(noun) a slogan that encapsulates the demands of Iran’s protesters
These three words symbolise an irreversible path in Iran’s contemporary history. After more than 100 years of fighting for freedom and gender equality, Iranians’ demands for democratic rule have reached a critical new stage with women playing leading roles.
Iranians first heard the call for “Woman, Life, Freedom” in mid-September, at the funeral of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who died in police custody after being arrested for not fully observing the Islamic dress code. Her tragic death rocked the nation and triggered one of the biggest and longest-lasting anti-regime protests the Islamic Republic has endured since the 1979 revolution.
People quickly and instinctively began to adopt the phrase as the movement’s main motto. This may partly be because the cause of Iran’s women has been the country’s most consistent social campaign since the 1979 Islamic revolution, and was in need of a fresh slogan.
The rallying cry has made its way into songs and on to T-shirts and banners across Iran and the globe. “Woman, Life, Freedom” summarises what the country’s Generation Z — the main drivers of the protests — are seeking: a modern, secular lifestyle that is not shaped by ideology and ensures basic rights.
Iranian women have witnessed the first fruits of their protests: unofficially, they can now walk in public without wearing scarves and long jackets — though the dress code remains mandatory by law. This was not imaginable before Amini’s death and the subsequent fallout.
Yet this is not all protesters want, and many have already paid too high a price — two were executed this month. The opposition has stressed that the Islamic regime must end, though after about three months of protests and hundreds of deaths of young women and men, they are under no illusion that it will cease to exist overnight. But Iranian women have already fought for a long time — and show no sign of stopping now.