From Norway, Nasim Mashak follows the massive demonstrations against the regime in his home country of Iran, where women are now throwing their hijabs on the fire. She knows well what fear the country’s morality police can inflict.
Less than 20 minutes ago
Last week, 22-year-old Masha Amini died after she was arrested by Iran’s morality police for her allegedly loose headscarf.
The notorious police force is tasked with making sure that women comply with the country’s strict laws for women’s dress code, including that they wear the hijab.
The police themselves claim Amini died as a result of heart problems, but eyewitnesses have said that she was beaten up by the police.
The death has triggered massive demonstrations against the country’s religiously conservative and authoritarian regime.
Photos and video filmed by the protesters show Iranian women tearing off their hijabs and throwing them on bonfires lit in cities around the country.
The clip below has gone around the world in recent days:
In addition, several police stations and cars have been set on fire in the capital Tehran and several other Iranian cities. So far, six protesters have been killed.
The strength and scope of the protests are stronger than in many years.
In Norway, many Iranians, who have fled their homeland for various reasons, are closely following what is now unfolding. One of them is the artist and DJ Nasim Mashak (39). For her, the fight for women’s rights in Iran is also a personal fight.
Arrested by the moral police – was to be whipped
One late summer day in 1999, when Nasim Mashak was 16 years old, she lied to her father about going swimming with some friends.
Instead, the friends were to meet some boys who were close friends. They were to listen to music and hang out together in a private home.
In Iran, teenage girls had to sneak to such meetings, because intercourse between boys and girls was illegal.
Suddenly, after a few hours of music and dancing, there was a knock on the door.
– My heart was beating so fast, Nasim tells VG today.
According to Nasim, the morality police were at the door and demanded that the teenagers come out of the house. Someone in the neighborhood had tipped them off.
Mahsa Amini (22) died in the clutches of the morality police
Two police cars drive up to the shopping centre. Fear spreads quickly. The moral police are on the hunt. Women are free game.
She was so scared that she considered jumping out of the window and trying to escape, but she feared she would just break all her bones in the fall.
– My body shook with fear and I could barely go down the stairs. So many thoughts raced through my head. We had already lied to our parents and now we were going to be exposed in the worst way.
Nasim and his friends were taken to the police station.
One of the girls cried and, according to Nasim, a female police officer hit the girl in the face to make her stop. After their parents finally picked them up, they were told to appear in court early the next morning.
Before Nasim and her father entered the courtroom, the father was asked by a policeman if he wanted them to check if his daughter was “still a virgin”. According to Nasim’s contact, the father replied: “No one is checking my daughter”.
– We were sentenced to 50 lashes for what we had done, but the punishment could be paid off, so I escaped.
Shortly after the incident, her parents decided to send her to Norway, where Nasim’s brother had already fled.
– I really want to be there
23 years have passed, and now Nasim follows developments in his home country minute by minute from Oslo.
– What happened to Masha Amini was the last drop of blood that made the cup run over. Now Iranians from all walks of life and of all ages are gathering in protest. Perhaps it will not bring immediate change, but it is the start of something very promising, says Nasim.
The demonstrations take place in over 80 cities across the country.
– This is about freedom! It is the largest feminist demonstration in Iran since the revolution of 1979. The women are at the center of the demonstrations, and have men supporting them behind them.
Although the demonstrations are not resolved by the morality police’s treatment of a woman, according to Nasim, the demonstrations are also about something even bigger:
Several of the protesters are now shouting “Death to Khamenei”, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
– This is a women’s fight, but it is also about freedom for everyone, she says.
Huge risk to demonstrate
Amnesty International is closely following developments in Iran now.
– The Iranian regime is among the most brutal in the world. And in this particular area, when it comes to women’s clothing, the regime has even become more active, says Secretary General of Amnesty Norway, John Peder Egenæs, to VG on Thursday.
He says it involves an enormous risk to take to the streets in protest, because the regime is known for violently and brutally cracking down on demonstrations.
– We now see that people, despite this danger, are willing to take to the streets. It shows that there is a strong movement which is now demonstrating, which believes that the issue is so important that the consequences are worth it, he says.
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75-year-old mother’s dream
Nasim Mashak is now in Norway and trying to reach family and friends in Tehran.
– I cry about what is happening, because I really want to be there with the demonstrators in the streets of Tehran, she says.
On Thursday, the internet in the country was closed, which makes communication with the outside world more difficult. The Iranian regime has also shut down the internet during previous demonstrations.
Nasim’s mother still lives in Tehran.
– I talk to my mother almost every day. She is 75 years old and she says that she wants to take to the streets in protest too.
Nasim ends the interview with VG by saying what his mother’s dream is:
– She tells me over the phone that she dreams of living long enough to see the strict legislation changed.