“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
— Audre Lorde
The recent killing of Mahsa Amini by Iranian security forces, as a result of her alleged failure to comply with the country’s compulsory veiling laws, is a stark reminder of what is at stake for so many women, non-binary, and femme individuals around the world. Amini was only 22 years old. By some accounts, only a few strands of her hair were showing. The news of her death has sparked outrage within international feminist circles and ignited protests in Iran.
I participated in my first protest for women’s rights as a sophomore in high school. I was 15 years old, and I had no idea what feminism was. I did not call what I was doing a fight for women’s rights. All I knew was that I felt something unfair happening to a group of poor young women of color at my all-girls Catholic high school. Little did I know then that I would someday proudly claim my identity as a transnational feminist, working for women’s liberation in my professional, personal, and civic life.
I spent nearly 10 years in my early career as a director of a university women’s center. I’ve been involved in several women-centered organizations both locally and nationally and have supported transnational and international women-centered organizations. Yet, even as my activism has caused discomfort for some, made me nervous for my professional reputation, and worried my family when I traveled abroad on behalf of feminist organizations, as a non-Black woman from the United States I seldom felt I was putting my life at risk in exercising my right to speak out against injustice.
To be clear, my issue is not with the hijab. As a feminist in the Western world, I’m careful not to judge cultural and religious practices of women-identified folks globally. However, Iran’s compulsory veil-wearing is a different issue altogether, representing state-sanctioned violence against women. A feminist revolution in Iran, demanding an end to a system of gender apartheid, is not new. Women in Iran were involved in civic life prior to, and took to the streets soon after, Iran’s Islamic revolution. But just as we experienced a catalyst in our demand for anti-racist change in 2020, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s state campaign against ethnic, religious, gender, and sexually minoritized people, coupled with the public outcry against Amini’s death by Iran’s so-called “morality police,” feels like a catalyst moment for women’s rights globally.
In the midst of our own struggles, debates, and protests for and about the rights of women-identified, non-binary, and femme individuals on our campus and beyond the bluff, let’s not forget those around the world who do so at the risk of their own lives. If we are to live up to LMU’s mission in the service of faith and the promotion of justice, what is our responsibility to support the movements across the globe calling for Iran and all countries to respect women’s rights as human rights?
The Loyola Law School International Human Rights Center invites members of the community to join their efforts by seeking out opportunities with the center and other LLS social justice clinics.
For those in need of support, a variety of school resources are available, including:
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- Office for International Students and Scholars – OISS@lmu.edu (students)
- Public Safety – 310.338.2893
- Student Psychological Services – 310.338.2868 (students)
- Center for Ignatian Spirituality – firstname.lastname@example.org (faculty and staff)
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