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‘I Suppose the Ladies Are Profitable’: Roya Hakakian on Iran

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“Nobody can predict how a revolution begins,” the Iranian American poet and writer Roya Hakakian writes this week in The Atlantic. And make no mistake, she advised me in an interview yesterday: The wave of protests now sweeping Iran is a revolution. After 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in police custody following her arrest for improperly carrying the hijab earlier this month, Iranian women and men have crammed the streets and set hearth to the top coverings which have, for a lot of, come to characterize a collective lack of freedom since they have been made obligatory following the 1979 revolution. I spoke with Hakakian about Iran’s “Ukrainian second”—and about what comes subsequent.

However first, listed here are three new tales from The Atlantic.

“We Are All Mahsa Amini”

Kelli María Korducki: You have been a younger teen when Iran’s obligatory costume code went into impact in 1981, three years earlier than you left the nation for good. Do you see any echoes of that transition interval within the present second?

Roya Hakakian: This revolution in Iran is 43 years outdated. On March 8, 1979, which was barely even a month after the Iranian Revolution had succeeded, girls took to the streets to protest the hijab and the ayatollah’s reinstatement of a compulsory costume code.

I used to be 13. However this confrontation between the ladies of the nation and the regime is the oldest, most enduring standoff in Iran. And I believe the ladies are successful.

Korducki: You write in your essay, “Right now I really feel what so many Iranian girls really feel: We’re all Mahsa Amini.” What do you imply by that?

Hakakian: What occurred to Mahsa Amini occurred to each single one in all us. We’ve all been stopped [by Iran’s religious police], and a few of us have been detained. I used to be stopped many, many occasions. Whenever you assume again to all of the conversations that you’ve had with the individuals who have stopped you, you understand {that a} slight shift in tone or one thing very, very small might have gone improper to get the one who had stopped you to ship a blow to your head. All of us, the ladies who’ve lived underneath this regime, everyone knows what it’s like and that we may very well be a sufferer like Mahsa Amini.

Korducki: You write that Amini’s demise has sparked an uncommon diploma of shock and solidarity throughout Iran. What’s totally different about this explicit incident, and why is it uniting so many individuals from such diversified walks of life?

Hakakian: I believe it’s partially as a result of all earlier hopes for change have been misplaced. In 2009, there have been a whole lot of younger individuals—college college students, particularly—who actually had positioned their hope within the 2009 presidential elections and have been rooting for [the reformist presidential candidate, Mir Hossein] Mousavi. When Mousavi misplaced—the votes disappeared—thousands and thousands of individuals took to the streets asking, The place is my vote?

Since then, there have been different demonstrations over easy, tangible, reputable points that individuals usually take to their governments. And since none of these issues was ever resolved, I believe the pure conclusion that individuals have come to is that the system is rotten and incapable of responding to our wants. So now no one’s saying, The place’s my vote? They’re merely saying, This forged of characters has to go.

Korducki: You describe the protests as Iran’s “Ukrainian second,” and name for the U.S. to behave accordingly. What do you imply by that?

Hakakian: I testified earlier than the Senate International Relations Committee final week, and subsequently had a number of conferences with numerous senators. The second you talked about Iran, all of those senators began fascinated with Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria—that’s their context. And, in actual fact, that’s the improper context.

The individuals in Iran aren’t asking for any international powers to invade the nation, to come back and do the job. They’ve achieved the work. They’re not demanding something from the worldwide group apart from the form of help that the worldwide group, the Western world, should give to those that are vying for democratic values in one of the harmful elements of the world. The context to me appears much more just like the Ukrainian context.

We help Ukrainians of their struggle in opposition to invading Russian forces. Iranians are, in a means, additionally basically at struggle with a really, very highly effective and extremely armed authorities, and so they want our help now. The regime’s riot police have been throwing girls demonstrators in opposition to the cement curbs, and there are movies being circulated on-line that present police opening hearth on protesters. But the U.S.—which has been investing in democracy promotion in Iran for a minimum of the previous 20 years—remains to be sitting on the desk and holding nuclear negotiations with these very individuals. To me, it appears very affordable to demand that negotiations be stopped till the riot police cease exercising violence.

Like in each different revolution that has ever taken place, if it isn’t supported by governments that imagine within the prodemocratic values that the demonstrators are demanding, these protesters will fail.

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P.S.

Journey from the Land of No, Hakakian’s acclaimed 2004 memoir about her personal coming-of-age in revolutionary Iran, offers important context for the present unrest in Iran. “It exactly tells the story of [what happened between] 1977 and 1984, and the transition from monarchy to theocracy, and no hijab to pressured hijab,” Hakakian advised me in an e mail following our dialog. The e book recounts what Hakakian described to me as “the randomness that all of us skilled” in daily-life interactions with Iran’s oppressive regime.

— Kelli

Isabel Fattal contributed to this article.

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