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Source: NY Times

Jun 14, 2023

Dreaming of a New Iran Diaries from three young women

By Farnaz Fassihi - Illustrations by Tropiwhat

The uprising began in September, after a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, died in the custody of Iran’s morality police. She had been arrested on accusations of violating mandatory-hijab rules, and a gruesome photo and video of her unconscious in a hospital bed went viral, sparking outrage and grief. The protest movement — known as Woman, Life, Freedom — quickly morphed into broader demands for an end to the Islamic Republic’s rule.

Marches, led by women, spread across the country from September to January, and the government has cracked down violently. Authorities have also dismantled the morality police and are trying new methods to enforce the dress code.

To this day, acts of civil disobedience continue. Women and girls appear in public without the hijab. At night, Iranians chant antigovernment slogans from their rooftops.

To better understand how daily life in Iran has transformed, we asked three young women to keep a diary for five weeks. Their entries have been edited for length and clarity, and their last names are being withheld for their safety. Like many Iranians, they are trying to figure out what their lives should look like as they continue to fight for, and dream of, change.

March 4

GHAZAL, a 20-year-old college student living in Tehran: It was my friend’s birthday today. When I got into the car service, the driver asked me if I had anything to cover my hair with. I replied, sternly, “No, I don’t.” He then explained that drivers can be fined for passengers without proper hijab. I later thought about what he said — if I wore a hijab in his car, I would be surrendering. If I didn’t, the poor driver could be penalized. I was really confused. But I realized that looking out for one another is the most important thing, so I’ve decided to cover my hair in taxis.

March 11

PARNIAN, a 23-year-old recent college graduate who lives in Tehran and works multiple jobs: There were at least 40 of us in the train’s women-only carriage. I could feel the bag of the passenger behind me pressing against my waist. It was hot, and there was no oxygen. Once the train door closed, people started talking. I couldn’t see her, but a woman was selling well-priced cosmetics inside the carriage. One passenger passed her credit card, from hand to hand, to the woman, who then took the card and shouted, “What’s your PIN code?”

The passenger’s reply came from another side, “2-5-4-2.” Several people repeated the code until it finally reached the seller’s ear. She then sent the card and a new mascara back to the other end of the carriage. A tube of mascara was sold with the help of several people, and the train hadn’t even moved yet.

March 12

KIMIA, a 23-year-old graduate student who lives in Kurdistan Province: I thought I would have fun after my master’s entrance exam, but now there is nothing to do. I used to enjoy going to cafes once a week, but it has become so expensive. Now I can afford to go only once or twice a month. I can’t even download a movie or check social media properly with our stupid slow internet. Pretty much every application you want to use in Iran is blocked, and to get around the restrictions, we use virtual private networks. It takes hours. I have to use multiple VPNs, and they disconnect several times. You have to keep trying and trying.

GHAZAL: Something very strange and interesting happened at the hair salon today. A woman came in with head scarves and shawls for sale. One of the salon’s stylists jokingly told her that people don’t buy scarves anymore, that it is no longer profitable and that she should change her job. In response, the woman said that was not true and that certain people are trying to promote secularism and prostitution in society. We were all stunned, but nobody said anything to her.

PARNIAN: I feel good for no reason. Ever since the start of the Woman, Life, Freedom revolution, there has been so much pain that feeling good seems bizarre. Yet I feel great today. I wonder why. The lightness is weird.

One of the most disturbing manifestations of the government’s crackdown has been the executions of protesters. For months, the Revolutionary Court has staged trials and charged some protesters with “moharebe,” or waging war against God. At least a dozen have been sentenced to death by hanging. Protests have become sporadic and limited to occasions when the public has an excuse to congregate, such as at funerals or outside prisons to demand a halt to the imminent executions.

March 13

PARNIAN: As I stepped outside today onto one of Tehran’s busiest streets, I was taken aback. In 10 years of living in this neighborhood, I have never seen it as dim and quiet. All the shops around the metro station were closed. There were police officers and special forces everywhere, waving their batons in the air, ushering people to move along.

