Berkeley, Calif.—On Sept. 23 over 1,000 people gathered at UC Berkeley to express their solidarity with the growing movement of women in Iran by holding a candlelight vigil. The movement, self-titled “Woman, Life, Freedom,” arose in response to the Sept. 16 killing of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini by the “morality police” for allowing some of her hair to show from under her scarf.
Iranian authorities insisted that the funeral be held the following day, hoping that the outrage would pass quickly and people would forget Amini’s murder. Instead, every day since then, massive demonstrations, and not only in Iran, have been building into a movement. Women in Turkey, Iraq and Afghanistan have challenged their own regimes’ similar “morality” impositions. Demonstrations have taken place in most European capitals and in many, many cities around the world.
The first speaker in Berkeley was a young Afghani woman who read a poem for Mahsa Amini. Other speakers dispelled any illusions that Iranian women want “freedom” limited to that experienced by western women. One asserted she, like other Iranians, wants a genuine democracy by Iranian people for Iranian people.
One participant in the Berkeley vigil said this moment feels like a beginning of fundamental change, and not just in Iran. She marveled at the level of support from men in this movement. She likened it to the widespread support for Black Lives Matter after the murder by the Minnesota police of George Floyd. She said it is not “just” a women’s movement, it is openly a movement for human liberation.
Others in the crowd clearly felt the same. While most carried pictures of Mahsa Amini, many carried pictures of others, political prisoners and even pictures of public executions. “Woman, Life, Freedom” echoes the original 1979 Iranian revolution’s call: “Women’s liberation is society’s liberation!” Women asserting autonomy over their own bodies in opposition to religious fundamentalism of any stripe resonates with a demand for freedom in every corner of the world.