Mahsa Amini. Could this be the one? Could hers be the name that leads to seismic change?

As an Iranian American watching the dramatic events unfold in Iran, I’m afraid to hold my breath. I’ve seen this play out before. The Green Movement protests of Iran in 2009 due to election fraud claims. The protests of 2019 in Iran due to fuel costs and food shortages.

In both cases, I hoped for the change that would lead to a free Iran, one in which a theocracy of corrupt mullahs that has had a stranglehold on the nation and its people for more than 43 years is toppled and replaced by a legitimately elected democratic body of officials that would represent the will of the people. But in the 2009 and 2019 protests in Iran, the demonstrators were brutally suppressed by the ayatollahs’ paramilitary forces. And life under the tyranny of the ayatollahs continued.

Yet these latest protests feel different. They were sparked by the recent death of Amini, a 22-year-old woman, at the hands of Iran’s notorious morality police. She was killed for not properly covering her hair with a hijab. So this time, Iranians aren’t protesting fraudulent elections or skyrocketing costs. This time, they’re making it clear that they’re sick of being brutalized, and they want regime change. They want a return of their basic freedoms and an end to suffocating rule under the ayatollahs.

Twitter and Instagram users are sharing videos of people burning effigies of mullahs and chanting “Death to Khomeini!” referring to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. That is a remarkable thing in itself since the Iranian government swiftly shut down the country’s internet access and people’s ability to communicate with the outside world as these protests gained momentum. Some images are escaping, such as videos of women cutting their hair and burning their headscarves to protest Amini’s murder. Like many moments in Iran’s history, it is again women who are at the forefront demanding change and risking everything.

These women know any one of them could be arbitrarily arrested, tortured and killed on any given day in Iran. If it wasn’t Amini, it would have been another woman. So they are showing tremendous sacrifice in solidarity. And that they are being joined en masse by Iranian men, young and old and of every socioeconomic status, shows how much the Iranian people are united in their contempt for the misogyny and muzzling women have endured for more than four decades. For many in Iran, that constitutes a lifetime.


Due in some measure to the mass casualties of the Iran-Iraq war that followed the 1979 revolution, 60 percent of Iran’s population is 30 and younger. While those Iranians have never known the Iran that their parents enjoyed before 1979, they’ve seen images in family albums and heard stories from older relatives of a time when Iran enjoyed much of the same liberties and economic advantages as Western nations. The revolution of 1979 foisted strict fundamentalist Islamic codes onto the country.

Even more telling is technology. Many Iranians are technophiles, and thanks to advances such as the internet, Iranians have access to Western pop culture, albeit subversively. Many of my relatives who are still in Iran are on Instagram, and a cousin will often message me about the latest episode of HBO’s “Succession.” Young Iranians know of the freedoms that much of the world experiences, but they just can’t openly indulge in them. It must be odd for Iranians to watch “The Handmaid’s Tale” because Iranians have been living in a real-life version of Gilead for the past four decades.

Iran’s morality police killed Amini, and now Iranians want a reckoning. They want an end to the Orwellian monitoring and extremist behavioral dictates. They want their freedom. Iranians likely can’t become free without the support of the U.S. and other free nations. In a tweet last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken revealed that the U.S. has taken action to “provide [Iran] greater access to digital communications to counter the Iranian government’s censorship.” Elon Musk tweeted that he’s “activating Starlink,” which provides satellite internet access.

Indeed, many public figures have voiced their support for the women of Iran, the Iranian people and a free Iran, which is exactly what is needed. And in a moment when the call and fight for democracy have been amplified throughout the world, including here in the U.S., let’s do what we can to support the Iranian people’s fight for their freedom.

Let’s continue to use social media, news outlets and other platforms to build momentum. Perhaps this time can be different. Perhaps if we all demand it, Iran can finally be free.

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