One of the police officers had a hilarious expression. He tried to look serious but seemed incredibly idiotic. Seeing that face, the stern gaze and the amount of stupidity nestled in that uniform made me want to laugh. As I kept walking, my chest suddenly started burning, and I felt short of breath. I must have walked into tear gas.

One officer told a teenage girl to move and stand somewhere else. The young girl looked at him coldly and said, “Are we bothering you?” Another guy came and said to the policeman, “Reza, let it go,” and took him away. I looked at the young girl and blew her a kiss. She blew a kiss back.

March 13

KIMIA: The execution of Mohammad Mehdi Karami still breaks my heart. He was a protester and national karate champion. We were around the same age, and I also have a black belt in karate. I feel very close to him, more than any of the other protesters who have been killed. I look at his picture often and try to imagine his life as a young athlete. What motivated him to go out and protest? Did he just want a better life?

There was a call to protest today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. There were riots in several cities tonight, but the big day is tomorrow. Let’s see how it goes.

At night I heard people chanting “death to the dictator” and the constant sound of explosions. It went on until 1 a.m. I couldn’t tell if it was gunfire or firecrackers. Boom, boom, boom.

GHAZAL: My friend and I have found an exciting cafe on Enghelab Street that screens foreign films and shows. I watch this show, “The Last of Us,” which I love. This week it was part of the cafe’s program, so my friend and I made a reservation. You know, we don’t get to watch foreign films and TV shows together with friends, grab a bite and enjoy ourselves. And that cafe made it possible for us.Most of the customers were our age, and we shared the same vibe. It felt great to watch the show and react to different scenes collectively. Nobody told us to keep it down. To be honest, it felt like freedom.

March 14

KIMIA: My friend’s brother was arrested during the protests in a city in Kurdistan and has been imprisoned for several months. This morning, I learned that he tried to kill himself. My friend told me that he had been fed up with living in limbo — he had not been put on trial or formally charged.I’m much less hopeful than I was at the beginning of this movement. The Islamic Republic will be gone one day, but I’m not sure it’ll happen this time around. We have seen this cycle before: We get our hopes up and think that this time will be different, that change is coming, that we will win, and then nothing happens. I was really convinced that the regime would be toppled this time, but when I saw the brutal crackdowns and all the killings, I realized this wasn’t it, either.

PARNIAN: On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I work from home. Today one of my colleagues called, sounding nervous. “Are you OK?” she asked. That morning, the metro on the Tajrish line, my main daily commute, had stopped at a station for a while because of a technical issue, and then one of the carriages caught fire. Official reports did not mention injuries. I thanked my colleague for letting me know and hung up. I thought about the people on the train. How scared were they? Did they scream a lot?For years we have grown accustomed to the fact that anyone, anywhere can be unsafe. We have gotten used to shrinking our comfort zones. Back when the morality police were active, almost every time we met with friends, one of the boys went ahead, scoped out the situation and told us which way to go in order to avoid the forces. Now, in the absence of the morality police, there is more freedom, but also more anxiety. People meet near their workplaces, homes or schools. Nobody talks about it, but we’re afraid to explore new areas.

Iran’s economy has steadily declined over the past few years as a result of U.S. economic sanctions and the government’s systematic corruption and mismanagement. Inflation is skyrocketing, and the Iranian currency has devalued against the American dollar by 20 to 30 percent since the beginning of this year. Middle-class and working-class families are buying less, eliminating essentials like meat, chicken and dairy from their grocery lists. Many people work two or three jobs to get by. It has become common for employees — even those working for the government, like teachers and factory workers — to go several months without a paycheck.

March 15

KIMIA: We went to the market to do some shopping for Nowruz, the Persian New Year. Pastry shops were packed. Boy, how expensive everything is! My mom wanted to buy pistachios and roasted nuts, but it cost over 1.2 million tomans, more than three times the price they were last year. We ended up buying a small box of sugar candies from a cheaper place.

