completely feminist character, as compared to the One Million Signatures and fair elections campaigns. As Manijeh Moradian has rightly stated, the fact that women are hitting the streets without their hijab, joining the resistance, and marching against their fears, despite knowing they might be arrested or killed, shows that everyone in Iran demands freedom and that they are the “ungovernable” subjects of this government. People want to control the fate of their bodies, and they are putting their bodies on the line without any fear. Especially, the attacks on Evin Prison in Tehran, where political prisoners make up the majority of inmates, point at one of the directions in which this resistance built on feminist demands can go: “abolition of prisons”. Evin Prison has become a symbol that prisons, the most crystallized form of state control over marginalized bodies, are waiting to be abolished. As our friend Yara states below, despite what happens next: A feminist revolution is taking place in Iran.
Would you like to introduce yourself?
I am an Iranian feminist and researcher living in Germany. I migrated to Germany around 20 years ago with my family, when I was still quite young. Together with other feminists from Iran –as an activist and an academic– I am working on issues such as mandatory hijab, murder of women/femicide, sexual violence in Iran. I consider myself a diaspora feminist because the way I relate to feminism stems from my life experience as a woman. Due to my experiences of confronting German nationalist society and racism from an early age with my family, and my experiences as a woman, I realized that these two experiences go hand in hand with regard to discrimination and marginalization. For this reason, I have focused on anti-colonialism and feminism in my academic studies. I am researching the struggles of exiled women, especially Iranian, but also other Middle Eastern women, and what we can learn from these struggles.
You are part of the feminist collective (Feminists4Jina) called for global action on October 2. Could you tell us a bit about how this collective came into being? Where are you active? What kinds of other activities do you engage in?
I have joined the collective formed by Iranian feminists in the diaspora through my friends. I was involved in other groups, especially against mandatory hijab, before I joined this collective, which were influential in the formation of this one. When my friends invited me to join the collective, there was already a network established. Many of the activists knew each other from their feminist struggle against the Islamic Republic and its misogynistic laws and institutions in Iran. The 1 Million Signatures campaign, campaigns against sexual violence and the hijab requirement were some of these struggles. After many of these people were forced to leave Iran, they continued to organize wherever they went and remained very close to each other. Feminists4Jina is a group that extends beyond borders. It was formed by Iranian feminists living in different cities in the diaspora organizing themselves.
Following the state killing of Jîna Amînî and the riots that followed, we are reunited as a group of Iranian feminists standing together for equality and against the systematic discrimination of the Islamic Republic. We are stronger than we have ever been, and we are extremely determined to act side by side with the peoples of Iran and other feminist movements around the world for freedom and equality. We are not affiliated with any political party or group, and we do not receive any financial support from such groups.
On October 2, we made a global call for feminist action in solidarity with the uprisings in Iran and with women, trans, non-binary and queer individuals and oppressed peoples there. We wanted to highlight and celebrate the feminist character of the riots, so we invited feminists from all over the world to join us and unite our struggles.
Which cities joined this action? What’s your interpretation of the current situation?
Many cities from all over the world, Beirut, Malmö, Istanbul, Toronto, Vienna, New York… joined the action. In addition to the cities that made their own independent calls in Turkey, a total of 25 cities carried out this action as part of our network and organized it with us. Frankly, the strongest message came from our Turkish and Lebanese sisters.
For me, it was a wonderful feeling to know that while I was on the streets of Berlin and showing solidarity with the resistance in Iran, my Iranian and international feminist sisters were doing the same in other cities around the world, shouting their anger at the Islamic Republic for a better future. The fact that this action took place in so many cities at the same time and that many people participated shows how organized and united we are against the Islamic Republic and its misogynistic patriarchal violence.
At the moment, a vigil continues in front of the Green Party office, which is also in power. You have joined that action in Berlin.
Yes, this action is organized by other Iranian diaspora feminist groups and international feminist groups in Berlin; we are not directly in it as a group, but we always join in when there is an action or event on this subject. We were there too. Of course, what is happening in Iran has to do with the foreign policies of the German state, and these actions put us in a position to demand that the Green Party weigh in on this issue. This was not the first approach our group would take on this issue. But of course, with all that’s going on, we are all united and supporting each other.
How do you see the diaspora play a role in this process?
My observation is that what is done in solidarity does not go beyond what is happening in Iran. People are showing their solidarity against the intense violence, injustice, and everything else that’s taking place in Iran, which is great. On the other hand, I think a truly functional solidarity can be built by seeing that what’s going on in Iran is actually the result of patriarchy and that each of us is affected differently in our own corners of the world. I mean, what we’re seeing right now is patriarchy organizing itself as a system, via the state, through nationalism, conservatism, and the populist right. We see this not only in the Middle East, but also in Italy, Germany, and other European countries. What is becoming more and more evident is that we can only fight this problem together, by developing solidarity and partnerships with each other.
How did you feel when you first heard that this resistance started?
When I heard that Mahsa Aminî was killed, I felt indescribably angry, sad, and helpless in the face of this injustice without limits. Mandatory hijab in Iran and the institutions put in place to enforce it once again took the life of a woman, revealing another aspect of the tyranny that the Islamic state will resort to in order to discipline the bodies and lives of women and LGBTQIA+ individuals.
After the protests started, I could see that I was not alone in my anger and mourning. In Iran, people now feel the same regardless of their gender identity and ethnicity, regardless of their city or background – they are on the streets, and they say enough is enough. We no longer accept the mandatory hijab, and we no longer accept the Islamic Republic.
