A per­pe­tu­al flow of texts, pic­tures, moving pic­tures. What makes it into the canon of the broad media public?  
Media atten­ti­on can be an important pres­su­ri­zer in poli­ti­cal issu­es – as well as in the con­text of the Iranian government’s vio­lent actions against its own popu­la­ti­on.  

Jina (Mahsa) Amini died on September 16, 2022, after she got arres­ted by the Iranian mora­li­ty poli­ce. Since then, peop­le in Iran take to the streets under the slo­gan Jin, Jiyan, Azadî (Kurdish ver­si­on of Zan, Zendegi, Azadî, English trans­la­ti­on: Woman, Life, Freedom) – in a coun­try whe­re the sligh­test resis­tance against the regime can result in death.  
After the tireless spread of infor­ma­ti­on via social media, abo­ve all by Iranian citi­zens and a few jour­na­lists, reports about the pro­tests are gra­du­al­ly fin­ding their way to a broa­der (media) public: The dai­ly prime time news pro­gram reports on the ongo­ing situa­ti­on in Iran, talk shows are invi­t­ing experts, TV hosts Joko Winterscheidt and Klaas Heufer-Umlauf hand over their Instagram chan­nels and the reach that comes with them to the Iranian acti­vists Azam Jangravi and Sarah Ramani; insti­tu­ti­ons express their soli­da­ri­ty, inclu­ding the College of Arts Burg Giebichenstein in Halle and the stu­dents coun­cil of the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg. There was no public posi­tio­ning from the rec­to­ra­te of the MLU, no sign of com­pas­si­on via Instagram; des­pi­te hints and messages from Iranians in Halle and a demons­tra­ti­on at the Universitätsplatz. 

Conversations with the Iranian stu­dents Hevidar* and Azadeh* show disap­point­ment about the absence of reac­tions from the envi­ron­ment and the uni­ver­si­ty: atten­ti­on from here is important – it is important to look, Hevidar says. 
A cou­p­le weeks after the begin­ning of the femi­nist revo­lu­ti­on, both nar­ra­te to almost per­ma­nent­ly update the news. A nor­mal ever­y­day life is hard­ly conceivable. 

Nothing to lose  

Hevidar is stu­dy­ing in Halle and has been living in Germany for four years. It is in the end of November as we speak; the pro­tests have been going on for more than two mon­ths at the time of our inter­view. Hevidar rare­ly has con­ta­ct with her fami­ly in Iran, no more than two- or three-minu­tes con­ver­sa­ti­on would be pos­si­ble without an inter­rup­ted inter­net con­nec­tion, she narrates. 

Already in November 2019 the inter­net in the Islamic Republic of Iran got cut. Also, in tho­se days the peop­le pro­tes­ted eco­no­my and poli­tics, trig­ge­red by the announ­ce­ment of the incre­a­se in gaso­li­ne pri­ces.  
Thereby – hid­den from the eyes of the world by the inter­net shut­down – at least 304 peop­le got kil­led wit­hin four days, accord­ing to Amnesty International. During the ent­i­re pro­test peri­od of near­ly two weeks, reports claim around 1,500 fata­li­ties – one of them was the cou­sin of Azadeh. 

Azadeh is stu­dy­ing in Halle, too. In September 2022 she visits her fami­ly in Iran for the first time after three years. During her stay, Jina Amini dies.  
Back in Germany, in con­ver­sa­ti­on she nar­ra­tes that the demons­tra­ti­ons are about more than the Hijab: They are about the eco­no­my, about the who­le situa­ti­on in Iran – the peop­le would not see any future, they could not afford anything, the­re would be no security. 

This also reflects in the words from Natalie Amiri, a German-Iranianan jour­na­list. In her Instagram-Story on December 10/11 she says, ori­gi­nal­ly in German: “The peop­le were depri­ved of the air to breath; on the one hand becau­se of the deso­la­te eco­no­mic situa­ti­on, becau­se of the long­stan­ding sanc­tions but also becau­se of the mis­ma­nage­ment and cor­rup­ti­on, degra­dati­on and discri­mi­na­ti­on through the regime”. According to her, the big dif­fe­rence in com­pa­ri­son to the years befo­re is that the peop­le were not intimi­da­ted any­mo­re: “The peop­le have not­hing left to lose and face a regime which has ever­ything to lose”. 

