Kimia Tahaie was an opinions staff writer of the Silhouette from 2021-22.
The Silhouette: Please introduce yourself.
Kimia Tahaie: My name is Kimia and I'm a third-year arts and science student. I'm also double majored in communication and media studies. I'm doing a semester abroad in Amsterdam to do journalism courses because that's what I'm going to pursue professionally.
Could you tell us a short summary of what the situation in Iran is like right now?
This all started with the brutal killing of Mahsa Amini. It's very important to note that this was not the first killing that happened under this Islamic regime in Iran. This is one of many. With the protests that have been happening in Iran, they're happening within shorter time frames. The gap is getting shorter and shorter. It just shows how sick and tired the people are of living in the regime. They're trying their best to stop us but people have been very persistent and they're protesting and even going out on the streets every night even though there's a very large chance of getting murdered. But there have been consistent acts of protest. There has been a continuous movement.
It's just been so many years of oppression. I feel like a lot of people don't know the extent of oppression we've been facing during these past years. We are deprived of the simplest rights as a society, men and women. For example, we can't have pets. If you have a dog, the dog will be taken away from you because that's haram. Iranian women can't bike, Iranian women can't sing, Iranian women can't go on the streets without a hijab. So there are so many elements that have just built up to these protests. That's why I am strongly against a lot of Muslim influencers who are coming out and saying that what Persian women are doing is inherently Islamophobic. That could not be further away from the truth. I think what really needs to be understood is that for me, that's not a hijab. For us, it's a piece of cloth that has been forced on our heads for years and years and years. To us, this is a symbol of freedom. We're not saying to ban the hijab; we're saying to give women the freedom to wear what they want and, in the bigger picture, to give freedom to the people of Iran.
A lot of people think this is a women's movement. This is a human rights movement. Freedom for all. I think in America, Europe and Canada, everyone's very desensitized to Middle Eastern issues. I think this is very well-done propaganda because it groups us as poor people far away — the poor Middle Easterners that we can't do anything about. This can't be further away from the truth. This is not just the Middle Eastern issue: with the freedom of Iran comes the freedom of many countries. This is something I feel like people are forgetting. We have largely funded Russia, meaning that they can bomb Ukraine. This is not "just another Middle Eastern issue". This is way bigger than that. This is a very global issue. If we believe that, it will lead to the freedom of many, many other countries.
What can people outside of Iran do to help?
It's so important to not read what's happening in Iran as just another headline.
My people are literally giving their lives in the hopes of achieving very basic human rights. There’s an Internet shutdown in Iran so don't let [Mahsa Amini's name] stop circulating. Because the day that this dies down is the day that the regime can completely take over.
A lot of my friends, even those who aren't Persian, have asked their professors if they could have a few minutes to talk about what's happening. Consistently keeping yourself in the loop with what's happening and spreading awareness on social media is the most important thing. Also, just checking up on your Persian friends because they're not okay.
The Islamic Republic of Iran proving that women are not done fighting for their freedoms in hypocrisy at its finest
C/O Artin Bakhan (Unsplash)
On June 24 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, effectively taking away a woman’s right to an abortion. Just last year, in 2021, the French Senate voted to outlaw the hijab, or headscarf, for girls under 18, stripping their right to express their religion.
The death of Mahsa Amini was no different in the context of bodily autonomy and women’s rights.
During Amini’s visit to Tehran on Sept. 13, she was arrested by Iran’s morality police for allegedly violating the law requiring all women to wear a headscarf. She was taken to a detention center where she was trained on proper hijab rules and died 3 days after her arrest.
Iran’s security forces claim she died of a heart attack. However, it was revealed her death was caused by a skull fracture due to repeated blows to the head, ergo, the title of this article. It was murder.
Following Amini’s funeral on Sept. 17, protests across the country quickly began to stand in solidarity with Amini. Iranian women took to cutting their hair and burning hijabs to portray a symbol of rebellion against the oppressive regime.
Some media outlets and social media accounts have placed various misleading labels on the protests, such as referring to them as “anti-hijab protests.”
I want to make one thing exceptionally clear: these protests are not against the hijab or against the religion of Islam.
Rather, Iranian women are fighting against using the hijab as a tool of oppression, or in other words, burning its use in this abusive way. The hijab symbolizes modesty and a particular way of life for many Muslim women. Therefore, to use such a beautiful article for purposes that utterly contradict Islam is not okay.
The protests are also not a free invitation to start equating the hijab, or Islam, to oppression. Circling back to the bigger picture, protestors are fighting for their right to choose. Their right to wear a hijab, not wear a hijab, to dress how they like and to have full control over their bodies.
The ironic thing is that the Islamic Revolution of 1979 was actually an Iranian-led declaration of autonomy against foreign ideas. It was supposed to be a good thing. It was later on that it turned into a state government that exploits a manipulated version of religion to control its people.
Yes, Islam does have certain regulations and belief systems that Muslims are expected to follow. However, the religion is very largely based on intention or niyyah. This means that no one can be forced into practicing the teachings of Islam; rather, it is solely up to the individual’s own will.
