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Mahsa and the others
  • Mahsa Amini
    Mahsa Amini
It all stemmed from a lock of hair. A rebellious lock of hair escaped from the hijab, the funereal black sheet with which all Iranian women are obliged to cover themselves. A lock of hair that Mahsa Amini, just turned twenty-two, may not have even noticed. That, however, was enough to get her arrested. Pushed kicked, punched and slapped inside the 'moral police' car that took her to the station. Mahsa died a few hours later, during a 're-education training in the proper use of the hijab." From a heart attack, police claim. From the beating she received, her brother claims. Who was waiting outside the police station-he heard people screaming, the ambulance arrived, and saw, like the whole world a few hours later, Mahsa in the hospital, intubated, with clear signs of beatings and blood coming out of her ears. At the funeral, her father chased away the mullah, the Islamic cleric, who wanted to conduct the funeral service, "It was your Islam that denounced her, and now you have come to pray for her? Have you no shame? You killed her for two strands of hair! Take your Islam and go back to where you came from!" Two strands of hair. Two sparks that, after Mahsa's death, ignited the powder keg that brooded, not so quietly, under the ashes. Two strands of hair that served as bait fueling a series of grievances: over a collapsing economy, blatant corruption, suffocating repression, and social restrictions imposed by a handful of musty elderly clerics. It was the women who started it. Taking off their hijabs and throwing them into a fire, fires lit just about everywhere in the country, in front of astonished policemen. Cutting their hair in the square and posting videos on social media. It is since 1979, two years after the ultra-conservative mullahs seized power, that the hijab has been imposed on all women and girls over the age of 9 to 'protect the honor and chastity of women': as required by Sharia, the Islamic law of strict observance. And since Ebrahim Raisi became president a year ago, enforcement of the strict social and religious rules has been further strengthened. In July, the president ordered all "responsible entities and institutions" to develop a strategy to intensify the enforcement of the hijab. The violations, he said, were damaging the values of the Islamic Republic and "promoting corruption".Iran's chief prosecutor advocated preventing improperly covered women from accessing social and government services, including the subway. The Ministry of Guidance has ordered cinemas to stop showing women in advertisements. As in Afghanistan, where Sharia law has been re-imposed by the ruling terrorist group and where female beings follow the same fate. The protests that have been inflaming Iran for many days now, and which are now no longer just about women and the hijab, are being reported and commented on by newspapers all over the world. Christiane Amanpour, a famous American journalist, refused to wear a headscarf to interview President Raisi, who did not show up. The same Amanpour, however, who a few months ago had her head 'modestly' covered to interview Taliban terrorist Sirajuddin Haqqani. Justifying her choice with 'respect for the country's tradition and law,' since the interview was taking place in Afghanistan. And yet: in 1979 in Tehran, the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci so reported her meeting with the father of the Islamic revolution Khomeini: "All this does not concern you. Our customs do not concern you Westerners. If you don't like the Islamic dress, you don't have to wear it. The chador is for young and decent women.""Excuse me?" "I said, if you don't like the Islamic dress, you are not obliged to wear it. The chador is for young and respectable women." "Thank you, Mr. Khomeini. You are very polite, a true gentleman. I will oblige on the spot. I'll take off this stupid medieval rag immediately." The same 'rag from the Middle Ages' towards which the West have had a pilatesque attitude for years. Ready to protest against the ayatollahs and the Taliban, but defending the 'choice' of Muslim women to wear it. While knowing very well, as Iranian, Saudi and Afghan women testify, that the hijab is not a choice. It almost never is. It is not a choice at age nine; it is not a choice after that. Just as the tight mourning, almost a hijab of handkerchiefs covering half the face and thick black stockings even in the hottest summers, of southern Italian widows was not a choice until about fifty years ago. The so-called 'choice' was dictated by social pressure, by the conditioning with which women were raised. By a patriarchal society that considered women's bodies subversive and dangerous. It was dictated, like the hijab in the above countries, by fear: fear of the law or ostracism from neighbors, relatives and friends. The hijab, before being imposed on the body, is imposed on the brain. The hijab is the consequence and most obvious sign of archaic rules that we, in our cities, insist on defending out of 'respect for the culture' of others. The culture of hijab, honor and decency is what killed Saman in Novellara, Italy. Saman who, having grown up in Italy, wanted to live free from family conditioning. Saman, who was murdered by her family because she did not conform to the archaic rules dictated by her parents who had lived in Italy for years. Saman, who refused an arranged marriage and proper dress. Saman, whose parents fled to Pakistan and whose extradition Pakistan refuses to extradite because it endorses the principles under which the girl was killed. Oriana was right when she spoke of Islamo-fascism. A fascism blacker than black, as black as midnight, as black as the hijabs and Dementor-suit burqas imposed on Afghan women. There is no respect or honor in the poisoned fruits of an archaic religion imposed on women and passed off as protection and respect. There is no respect or honor in Sharia laws that impose, for example, four male and Muslim witnesses as witnesses to a rape, otherwise the raped woman is imprisoned as an adulteress. "With a shove I let go of the chador, which scuttled to the floor in an obscene stain of black," Fallaci concluded, "What happened next remains in my memory like the shadow of a cat that had previously been dozing off and suddenly leapt forward to devour a mouse. He got up with such a quick snap, so sudden, that for an instant I thought I had been hit by a gust of wind. Then, with an equally feline leap, he stepped over the chador and disappeared." Iranian women and girls are trying, to make the black shadow weighing on their hearts and entire existence disappear. Let's help them, really, to make that gust of wind a storm. Without making distinctions, without applying the reasons of politics to women's bodies. So that Mahsa and the others may not have died in vain, and a lock of hair will remain only a lock of hair.
Francesca Marino