Iranian journalist fights for equality


Tamonda GriffithsNews Writer

In her book, “The Wind in My Hair: My Fight for Freedom in Modern Iran,” an Iranian journalist, author and feminist, Masih Alinejad talks about how she grew up to spark a revolution in Iran in her fight for feminism, equality and freedom.

Alinejad spoke to a small audience of students and faculty last Monday about what it was like growing up in Iran and through to the present day.

Alinejad said at a young age she was not aware of what feminism and equality were. Her main goal was to have the same freedom as her brother. Her brother could play in a nearby river without an escort, ride a bicycle, sing aloud and show his hair, she said.

“He was allowed basically to be his true self,” said Alinejad. “But me? My body was a shame.”

Alinejad said she envied her brother’s freedom and other male relatives could enjoy. Alinejad said she learned to empower herself and fight for her freedom from mother.

“I was never looking for a hero,” said Alinejad. “Never looking for a – you know, somebody well known or celebrities these days or politicians to come and save me. I learned from my pain to be powerful.”

Alinejad said the biggest argument people make against her cause is “this [is] not a right time to talk about women’s rights.”

“I said no several times in my life,” said Alinejad, “and I got expelled from everywhere.”

Alinejad said she was kicked out of high school for asking questions. She said she was jailed for creating and spreading pamphlets around with information that criticized the Iranian government and was kicked out by the Iranian Parliament for exposing corruption.

According to a LeanIn article, Alinejad recounts a time she was interviewing a member of parliament who threatened to assault her for “two loose strands of hair” sticking out her hijab.

“Anytime when I was asking a question about politicians, about politics in Iran, guess what they would say to me? ‘First, cover your hair,’” said Alinejad. “When you are a woman, they don’t care about what you say, they care about what you wear. They care about your body. They care about your sexuality.”

Bailey Gartman, a senior and English education major, said she had not realized compulsory hijabs were “still a thing.”

“Social media has helped a variety of movements, like scattered across the world,” said Gartman, “and gained so much momentum.”

David Notholt, a senior and political science major, said although he attended for a class assignment, his biggest take away from the event was equality.

“It’s not just women that can work to fix this issue, it’s everybody has to work together,” said Notholt.

Alinejad – who has been living in exile since 2009 – said the most important thing she learned in exile was “you only have two options to be victim, homesick, miserable, isolated or to use the opportunity to be the voice of voiceless people.”

Alinejad said Iranian women are teaching feminists worldwide how to resist.

Alinejad said in response to the #MeToo movement, the supreme leader of Iran said, “‘It is your fault. This is the Western women’s fault because you don’t believe in Islam, because you don’t try hijab.’”

Alinejad said this sparked a movement on social media called #MyCameraIsMyWeapon, in which Iranian women filmed their interactions with the morality police, officers who enforce Sharia law, and eventually inspired her to create her own campaign My Stealthy Freedom, an online movement which showcases women of Iran removing their hijab.

She said from what she has seen, American feminists are “scared” to support feminist movements in the Middle East out of fear of being labelled Islamophobic.

“Never ignore your sisters,” said Alinejad. “Feminism is feminism.”

Photo Credit: Tamonda Griffiths

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