OPINION | Aida Coertse: Let's stand up and be the voice for the women of Iran

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Mahsa Amini's death has sparked demonstrations in Iran and worldwide.
Mahsa Amini's death has sparked demonstrations in Iran and worldwide.
Sean Gallup

Aida Coertse is an Iranian women living in South Africa. She writes that as a woman, as a mother, and as a daughter she stands next to her sisters in Iran and asks for freedom of choice, following the death of Mahsa Amini.

I am an Iranian woman living in South Africa for over 23 years.

For my freedom and a better future for my children, I had to leave my family when I moved to South Africa in 1999.

My dream was to one day bring my children to this newly free country for them to experience freedom of expression and equality. South Africa was a safe haven to me, an abused and heartbroken woman.

I worked hard for years before being able to see my children once again. In fact, despite all the legal struggles, it took me six years to bring my 16-year-old daughter to South Africa and 15 long years before I brought my two sons and reunited them with my three children in South Africa. This is not only my story; many Iranian people have left Iran to move to other countries hoping to find freedom, equality and peace.

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On 16 September, Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman, was arrested by the morality police in Iran. She was killed, by the morality police, because her hair was not fully covered by her scarf or, as the morality police say, her hijab was not perfect.

A week later, another girl, Hadis Najafi, was shot dead on the street as she bravely took her scarf off in support of Mahsa Amini. All she was saying was: "No to mandatory hijab". Protests have broken out in Iran as well as outside of that country against this cruelty following Mahsa’s death.

These protesters are not seeking violence, destruction or vandalisation. They are not disrespecting anyone's religion or religious beliefs or any religious figures.

They simply support women and women's rights, asking for freedom of choice. However, protesters have been met with violence and gunfire from the government, and there have been internet blackouts to stop people from communicating with each other and the outside world. Reports indicate many people have been killed or wounded, and there have been several arrests. No one knows what the real numbers are or what has happened to people who have been arrested.

Today millions of people in Iran and outside of Iran are rising in support for Iranian women's freedom of choice.

READ | World rallies in solidarity with Iran protests over Mahsa Amini death

I would like to say to Mahsa Amini, Hadis Najafi and to many other women and men that their blood has not been shed in vain. They have many brothers and sisters worldwide who have risen up and stood together, to claim their rights. Many years ago, l predicted that the next revolution in Iran would be initiated by women. The time is now.

As a woman, as a mother, a daughter, a sister and most importantly, as an awakened human being, I stand next to my sisters in Iran. I ask for freedom of choice; I stand for equality. Women should be free to choose. They should be free to wear hijab if they decide to, as much as they should be free not to wear hijab if they choose.

Finally, it is time to know Iran not by its government, nor its oil, its carpets or its saffron, but to know Iran by its courageous woman. After all, Iran is a female name we use for our daughters, maiden warriors of this time.

- Aida Coertse is an Iranian woman who has been living in South Africa for over 20 years. She recently returned back to Iran to visit family. 

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