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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