The Power of Words – Women, Life, Freedom

The three words are the adopted motto for the current conflict in Iran, which Persian students and staff working to raise awareness at school.

Alli Wang, News Editor

At the school’s 12th annual Winter Wishes rally in December, pre-calculus teacher Shay Bagherian didn’t ask for a gift, but to speak to the upperclassmen rally.

Bagherian had grown up in Iran around the start of the Iranian revolution in the 1970s, but was too young to remember the change.

“I remember going to kindergarten wearing loose, long uniforms,” she told the audience. “And that would cover my whole body covering up, coming down to my waist, attending single gender school, along with every other kid in my country, in an attempt to minimize boys so the primary language of the mandatory job was required in all public places.”

Her experiences in kindergarten are one of the many examples of the restraint that the Iranian regime has posed on its residents since 1979.

Though Bagherian that she was too young to remember anything before the regime, but had grown up at the start of the regime. She was born around the beginning of the regime, however, the current protests around both Iranian women and Iranian rights have been part of an ongoing issue since the revolution.

The Associated Student Body granted Bagherian a wish to tell her story in Iran and bring awareness about the current murders in Iran by the government. 

She recollects having to cover herself from head to toe and was not allowed to “watch any sports” or “ask for divorce” or have rights to the “custody of their own children” as a woman in Iran.

Women’s protests against the government in Iran began on September 16 following the death of Mahsa Amini after being arrested by the Guidance Patrol. She was traveling with her brother from north of Iran to Tehran when she was arrested for not wearing her “hijab properly” according to the government.

Illustration by Dhatri Tummala

Since then, a series of protests had begun, leading to many arrests. In late December, the government began public death rows, following their previous practices of kidnapping any protester or person who is wearing a hijab in an “improper way.”

The Winter Wishes rally was followed up with a week of awareness organized by senior and ASB secretary Tara Kaviani one month later. The week featured lessons about Iran in all English classes, a vigil co-hosted by Bay Area for Iran speakers, and daily information tables at lunch about Iran. 

Kaviani said that the wish was also partly her wish. Her mom and Bagherian were “best friends” since college and had both moved to America from Iran after graduating from the same university.

Although she knew she wanted to raise awareness, she wanted the Winter Wish to focus on Bagherian’s story. With the help of Activities Directors Kerry Murphy and Heather Cooper, Kaviani felt encouraged to use Winter Wishes to spread awareness about the issue “because it’s one of the only times where you get everybody like listening to you at the same time.”

“I grew up [in America], and I was born here. I’ve been to Iran, so I know what’s happening firsthand in a way, but I also don’t at the same time know what’s happening firsthand,” Kaviani said. “I have a connection to the land. It’s my blood, but I didn’t live it. (Bagherian) did so I kind of wanted that firsthand experience to be conveyed by her.”

Kaviani said that the protests in Iran began as a women’s rights movement following the disappearance of Mahsa Amini, but since have spread to “something even bigger.” 

According to Kaviani, the Iran government began creating the “death row” in the streets the week of the Winter Wishes rally, which meant that executions by the government were no longer hidden under wraps but publicly demonstrated. She remembers staying up all night before the rally to include footage of the public executions in the video.

“The night of Winter Wishes I did not go to bed the whole night. I made this video because I wanted it to be on time with everything happening like a live reflection of what was going on–all of the footage of the public executions were from that week.” Kaviani said. “But  I really saw some tears and it really made me feel like okay, people here are getting it like they’re hearing it.”

Bagherian hopes that awareness increases, not just for people who follow international news but ordinary people.

“Women rights and human rights are just not being cared for, you know, in a lot of places like Iran and everybody basically is responsible.” Bagherian said. “The government cut the internet to the people and cut their access to the outside from the inside.”