Women, Life, Freedom

Mahsa Gina Amigny

On my social media, that photo appeared again and again. A young woman was lying in a hospital bed, unconscious, with a breathing tube in her mouth. Her thick black eyelashes and curly black hair outline her young face. The post is written in Persian, and my mastery of this language can only be regarded as a primary level. I brushed these posts and continued my daily routine: seeing a doctor, teaching, and constantly urging my 17-year-old daughter Laila to fill out her college application.

As the days passed, the story became well known. The photo shows Mahsa Gina Amigny, a 22-year-old girl who has just been admitted to the university. While vacationing with her family in Tehran, she was detained by the "moral police" because of her loose headscarf. In the detention center, she was beaten and taken to the hospital, and eventually died of her injuries. Her dream was to become a lawyer, but she was disillusioned by a wisp of floating hair.

The news of her death spread through a photo. It was a photo of her parents hugging and crying in the hospital, which was shared by a reporter on Twitter. This tweet caused widespread protests, led by girls and women. My news source has become an ocean of photos of young girls. They wear black eyeliner like my daughter Lila-in the video, they laugh, cook and dance. However, many of them, Billera is still young, so they disappeared and even were murdered.

Iran was not like this. The Islamic Revolution in Israel in 1979 overthrew an oppressive monarchy and promised freedom. But from the perspective of my third-grade student at that time, everything became more depressed as time went by. Schools have become single-sex and headscarves have become mandatory. It started as a scarf, and later it became "Manteo", a loose, knee-length raincoat-like coat. But the color can only be brown, black, gray or navy blue. Pants must be worn below. Schools check from time to time, and moral police in the street look for people who violate the rules. If you are caught, you will be whipped.

In 1984, we pretended to attend a medical conference and fled Iran. We each took only one suitcase. It was not until a few hours before we boarded the plane that I knew we were leaving and would never come back. In Massachusetts, I started my eighth grade life. My Iranian part was sealed up by me-until last autumn, which forced me to recall those times.

I remember soldiers knocking at the door and searching for counter-revolutionary materials. They sat on my parents’ bed and quickly played all our videos backwards. Mostly Pink Panther, but those men don’t find it interesting.

I remember cutting my hair short and pretending to be a boy so that I could ride a bike without being bound by a headscarf. One day, I inadvertently put on pink shorts and exposed my girl identity. When those Nissan patrol cars chased me, I understood the meaning of "fight or flight". I escaped.

I remember the consequences of intellectual dissent. My aunt was expelled from dental school because she was accused of reading opposition newspapers. My cousin was forced to "repent" on TV and then executed. Another cousin was imprisoned many times because of his faith. He had cigarette burns on his arm and his nails were pulled out. He finally escaped, but his wife was killed at the age of 21.

Those memories are like dreams, awakened by images on social media. Girls and women in the video, screaming "Zan, Zendegi, Azadi"-"Women, Life, Freedom", bravely walked towards bullets and batons. Every day, the number of deaths and arrests is increasing.

A 52-year-old surgeon protested against the arrested protesters and the use of ambulances to transport security forces at a rally in front of the headquarters of the Medical Association. The doctor’s name is Parisa, and it is said that he was later shot and killed by agents.

All this makes my heart ache, and so does the silence around me. I live every day like a machine, thinking about all the unfairness. Why are people like Laila free to apply for universities and express their opinions, while girls in Iran are subjected to unspeakable punishment for demanding basic human rights?

I can take care of patients. But in Iran, my colleagues are threatened by taking care of injured protesters. They were held in solitary confinement and even murdered. Dr. Ida Rostami, 36, bravely provided treatment for injured protesters. She told her mother that she was coming home, but she never came back. When the police asked her mother to identify the body, they said that Ida had died in a car accident. But her body tells a different story. Her eyes were removed, her face was smashed, and her hand used to treat patients was broken.

So is Dr. Parrisa Bachmani. The official report said that she died in a car accident. The story repeats itself again and again. Protesters disappeared and were later reported to have jumped off a building or died in a car accident. I feel lonely and out of touch with the community. That was my home for 25 years.

One Wednesday, I met an Iranian-American colleague in the clinic corridor. Where the patient was waiting, we were in tears. We started to hold Zoom meetings every week to support each other. Campus communities have also become active. Everyone is involved, from young female postdoctoral fellows who have just arrived in the United States to retired professors. Our reaction is direct and strong. Usually calm men and women cry.

We ask the non-Iranian community to support us. They did it. Every message, email, signature and solidarity has become our strength. The community stands up, speaks, and amplifies our voices. At such an easier time to be silent, they chose to stand on our side.

As the Persian poet Saadi wrote in Bani Adam a thousand years ago, human beings are like a body, and everyone is a part of the body, created by the same essence. When one part is injured, the other part can’t be safe. If you are indifferent to the suffering of others, you are not worthy of being human.

A quarter of doctors in the United States are international graduates. Our roots are all over the world, spanning generations. Our sense of belonging comes from embracing all forms of humanity. See the injured people and stand beside them. Send text messages of support and sign petitions. Whether for Iran, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Turkey or Sudan, these actions connect us like a part of the body.

# Iran #