The Quran, the holy book of Islam, clearly outlines, “There should be no compulsion in religion” [2:257]. I don’t see any place for oppressive, tyrannic men that choose abuse, torture and murder to enforce Islamic teachings upon women. The hypocrisy itself is beyond me.
According to human rights groups, over 75 people have died and 1,200 have been arrested since the beginning of the protests. The numbers, however, are likely higher due to internet blackouts across the country, making it difficult to receive accurate data.
Iranian women are risking their lives to fight this battle against an immediate attack on their freedom. It’s not just a social media campaign; this is real and this is happening. As allies, it is up to us to share and raise awareness about their voices.
Many protests have occurred outside of Iran and around the world in support. This included a protest held in front of Hamilton City Hall on Sept. 26, where hundreds gathered to express their anger and concern over Iran’s oppressive regime.
Recent events, including those in the U.S. and France, clearly show that the century-old fight to advance women’s equality is being put to the test in an age where we never thought it would. Unfortunately, this makes us wonder if progress in this area is sustainable, as it seems that we’ve taken several steps back from things that were presumed to be basic human rights.
Still, women everywhere are vigorously and courageously fighting for their freedom, regardless of the nature in which it’s being taken away. One thing they all seem to have in common is the simple demand for control over one’s own body. It shouldn’t be that hard, but we find ourselves living in an odd world where it is.
If you’ve been to Kuma’s Candy at some point this year, you probably found your feet slowing down outside its new neighbour next door. One glance at the bright yellow door and big windows of Nannaa Persian Eatery could make almost anyone want to step inside.
The décor is a special element of the experience at the eatery. The modern, youthful vibe will surely attract hungry students and elements that celebrate Westdale will appeal to the community at large. Along one wall, there is artwork purchased from the Westdale Cinema’s fundraiser to get the theatre reopened.
Restaurant owner, Mohammad Emami, wants Nannaa Eatery to become a part of the community. He grew up in nearby Dundas and has several friends and family members who attended McMaster University.
“We wanted to be very close to McMaster. This is a fast-causal concept… so it's people who want good quality food, but not necessarily have a full sit-down meal and have to wait for service. And you know with students, with the hospital being there, with the movie theater being next door… Being here really fit,” he explained.
The most eye-catching details of the restaurant are those that reflect Persian culture. Along one wall, there is artwork from a Persian comedian, based off the work of famous Persian poet, Rumi. At the back of the restaurant, there is a graphic of a deconstructed Persian rug hanging from the wall to the floor.
However, some of the most impressive pieces are right when you walk into the restaurant. Along one wall, a series of plates are hanging and, on the other wall, there is a huge mural of an ancient Persian marketplace.
“Persians are very artistic. [These are] all hand-hammered plates that come from a city in Iran called Isfahan, where a lot of…creativity comes [from]. You have people in a marketplace that will hammer it in front of you. So we definitely wanted to have that authentic element in here,” explained Emami.
The culture is not only represented with the art, but also with the music and the staff uniform. The restaurant’s playlist will feature a variety of Persian music for customers to enjoy, alongside some English-language music. Phrases like “nooshe jan” are featured on the staff t-shirts, with the translation ‘bon appétit’ underneath.
All of this is simply the backdrop to the restaurant’s mission: to put Persian food on the map. Emami wants to see Persian food become more widely consumed.
“You'll see other types of Middle Eastern food, you'll see Chinese food, Indian food has grown. We are one of two or three Persian restaurants west of Toronto. So we want that exposure to happen. I think it's about time,” he said.
Customers from all backgrounds will be able to find something that they enjoy on the menu. A section of the menu is dedicated to twists combining Persian with non-Persian dishes, such as the koobideh poutine, olvieh baguette and pulled lamb tacos. There are also more traditional Persian menu items, such as bademjoon stew and dahl addas, a curry-like potato, cauliflower and lentil stew. Several gluten-free and vegetarian options are also available.
Emami’s passion for food stems from his mother’s cooking. It inspired him to open Burlington restaurant, Rayhoon Persian Eatery and now Nannaa. He realized when he was growing up that you don’t have to be Persian to enjoy Persian food.
“I was born in Iran, but I didn't grow up in Iran. So one of the major connections I have with Iran is the food because it was consistent in my life with my mom's cooking. [T]hen my friends who were non-Persian would come over, have the food, and they loved it.”
Emami’s mission also includes a desire for people to learn something about Persian culture. He believes that connecting through good food is one of the best ways to do that.
“[I]f you go to Iran to visit on vacation, everyone is very welcoming. You can't walk into a house where they won't offer you food constantly–you can't say no, it's rude to say no. So it's not only about the food, it's about the culture, it's about the hospitality as well,” he explained.
Whether you’ve grown up with Persian food or want to try it for the first time, Nannaa Persian Eatery has opened its doors to welcome all of Westdale and beyond.