PARNIAN: The company I work for has been in financial trouble for over eight months and cannot pay the employees’ salaries. Several employees at my work resigned and left. The ones who stayed, including me, are mostly young and single. Some of my colleagues are spending their savings; others are borrowing money. I have no intention of dipping into my savings, and I’m too proud to borrow, so I have taken translation jobs on the side, working late after my regular hours.

Today I was having my third cup of coffee, struggling with a headache and insomnia, when the door opened. In came my colleague, looking upset. “Look, Parnian, my girlfriend is a modern person and doesn’t think providing money is a man’s duty, but I’m just tired,” he told me. “She has been paying for everything for several months, and her support makes me feel worse. The harder I try, the poorer I become.” After staring at the kitchen floor for a few seconds, he said, “I feel useless.”

I hugged him and whispered in his ear: “You will get through this. Don’t forget that our only weapon is our thick skin. Be a rhino!”

GHAZAL: A few friends and I somehow ended up talking about the protests and how the Mahsa movement has died down. But I don’t believe the movement has ended.

This movement is not just about people coming to the streets, chanting, fighting and getting killed. I am witnessing so many other changes. Now we can eat in restaurants without wearing the hijab, and not a single person says, “Madam, put your hijab back on.” The university security no longer pesters students about their attire. People don’t defend this regime in classes anymore. It doesn’t matter that we don’t protest in the streets. People are kinder and look out for one another every day. If a guard or a security person bothers a student, everyone will come to the rescue. I think it’s beautiful.

March 16

KIMIA: We haven’t turned on state television in years. The news is all lies, and it has no entertainment. So my mom and I stay up every Thursday and Friday to watch “The Voice Persia,” a singing-competition show broadcast from MBC Persia, one of the satellite channels. We guess which songs will be performed and which contestants will get ahead. Our favorite is a guy from Mashhad, a city in northeast Iran, who now lives in Turkey and sings alternative rock. I hope he wins.

PARNIAN: I felt like running today. I went to the park near my house for some fresh spring air. Almost two years ago, they opened a women-only park in front of the old mixed one. I do not like gender segregation, but I like the new park more than the mixed one.

Last autumn, fewer women were without a head scarf, and they were wearing sports caps to cover their hair instead. Most days, I either endured the heavy gaze of a hijabi woman or I was directly scolded, told to have shame and cover my hair. But today, many women didn’t have a hijab, and those who did exercised alongside them in peace.

There was one beautiful girl with short blond hair. At the start of the uprising, women were cutting off their hair as an act of protest and a sign of mourning. Seeing her got me emotional. For years we had fantasized about the day we would take off our scarves and let the wind blow through our hair. But now that we can be unveiled, we no longer have our long hair. We cut it for that very basic freedom. Our dreams are always one step ahead of us.

March 18

KIMIA: I went to the market with a friend. It was very crowded, with many street vendors selling items for Nowruz. A musician was playing an instrument, and shops were playing loud music, too. As I was waiting to cross the street, I started dancing subtly to the rhythm of the music. A police officer nodded at me and laughed. There were several girls and women, including myself, without head scarves. I finally got into the Nowruz mood.

PARNIAN: I was checking the news on Twitter when I came across a picture of a man dressed in brown. The tweet said that the families of prisoners on death row have gathered outside the Urmia Central Prison. Mohayeddin Ebrahimi, a political prisoner, would be executed tomorrow with the morning call to prayer. “Let’s be the voice of our countrymen,” the tweet read.

Executions have become an all-consuming issue; people follow the cases closely, and when they hear that a protester will be executed at dawn, they rush to the prison and stand outside the walls all night.

I was about to retweet it so that others, too, could become the voice of Mohayeddin, when I saw the date of the tweet. It was exactly one day old. That meant they had probably hanged Mohayeddin.

I closed the Twitter app, disconnected my VPN, locked the phone screen and stared at the darkness in my room.

