The slogans of Iran’s protests have evolved dramatically since the death of Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16, 2022. They grew quickly into broader issues about personal freedom for women, political change, and rejection of the clerical vision of an Islamic Republic. They called for “Death to the Dictator,” a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The outpouring of anger mobilized disparate ethnicities from across 31 provinces and appeared leaderless during the first month, but the demonstrations featured similar chants.
The unofficial rallying cry and hashtag became #womanlifefreedom, a slogan which dates back to a Kurdish freedom movement in the late 20th century. It was also used by female Kurdish fighters during the war against ISIS between 2014 and 2019. Amini was a Kurd, and the initial protests erupted in Kurdish cities and Tehran, where she was visiting when she died. In the capital, protesters chanted, “Iranians ready to die, but not accept humiliation.” Along the Persian Gulf coast, oil workers, who joined the protests on October 10, amassed at a petrochemical plant and shouted, “This is the year of bloody uprising.” Schoolgirls, who mobilized across the country, posted videos ripping down a picture of the Supreme Leader as they chanted, “Don’t let fear in, we stand united.”
Young schoolgirls smash a phot of Supreme Leader and tear it into pieces. At the end joining their hands they chant: “Don’t let fear in, we stand united. Women, life, liberty.” Tehran-Oct4 #مهسا_امینی pic.twitter.com/CucEj5mzta— Khosro Kalbasi Isfahani (@KhosroKalbasi) October 5, 2022
In Isfahan, three women twirled their scarves while hanging a banner reading "The next one is one of us."— 1500tasvir_en (@1500tasvir_en) October 5, 2022
The next person is the one who will be killed by the Islamic Republic due to her hijab.#مهسا_امینی #MahsaAmini #IranRevolution pic.twitter.com/shXp9kx0sU
Rejecting the theocracy
Protesters throughout the country--from Tehran to Isfahan, and Saqez to Mashhad—called for an end to the Islamic Republic. They also twisted the regime slogans “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” into a call for the death of the Supreme Leader Khamenei.
Iranians cheer and yell, "Death to the dictator," as two men tear down the posters of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Khomeini and Supreme Leader Khamenei on a municipality building in Sari, the capital of northern Mazandaran province. #Mahsa_Amini pic.twitter.com/glEXvlAdms— Holly Dagres (@hdagres) September 20, 2022
“Nangeh Ma, Rahbar-e Aldang-e Ma” — “Our Disgrace is Our Incompetent Leader”— IranWire (@IranWireEnglish) September 24, 2022
The word ‘Aldang’ refers to a person who is inept, corrupt, lazy, and freeloading: all the characteristics Iranians attribute to their leader. #truth #IranProtests2022 #MahsaAmini pic.twitter.com/IlAiu3d5vY
Appealing for action
Many tweets advocated unity in standing together against the regime. At Alameh University in Tehran, students chanted, “From Zahedan to Tehran, we sacrifice our lives for Iran.” At Tabriz University in the northwest, male students led the cry, “From Kurdistan to Tabriz, our patience is exhausted.”
VIDEO: High school students in Tehran hold pictures of Mahsa Amini and chant: "We Have to Unite One by One, Otherwise, We’ll be Finished"#IranProtests #iranianwomenrevolution #iranianwomen #IranProtests #Tehran pic.twitter.com/SSzgqTr5Ai— IranWire (@IranWireEnglish) October 8, 2022