For freedom  

Hevidar says that the mother of one of her class­ma­tes was kil­led – shot with mul­ti­ple bul­lets during a pro­test wit­hin the first cou­p­le weeks of the femi­nist revo­lu­ti­on. She had been a gre­at woman, a per­son with a smi­le, bra­ve and strong; she had always urged her daugh­ter to share her food with her class­ma­tes, Hevidar tells. 

Hevidar recalls con­ver­sa­ti­ons with her father: he is asha­med to still be ali­ve, whe­re­as on the streets kids and ado­lescents are mur­de­red, he always tells her that revo­lu­ti­ons have their cos­ts and they must be wil­ling to give their lives for them so that their kids, their grand­child­ren and the upco­m­ing genera­ti­ons may­be might one day live free­ly in this coun­try, Hevidar nar­ra­tes. “We have to have hope, we just have to keep going”, Hevidar says. According to her, the peop­le are fed up: Why living if daugh­ters, mothers, sis­ters, bro­thers got kil­led by the government? 

She has had her headscarf on, wore long trou­sers and a blou­se, over it a coat who­se but­tons were open when the mora­li­ty poli­ce approa­ched and spo­ke to her, Hevidar remem­bers: She should clo­se her coat. A moment of fear, the thought that she could be taken away. She says that her father direct­ly went over to her. Those minu­tes alo­ne were frigh­tening, Hevidar tells, even though not­hing more actual­ly happened. 

It is man­da­to­ry for women in Iran to wear the Hijab – Jina was taken away, becau­se hers was not fit­ting pro­per­ly; even public dan­cing and sin­ging isn’t allo­wed for women in the Iranian republic. 

Hevidar wis­hes that tri­via­li­sing the regime stops, that the government is not accep­ted as such, that [fur­ther] poli­ti­cal sanc­tions are impo­sed. Even though she knows that chan­ges have to start from wit­hin, she thinks that pres­su­re from the out­side is use­ful and good for the revolution. 

Middle of march: Azadeh has no more hope, the peop­le are disap­poin­ted, have had atta­ched to the situa­ti­on, she belie­ves.  Life goes on, ever­ything beca­me even more expen­si­ve and the Instagram chan­nels of her friends in Iran would appe­ar to be not­hing has ever hap­pen­ed, she says. However, hard­ly anyo­ne goes out on the streets with hijab – a pic­tu­re which get con­fir­med in social media postings. 

03-15-2023, @sepideqoliyan tweets a video. It shows herself, Sepideh Qolian, released from detenti­on after four years and seven mon­ths. In addi­ti­on, she wri­tes in Persian “[…] This time I came out hoping for the free­dom of Iran! […]”. With loo­se hair and a bou­quet in her arm she walks on the street bet­ween peop­le and calls some­thing in the video.  The video gets shared and com­men­ted, her calls get trans­la­ted (with slight­ly modi­fied wor­d­ing) several times – her words are direc­ted to Khamenei, the supre­me lea­der of Iran: We pull you down to earth/We bring you under the earth. 

03-16-2023, @DuezenTekkal, @Khani2Mina, @NatalieAmiri, … tweet. Sepideh Qolian got arres­ted again. 

