An excerpt from my upcoming book, "Uprising: We are the revolution."
“Preparing for battle”
Hadis Najafi ended her shift at the Takata Fast Food Restaurant at 5 pm and clocked out. It had been a very busy afternoon as the lead cashier in one of the most popular cafes in the city of Karaj. The city of Karaj lay nestled up against the majestic foothills of the Alborz mountain range, a distance of just six miles from the capital city of Tehran. Karaj city was a haven for young students studying art and medical science at Azad University. For Hadis, being a student was not her passion in life. Instead she was a dedicated “social media geek.” She loved to display the latest fashions on her Instagram account and treat her fans to Persian dancing on Tik Tok. Politics and religion didn’t interest her. She spent her money investing in VPN, to overcome the filtering of the internet, so she could talk to her friends online every night. The Islamic Republic of Iran along with the help of the cyber police had blocked the major social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, You tube, etc. The only way to overcome the government censorship was to purchase the virtual private network app.
As Hadis left the restaurant and stepped out onto the sidewalk, she looked carefully in both directions, to see if she could spot the Morality Police Van and then ripped off her hijab and threw it down on the ground.
“I hate that damn thing!” Hadis muttered to herself.
This evening, Hadis was not her cheerful self. She was not in a good mood. The tragic death of Mahsa Amini had tormented her mind all day. Dealing with impatient customers paying for their meals and complaining about the prices had pushed her to the limit. She wasn’t in the mood to listen to them, especially when a young Kurdish girl had been beaten to death by the Morality Police. Hadis had never been outspoken or political, but tonight was different. Every time she gazed at the picture of Jina Mahsa on her cell phone, lying comatose in a hospital bed, she couldn’t hold back the tears. Deep down in her soul, she felt an irresistible urgency to see justice for Jina. Hadis felt it was her duty to humanity to be Jina’s voice and scream loudly at the government ‘s unjust murder of an innocent young woman.
Hadis arrived at the bus stop and broke away from the crowd of people for a few moments. She quickly speed-dialed her friend Farzad.
“Dorood, Farzad (Faris for hi) Chetori?” (Farsi for, “How are you?”)
“I’m good. You just get off work, Hadis?”
“Yes. I’m on my way home. Listen, I wanted to tell you. I am going to join the protest tonight. I heard they will be out on Eram Boulevard.”
”Hadis, are you crazy? You’ve never been political.”
“I know. I know,” Hadis replied, stepping onto the arriving bus, “But I have to do this for Jina. I believe we must be her voice. Women have got to rise up and let this damn government know that we will not be oppressed anymore. We have the right to wear what we want to wear!”
“Please be careful, dear friend,” Farzad cautioned Hadis.
Hadis clicked off her cell phone and relaxed back in her seat, taking a deep breath. Tonight, was Wednesday, September 21. Wednesday was her usual night for doing live Persian dancing for her fans on Tik Tok, but that would have to be postponed. She would celebrate with her fans later, but tonight was reserved exclusively for Jina. “Justice for Jina” was weighing heavily on Hadis’s mind and nothing was going to stop her!
Hadis walked through the front door of her home, exhausted, but energized to go back out. She decided to change her clothes and grab a quick bite to eat before joining the protest. As soon as she entered the kitchen, her mother noticed her flowing blonde hair draping down over her shoulders and a frustrated look in her brown eyes.
“Where is your hijab, Hadis? Didn’t you wear it today? You must be so careful now these days.”
Hadis flopped down in a chair at the kitchen table and grabbed an apple to eat.
“I threw that damn thing away. I hate it!’ Hadis answered back while munching on her apple.
Mrs. Najafi sat down at the table across from Hadis with a worried look on her face.
“Hadis! Don’t say that! You worry me! Look what happened to that Kurdish girl just last week!”
Hadis sat down the apple in front of her and stared back intently at her mother.
“That’s why I threw my hijab away, mom. I did it for Jina. I did it for every Iranian girl. We are tired of being oppressed and told what to do!” Hadis shouted back, banging her fist on the table.
Mrs. Najafi sat quietly and took a nervous deep breath. There was no arguing with her daughter. She was much too free-spirited and independent. Hadis quickly stood up from the table and dabbed her lips with a napkin.
“I must go out tonight, dear mother. There is going to be a protest on Eram Boulevard. I need to go for Jina.”
Mrs. Najafi rubbed her hand across her forehead and bowed her head in fear for a few moments. Then she stood up and hugged Hadis.
“I understand Hadis. But I am so worried. I am so afraid. It is so dangerous.”
Hadis gave her mother a reassuring look and kissed her softly on the forehead.
“I must do this, mom. I will be careful. I promise I won’t stay out very long.”
Hadis left the kitchen and hurried into her bedroom. She quickly changed into a pink tank top and put on a fresh pair of blue jeans. She flopped across her bed and turned on her cell phone. The first picture that appeared was that of Jina Mahsa Amini, sitting in her living room last year, in front of a chocolate cake, celebrating her 22nd birthday. Hadis smiled. It was one of the happier moments for Jina. Hadis was also 22 years old, just like her hero, who was cruelly murdered just a week before her 23rd birthday. Tears filled her eyes. She blew a kiss toward the picture on her cell phone screen.