The government has struggled with how to respond to the most visible and enduring result of the uprising: women refusing to wear a hijab. After abolishing the morality police in December, officials said they would find alternative methods for enforcing the hijab law. Some of the new policies would include using surveillance cameras and facial recognition to identify women, which could result in fines or the denial of civic services. Many women, for their part, continue to disobey the law.

March 19

KIMIA: Today we went to the bank with my father. I was waiting for my turn when I heard someone behind me say, “Madam, put your scarf on.” Turning around, I saw only the shadow of a veiled woman pass by. She came back a few minutes later and repeated the same thing. Again, I ignored her. A while later, the bank’s deputy manager came and asked me apologetically to wear my hijab. He said that they were told to tell clients to comply and apologized once more. So I said OK and wore it.

Then, at another stand at the bank, my shawl slipped down. In came the manager again, asking me to fix my hijab. At that moment, I saw the veiled woman sneak out of the bank. I was so pissed off.

The branch manager of the bank told my dad that the veiled women were with the government. It turns out that they go to banks, warning them not to serve hijabless women or assume the consequences. I saw the woman again out on the street, telling another girl to fix her hijab.

March 21

PARNIAN: Until recently, I wasn’t big on praying. I considered prayer an insult to my intelligence. But things have changed. We have been in an extraordinary situation, bearable only with divine help and a lot of patience. Tonight I closed my eyes and prayed from the bottom of my heart: “Dear God, spare families from the pain of losing a child.” Then I broke into tears: “Let us be a little happy. … Give us a little bit of happiness. … Just a little bit. …”

KIMIA: Today I was talking to my family about how much people check you out in Iran and how much time you spend thinking about what to wear. It feels like you’re under constant surveillance. But I’ve noticed a change in attitude among men. Before this movement, if I went out with my red hair showing or wearing a cool outfit, some men would follow or harass me. Cars would slow down and honk their horns. Now we go out without hijab, we wear what we want and men don’t say anything. They nod in approval. They smile.

March 23

GHAZAL: I saw a beautiful graffiti message on my way to a stationery store today that said, “Move on but don’t forget,” with a Mahsa Amini hashtag underneath. In order to succeed, we have to keep our spirits up as much as possible. We must not stop living or lose hope. We shouldn’t feel guilty for being happy. The government’s sole aim is to take our joy away, and we can’t allow that.

March 25

PARNIAN: We came up with a new rule at home: No daily news during Nowruz. You could call it something like compassion-fatigue syndrome. The volume of bad news is numbing.

March 28

GHAZAL: On a group chat today, my friends and I discussed our summer attire; the head scarf is, of course, out, but the long manteau or coat we must wear is also hijab. We brainstormed about its replacement. One said we could wear long T-shirts. Another said, No, that’s not my style; I prefer long dress shirts. It felt great to know that months after this movement started, people are not backing down.

March 29

KIMIA: I’m in Turkey on holiday to see friends and relatives, and I’m enjoying myself. I wear whatever I want, not worried about getting arrested. People can get together here without being bothered by anyone. And there are so many fun places to go.

The streets are in good shape. The traffic lights work properly. Shops have a wide variety of items, and you can easily find what you are looking for. Twitter, YouTube, Instagram open easily here. God knows what we go through to open them in Iran. The trains are fast, comfortable, clean and on time. All this is happening only a few kilometers from Iran.

It’s a difficult decision, and I don’t like it, but I may have to leave Iran.

March 31

PARNIAN: We were in a taxi on the way to the airport after spending some time in Kurdistan. The driver was a warm and chatty man, so we took advantage and asked him about Kurdish dances. “A friend of mine got married a few months ago, but they didn’t celebrate with music and dance out of respect for the victims of the Woman, Life, Freedom movement,” I told him.

He asked if we knew how to do Kurdish dances. We all shook our heads, so he pulled over, played a Kurdish song and told us to get out of the car. “Don’t be shy,” he said. “The road is empty. No one will see you.”

