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Yalda Hamidi lectures on feminist protests in Iran


Dr. Yalda Hamidi presented a lecture on Oct. 4 on the subject of recent feminist protests in Iran, Hamidi is a professor of gender and women’s studies at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her lecture was titled “Feminist Revolution and the Republic of Imagination.”

The departments of sociology/anthropology, Middle East studies, and religion, as well as the Smith Center for Global Engagement, sponsored the lecture.

Hamidi discussed the protests in Iran that began after Jina Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman, died after being arrested by Iranian “morality police” for allegedly not wearing a veil in public. Amini died on September 16, and protests erupted on September 17, the day of her funeral. Police have cracked down harshly on the protests, which have been ongoing since Amini’s funeral.

Hamidi framed her lecture around a question she has been repeatedly asked in the weeks since the protests began. “I’m here to basically answer one question,” Hamidi said. “Is a feminist revolution happening in your country?”

She pointed to protests happening both on the ground and on social media, using photos and videos to illustrate the various forms of protest occurring in Iran.

Many women have protested by removing their veils in protest of both the police brutality that led to Amini’s death and the strict codes for women’s dress the Iranian government claims are based in Islam. Hamibi used photos and videos from the protests to illustrate the effectiveness of these protests. She also placed the unveiling protests in historical context — she explained that Iranian women have historically dealt with both “mandatory veiling” and “mandatory unveiling.”

Hamidi emphasized that the women are not protesting Islam — they are protesting oppression and patriarchy of the state in “using women’s bodies.” It’s not about unveiling per se,” Hamidi said, but rather about how governments control women’s bodies.

Another form of protest on which Hamidi focused was people cutting their hair as an expression of dissent. “It’s an expression of feminist rage,” Hamidi said. She believes the protests are feminist because they are “changing how we imagine our world.”

Hamidi focused her understanding of the protests around Iranian feminisms. “Different versions of Iranian feminisms are coming together,” Hamidi said.

Hamidi also highlighted the intersectionality she sees in the movement’s feminisms. The protesters come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, sexual identities, genders, and ages, and they have come together to oppose state oppression and patriarchy. “This revolution covers lots of intersectional identities,” she said. “It’s an intersectional feminist revolution.”

On the question of identifying the protests as a political revolution, Hamidi said it is impossible to be sure, because there is no definitive way to determine how many people are protesting.

Hamidi closed the lecture by talking about the connections between police brutality in Iran and the U.S. She discussed in particular the 2020 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. “I want everyone to be as emotional about the killing in the States as about anywhere else,” Hamidi said. “We shouldn’t forget what happens in our own country.”