On Tuesday of this week, Iranian students at the University of Manitoba (U of M) held a protest, a beautiful gesture of solidarity for Mahsa Amini. Amini, a 22-year-old woman in Tehran, died in custody after she was arrested by Iran’s morality police for violating the country’s mandatory hijab laws.
The last seven months have left me particularly sensitive to these kinds of expressions of pain and sorrow among local diasporic communities. Like many with family in Ukraine, my 2022 has been punctuated by fear and hurt with every brutal escalation of Russia’s imperialist invasion.
Watching the news on CBC and seeing U of M student Saeideh Mirzaei cut off her own hair in rage and defiance hit me in a way I wasn’t prepared for. In years past, I would have felt empathy. But this time, I knew that hurt and rage intimately.
It’s the same rage I felt seeing the mass graves of Ukrainians tortured and murdered by Russian soldiers in Bucha, and again in Izium. It was the fear I felt when video emerged of Russian mercenary Igor Mangushev standing onstage at a nightclub in an occupied city, holding the skull of a dead Ukrainian, proclaiming that the aim of this war is “to kill everyone who considers himself Ukrainian.” It’s the same rage I’m sure Palestinians in Winnipeg felt when an Israeli sniper murdered veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. It’s a rage felt by many from current and former subjects of the British Empire felt this week watching English-language news media fawn over Elizabeth II’s funeral, without a critical word to the countless who died and were subjugated in Ireland, Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Americas to uphold the brutal institution she led, and her son now leads.
It’s the rage I feel now as Vladimir Putin again endangers Ukraine and the world with nuclear destruction this week, through both the threat of atomic weapons and Russia’s continued bombardment of nuclear power plants.
It’s been a tough week for your diasporic friends. Be kind to us. When people like Saeideh Mirzaei speak up, listen.
Published in Volume 77, Number 03 of The Uniter (September 22, 2022)