“Jin, Jiyan, Azadi!” »
From an early age, Kurdish women like me are introduced to this powerful phrase, which translates to “women, life, freedom”. Our families teach us that this sentence is an integral part of the liberation struggle against the powers that occupy us, invented by the Kurdish resistance fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. They teach us that we too are part of the movement for our homeland; for women, life and freedom.
Over the past month, we’ve heard people repeat “zan, zendegi, azadi,” the Farsi translation of that phrase. I see people emphasizing solidarity with “Iranian women”, fighting for “freedom for Iran” and honoring “Mahsa” Amini. Although I will always join Iranians in opposing this regime, I cannot help but feel anger and resentment at the suppression of Kurdish voices in this movement.
After Jina Amini’s death, I immediately thought of my own mother, who suffered the same injustices that Kurdish women still face in Iran today. After surviving the 1988 Halabja massacre in the Iraqi state, she fled to Iran, where she lived for three years. Unlike Jina, however, she survived the oppression and violence that the Iranian regime has inflicted and continues to inflict on the Kurds.
Jina Amini, who was only 22, was from the city of Saqqez in Kurdistan province, the same city where the first protests after her death broke out. The city where the Kurds have continued to chant “women, life, freedom” as they have done for decades. The Kurds constantly echoed this sentence, but people only finally joined us after the Kurds of Saqqez shouted it in pain over Jina’s death.
To see this revolutionary phrase co-opted into Farsi without acknowledging Jina’s Kurdish identity and its implications for her death is devastating. This phrase, the phrase I grew up with, the phrase that helped me reconnect with my Kurdish heritage, has been taken away from me – from us. Many people had never heard of “Women, Life, Freedom” until they saw it in Farsi, in the headlines as part of the “For Iranian Women” movement.
Under the Iranian regime, Kurdish names are banned. “Mahsa” was known to her family, friends and community as Jina. Jina, the same name her mother repeated in front of her grave. Like many Kurdish women in our home countries, Jina often wore jili kurdi (traditional Kurdish clothing). Like me, she heard Sorani Kurdish at home. She too knew the vibrant colors of the flag of Kurdistan, Daughter of the Sun.
Jina’s Kurdish identity was not unrelated to her death. It is more than likely that the morality police knew that Jina was Kurdish when his brother allegedly begged the police, telling them that they were not from Tehran, that they were only visitors. Iranian ID cards include postcodes, which indicate the province the detainee is from. Jina was from the Kurdistan province of Iran.
The Kurds represent only 10% of the Iranian population, but in 2019 they constituted almost half of the population of political prisoners in Iran. The Iranian regime has focused its attacks on predominantly Kurdish areas as well as other ethnic minority regions such as Balochistan. Iranian forces have gone so far as to attack military bases in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq for their uprisings against the Iranian regime. Yet all we hear about is the bravery and resilience of the “Iranian” people.
Now, more than ever, it is time to stand in solidarity with Kurdish women who are fighting for independence not only in Iran, but in the four occupied regions of Kurdistan. The people of Iran will never see a world free from this violent regime until the people of Kurdistan are able to walk freely in our lands. This world would have allowed a 22-year-old girl to walk the streets of her beloved Kurdistan while people greet her as Jina.
Our liberation is shared. Not only do we have to stand with the Iranian protesters, but we have to stand with the Kurds, who are at the forefront of this movement. Jina Amini was a Kurdish woman; call it that. Call her by her real name, not the one imposed on her by the regime. Realize the story behind the phrase “women, life, freedom” and start reciting it in the language of the women who coined it. The language I grew up hearing in my home, just like Jina in hers.
As a Kurdish woman on this campus, I have felt the erasure and exclusion of Kurdish voices from this movement, both intentional and unintentional. Likewise, I have seen the power of uplifting Kurdish voices, whether at the protest in front of Widener or the die-in in front of John Harvard’s statue. However, there is so much work to do: changing our rhetoric, asking President Bacow to express his solidarity with Iranian and Kurdish women, to chant “jin, jiyan, azadi”, and to stop using the regime’s name of Jina Amini in conversations and demonstrations. on the campus.
As you continue to march through the streets in solidarity with protesters in Kurdistan and Iran, as you post on social media, as you have conversations about what is happening, include the brave Kurds who have made this movement possible. Include women who continue to defend their homeland despite countless attempts at censorship and ethnic cleansing. Hang out with Kurdish women.
One day, Kurds like Jina, in a safe and free Kurdistan, will continue to sing the phrase we should all remember. Jin, jiyan, azadi.
Dalal Hassane ’26 lives in Matthews Hall.