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“Say Her Name”: Negar Mortazavi on the Stirring Protests in Iran

The Iranian American journalist on how Mahsa Amini’s death has led to growing protests that threaten the regime as never before since 1979.

Illustration by The New Republic

If you’ve been following the events in Iran since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on September 16 after being detained by the “morality police” for not wearing her hijab in accordance with government standards, you may have—or should have—happened across Negar Mortazavi, the Iranian American journalist and commentator whose Twitter feed has been a must-read source for links to the latest information on events in Iran. Mortazavi, who lives in the United States but was born and raised in Tehran shortly after the revolution, has been monitoring the events as closely as anyone.

She has been most struck, and hearteningly so, she says, by the fact that this protest is being led by women, who have had enough and are standing up and defying the regime as never before. “It’s incredible,” she said. “I see a lot of women cutting their hair, which is a sign or grief or defiance.” She adds: “It’s a very grassroots and organic outpouring of anger.” Protesters in many cities—not just Tehran but even deeply religious centers like Qom—are taking to the streets and chanting “Say Her Name” and “Women, Life, Freedom.”

The big question, of course, is where all this leads. “I’m hoping this will be a turning point or a wake-up call,” Mortazavi said. She and all Iranians have seen such uprisings come to naught before, most recently in 2019, when protests in many cities were put down by the regime. It has done the same this time, with reports indicating that around 50 people have been killed. But the protests are still spreading and gaining steam. Maybe this time things will be different.

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