How are you feeling right now?
Today I have very different, sometimes conflicting feelings. On the one hand, of course, I feel extremely worried because of the violent suppression of the protests, the mass arrests, and the war-like conditions created, especially the heavy violence in the Kurdistan and Balochistan regions. More than 200 people have been killed so far, twenty of them were children.  Many people were kidnapped or imprisoned. This makes me feel sad and scared.
On the other hand, I am very happy, full of joy and hope. I am witnessing, albeit from afar, the first feminist revolution to take place in Iran. It is nice that this movement is taking place under the leadership of the feminist slogan “Jin Jiyan Azadi”, that there are women in the streets en masse, that this revolt started in the Kurdistan region during Jîna Amînî’s funeral and then spread to the whole country. All these aspects and peculiarities of this revolt make me sincerely believe that a revolution is taking place in Iran, and this makes me very happy.
So how do you deal with all these emotional ups and downs?
For me, I could say that I can only deal with these feelings within a collective. I’m sharing my feelings with my feminist sisters with whom I am in constant contact. We’re crying and laughing together, we’re full of joy and, most importantly, we’re organizing. I get my strength from knowing I am not the only one going through these feelings, and that I can help my friends overcome some of their feelings.
I have always believed in the power of the collective in feminist initiatives. The past few weeks have been exceptional because I have never felt this connected to my feminist comrades before. This is a very strong emotion. It’s as if I could not endure all that’s happening without them, without spending time with them, without organizing with them. And not only do they take care of me, I take care of them too. We care for each other, we think together, we share everything on our minds with each other. Their thoughts become my thoughts. We make sense of what is happening in Iran together. We reveal our creativity together in the actions we organize. As you said, now we are together, I have difficulty in distinguishing which thought was mine or someone else’s. And we created this collectively. Instead of thinking about collective action as one way of feminist activism, we should take it as the way, and the only way to do feminist activism. Analyzing situations, taking action, being visible also changed the way I perceive myself and what is happening around me, and it gave me immense strength. Being alone is out of the question.
So how is life going on a personal level right now?
It turned into something more unpredictable than ever before. I get the days mixed up and it’s so hard to schedule things, we have dozens of Telegram groups. We are constantly getting messages saying that we are going there, we are doing this. I have other things to do, but my mind is occupied with what is going on in Iran. I’m going to meetings constantly and canceling my other plans. In other words, my day goes like this: I go for whatever job or news available, I go to events that are not organized by us, I join the protests… I am in a more fortunate position now that I am a doctoral student, I do not have a job that requires me to be present somewhere, but I cannot say that I’m doing anything related to my own work. I am constantly busy with actions, translation work, and spending time with my friends.
What do you get your hope from these days? What are the things that feed your strength and positive perspective?
As I said, we are witnessing a very unique moment on the streets right now. Of course, this is the product of continuity, there have been riots in the past, but this is the first time we are witnessing such a feminist movement in Iran. I think this is something very special. It is feminist in every way. The demands are feminist from the start, what was demanded in the first place is a feminist demand to oppose mandatory hijab. It is also a feminist demand to demand the destruction of the Islamic Republic. That’s why we see so many women on the street. There is an incredibly intense female presence on the street. Another beautiful thing is that the slogan “Jin Jiyan Azadi” became so popular in these actions and spread everywhere. All of that makes this action very powerful and distinctive from other waves of action. Therefore, even though we do not know what will happen in the future, knowing these features of this revolt is enough for me, no matter what. This feminist revolt has taken place and I can fully identify myself with this revolt. The demands of this rebellion also touch my life in Germany. This extends hope beyond borders.
What can we do to support these actions, but at the same time not only stay at the level of solidarity, but also organize ourselves?
As a woman, everything is incredibly intense for me right now. I think the first priority is to render what’s going on in Iran more visible. Not only to participate in the demonstrations, but also to disseminate the news and knowledge about the intensity of the Iranian state violence and its efforts to suppress the protests. Everyone should know about it. We should also make sure that the prisoners are not forgotten, the people killed by the Iranian state are not forgotten. When we talk about femicide, it doesn’t just happen in Iran. What does this mean? How is it that there is a global need to control and discipline female and queer bodies by patriarchy? These experiences also affect our lives in other countries in different ways. In Iran, we are witnessing the authoritarian regime destroying our lives. We witness how immigration in Germany is influenced by patriarchy. Secondly, we can draw lessons from what happened in Iran for our own context. Having said that, that is not my priority now. The most important thing for me is to follow the news and disseminate them, to keep in touch with Iran and to be the eyes and ears of the activists there.
Especially as feminists from the Middle East, we know very well that it’s not only Iran but also other states in the region, such as Turkey, are built on the unity of patriarchy, neoliberalism, religious conservatism and nationalism. The time has come to join forces in collective action to recognize and fight our common enemies, both in our own countries and in the diaspora.
 The names of our friends have been anonymized.
 Editor’s note: The number of deaths has been rising since we have conducted this interview. On October 19, the reported number of deaths was 244, 32 of whom were children. The number of those identified as detained is 924. It is estimated that the regime has detained over 12 thousand people. It is almost impossible to reach those who have been detained, and there has been reports of torture. The regime still continues to make disgraceful statements such as young people (killed by the regime) actually had a sudden heart attack or threw themselves from a tall building. Source: @en.hrana
Translator: Deniz İnal
Proof-reader: Müge Karahan