The Iranian Women’s Revolution with Dr. Bibi Pirayesh: Podcast Ep. 320

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I’ve been wanting to do an episode since last fall on what’s been going on in Iran with the huge protests by girls and women.

This is a fascinating and important conversation about the power of women using their voices and how privileged we are in the U.S. and other democratic countries to be able to use our voices without fears of arrest or death.

Last September, a young woman named Mahsa Amini died while in custody of Iran’s morality police after being detained for allegedly not adhering to the strict dress code. 

When news of what happened spread on social media, young women took to the streets to protest having to wear the hijab to cover their hair along with having to comply with many other strict and misogynistic rules.

As the protests have grown and spread, the Iranian government has cracked down on protesters, including mass arrests, death sentences, and the execution of four young protesters.

“The core and heart of this movement is really the revolutionary act of these women turning their head scarves into the most effective and most powerful weapon against religious dictatorship and deep layers of misogyny and patriarchy,” said Fatemeh Shams, a women’s rights activist and an assistant professor of Persian literature at the University of Pennsylvania, in a recent New York Times article.

To help us understand what has been going on, I invited one of our Thought Leader Academy grads, Dr. Bibi Pirayesh, to share with us the history of Iran’s morality police and how revolutionary these protests by women are.

Bibi was born in Iran and came to the United States with her family when she was a child. She’s been back to Iran a few times as an adult, so she also shares those experiences.

This is the second episode in our podcast series for Women’s History Month.

About My Guest: Dr. Bibinaz (Bibi) Pirayesh is an educational therapist based in Los Angeles. Her K-12 education was spread across 3 countries, exposing her to many different curriculums and philosophies of education. She completed her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh in Neuroscience and Education. She holds a Master’s degree from Columbia University where she studied Developmental Psychology in Education with a primary focus on children’s development of mathematical thinking. Her own scholarship is concerned with the ethical and social justice implications that arise at the intersection of brain science and education. She is also Faculty at the School of Education at Loyola Marymount University. 

About Us: The Speaking Your Brand podcast is hosted by Carol Cox. At Speaking Your Brand, we help women entrepreneurs and professionals clarify their brand message and story, create their signature talks, and develop their thought leadership platforms. Our mission is to get more women in positions of influence and power because it’s through women’s stories, voices, and visibility that we challenge the status quo and change existing systems. Check out our coaching programs at https://www.speakingyourbrand.com

Links:

Show notes at https://www.speakingyourbrand.com/320 

Bibi’s website: https://www.laeducationaltherapy.com/

Recent New York Times article: Their Hair Long and Flowing or in Ponytails, Women in Iran Flaunt Their Locks 

Call to Action for Iran: https://freedomforiran.carrd.co/

Iranian women to follow on Instagram:

Discover your Speaker Archetype by taking our free quiz at https://www.speakingyourbrand.com/quiz/

Join our Thought Leader Academy: https://www.speakingyourbrand.com/academy/ 

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320-SYB-Dr-Bibi-Pirayesh.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

320-SYB-Dr-Bibi-Pirayesh.mp3: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Carol Cox:
We’re continuing our series for Women’s History Month. Today, we’re talking about what’s been going on in Iran with the Women’s Revolution, with my guest, Dr. Bibi Pirayesh on this episode of the Speaking Your Brand podcast.

Carol Cox:
More and more women are making an impact by starting businesses, running for office and speaking up for what matters. With my background as a political analyst, entrepreneur and speaker, I interview and coach purpose driven women to shape their brands, grow their companies and become recognized as influencers in their field. This is speaking your brand, your place to learn how to persuasively communicate your message to your audience.

Hi and welcome to the Speaking Your Brand podcast. I’m your host, Carol Cox. I’ve been wanting to do an episode since last fall on what’s been going on in Iran with the huge protests by girls and women. So this episode today is a fascinating and important conversation about the power of women using their voices and how privileged we are in the United States and in other democratic countries to be able to use our voices without fear of arrest or death. Last September, a young woman named Mahsa Amini died while in custody of Iran’s morality police after being detained for allegedly not adhering to the strict dress code.

