Hamideh Nami has been a medical student at the Second Faculty of Medicine for six years. Before the beginning of her last academic year, she had to face an appalling situation in her homeland, Iran. Outrageous punishment of a young woman, Mahsa Amini, beaten to death for not wearing hijab properly, has led to many strikes among Iranian people living worldwide showing the alarming situation of human rights of Iranian women and men lasting for decades. Hamideh is sharing her point of view on the topic and giving advice on what people could do to change the system, even though living in Prague or somewhere else.
Could you describe the situation in Iran from your perspective?
I think Mahsa’s death was the final push we needed to unleash a strong outrage we've been carrying with us for years. The sense of hopelessness and helplessness I always had got replaced by determination and an aggressive yearning to stand up and do something. It was such a new sensation. I had given up on my land long ago thinking it’s beyond repair. And Its repair is beyond our power. Vaclav Havel says: "Isn't it the moment of most profound doubt that gives birth to new certainties? Perhaps hopelessness is the very soil that nourishes human hope; perhaps one could never find sense in life without first experiencing its absurdity." My hopelessness was the soil and Mahsa’s death was the water and sunlight that the seed of our hope needed.
Demonstrations have been happening in and out of Iran for the past month. In small towns, universities, hospitals in Iran and in over 130 major cities around the world. In Iran, as always, the protests have been faced with violent crackdown, arrests and killing. Even though this isn't the first time people take to the streets to show their discontent, this is so far the largest and the most united. We are witnessing a unity both domestically and internationally that never existed before. In Iran the participants come from different ethnicities and speak different dialects. They are of different age groups and social classes, yet all protesting together in one voice and in a brave and unwavering show of defiance. Women standing at the forefront of the movement with men next to them. One of the most beautiful videos I watched was of a medical faculty where men were chanting “Woman, Life, Freedom” and women were responding with “Man, Land, Prosperity” (I promise it sounds better in Persian!)
People often mistakenly assume that the whole point of the uprisings is a change in the country’s dress code. It’s really not just that. It’s for all the gay men and women who never got to love freely, for all the rivers and lakes that got dried up by their mismanagement, for all the times I felt embarrassed for saying my nationality, for spending our money on wars in other countries while our fathers were embarrassed for not having enough money to feed their family, for all the times we secretly wished we weren’t born here, for censoring art, for my Bahai friend, Aida who is arrested for being of a different religion, for every female athlete who was forced to compete with hijab against their wish, for that horrible morning when I couldn’t believe they shot down the plane and had to show up to my Immunology final with swollen and dried up eyes, for the 176 passengers of that flight and their unfinished dreams, now ashes in the sky, for not even considering my home country as a place where I’d want to do my residency in, for turning a beautiful country into a ruin I would only want to visit for a short vacation, for my LF2 friend who lost her dad because the Western vaccines were banned by the Supreme Leader (aka the dictator) even though all the officials had already gotten those, for all the kids with rare diseases in Iran whose medication is sanctioned because of the regimes mischievous foreign policy, for the Blue Girl who was denied entering the stadium to watch a football match and burned herself outside the stadium, for making all the accomplished doctors and nurses I met during my internships in Iran want to learn a language and immigrate, for all the refugees and immigrants who’d always be looking for a homeland, for all the thousand dogs who were slaughtered needlessly because they are impure, for all the poor kids working on the streets who should be at school, for all the times I was hated in Lebanon during my exchange for being an Iranian because of my country’s support of terrorism in Lebanon, for a crippled economy infested with inflation and unemployment mismanaged by lies, for the humiliation I felt when I couldn't exchange dollars at an exchange office in Mexico because of my passport and had to text all the local doctors and students I knew to come for help since I had no money to go back home, for when I was told I have to work twice as hard as my European friends because I’m Iranian. For all the times I got annoyed at strangers asking me about the government and religion but nothing of Iranian culture or cinema. The list of “for”s can go on and on.
I used to show the most eye-catching places of Iran to my friends, bring them food and beautiful handcrafted souvenirs, saffrons and pistachios and introduce them to our love for poetry and literature but from now on, I want everyone to know Iran by its brave and courageous women.
The Islamic Republic does not represent the Iranian people. In fact, they have used religion as a tool and twisted it to oppress the people for 43 years now. Iranians are warm, peaceful and friendly. Nothing like their wicked government. People tend to get surprised when I tell them I genuinely love my country. I feel like a citizen of the world and at the same time a tremendous sense of loyalty to my culture even though I wasn't raised there. I strive to see a democratic country where people aren’t striped of their basic human rights.
And if you ask me what do I think is the outcome of all of this, I must quote Vaclav Havel again, "Hope… is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but, rather, an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed."
What actions do you take here in Prague to help your friends, family and other people in Iran?