“Tonight, I will be your voice, dear Jina and I won’t stop shouting until you get justice!”
“Death to the dictator! Woman, life freedom!”
The angry loud shouts of protesters filled the cool night air on Eram Boulevard. It was just a few minutes before 8 pm as Hadis turned on her cell phone. She aimed the camera toward the protesters filling the streets. Just up ahead she noticed a bonfire in the center of the street and watched several women setting their headscarves on fire. Running swiftly toward the scene, Hadis began narrating the live video she was creating for her friends.
“This is a scene of women burning their hijabs,” Hadis shouted out loud in laughter. “You go girls!”
In the distance she heard sirens and more angry shouts of protesters chanting. Tonight, she felt energized and unafraid. She had never been to a protest before. Hadis remembered back to 2019 when more than 1500 peaceful protesters were gunned down in the streets. At that time, she vowed to never be political and just mind her own business. But all of that suddenly changed with the death of Jina. Tonight was personal. Tonight, she had to make a stand for the women of Iran. She regretted for being so selfish and passive a few years ago, but that had all changed.
Passing a local hardware store, Hadis paused, catching her breath and spoke directly into her cellphone continuing to film the protest.
“I hope in a few years, when I look back, I will be happy everything has changed for the better. I like to think that when I think back about this a few years later, I’ll be pleased that I joined the protest.”
A few women, following close behind her, began chanting, “Woman, life, freedom.” They were carrying signs with a picture of JIna Mahsa Amini. At the bottom of the sign, it read, “We are all Mahsa.” Hadis was excited to see that that two young men were in the crowd of women chanting along with them. It was so encouraging for her to see men involved in the uprising and defending the rights of women.
Suddenly, the sounds of security forces yelling for protesters to halt or they would shoot, startled Hadis. Beads of sweat began rolling down her face. She took an angry deep breath and vowed once again to not be afraid. Putting her cell phone in her pants pocket, Hadis stood still for a moment. She tied back her blonde hair into a ponytail and twisted a rubber band around it to hold it into place. An exhilarating feeling of courage surged through her body. Tying back her hair was like preparing for battle. Tonight, Hadis was making a bold statement to the government that she refused to comply with the man-centered Hijab Law. This was her hair, her body, and no man had the right to control it or tell her what to do.
The security forces began clashing with the protesters and beating some in the heads with their batons. Instead of cowering in fear, Hadis closed her eyes and in her mind’s eye, she remembered back to her favorite movie, “Braveheart.” She could see the chilling scene, where William Wallace was laying across a torture rack and the King pleading with him to recant and beg for mercy. She smiled, remembering the famous last shout from William Wallace’s lips, when he screamed, “Freedom!”
The first shot terrified Hadis! She clutched her abdomen in excruciating pain. A barrage of shots immediately followed the first one, sending frightened protesters scrambling for cover. Hadis collapsed backwards on the hard pavement, struck by five more bullets in the neck, chest, and face. The beautiful blonde freedom fighter lay dead on the street in a massive pool of blood. She had made her courageous last stand on Eram Boulevard in the city of Karaj, unafraid and unashamed to die as a martyr for freedom in the never-ending struggle against the gender apartheid in Iran.
A few days after her tragic death, a video surfaced showing a young woman tying back her blonde hair and preparing to join the protest in Karaj. The video was attributed to Hadis, just seconds before she was fatally shot. Although there is some controversy concerning the video being actually that of Hadis, nevertheless, it had been unanimously attributed to her as showing the final seconds of her life.
Security forces refused to hand over Hadis’s body to her family at the hospital until they signed a pledge stating that she died of natural causes. Devastated over her tragic death, a family member, who was a member of the Basij (Iranian paramilitary) was finally granted permission to make a formal identification of the body. He verified that it was indeed Hadis and was horrified upon examination, that she suffered at least 20 gunshot wounds in her body at very close range.
Mrs. Najafi, even though being warned by security not to speak publicly about her daughter’s death, declared, “My daughter was murdered for hijab, for Mahsa Amini. She wanted to keep Masha’s name alive. Mahsa is also my daughter and all those killed are my children. She died for Mahsa. She sacrificed herself for Mahsa.”
Shortly after her death, Hadis’s sisters, Afsoon and Shirin, published her photos and told people that she was shot, defying the government ban.
Hadis Najafi, bravely took to the streets, understanding the great risk, and proudly declared her right as a woman, to display her beauty, rejecting the mandatory Hijab Law. She died for the right to choose, the freedom to say no to a dictatorship government. In the last seconds of her life, she spoke up for Mahsa Amini and all Iranian woman, when she tied back her hair and faced the firing squad.
Jesus proclaimed in John 10:10:
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
For more than 40 years, The Iranian people, especially women, have suffered greatly at the hands of a corrupt and controlling government. They have had their dignity stolen, their freedom suppressed, and their lives destroyed by satanic forces. Jesus, as the good shepherd, who desires to gently lead and guide us, declares that the thief of our souls, Satan, has as his core mission to kill and destroy us. In contrast, Jesus promises to protect and provide for his people. His mission is to bring us life and life to the fullest. He came to bring you true hope and freedom. He promises to remove the shackles of your oppression and give you a life filled with meaning and purpose.