Carol Cox:
When news of what happened spread on social media, young women took to the streets in Iran to protest, having to wear the hijab to cover their hair, along with having to comply with many other strict and misogynistic rules. However, as the protests have grown and spread, the Iranian government has cracked down on protesters, including mass arrests, death sentences and the execution of four young protesters. To help us understand what’s been going on, I invited one of our thought leader Academy grads, Dr. Bibi Parrish, to share with us the history of Iran’s morality police and how revolutionary these protests by women are. Bibi was born in Iran and came to the US with her family when she was a child. She’s been back to Iran a few times as an adult, so she also shares those experiences with us here. You may recognize Bibi’s name. She was on the podcast last month and Episode 316 talking about education, AI and social justice. Bibi is incredibly smart, well read and well researched, and I know you’re going to get so much out of our conversation today. Now let’s get on with the show.

Carol Cox:
Welcome back to the podcast, Bibi.

Bibi Pirayesh:
Hi. Thank you so much for having me back.

Carol Cox:
Well, it is a pleasure. And we are going to talk today about the Iranian women’s revolution, what’s been going on in Iran since last year, 2022, particularly around young women. So women in high school age who have been leading so many of the protests that have been going on. I’ve been wanting to have this conversation on the podcast for a while. And of course, I know since you were born in Iran and came here to the States as a young child, that you would be someone that I personally know that I could reach out to, to tell us a little bit about what’s been going on, why this particular moment has had the the kind of the spark that it has had, and then what is possible going forward. So, Bibi, can you tell us a little bit about being born in Iran, growing up in Iran? How old were you when you came here? And then, you know, your parents and kind of like just give us a little bit of context for the conversation.

Bibi Pirayesh:
Well, let me start by actually thanking you for, you know, providing this platform to talk about this topic. It is not been something that I have seen a lot of people provide a platform to, which has been really disappointing. And I think that especially sort of now is a is a really important time to be talking about Iran, because the revolution is not over, but it’s not trending like it was a few months ago. So our ongoing support is is critical. I think so. I interestingly enough, and now I’m really going to give my age away. But I was actually born in the year of the revolution. So I have never known Iran before after the revolution. I think that, you know, in this conversation of what is happening right now, the generation that you’re in is is really critical, because I remember growing up in Iran and our parents and our grandparents who had known a different Iran. I mean, really, the only word that I can think of is traumatized and paralyzed. They were so traumatized by the shifts that had occurred from the world that they knew to the world that they were in. Now, that they almost they almost I mean, of course, it was illegal to really say anything positive about the time of Iran before the revolution, but they never really said much about it. I mean, we knew that it was a different world because even things as simple as the names of the streets. So the names that we called the streets today or at the time and the names that like. Our parents and grandparents called them were different. So even like very basic things, you were always aware of the fact that you’re living in a place where things have shifted.

Carol Cox:
Can you tell us about what was the revolution in Iran in 1979? What was the government before and then what happened? And then what has it been since?

Bibi Pirayesh:
Sure. So in 1978, the Iranian People’s Revolution essentially ousted the Shah of Iran. Pahlavi. It’s very complex. I can’t get into too much of the history, but essentially the royal family was pushed out of Iran and Ayatollah Khomeini, who was living in France at the time, ironically, which I think is one of the ways that ties France to Iran today. He came back into the country and they held basically a vote, a referendum and claimed and there’s been a lot of questions around this particular for, you know, the voting of the time, but claim that something like 98% of the population voted to have an Islamic republic. And it’s really important to kind of contextualize the revolution in understanding that the at the time that the revolution happened, the Iranian people had already been for decades pushing for a democratic country and their first kind of democratically elected Mosaddegh, who was basically democratically elected and was pushing to nationalize the oil in in Iran, was essentially pushed out by the CIA. And that entire revolution, which was sort of like the initial attempt, was basically completely shut down. And there’s, you know, all this footage now and files now where they talk about, oh, we just spent, you know, the CIA spent such little money. And in 60 days we were basically able to, like, change everything in Iran. But of course, the ramifications of that continued. And so this is another reason, you know, when I sometimes hear people say like, well, why do I have to worry about Iran? Like we have enough problems in our own country.