We stood in a line, and he showed us how to move our hands and feet to the rhythm of the music. We did our best. After we got back in the car, he said: “Men and women are the same for us. We are all one.” His tone was serious. “We stand in a line, one man and one woman, and hold each other’s hands. We are not men or women. We are brothers and sisters.”

April 1

PARNIAN: There’s a funny old story I read in elementary school. I don’t remember the details; I only remember that it was about a dry, barren desert, once a beautiful and glamorous city, whose people got so involved in their daily lives that they gradually stopped noticing their surroundings. Ultimately, beauty disappears when no one is left looking for it. But the truth was, it did exist. Invisibility does not mean absence.

April 4

PARNIAN: We were stopped at one of the busiest metro stations, and a lady dressed in a work uniform was leaning against the train’s wall, frowning at every passenger who got on. The carriage was packed. She was quietly checking her phone when a beautiful young girl with curly blond hair got on, covering half of the woman’s face with her hair.

The lady politely asked the young girl, “My dear, can you put your scarf on?”

The young girl blurted loudly: “It’s because of people like you that we live this way. When are you going to learn to mind your own business? Do we have no other problems? Do I tell you what to wear?”

The woman listened to her calmly, turned back to her phone and said: “As you like. You are very close to me. Your hair is in my nose.”

People started laughing.

April 7

KIMIA: On my way to the airport to go back to Iran, I wore a shawl around my neck so I wouldn’t have to look for it in my backpack when I arrived. Once I put the damn thing around my neck, my anxiety returned. I was still in Turkey, yet the stress crept back into my body.

April 8

PARNIAN: A Twitter friend posted something interesting. Until four or five years ago, he wrote, he never missed a single prayer, but now every time he hears the call to prayer, he starts cursing. Many people around me are turning away from Islam. Some religious families have stopped practicing and even asked the women in their families to take off their hijabs. What will happen to those who no longer pray and are irritated by the call to prayer? Or those who even make fun of religion? How are they going to feel once their anger has subsided? What will happen when people are no longer humiliated and threatened in the name of Islam? When religion is merely a matter of the heart?

Since November, hundreds of schools across Iran have reported mysterious incidents of poisoning with toxic gas. The attacks have mainly targeted girls, some of whom have been hospitalized with respiratory and neurological symptoms. After not responding to the crisis for months, the government said in March that it had arrested more than 100 people. It still remains unclear who was behind the attacks and what motivated them. Education for girls has never been contested by the Islamic Republic, and women constitute more than 50 percent of university students and about 18 percent of the work force. Health officials have said that some of the attacks involved toxins, but they have also blamed stress, claiming that a majority of the cases were a result of psychogenic illness.

April 11

PARNIAN: My colleague sent me a photo of mothers sitting outside a school, guarding the children against possible poisonings. After the student demonstrations and school gassings, many urged people not to send their kids to school. They argued that nothing would happen if the children didn’t attend school for one year.

The truth is, I didn’t learn anything worthwhile in 12 years of school and four years of university. If we ever objected to what we were learning, we were immediately sent to the principal’s office. They taught us about Aristotle and the elements of logic, but using them was considered a crime.

Reading classical novels for 12 years is more useful than going to school. What better teacher than Shakespeare or Mark Twain? They aren’t taught in Iranian schools, either.

Instead, I remember reading poems by some idiot pro-regime poet.

April 11

GHAZAL: I went to my grandmother’s house for Iftar, when Muslims break their fasts at sundown during Ramadan. She invited the whole family for a big dinner of chicken and saffron rice with barberries. My mom’s family is very religious. My grandmother and all my aunts wear a full hijab chador. My mom does not typically wear the hijab, but in front of them she covers her hair. At family gatherings, I’m the only woman without a hijab. I don’t pretend anymore. At first, my aunts would try to politely persuade me to cover my hair, but for the past few months, they don’t dare ask.

