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Iranian women in New Hampshire react to violent protests in their country

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Courtesy
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Fatmeh Rahmanifad
Fatmeh Rahmanifad at a Boston Commons gathering to cherish Mahsa Amini's memory and stand with Iranian protesters. She is part of a movement on social media where women cut their hair to express solidarity with women who she says are forced to wear hijab.

Fatmeh Rahmanifad, a University of New Hampshire research scientist, encountered the morality police several times when she was a teenager living in Iran.

That police force detained Mahsa Amini last week for allegedly breaking hijab rules. She died in their custody. Rahmanifad says Amini’s death revives traumatic events she lived through. She says she saw many women in Iran detained each day.

“They arrest you, put you in the van, and use the worst language; they hit really bad,” she says.

She has been living in the U.S since 2013 and appreciates the power of deciding what to wear or where to go. She says she feels sorry for the vulnerable women who still live there and tries to give them support online and at local events.

Mahsa Moradi is a Ph.D. student at the University of New Hampshire. While in Iran, she was also stopped by the morality police several times. She says she feared for her life each time.

“They bring you to a place where they take photos of you as if you were a criminal,” she remembers. “You are alone; they are many; they have all the power over you.”

Moradi is worried about not knowing what is going on in Iran after the government shut down the internet in the cities where protests are happening. Based on her experience, she says that happens before a violent government crackdown. She says her parents report hearing shots during the night.

“We know they [the government] have a plan to kill people,” she said.

Both women joined an online social movement of women who have cut their hair in protest of the government. They hope more women join the cause on social media. They say what is happening in Iran is sad, but at the same time, the protests are inspiring.

“I think it would be very beautiful if feminists worldwide took a stand and stood by the human rights and the feminists in Iran,” said Rahmanifad.

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Courtesy
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Mahsa Moradi
Mahsa Moradi at a Mahsa Amini memorial at UNH. The poster shows what is written on Mahsa's tombstone: “Dearest Zhina, you won’t die, your name will be a code.”

Gabriela Lozada is a Report for America corps member. Her focus is on Latinx community with original reporting done in Spanish for ¿Qué hay de Nuevo NH?.