Bibi Pirayesh:
But a lot of the problems in Iran right now are direct cause of American intervention and also British and also French. The 78 revolution, you know, at the time there was such a huge fear around communism. And because the West didn’t want Iran to go in that direction, there was actually support for the Islamic Republic, ironically, from the West. And then, of course, once Khomeini came into power, you know, everything shifted. And, you know, I remember going to school and we were required to like chant Death to America, Death to Israel. You know, all of that was part of really the ideology of the country. It was very anti-Western. And, you know, again, I think this is one of the reasons why being an Iranian or an Iranian American man is so it’s such a unique experience because on the one hand, a lot of the critiques, for example, against neoliberalism, imperialism, all of those things are valid or were valid. But then on the other hand, and this is why there’s so much gaslighting, was that you would hear these messages about, you know, humanity and democracy, true democracy and anti-imperialism and, you know, all of these valid critiques. But then you knew that what you were being sold by the regime wasn’t true. It wasn’t real because because you could see the impact that it was having. And I grew up, you know, now.

Bibi Pirayesh:
30 years later. Reflecting back on it, I can see better that we were basically I mean, it was it was a little bit like North Korea. You know, you were in this very, very highly controlled environment where you were constantly being fed propaganda and everything was censored. But of course, at the time, that’s the only life that, you know, my generation and I’m sort of like Gen X, you know, just on the cusp of Millennial. That was the only thing that we knew. And so, you know, you believed the leaders, you believed your teachers, you believed. And I think that was one of the reasons why the Islamic Republic was able to go on as long as it did, because it had the opportunity to essentially indoctrinate, you know, a few generations under itself. And so the last, you know, ten, 15 years, I think, for example, the millennium Generation, I really think that they put in their best efforts to try and work with the regime and really try and reform things and like, okay, fine, we can have an Islamic republic or whatever, but it has to be democratic at the same time. And, you know, what are the different reforms that we can have so that the country can move forward? And that really was, I think, a genuine effort on on the part of the people. But I think that what is happening now with sort of the Gen Z generation is just the is just the complete realization that there is no reforming this government.

Bibi Pirayesh:
There is no bargaining with this government. And the realization that I mean, the way that the people are looking at the government now and it’s one of the reasons why it’s so healing for people of my generation, because we we sort of lived through this without really being able to name it or articulate it. But the fact of the matter is that they are a an occupying force. They are not a government of the people. And so people are really viewing them in that way. They’re seeing them as their oppressors and not as their government. And their response now is we have to get them out. We have to get this this oppressive force that is essentially and I mean, this we’re seeing this happen in terms of the economics of the country. I mean, they are they are essentially exploiting the people, the land, the resources. I mean, Iran is the second largest holder of natural gas in the world. And all of the people in Iran right now are with that. Not all, but like the majority are without gas. So, you know, the country is not you know, people joke like at least if they were exploiting us in a way that, you know, and I think people in the US talk about this like a lot of people feel that the government in the US exploits them, but at least there’s like a basic level of life that is available to everyone.

Bibi Pirayesh:
And that’s just not the case in Iran. Again, for me, as a woman who grew up in this incredibly patriarchal, misogynistic government that was really trying to push sell itself to us as pro women and, you know, just sort of like the gaslighting of that, watching this generation of girls and women. I mean, I never thought that I would see this in my lifetime. And I’m just I’m just in complete awe. Like I don’t understand. They seem like they’re from another planet to me. I don’t understand how they there seems to just be an understanding that things as they are cannot go on and people just seem to to think or a lot of the people, not everyone obviously that they would rather lose their lives than than to to live like this anymore. And they’re willingly going out there and protesting, knowing full well not only that they would lose their lives because that in a way, you know, when I talk to my friends who still live in Iran or a family who lives there, you know, they say that dying is actually that that’s like if someone just took a bullet to the head and died, it would be great. The real fear is what happens if you don’t die and they capture you and they take you in and you know, all the things that we now know they’re doing to both men and women, children, the number of children who’ve died as a result of this revolution and the many, many, many children and young adults who are in prisons in Iran essentially being sexually assaulted, tortured.

