Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madame Deputy Speaker, Mahsa Amini was a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who was visiting her family in Tehran when, for the crime of showing her hair, she was bashed and murdered by the morality police of Iran. At her funeral we saw the most extraordinary sight. We saw those brave Iranian women rip off their hijabs and wave them in the wind, grieving and in solidarity with women looking for freedom in Iran. The cry of the Iranian women is 'Jin, jiyan, azadi', which means 'Women, life and liberty'.
Since the murder of Mahsa Amini, more young women have lost their lives to the morality police and the Iranian security forces. Hadis Najafi was 20 years old and there are pictures of her dancing on social media with her hair swinging free. She was shot by six bullets for the crime of liberating her hair. Also killed in these protests for freedom have been Ghazaleh Chelavi, Hanan Kio and Mahsa Magoi.
In Tehran over recent weeks we have seen some extraordinary pictures. A young woman standing on the roof of a car surrounded by protesters, male and female, whirling her hijab around her bare head. In south-east Iran a woman quietly removes her head scarf and she waves it around in a town square with her two young daughters standing beside her. In Tehran again, the most extraordinary pictures of a woman, bare head, bare shoulders, skirt just to her knees, walking through the streets in an act of the most extraordinary courage. A man comes up to her and asks if she is okay with him filming her. She said, 'yes', and he said, 'We are proud of your bravery and we will protect you'.
We have seen flags made of women's hair flying in Iran. It has been good to see so many Iranian men standing with those women crying for freedom because Iran has been a place that has instituted gender apartheid since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Before that, the women of Iran had freedoms and liberty. However, in the 43 years since then they have been required to cover their heads and wear loose-fitting clothing so that the men cannot see the shapes of their bodies, which tells us, of course, that it is a men problem.
Mona Eltahawy, who is a wonderful feminist and writer, wrote this amazing piece about Mahsa and what is happening in Iran:
Glory and power to the women in Iran who have seized the narrative and become object and subject. Women are too often the afterthought of a revolution, rarely its reason for being. Listen to their chants, 'Jin, jiyan, asadi' - women, life, liberty. Glory and power to the women in Iran for serving us this challenge. If women and men in one of the most perfect police states are this unscared, then what are you doing to fight your oppressors?
She talks about the history of Iranian revolution which was co-opted by the clerics who then claimed as an achievement the mass covering of an entire nation's women's hair. She says:
Who owns my hair, let alone my body, when a revolution in which women fought alongside men soon after declaring victory enforced hijab. When you shave the hair under that enforced hijab, are you then the revolution of one, defying, disobeying and disrupting? When you rip of that compulsory hijab in public and shave off your hair in public, are you finally completing the revolution that the theocrats and the misogynists stole from you?
And she talks about the importance of hair and why it is about hair:
What does hair have to do with the revolution? There is a scene in Abbas Kiarostami's film, Ten, when a woman is sitting in a car in Tehran traffic gingerly removes her hijab to reveal a shaved head. When I first saw that scene in a film in New York in 2003, I started to cry. It had been 11 years since I'd stopped wearing hijab and it would be another 17 years until I shaved off my own hair …. During the Irish Revolution, both sides would forcibly shave or cut off women's hair as punishment as well as a way to control women's bodies.
We should all stand with the women and the men of Iran in their fight for liberty and freedom. I want to end with a poem by a revolutionary Iranian female poet, Simin Behbahani, who was born in Tehran in 1927 and died in 2014. She was known as the lioness of Iran, prohibited by government from leaving the country in the last years of her life. She says, in For the Dream to Ride:
You want to erase my being but in this land, I shall remain. I will continue the dance as long as I sustain, my verse as vast as a meadow. Its universe rooted in my homeland, in the world of ghazal, I am a fleet-footed, galloping gazelle. I speak as long as I am alive, fury, roar and revolt. Your stones and rocks I fear not. I'm flood, my flow you can't halt. I don't veil my hair, I am not Gordafarid, nor do I pretend. I am not the woman your deceit can lock up in your fortress end. I am lightning. My silence will not adorn the sight. I am prelude to thunder, till then I illuminate the night. Your arrow may give my eyes strain, but in chasing me, it's flying in vain.
Madam Speaker, we stand with the women of Iran.