In Iran, women have put their lives on the line for basic rights. In Kansas, we barely notice.

October 25, 2022 3:33 am
Demonstrators hold candles and roses outside of the White House

Demonstrators opposed to the Iranian regime hold a candlelight vigil Oct. 1, 2022, outside the White House in Washington, D.C., to pay tribute to those who have died protesting the death of Mahsa Amini. Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman, was killed in police custody after allegedly violating the country’s hijab rules. (Bonnie Cash/Getty Images)

Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. Sam Bailey is a senior at Emporia State University, majoring in communication, and is a staffer on the student newspaper, The Bulletin.

Did you hear her screams?

On Sept. 16, Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman, died after being arrested by “morality police” for wearing her hijab improperly.

This particular segment of Iranian law enforcement exists to stop free expression of identity and specifically to target women who show even a shred of femininity. Many of us in Kansas and the United States don’t even know they exist.

For years, Iranian women have lived under these laws, and for years we have stood in silence. Now, hundreds of women take to the streets, fighting for their freedom of expression and humanity, yet our country seems almost wholly unaware.

Every day, more people die as Iranian law enforcement becomes violent with protesters. Women dance as they burn headscarves and cut their hair in front of the masses, risking their lives in the process. Still, your co-worker may not even know that while their coffee gets cold at their desk, women across the world are being murdered for showing their hair.

How can women in one country die without making a sound, while in this country an influencer names their child something unusual and all we can talk about is little Malibu Barbie?

The 21st century has brought with it incredible changes in the way we share information. Instead of reading the newspaper in the morning, we may scroll through Twitter. Gen Z has blazed trails when it comes to fighting for what they believe in through platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and TikTok.

What happens when the government learns about the single most powerful method of communication and takes it away? We are suddenly silenced. It is all too easy.

For me, TikTok has been a key part of my personal understanding of the world. I can look people in the eye as they tell their stories and connect our souls from across the world.

In the days after Mahsa Amini was killed, I watched videos on my feed that showed women crying as they knew they may not survive the next day. I saw people my age terrified, not knowing if their family was even alive. All because a woman showed her hair.

Now? Silence. Unless I go out of my way to look for Iranian news, I don’t see these women, I don’t hear their voices. As time passes, even my searches across major news platforms reveal less. Has the years’ worth of oppression against Iranian women suddenly stopped? No. We have just given into their government’s wishes to look away.

Don’t let them silence you. The Iranian government may be able to cut internet connection in their country, but they do not have that power here.

Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas introduced a resolution along with other senators to condemn the unjust killing of Amini and to openly support all those brave enough to protest the government of Iran.

Even in Kansas, your voice can be heard. With modern technology and communication resources, everyone can make a difference. It is no longer enough to watch the news and sympathize with “poor women” overseas. One passionate voice, no matter where you are in this country, can and will make waves.

If a 22-year-old woman was murdered in this country for showing a few strands of hair, sparking riots in the streets and protests turned violent, our phones would be flooded with pictures, videos, stories about what’s happening.

We would not be silent as our sisters, mothers, daughters were murdered.

We have the power to inform and fight in this country. Keep her voice on the wind. Don’t let one country’s internet connection stop the world from hearing about the horrors of reality.

We may not be able to hear her from Iran, but we can stand with women here so we don’t forget.

Let them know we can hear her scream.

Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.

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Sam Bailey
Sam Bailey

Sam Bailey graduated from Emporia State University in 2023, where she majored in communication and was the managing editor for the ESU Bulletin, the campus newspaper. She was named Kansas Collegiate Media Journalist of the Year for four-year Kansas schools in 2023. She also won Journalist of the Year in 2021 for two-year schools when she was editor for the Hutchinson Community College student newspaper. She has won awards for her investigative reporting and has covered issues that include student debt, a university presidential search and the firing of 33 professors in 2022.