The Grow North Creative Residency is an initiative by North York Arts to “pass the mic” to artists in our community. Local artists living in North York are given the opportunity to share information, teachings, and their artistic practice with our audience, and engage with the North York Arts community in meaningful ways.
I am very grateful to North York Arts for giving me this opportunity to bring awareness to what is happening in Iran and the Woman, Life, Freedom movement.
By now you have probably heard the name, Mahsa (Jina) Amini, how she became a symbol of a freedom movement in Iran, and the protests that have been ongoing since her brutal death 3 days after being in custody of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s “morality police”. You might have also heard the various chants from videos on social media or from the protests in your city.
Iranians in diaspora have made it their mission to amplify the voices of the protesters in Iran on as many platforms as we can. Since the start of the protests, the government has limited access to the internet to avoid videos or news of the protests coming out. Despite the government’s efforts, Iranians have found different ways to connect to the internet and have risked their lives to get information, photos, and videos out and get the world’s attention. Most Iranians in diaspora are getting messages from their friends and family members which is a simple ask and it is: “Don’t forget about us.” “Please continue to let the world know what is happening in Iran” Or in short: “BE OUR VOICE”.
If you have an Iranian friend or colleague, you probably are seeing them posting news and information about Iran, attend rallies, sign petitions, and ask non-Iranians to stand in solidarity with the protesters in their fight for freedom. It is because of how loud Iranians have been on social media, that we started getting media attention from major news outlets, artists, musicians, celebrities, brands, politicians, human rights organizations, and activists all over the world.
One of the most popular slogans you might have heard everyone repeating to show their support is “Woman, Life, Freedom” which has now become the battle cry of the whole movement. It is very important to highlight the history behind the slogan, its Kurdish origins, and how it mirrors protesters demands for freedom.
For context, it is important to note that Mahsa (Jina) Amini was a Kurdish Iranian woman. Kurdish people in Iran are an oppressed minority. The Kurdish slogan, Jin Jîyan Azadî (ژن، ژیان، ئازادی) was first chanted at Mahsa (Jina) Amini’s funeral in Kurdistan. The videos of her funeral went viral, and the slogan quickly became popular in both Kurdish and the Farsi translation Zan, Zendegi, Azadi (زن، زندگی. آزادی) all over Iran. The slogan encompasses everything the protesters want in 3 simple words.
Jin, Zan or Woman:
The protest was started by young Iranian women. Women in Iran have had their rights taken away and every aspect of their lives controlled by the government for the past 43 years. By starting the slogan with “Woman”, Iranians are demanding equal rights for women.
Jîyan, Zendegi or Life:
Protesters are demanding a normal life. To live life as authentically as possible in a society that offers safety and stability to its citizens.
Azadî, Azadi or Freedom:
Protesters are demanding freedom of choice in how they dress, the freedom to consume the art and media they choose, freedom to live their lives or practice the religion of their choice, freedom of expression, and in short to live as freely as possible in a society under democratic law.
Kurdish Origin of the Slogan:
Jin, Jîyan, Azadî (ژن، ژیان، ئازادی) is a popular political Kurdish slogan, which originated in Kurdish resistance movement, specifically with the Kurdish women’s movement within it. The Kurdish resistance movement was founded in response to the oppression and persecution of Kurds across the divided land of Kurdistan; in Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. The slogan was popularized further and by the Kurdish leader, Abdullah Öcalan in his anti-capitalist and anti-patriarchal writings and ideologies.
The slogan marked the political activities of Kurdish women in the 2000 and was considered attractive because of its spelling, rhythm and connotational significance. It was also used among Kurdish men and women in their war against ISIS.
Woman, Life, Freedom movement is now known around the world as the first female-led revolution in the world that has demonstrated the bravery of the youth of Iran, especially the young Iranian women, fighting for their basic human rights.
Here’s some simple ways that you can show your support to the people of Iran:
- Amplify Iranian voices by sharing the news about Iran on your social media platforms
- Use our hashtags on your social posts: #MahsaAmini #OpIran #FreeIran #WomanLifeFreedom #مهسا_امینی #ژن_ژیان_ئازادی #زن_زندگی_آزادی
- Write to your representatives and demand they take meaningful action to support protesters in Iran.
- Attend a protest near you
- Art is a great tool to raise awareness. If you are an artist or are simply inspired by the movement, create art, design posters, write poems, create videos and animations, or simply use your voice to create positive change.