“The truth is us” 

Since the mid of decem­ber, the Instagram chan­nel iran­de­tai­nee­re­ports publis­hes infor­ma­ti­on about peop­le who got detai­ned, kil­led or exe­cu­t­ed; who have been released on bail or are mis­sing. Posts are still being made, often several times a day. 41, 69, 7. Abstract num­bers, which may make one for­get that behind every num­ber are peop­le. People with rela­ti­ons­hips, needs, dreams, pain and hope. The Instagram chan­nel pro­vi­des insight into some sto­ries, shows faces behind the num­bers, gives a short con­text to the jud­ge­ment – among others about 41 sen­ten­ced to death, 69 in dan­ger of exe­cu­ti­on and seven exe­cu­t­ed (State: 11.04.2023). The actu­al sca­le of exe­cu­ti­ons goes far bey­ond this: On the 2nd of March Amnesty International reports 94 peop­le who got put to death by aut­ho­ri­ties, alo­ne in 2023. Kurds and Baluchis are par­ti­cu­lar­ly affec­ted – eth­nic mino­ri­ties in Iran. The exe­cu­ti­ons are based on unfair tri­als extor­ting con­fes­si­ons by means of tor­tu­re. Dieter Karg of Amnesty International deman­ds pres­su­re from the German government. 

Middle of April: After Nouruz, the Iranian New Year, ever­ything would have beco­me a litt­le dif­fe­rent again; it goes on, pro­tests are in pro­gress, Azadeh nar­ra­tes. The government would try to sta­te new rules, the mora­li­ty poli­ce should collect all women without Hijab on the streets. The headscarf man­da­to­ry is now con­trol­led by sur­veil­lan­ce came­ras, is repor­ted on social media and in news. 

Natalie Amiri wri­tes in an (ori­gi­nal­ly German) Instagram post, dated April 10, 2023: “No mat­ter who am I tal­king to in #iran, he/she tells me: ‘We will reach our goal…’ It will be a long dan­ge­rous road with an incredi­ble num­ber of hurd­les […]. The West has no inte­rest in a chan­ge of the situa­ti­on in the regi­on […]. The neigh­bou­ring patri­ar­chal Islamic coun­tries have just as litt­le inte­rest in see­ing a regime of men fall through the power of women. China and Russia bene­fit any­way throughout this regime. So, in the end, only the power and will of the peop­le remains. 

Social media con­ti­nues to be the space whe­re a big part of news coverage takes place; whe­re atten­ti­on is drawn to the ongo­ing fight of the peop­le and the bru­ta­li­ty of the Iranian government; whe­re tor­tu­re, rapes, poi­so­nings and exe­cu­ti­ons are relent­less­ly repor­ted.  
In Iran, every per­son with a smart­pho­ne in their hand would be a jour­na­list, in which jour­na­list would­n’t be the right word, Hevidar belie­ves – but a kind of per­son who reports what exact­ly is hap­pe­ning on the street: “The truth is us”, she says in our conversation. 

Surrounded by nume­rous news from all over the world prio­ri­ties are set in media repor­ting – they must be set. But what sto­ries do we tell, which fights do we see, which human right abu­ses do we name? 

Whether con­scious­ly or uncon­scious­ly, we value events with our prio­ri­ties; rate human lives. Especially in cri­sis and sur­vi­val situa­tions, media atten­ti­on beco­mes a cur­ren­cy that might save lives – but the­re­fo­re, we have to look. With our inter­ac­tions, abo­ve all on social media, we can still help the Iranian peop­le gain visi­bi­li­ty, reach and atten­ti­on as peop­le in Iran are still figh­t­ing against the aut­ho­ri­ta­ri­an government: For their rights, for their free­dom, for their future. 

*Names chan­ged by the editors. 

Besides the inter­ac­tion on social media for reach, the­re is also the pos­si­bi­li­ty to help via Snowflake. Snowflake is a sys­tem which enab­les peop­le from all over the world to access cen­so­red con­tent on the inter­net. For this pur­po­se, users are ran­dom­ly matched with a Snowflake pro­xy. This requi­res Snowflake pro­xies instal­led by vol­un­te­ers from coun­tries with litt­le Internet cen­sor­s­hip. More infor­ma­ti­on on how the sys­tem works and how to down­load a Snowflake pro­xy can be found on the web­site https://snowflake.torproject.org/ – basi­cal­ly, the down­load requi­res not­hing more than a lap­top or smart­pho­ne and a working inter­net connection. 

Text and illus­tra­ti­ons: Renja‑A. Dietze 

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