As uprisings continue in Iran, a local woman with dual citizenship reflects on her family ties and what the unrest means for the country.
The death of an Iranian woman in police custody more than a month ago sparked protests across the country and the world, pushing back against the Islamic regime.
On September 16, 22-year-old Mahsha Amini passed away after the Iranian morality police took her into custody, alleging she failed to properly wear her hijab.
Witnesses claim she was beaten as she was taken away. Although Iranian authorities deny any responsibility, Amini passed away in a hospital after three days in a coma.
Since then, nearly 250 people have been killed in uprisings against the government.
“I think we’re looking at a historic moment in Iran. I think the the revolution has already occurred in the psyche of the Iranian people, and it’s only a matter of time before that’s reflected politically,” Maryam Mirahmadi of Bend told Central Oregon Daily News on Monday.
Maryam has a dual nationality in the United States and Iran, and spent her childhood summers visiting dozens of family members in her father’s home country.
“I grew up very deeply entrenched in Iranian culture,” she said. “So colorful, warm, vibrant, passionate, loving.”
Since September, connecting with family members in the country has been a challenge.
“The internet has been shut down since the protests started, and so that said, the state pretty consistently shuts down internet access to the Iranian people,” Maryam said. “And so what you have is a population of people who are really good at finding workarounds. So there have been one or two family members that I’ve been able to be in contact with. But it’s very brief, it’s very limited and I don’t feel like I’m getting a clear picture of how they’re doing and their safety.”
Maryam herself had run-ins with the morality police during her visits. Once, they confronted her mom when her blond hair was showing out of her scarf.
“The morality police approached us and said, you can’t have your hair showing like that. You need to come with me to a detention center or educate you, which is where they took Mahsa, which is where they take a lot of women,” Maryam said. “And my aunt was with us, who is a very powerful woman, sassy, spicy, forceful. She embarrassed them and yelled at them and told them they can’t do that, and this woman is American, and what kind of representation of our nation do you want to be offering these people?
“They let her go, but I do wonder what would have happened if my aunt wasn’t wasn’t there to defend my mom.”
The Islamic regime took over the country in 1979, when the monarchy was toppled by uprisings.
Maryam said the uprisings against the regime since September have been bolder and more widespread than those in the past. They have taken place in smaller, more conservative villages rather than just larger cities like Tehran.
“You see children, teenagers jumping onto police cars and telling them ‘I don’t want this regime, death to dictator’. That’s something that the generation ahead of them never dreamt of being able to do,” Maryam added.
Her feelings range from deep pride and hope for a change, to grief over the knowledge of the cost.
“They’re an unarmed people and as much as I do believe that they’ve reached a tipping point where they won’t settle for less than absolute dismantlement of the current regime, it’s not going to happen without unfathomable levels of casualty and bloodshed,” she said.
Recently, Maryam has felt isolated in Central Oregon, with very little Iranian representation in the area.
She’s made an effort to feel connected to ‘as many Iranian people as possible’ during this time, and has joined the Persians of Central Oregon Facebook group to find community.
“I do feel like being in Central Oregon, there’s sort of an erasure of this part of me and it’s so easy to just assimilate into Bend culture and let the other part go, because there’s no opportunity to really engage with it here,” Maryam said.
She believes the unrest in Iran is less known than the war in Ukraine and other international events for a number of reasons, including that media outlets in Iran are state-run and control the flow of information.
“I also think that perhaps a pretty uncomfortable truth that we might have to sit with as Americans is that a lot of the Western world, and the U.S. is no exception to this, has a vested interest fiscally in the preservation of the current regime because of oil ties,” Maryam said. “And I can’t speak to what degree that might be impacting media coverage, but I also can’t help but wonder if that does play into what feels like an underreporting of a deeply historic moment.”
Maryam said that if people want to show their support for Iranians during this time, sharing information on social media is one way to do that.