Women across the world are cutting their hair in protest after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman, died while in custody of the morality police in Tehran.
In Iran, where women are expected to completely cover their hair and wear loose-fitting clothing for modesty, Mahsa was arrested for having an "improper hijab" and wearing tight pants, BuzzFeed News reported. Following her death, authorities claimed she had a heart attack and fell into a coma, but Mahsa's family says she had no preexisting health issues and that her body was bruised when they saw it.
Many reject authorities' official account of Mahsa's death. So, fueled by rage and a lack of faith in the government's honesty, protesters have begun spreading awareness of the movement online, including Su — otherwise known as Drag0n Mistress — who uses she/they pronouns.
In a video viewed over 2.6 million times, Su introduces themself with a shakey voice while clutching clippers between their hands. Then, they explain the reality protesters have endured since Mahsa's death — 76 people have been killed by Iranian security, and an internet blackout surges on, making it hard for those outside the country to know what's going on. "They're all protesting the death of Mahsa," Su says in the video. "I'm tired that this is something happening in 2022. ... These women are just human beings. There are girls our age who are in their early 20s who are worried about staying alive."
"Supporting [the people of] Iran right now is supporting all women — it's being against abuse," Su concluded while raising the clippers to her head and cutting. "These men and women right now are risking their lives so other women can be safe, and alive, and have basic rights. To not be beaten and murdered. Listen to what's happening."
To learn more about the significance of cutting their hair, BuzzFeed reached out to Su, who explained they feel connected to the people of Iran after growing up in a household with an abusive family member who largely kept them from the outside world. "It was extremely sexist," Su remembered. "[The family member insinuated] being a woman would never amount to anything."
To help remove her sister and mother from the household, Su wrote a letter to the abusive family member on their behalf, requesting that they move from their birthplace and home in Bangladesh to India to seek better education. She succeeded in this, but misogyny followed.
"The discrimination I faced in both Bangladesh and India [for] being a girl was very difficult and it was constantly brought up," Su said. "It was very obvious that that was something I'd have to deal with for the rest of my life."
"As I think about my grief and the things I've experienced in my life, I think, 'Wow, I escaped.' I was able to use my words and connections to escape and get out of those situations, [but] there are still people suffering to make it one more day. For them, it doesn't end. For them it just keeps going," Su said.
"Watching how people who look kind of like me get together — the men, the women — out in the streets dying just to make it safer for the generation that comes after them. Their daughters, their sisters, their moms. It's a big thing," Su said. "And it feels awkward and strange and awful to sit here on the other side of the world, alive and not having that constant threat on me while they're struggling."
So, to take part in the protests happening in Italy...
...New York City...
...and more, Su decided to cut her hair. "[Hair] is a big part of us — it's growing out of us. If we are soil, it's almost like [hair] is our roots," she said. "[Cutting my hair] brought up so much because even in this moment, I'm cutting my hair in a bathroom while women are trying to cut their hair with dull scissors. It was just so heavy. But for me, it was just complete grief of knowing that my roots aren't OK. Me, I'm not OK because people that look like me or sound like me, or human beings in general, are dying."
"How do I show solidarity?" she considered before shaving. "How do I get people to listen to this? How do I get people to talk about this more?"
"For me, it was letting go of a part of myself. It was showing that I was grieving over all these deaths and everything that's going on," they said. "I feel like some things are hard to communicate through language, and I wanted a way to communicate the gravity and depth of what was happening and bring attention by doing this."
Now that people are listening, Su hopes action is taken. "I have this desperate, deep belief that if we can stand with this right now, if we can stand with the people of Iran...and make a point that 'Hey, this isn't OK. We can't treat human beings like this. Every human deserves to be protected by their government, they deserve to feel safe in their homes and wear what they want and choose their right to what they want to have faith in.' Then we could make a difference and have a domino effect where maybe other countries will start being afraid of treating their people like this."
"Bad people get away with doing bad things when no one is watching. But if we are all watching together — if we are all paying attention to this — then that's more reasons for those same people to be afraid and not get away with it."