Bibi Pirayesh:
And, you know, we’ve all been hearing the stories about how, you know, they essentially they they torture, rape and kill people and then they pretend to, like, push them off of like a balcony or something and come to their family and say, oh, they jumped off. It was suicide or they did this or they and then they hide. Their bodies. You know, one of the most horrific things that we’ve been seeing is family members and friends who whose loved one has died keeping their family member or their friend, and in one case, their child, their ten year old child on ice overnight because they were too scared to take that body to the morgue because they knew that it would be stolen and then it would be in an unmarked grave. I mean, you know, sometimes we wake up in the US, you know, especially in light of all of the bombings and all of the thing shootings and everything that we’ve been having, bombing shootings, um, you know, really thinking about what is this dystopian world that we’re living in. But, you know, when I when I see what’s happening in Iran, it’s like it really like I don’t think you could write this, you know, some of the stories that you hear. I was watching something on CNN, did a report about this one man who he was an athlete.

Bibi Pirayesh:
And that’s really the saddest thing is that they’re picking out the strongest and the more most valuable young members of society and killing them. And that’s part of the tactic, because those are going to be the people that are going to resist. And this you know, this man, it took 20 people. There’s video of it like 20 people to take him down. And there were only at the end able to take him down. I mean, he was just fighting with his body. After they shot him, they took him to jail, tortured him. He was in the hospital, which they don’t allow a lot of people who are being tortured to get medical attention. And somehow miraculously, this man escaped Iran and, you know, was able to do this. Cnn And he was saying in his interview, I’m just waiting until I get my health back in order and then I’m going back in. So it’s I mean, it’s sort of like. You know, I’ve been watching that HBO show like The Last of Us or, you know, we’re all sort of like familiar with all of these like, you know, apocalyptic time shows. And honestly, none of it none of it could live up to what is actually happening in Iran right now. And the fact that we’re not really engaging with it and talking about it is I think it’s I think it says something really scary about just the state of being human in the day and age. Yeah.

Carol Cox:
Well, and Bibi and, you know, so I follow you on LinkedIn and I always appreciate seeing your LinkedIn posts. A lot of them are about education because you are an educational therapist. And we did a whole episode about education in the I back in February, but I started noticing last fall when you were posting about what was going on in Iran and calling out the mainstream media like The New York Times for not covering it. And this was I mean, this was a huge movement that was going on and it wasn’t getting much coverage. And so can you tell us maybe what exactly happened last year in 2022 that set this off? Take us back to, you know, what were the circumstances and then how did it evolve from there?

Bibi Pirayesh:
Yeah. So so basically, this all happened with the death of Mahsa Amini. I will preface that by saying that historically in the country, whenever things begin to go in a bad direction for the government. So for example, when there’s inflation, when there are issues that have to do with the way that the country is being governed or in this case not governed, because none of the intelligent people are are they’re all in jail. And, you know, all the people that shouldn’t have any power are the ones with power. So when that happens, one of the tactics of the government and this is something that I would hear about when I would talk with my friends, many of whom are women in Iran, they would say, oh, they’ve started again. They’ve started arresting people again. So there’s this thing called the morality police in Iran. I’ve had a few experiences with them. The last time that I was in Iran, I was I don’t know how exactly I was in my 30 seconds. And it was maybe it was less than ten years ago. And I remember I had gone to the hospital because I had a medical issue and I was coming back from the hospital and I was crossing the street to go to the other side in order to hail a cab. And I’m always very careful when I’m in Iran because I don’t know the country that well.

Bibi Pirayesh:
You know, obviously I’m an Iranian-American, so I try to be very, very mindful and careful about how I’m dressing and how I am in society. So I was wearing black yoga pants, not very tight, but yoga pants. And then I had my long kind of what we call a manto, which is kind of like an overcoat on top of that. And then my scarf and everything was black, which is the preferred color of the Islamic Republic. And as I was crossing the street, a gust of wind hit me and my overcoat. I had button two buttons in the front of it, but the wind opened the front of my open, my coat and of course, my my pants on at the bottom. And like out of nowhere, I just felt like a hand grab onto my wrist. And I turned and this woman, like, covered in a full chador pulled me like, don’t even I was like, we’re going to get hit by cars. She pulled me across and was essentially trying to push me into this van, you know, to to get taken to the headquarters where people go to get their, like, lessons on why they’re being immoral. And I remember when I had landed in Iran, my aunt that I was staying with, she said to me, she said, Do not tell them that you’re from.

