In a move that drew condemnation from Iran’s government, the US President and State Department have voiced their support for the ongoing protest movement rocking Iran.
The US State Department took up the now internationally famous slogan of “Woman, Life, Freedom” in a 15 October tweet supporting the Iranian anti-government protests sparked by the morality police’s killing of Jîna (Mahsa) Amini.
The Kurdish phrase “Jin, Jîyan, Azadî”, or “Woman, Life, Freedom”, first gained renown in the Kurdish-led fight against the Islamic State in north Syria. It now rings out in both Kurdish and Persian in streets across Iran, as protests continue to rock the country’s theocratic government.
“We join Iran’s brave women and girls in calling for ‘women, life, freedom’ and deplore Iran’s state-sponsored violence against women,” the State Department’s tweet read, before adding a Persian hashtag featuring the slogan, #زن_زندگی_آزادی .
We join Iran’s brave women and girls in calling for “women, life, freedom” and deplore Iran’s state-sponsored violence against women. #زن_زندگی_آزادی pic.twitter.com/sXwWIKT7wR
— Department of State (@StateDept) October 15, 2022
The State Department’s message reflected the sentiments of US President Joe Biden, who said on the same day that he was “stunned” by how Iranians had reacted to the death of 22-year-old Amini.
“I want you to know that we stand with the citizens, the brave women of Iran … who right now are demonstrating to secure their very basic, fundamental rights,” Biden said during a speech at a community college in an area of southern California with a large Iranian population.
“It stunned me what it awakened in Iran,” Biden said, referring to Amini’s death. “It’s awakened something that I don’t think will be quieted in a long, long time.”
Amini died on 16 September of injuries she sustained during her arrest by Iran’s notorious morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab improperly.
In the month of continuous protests following her death, thousands of Iranian women have removed their veils in defiance of the government-mandated dress code.
“Women all over the world are being persecuted in various ways, but they should be able to wear in God’s name what they want to wear. No one should be telling them what to wear.” Biden said.
Biden’s comments came as former President Barack Obama expressed his regrets over not being more explicit in support of the nationwide anti-government protests in Iran after the 2009 elections.
Obama said that he had been advised against showing support for the protests as this could be used by the Iranian regime to undermine the protesters but that he believed this was a mistake.
“Every time we see a flash, a glimmer, of hope, of people longing for freedom, I think we have to point it out, we have to shine a spotlight on it. We have to express some solidarity about it,” said Obama.
"In retrospect, I think that was a mistake." @BarackObama on how his administration held back on public support for the 2009 Iran protests, and that we should "express some solidarity" with the Iranian protests now. pic.twitter.com/z7F3heSrQB
— Pod Save America (@PodSaveAmerica) October 14, 2022
Although President Biden is expected to continue pursuing dialogue with Iran over its nuclear weapons programme, the US leader has been quicker this time to openly support the protests unfolding in the country.
In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly last month, CNN reported that Biden pointed to the protests over the death Jina Amini and said that the US stood with the “brave women of Iran who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights.”
The United States also announced sanctions on Iran’s morality police “for abuse and violence against Iranian women and the violation of the rights of peaceful Iranian protestors.”
Responding to Biden’s remarks, Reuters reported that President Ebrahim Raisi on Sunday blamed his US counterpart for inciting “chaos, terror, and destruction” in Iran, recalling the words of the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in describing the United States as the “Great Satan”.