Right now, the women of Iran have taken to the streets in what can only be called the greatest display of bravery we’ve witnessed in recent years. The protests come on the heels of the state sanctioned murder of 22 year-old Mahsa Amini, a young woman, that was taken into custody by the Iranian “Morality Police” for not appropriately covering her hair with a hijab while traveling with her family. Unfortunately, for the few hours that this healthy young woman was in custody she ended up in a coma and then pronounced dead by those same police. While the government claims to be “looking into the issue”, thousands of Iranian women have taken to the streets in protest–burning their hijabs and calling for an end to Islamic rule.
While images of unrest in this region are nothing new–the pictures and videos of who is protesting and why are absolutely incredible.
A few months ago I was watching an old Indiana Jones film and to my shock and horror what I remembered as a childhood favorite, filled with adventure and exploration, was with my adult eyes, chopped full of anti-Middle East propaganda not to mention racism and misogyny. To be honest, I can’t remember a time when I have seen anything positive come out of this region as both our entertainment and political coverage has always been negatively skewed–and that is putting it mildly. It’s hard to continue to bomb and ravage an area of the world over countless presidents and decades if you don’t try and dehumanize them first. It was George W. Bush who coined the term “Axis of Evil” that placed the country of Iran on one of the three spokes alongside Iraq and North Korea.
Iran and the United States didn’t always have the tenuous relationship that they do now. As a matter of fact, prior to the Islamic revolution in 1979; which ousted King Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah and installed the Islamic republic which continues to rule now, both the U.S. and Britain saw Iran as an ally. While the Shah was in fact an authoritarian dictator, he also pushed the country towards Western-orientated modernization while providing less restriction around cultural freedoms. When you take a look at photos of Iran prior to the Islamic revolution you see women without headscarves or coverings, working, and living life not too dissimilar from women in the U.S. at that time…