Bibi Pirayesh:
Because a lot of times what people do is they’re like, Oh, I’m a foreigner, I’m an American. You know, I don’t know what I’m doing. And she was like, Do not say that, because that’s just going to make them more annoyed with you and it’s going to give them more reason to want to be mean to you. And she said the only way, the only tactic is to beg. You have to basically dehumanize yourself. Tell them that they’re amazing, beg and beg and beg. Do not let them take you, because if they take you, then it’s going to be like a whole thing. So that’s exactly what I did. I mean, I was a grown woman and at that point, this a couple other men now in full army uniform with their guns had come over. And I just started begging. And I said, you know, I was at the hospital. Please. I was just going to go to the pharmacy to get my medication. She she demanded to see the prescription, asked me all kinds of questions about, you know, like HIPAA violation kinds of questions like, what is wrong with you? Why were you in the hospital? All of these questions. And only because I was begging did she was she finally like, fine, get out of here? And then they just went on to get somebody a new person.

Bibi Pirayesh:
So this is something that women in Iran regularly, you know, come into contact with. It’s just an everyday part of their life that they have to live in. And what that does to your sense of self and to your brain and. Just your experience of being a woman without even getting into all the ways in which the law of the land is specifically set against women? I’m not even going to get into that. But essentially what sparked this revolution was Mahsa Amini, who was a Kurdish woman. Kurds are a minority group in Iran who have historically systemically been discriminated against by this regime that claims to be all about social justice and equality. So she was visiting Tehran, the capital, with her family. I believe she was with her brother. She was arrested because of the way that she was dressed. They didn’t like that her scarf was showing a bit of her hair. She was 19 years old, 19 or 20, I believe. The next thing, basically, they wouldn’t allow her brother to accompany her. There’s one footage of her at the station where she had been arrested for this reeducation where you see her just kind of like fumble and fall down. And essentially she died and everyone knows that the reason that she died was because they beat her. And there’s so many videos of the way that the morality police people pull, like, you know, they pull you and then like your head hits the the curb or your head hits the top of the van or whatever.

Bibi Pirayesh:
And a lot of people get injured and some have died, obviously. But she just basically became the spark. And a woman journalist was the one that exposed her story. She’s currently in jail at Evin. You know, she might get executed. So she you know, the news of it came out. And I think that what what was really different about this particular because there have been uprisings. We haven’t heard about them in the West. But over the 44 years, there have been many, many, many, many. It’s believed that 15,000 people were killed in the last uprising. You know, none of us really heard about. But what has made this particular you know, what made this essentially into a revolution is that every single class of society and every single you know, because Iran is a country with many, many different groups and ethnic backgrounds and even languages, everyone suddenly is in it together. Whereas, you know, before, for example, the you know, one of the big uprisings was basically when the current president became president because everyone voted for someone. Obviously there was huge voter fraud. The supreme leader pretended like people didn’t vote and just chose his own person.

Bibi Pirayesh:
And people came out into the streets, you know, asking, where’s my vote? And that’s when about 15,000 people were killed. But that was still I mean, there was people from all across the country, but it was primarily led by a certain socioeconomic class of the country. And this time it’s been very different. The other thing that’s very different about this is that it is the first and only that we know of woman led revolution in history, essentially. And, you know, the incredible images that were coming out of Iran with girls standing up and like swirling their headscarves around their head, kids, schoolgirls in schools, you know, demonstrating and pushing out. They’re not teachers, but they’re the people who would come from the district to basically like, create peace or whatever. It’s it’s the component of it being girls and women who are actually, ironically, highly educated because, you know, despite the ways in which they oppress women, certain in certain ways, the regime has actually promoted equality, such as, you know, women going to school and everything. I think because of that and also because of the advances with social media and the access that people have to how the. So when I was growing up in Iran, I didn’t know that there was a different way of living like how we lived is what I thought life is.

Bibi Pirayesh:
But of course, these generations, you know, this generation doesn’t. They have access to everything. And and, you know, all of that is, of course, coupled with a lot of other things, such as where the country is economically, such as the fact that people have after, you know, this president came into power, they just completely lost all hope of, you know, being able to reform or actually having a say in their own government. And then, you know, the impact of COVID. I think that played a role in Iran. The government long after everyone had sort of said, you know, this is something that is coming has exploded in China. Iran was allowing travel to and from China at the time. Still, you know, with all of the waves of COVID that came afterwards, I mean, it really was like, you know, a kind of terrorism. Essentially a way for population control. That’s the way that vaccines were. You know, they mean there’s all these there’s so much news around how all of that unfolded. And then more recently, you know, one of the reasons that the revolution kind of I don’t think it’s died down. I think it’s just on a pause. One is the cold weather. And the second thing is environmental terrorism. And they burn things into the atmosphere that essentially kills people so they can’t leave their houses.