It all started when I first heard about Mahsa. It was late at night, and I was studying for my exam of Oncology in the library. I felt a strong shiver down my spine. Despite all the other times when reading news of the regime’s brutality and scandal would bring tears to my eyes, this time it was different. I was just shocked and full of anger. I started sharing the news on my Instagram and writing my thoughts down for others to read. I could see many of my Iranian friends were doing the same and that connected us. I started talking and sympathizing with people I hadn't talked with in years. Since then, I have been attending all the major protests taking place in Prague, carrying with me signs saying in bold “Woman, Life, Freedom” to take a stand on the matter and also to show my friends in Iran that even though I can’t be with them now, I am doing all I can here and that we are all together in this fight. The thing is no one had planned for these protests. None had foreseen it coming or schemed any sophisticated agenda. Everything is running spontaneously and based on someone’s will. It’s up to me and others like me to keep talking about it and keep the flame alive. I am also writing a letter to the Vice President of Czech Republic at the European Parliament, Madame Charanzova. She has shown interest to hear my voice as an Iranian student living in Prague and learn about our struggles here. Lastly, we are signing a petition pleading with the foreign ministers of G7 to expel Iranian diplomats. I strongly urge you to do the same.
What could a society do for Iranian women to encourage them and to eliminate the chance of repeating the story of Mahsa Amini?
All we can do for them is to lend them our voices. To amplify what’s happening in Iran simply by talking about it and sharing content online. You might not grasp the importance of this but it’s extremely crucial to put pressure on Islamic Republic and to keep its every action under a magnifier, otherwise they could arrest, torture and maybe even murder protesters like in Shervin, a young talented singer who sang a beautiful song with its lyrics from the tweets of people who wrote about their motives for wanting a regime change. But thanks to the millions of people who bolded the news, he was released days after. Or Elnaz, a rock-climbing athlete who recently competed without a hijab in South Korea but was immediately detained and held at the embassy until she was returned to Iran. She was welcomed by a significant group of people at the airport calling her their champion. The authorities would have done so much worse if there wasn't such great international coverage and attention. Unlike in the bloody November of 2019, when they murdered thousands of people in a span of a few days and the world just stood aside quietly.
You and I can help prevent this. You have the power to possibly help an entire nation of people. It's really simple. Share content. Keep their voice alive. The authorities blocking internet access is the sole proof of how scared they are of our voices. The government tries to squash the momentum of the movement and arrest people in silence. Don't let them achieve this. As Mr. President, Vaclav Havel says in 'The Power of The Powerless'. "If the main pillar of the system is living a lie, then it is not surprising that the fundamental threat to it is living the truth. This is why it must be suppressed more severely than anything else."
Every Iranian outside of Iran who is posting or speaking up is risking the very real possibility of never being allowed back into the Islamic republic. Never seeing their friends or family again. We risk this because we have to all be in this together. If my friends in Iran are risking everything they have, even their life, by going to the streets, how can I stay silent and inactive?
The Iranians are asking you to show solidarity against their ruthless regime. Iran may not be under attack by another country, but they've been at a brutal unfair war for 43 years. It's my duty to be the voice of the oppressed. It's my responsibility to speak up twice as loud now. Shed light on the matter, call for attention from your politicians to publicly expose and hold the regime accountable for its inhumane actions. People need to not normalize pain and suffering in the Middle East. They need to be enraged. They need to see what is happening to these girls as no different to what would happen anywhere in the world.
Thank you for your attention. I hope one day you’ll see the beauty of Iran and not the headlines that have made our country a wicked enemy. I hope one day you’ll taste our food, learn to greet in Persian and listen to the poetry and music that raised us. And I hope one day you’ll see the wind flow freely through the hair of all the resilient women as you travel through our history to deserts and from mountains to beaches in a free and happy Iran. I hope the next interview on your website would be about the real hidden Iran.
- https://www.change.org/p/g7-leaders-expel-iran-s-diplomats-demand-that-political-prisoners-be-freed petition to expel diplomats
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shervin_Hajipour Shervin’s story
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukraine_International_Airlines_Flight_752 on flight 752 that was shot down
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019%E2%80%932020_Iranian_protests on bloody November of 2019
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elnaz_Rekabi on Elnaz
Statement of the Dean, Prof. Marek Babjuk:
After reading the interview with Hamideh Nami on the situation in Iran, protests of Iranian women and girls, and political repressions, I was stricken with feelings of sadness. It is a tragedy that lives of many young, beautiful and talented people have been ruined. My heart goes out to the Iranian people, I admire their determination and bravery. The academic community of our faculty must not be indifferent toward any violence or trampling of human rights and freedoms no matter where it is happening. Iranian female and male students, therefore, have our full support.