At the dinner, one of my mom’s distant relatives started talking about the hijab, saying that people must be free to choose their attire and that it is no one’s business what they wear. He was basically in favor of our movement. But later on, when I was talking to his wife, she said she really liked short, over-the-knee coats but couldn’t wear them because her husband wouldn’t allow it.

The same guy lecturing about women’s rights and freedom didn’t let his own wife dress the way she wanted. This type of person really annoys me, and unfortunately there are many of them — people who babble on about freedom without knowing its real meaning.

April 13

PARNIAN: I woke up to the sound of two girls, a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old, gleefully riding their bikes in the backyard. The older one asked her mother for something, first begging then growing irritated. The mother patiently refused. While the older kid was grumbling, the 3-year-old was biking around happily.

They rented the apartment downstairs over a year ago. I have never met them in person. The mother is roughly my age, and her husband died from Covid. He was a victim of a decision made by the highest political authority: to ban the import of British and American vaccines for coronavirus, saying they would harm Iranians. The widowed young mother, patiently pampering her older daughter, whispered something in her ear. The 6-year-old girl laughed from the bottom of her heart and joined her younger sister in biking around.

KIMIA: Stepping foot back in Iran always means being confronted with bad news: They plan on enforcing the hijab law by fining women who don’t cover their hair. They won’t be giving social services to unveiled women, and they will be barred from entering universities. There is also a call for protest soon.

April 14

PARNIAN: Never in my life have I been so eager for a day to come. The government has announced that as of tomorrow, women cannot appear in public without a hijab, and those who do will be dealt with brutally. The problem is that they cannot force us anymore. I can’t wait for tomorrow.

April 15

PARNIAN: Today was just a normal day, like any other. Not only were there just as many women without the hijab, but many had deliberately let their long hair fall over their shoulders.

The government’s threat was a bluff, and a funny one. The number of hijabless women is increasing by the day. Boys are coming out with shorts now, too. People boycott stores that don’t offer services to unveiled women. The shawls that women used to have around their necks in case they were spotted by security forces are now in the back of wardrobes. Short shirts are replacing long coats. Skirts are replacing pants. Short pants are replacing long ones. There is more and more unity. People have the upper hand. The other side is nothing but bluffs.

April 15

GHAZAL: I saw several women on motorbikes today. Usually, men ride bikes, and women sit behind them. But this time it was the other way around.

April 16

PARNIAN: I like taking buses. Watching people’s lives on the street from afar truly fascinates me: a pissed-looking teenage girl and her mother; a young boy about 17 years old selling balloons, wandering between cars, clearly exhausted; a woman taking off her head scarf and giving the middle finger to the car next to her; a female driver wiping her tears while eating behind the wheel; a male driver sitting with his back straight and both hands on the wheel; three people dressed in black with somber faces in a car with a big white bouquet on its roof.

April 17

KIMIA: I went out with my friends this evening and had ice cream. I had a shawl in my bag, just in case. Inside the shopping mall, we were thanked for observing the mandatory hijab on loudspeakers every few minutes. We just laughed at them.

April 19

GHAZAL: There is a very popular show in Iran called “The Lion Skin,” a crime drama about a father and a daughter. The father thinks his daughter has been murdered and hunts down the criminal, but then he discovers she is alive. When they see each other, they hug. We were stunned when we saw this scene, replaying it a few times. Men and women who are not related are not supposed to touch each other physically. And here was a male actor and a young female actress hugging each other.

Today was the first screening for the public, and one of the actresses attended the premiere without a hijab. Afterward, the manager of the movie theater was fired for not telling her to cover herself. They didn’t post her hijabless picture on the series’ Instagram page, but I posted it.

April 21

PARNIAN: While eating her salad, my friend asked, “What will Iran look like after liberation?”

“Imagine having only one job and being able to save money!” she said. “That way, we can also buy whatever we want. We should go on a nice trip.”

“In a free Iran, women will not be discriminated from management jobs,” I said. “Your mother will finally be able to become the bank director.”

