Tina Rowe

And Then They Came for Me

I have a thing about hijabs. Not all hijabs, if you want to wear a hijab, wear it with pride, it’s just the compulsory ones that I dislike. My favourite hijab game by far has been the Iranian form of drop a light scarf in the proximity of your head and sashay. At least it was until the murder of Masha Amini. Since then, the Iranian hijab has taken on a whole new meaning and not toeing the line has had severe and deadly consequences particularly for young Iranians, but also for their grieving families, and ultimately for all of us because we must spectate this, powerless and this powerlessness means people begin to stop watching and listening and reading. This is a bad thing.

For a while tiktok did a sterling job of sending me incredible footage of very brave people protesting, but over the last couple of months, tiktok has been throttling this content. On 16th of September there are huge protests planned in Iran and there are others scheduled in many other countries. Here in the UK I can’t find anything and when I post questions about it on my facebook stream, I get no likes and no replies. Either nobody cares, or, nobody is seeing it and one of the reasons this is happening is sharing directedly between the apps I am intermittently getting ‘access denied’ labels on content. I know how these tools work, I understand APIs, this is not an accident, it’s a policy and although it may seem to be aimed at the Iranian protests, it’s also aimed at me and by the same token, it’s also aimed at anyone.

Information is sparse, considering the enduring protests, the ever increasing body count in Evin Prison. Even when I look at Amnesty International, the latest update is dated March 16, 2023: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2023/03/iran-child-detainees-subjected-to-flogging-electric-shocks-and-sexual-violence-in-brutal-protest-crackdown/ . Maybe I’m thick and I’ve missed the pieces, but I can’t find them and certainly nothing about gatherings and protests and shows of solidarity being organised in the UK. Mainly the Iranian government is in control of the internet and it’s difficult to get information out of the country about the ongoing protests.

I’ve long since wanted to go to Iran, but I struggle with the idea of a place where the statute books has crimes such as “corruption on earth and heresy in religion” or “insulting religious values”. I wont be going anytime soon, but in reality there are increasingly those elements in places I should be likely to go. Consider the USA right now, where they seem to be strip mining an armed conflict for its own citizens via a cultural war so completely bogus and hysterical that it reads like the entire country is about to begin a live action version of ‘The Last of Us’. To me, the USA has always been a hyper real, hyper strange hydra headed magnet that both attracts and strongly repels, it does this because some of what the USA offers is always going to be attractive. But the USAs attractiveness is more similar to the way a stopped clock is right twice a day. To further mix the metaphors, lift the rug and tell me that big pharma isn’t a cynical and corrupt affair and I’ll look at you like you said the earth is flat, lift the rug and tell me you’d like your children to be taught that slavery wasn’t all that bad and I’ll just walk away from you because you are a dangerous idiot, or, don’t bother lifting the rug at all, look at Donald Trump’s numbers and contrast it with all that stands between the US citizenry and four more years of outrageous kleptocratic hate filled madness is a man only marginally more present than Mitch McConnell. It’s a terrible mess. I’m scared of the USA.

Of course, observations of other countries where their people and society can lazily be dismissed as foreign fuckery by my fellow little englanders; but who are we clinging on to our soggy rock from where various kings queens and governments ordered earlier subjects to go a plundering people and resources from less well protected locations. No matter where you are standing, any one of us is the foreign fucker. We still all need homes and food and happiness.

And this reliance on ideas of foreignness really bugs me (well it would do wouldn’t it). When we see other people as foreign and we put our looking at foreign people glasses on, all we see is their difference. This has to beg the question: just who is making the glasses, who is writing the prescription who is directing the gaze, and it’s the same as asking who is choking the Iranian traffic off tiktok.

I bang on about the holocaust a lot because it really matters. Martin Niem√∂ller’s lines are about all of us. It’s just at what point you recognise it because there is such a thing as too damn late. I’m pretty sure some people managed to convince themselves that something would come up and stop the madness all the way from January 1933 until the zyklon B began to creep into their lungs. But I also reckon, most people suspected but didn’t not quite believe it could really happen; in their hearts they knew in their homes, in the places they hid, once they were rounded up, on the train, on the ramp, in the anti chamber. All along that timeline what was coming was being orchestrated by the exact same tricks and tropes as we are being spoonfed now.

You have to keep asking yourself who is speaking for you, because not using your voice doesn’t mean you won’t end up on some ramp.



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