Carol Cox:
I had not heard of that, Bibi, Wow. Yeah.

Bibi Pirayesh:
So it’s I mean, the tactics that they’re using to scare people and to prevent people from voicing themselves are just they’re just incredible. You know, we hear things in the West like, you know, when Biden was like, oh, they’re going to free themselves or, you know, we’re going to free them. And of course, there’s that history, you know, where and the middle anyone in the Middle East is very wary of any kind of Western intervention, understandably. But it’s not about intervention. I mean, one of the big calls has been for people to call back their ambassadors, to close down their embassies to delegitimize the regime because they are not representing their people. And, you know, there’s been a step forward, two steps back. And so a lot of people, you know, are asking, you know, what? What is the reason? Why is it that there isn’t more of a support? Of course, we know about the nuclear deal and all of those things. It’s a very complex situation. I think if Iran changes, the entire geopolitical order will change. I’m not sure that that’s something that everyone is rooting for. There is the impact of groups like NIAC. I mean, they’re essentially a lobby group for the Islamic Republic that has very strong presence in the US and consistently tries to change the narrative from people want regime change to people want reform and they have the eyes and ears of a lot of people in power.

Bibi Pirayesh:
So it’s a very complex situation. But as a woman, as a feminist and also as an educator, you know, we talked about, you know, the last time that we spoke about this question of what is the purpose of education? And when I see these Iranian boys and girls, but especially the girls really like putting their their bodies and their lives on the line in for freedom, essentially. I mean, if if that’s not the the purpose of education, I mean, if I could raise if I could educate, if I could yield, help yield that kind of a human being into society, I would not want anything more. So, you know, their level of political consciousness, their level of understanding of their own positionality history, You know, us in the West couldn’t dream of having that level of consciousness. And so I’m incredibly impressed. I’m incredibly awed and shocked, but also incredibly saddened because of the loss of life. You know, we have something like almost 20,000 people, like 18,000 people in prisons.

Bibi Pirayesh:
Evin Prison is considered kind of like the most horrific place that you could be sent where they’re like regularly executing people. And yet when I talk to friends in Iran, they say, Oh, it’s really good if you go to Evin because then we know where they are and we know what’s happening with them. It’s all the the secret places that people get sent and and the horrific things that happen to them. That’s the real fear. So it’s, yeah, it’s a really horrible and yet somehow simultaneously hopeful situation that I think is directly tied to, you know, not just what’s happening in like neighboring countries like Afghanistan, where they recently basically said women can’t go back to school. And you can’t tell me that the US has not played a role in Afghanistan, but it also ties to basically what’s going on politically in our country right now. Everything around women’s rights, everything around, you know, what’s happening in education, you know, schools in Florida. You know, people showing empty bookshelves. You know, I mean, that’s the kind that’s the level of censorship that for someone like me who grew up in Iran, when I see that in the United States, it’s incredibly frightening.

Bibi Pirayesh:
Yeah, well.

Carol Cox:
It’s like the these existing power structures are are not going to go away easily. They’re not going to topple easily. And as you know and as and as women and other underrepresented groups have gained rights and access and a little bit of power, they definitely don’t want that. And they are making sure to to push that back. Bibi, I appreciate your balanced assessment of what’s been going on in Iran with the the young women there. Before we talk about kind of what. As listeners. You know what? What can we do to either to help or to stay informed? And I think about, you know, here, especially in the United States or in the West, you know, on the podcast and with all the work that we do with our clients is encouraging women to use their voice to challenge the status quo, to be willing to say the uncomfortable things, to be willing to say the things that are going to change things for the better, whether it’s in their industries or their community or in society as a whole. And it’s so easy for us to do that because we don’t have the literally the threat to our very survival at stake. Now, that doesn’t say that we don’t get nervous. We don’t have vulnerability fears or we’re not afraid. We don’t want to necessarily, you know, make people not like this. So all those fears are real and it’s not to discount them. But remember, I gave a keynote address back in October of 2022. So this movement had already been going on. And I included a news clip of what was going on with the young woman in Iran. And I did that towards the end of my keynote because I talked a lot about women’s voices. And basically my point was what these young women are doing is so inspiring to me because of the consequences that they face by doing so. And so I feel like if they can do it, surely I can do the little tiny bit that I have to use my voice here as a very privileged woman in this country.