“So many things will happen!” she said excitedly. “Imagine, things would actually work!”

“We are used to working multiple jobs and always being busy,” I said. “What will we do if we don’t have money issues?”

“We will find the most suitable job.”

“What do we do for the rest of the day?” I said. “We’ll get bored.”

“You’re right,” she said. “We’ll get bored. … Wow, free Iran will be something! I can’t wait to turn the page.”

In the weeks since the three young women chronicled their experiences, the government has engaged in diplomatic outreach to project stability. In April, the government restored ties with Saudi Arabia, mediated by China. In May, the country conducted prisoner swaps with European countries. Within Iran, crackdowns continue. Businesses have been shuttered for catering to unveiled women, including a government administrative office in northern Tehran. Women say they are heartened by the solidarity they receive from men, including shopkeepers who defy orders and give unveiled women discounts. Three more protesters have been executed, bringing the total to seven. Prices of everyday goods are still climbing, with the government’s statistics office announcing 47 percent inflation in a recent report.

For many in the country, including Ghazal, Kimia and Parnian, a desire for a better life in a new, free Iran remains.

May 24

GHAZAL: The executions are heartbreaking. There is nothing I can do. Everyone feels the same way. We post stories on Instagram. So what? How does that help? They get executed anyway.I detest the call to the morning prayer — that’s when they execute those young kids who did nothing but fight for their rights. I have begun to question Islam. I believe that our generation doesn’t truly believe in it, a religion that for so many years, in school, in the university, was imposed on us. If we are fighting them, then why should we believe in the same things they do?

May 27

KIMIA: I cannot fathom the executions. There is a story in the Shahnameh, a revered epic poem, about a king named Zahhak who ascends to the throne with the help of Iblis, the devil. The devil kisses him on each shoulder, out of which grow two snakes. The only way to keep Zahhak alive is to feed the snakes the brains of two young boys every day. It’s a perfect allegory to Iran’s current situation.

I have started to play sports again after a few years. And it feels great to go to the gym; at least I’m doing something worthwhile. I am also studying English to prepare for the TOEFL exam.

The other day, I went to a governmental office wearing a scarf, a man’s shirt and jeans. The guard at the entrance said, “I have no problem with what you are wearing, but the woman inside will bug you.” I entered, and indeed the woman told me that my coat was too short and that I should wear a chador. So I went outside and borrowed a long one from someone.

It feels terrible — being deprived of things because of where you were born.

PARNIAN: A few days ago, I saw a new banner with something like a mirror in the center surrounded by pictures of five martyrs of the war in Syria. What was the message? See yourself in the mirror amid these men and feel shame for not having sacrificed your life for Islam? I didn’t know any of the “martyrs.” They were among the poor youths sent to fight in Syria in the name of helping the Islamic Republic gain more power and expand its territory.

A few teenage girls with long hair hanging over their shoulders were standing in front of the banner, taking selfies in the mirror, without the hijab. It made me laugh. I rejoiced at their beauty and courage, in their simple and harmless way of exclaiming, “I exist!” The government is not afraid of women’s hair or the length of their skirts. They are afraid of our existence.

This is a simple revolution: Do not mock or restrain people for their gender, orientation, nationality, religion. Don’t kill. Don’t rape. Don’t attack. Don’t threaten. We don’t want things to be perfect overnight. We simply don’t want to be invisible. We want to be ordinary people, not subjects. We want to make decisions, even mistakes. We want to exist.

Farnaz Fassihi is the United Nations bureau chief for The Times. She has been writing about Iran for over two decades. She was previously a senior writer for The Wall Street Journal, based in the Middle East and covering conflicts and uprisings. She is the author of a book on the Iraq war and a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Fernando Norat, also known as Tropiwhat, is an illustrator from Aibonito, Puerto Rico, and a Ph.D. candidate in Caribbean history at Brown University. Most of his illustration work relates to themes of solitude and humor as resistance in the Puerto Rican context.

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