In September, Iranian morality police took 22-year-old Mahsa Amini into custody for violating the country’s extremist religious dress code.
Her family never saw her alive again. Since then, the country has been torn apart from one border to the other by protests led by young people and women, furious over the religious totalitarian rule.
Gen Z in Iran has embraced the anti-theocracy protests, envisioning a world and a future that looks different than the one they assumed they’d have to grow up in. Realizing they could have freedom if they could only wrest them away from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his oppressive goons.
Across the country, girls as young as 11 have been heard chanting “clerics, get lost” in the classroom and “if we don’t unite, one by one, we’ll become the next Mahsa Amini.”
Iranian sociologist Hosein Ghazian says that social media is helping to drive hope for change, explaining, “This generation is more up-to-date and aware of the world they live in. They’ve realized life can be lived differently. They see no prospect for a better future with this regime, which gives them courage.”
They fear letting the country continue down its extremist path and hope that they can overcome the violence and extremism. A 22-year-old TikToker named Hadis Najafi filmed a video on her phone on her way to a protest, hoping for a better tomorrow. She said, “I hope in a few years, when I look back, I will be happy that everything has changed for the better.”
She was shot dead an hour later.
16-year-old YouTube vlogger Sarina Esmailzadeh filmed herself saying, “We’re not like the previous generation 20 years ago who didn’t know what life was like outside Iran. We ask ourselves why aren’t we having fun like the young people in New York and Los Angeles?”
Sarina was killed in a protest from severe blows to her head.
Sarina, Hadis, Mahsa, and all the others who are becoming the face of fury and hope are ushering in a new Iran – whether or not the current regime has recognized it yet.
Currently, the question remains, when will Ben Affleck, admired by the Persian community for his OSCAR-winning best picture ARGO, do something? Like Dennis Rodman to North Korea … Big Ben is the Iranian superhero.