Bibi Pirayesh:
Yeah. And you know, interestingly enough, that has been the ask. I mean, the people in Iran are essentially saying, look, we don’t have access to the outside world. Please be our voice in the outside world. And, you know, in the beginning, even I was just like, okay, well, you know, I’m going to share all these, like, videos, whatever, on social media, whatever I can, hashtags, all of these things. But this doesn’t feel like activism, like what is this really going to do? And the truth of the matter is that there have been a number of people who have been saved from execution because their names were trending in social media. So those hashtags actually do work sharing and keeping it sort of trending, so to speak. I mean, it’s really sad to think of it, but that’s exactly what it is. The regime is frightened of basically being found out, essentially. And so they they kind of do their executions in a very strategic way. And one of the ways that people have been really able to push back is basically by sharing and saying people’s names. So to the extent that you are able to you know, there are a few accounts that I can recommend, like the journalist Masih Alinejad, she posts a lot about it.

Bibi Pirayesh:
Nazanin Obeidi is another person, Omid Memarian. So, you know, if you follow these people on Instagram or Twitter or TikTok or wherever it is that you happen to be, if you if you just look up the hashtag Mahsa Amini, most everything about Iran will come up on that. Something as simple as basically hitting a like or, you know, putting in a hashtag literally can save lives. So I think that’s really, really important. And then the other important thing is basically contacting your representatives. And, you know, I can share if you want again, you know, maybe put it in the show notes, phone numbers and also, you know, emails or ways to contact specific people with like an actual little message that you can just copy and paste or say to essentially push. Because the point for us outside of Iran, the diet, the Iranian diaspora outside of Iran is also in a revolution, you know, alongside the people in Iran. And I think most of us are doing the best that we can to to help get their voices out. But the point is to basically to echo what people are asking for as opposed to like, you know, putting our own agendas. And that’s going to be difficult. I mean, this is a so far anyway, it has been a leaderless revolution, which is actually another really, really incredible thing about this.

Bibi Pirayesh:
One of the really disappointing things for me, you know, outside of feminist circles, really not giving this enough attention. I feel like people in the social justice circles are also sleeping on this. And, you know, for all of our talk around intersectionality and all of that, I really don’t see people talking about this in the way that it deserves because it is basically exactly the kind of model that we would want. And it’s happening in real time. Right. And I mean, not really in front of our eyes because obviously journalists aren’t really allowed to go there, but it is unfolding and people are just kind of like missing out on it, which is shocking to me. But yeah, it’s a very itinerant kind of horizontal so far anyway. Revolution, grassroots, organic, you know, really growing from the people. My goal anyway, is to to continue to support that as opposed to, you know, kind of telling them what it is that they need to do. So the voices do come out of there. And I think that what those of us who are outside can do is to just use our platform like you are today, Carol, to echo their voices.

Carol Cox:
Well, thank you, baby. And I will make sure to get those Instagram accounts from you so that we can include those in the show notes so people can easily just click through and follow those. Thank you so much for suggesting that. And please, you know, keep us updated on how things are going. And I will also include a link in the show notes to your LinkedIn profile and your Instagram so that people can connect with you there so that they can learn more about and follow the work that you do, not only about what’s been going on in Iran, but also the very important work that you do around education. Bibi I always learn so much when I have a conversation with you. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast.

Bibi Pirayesh:
Thank you so, so much. Thank you for giving time to this conversation. Carol Thank you.

Carol Cox:
Thank you again to Bibi for coming back on the podcast. We’re continuing our series for Women’s History Month next week, where we’re going to be talking about what it means to be visible to yourself and others. And then the week after that, I have a really great conversation with a photographer around changing the image women have of themselves. You won’t want to miss these episodes. Please share this podcast with a friend or a colleague who you think would benefit from it. And until next time, thanks for listening.

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