The Rallying Cries of Iran’s Protests

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.” 



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. 



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.”