A fight for women’s freedom under the tyrannical Iranian authority.
Kathy Karim was 26 years old when she left her home in Iran and pursued a life in the U.S. It wasn’t an easy choice for her, but she no longer saw a future living under an oppressive regime that gave women no freedom of choice. Now, she uses her voice to speak up for the women and girls that don’t have one.
As I sat down with Karim, she recalled stories about her life in Iran and the political state of the country she used to live in.
There is a war against women that continues to wage in Iran, but the women are still using their voices to protest their repressive government. “We are so proud of the Iranian women because they are still fighting,” Karim remarked. The government says that the ladies aren’t allowed to get an education, yet they are still educating themselves.
After the revolution in 1979, the regime began to crack down on female Iranian citizens. Karim remembers a time where she could only choose between four different colors of hijabs. The women had to be covered from head to toe, and they had to make sure that there wasn’t an inch of hair peeking out of their garment. Every day Karim lived in fear of the morality police and in dread of her government because she didn’t know if she would be the next one they punished.
All the women want in Iran, according to Karim, is the right to choose. “We want the choice to choose to wear the hijab or not,” said Karim. Yet women are forced to submit to the Islamic Republic and follow their rules.
Karim continues to explain how women want to dance, dress up and play sports, but they are not allowed to. This made her raise the question, why can my son play soccer and not my daughter? She also asked, why would I want what’s best for my son and not my daughter?
She understood that there was no future for her family back in Iran, but rather the U.S. was now their permanent address. She said, “Iran is not their home or my home anymore. My children are more American than Iranian.”
Now, Karim believes Iran needs to rebuild their country, so Iranian people wouldn’t feel the need to leave their homes. She said, “The people are not the enemy. It’s the government that goes after everything.” There wouldn’t be so many families or individuals trying to flee Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan or other oppressive countries if all the citizens worked together to collectively restore their regime, Karim remarked.
The people in these countries already have a rich culture, traditions and languages that they shouldn’t have to leave behind. That is why Karim emphasizes the importance of reforming Iran instead of running away from it.
Karim continued her explanation of Iranian oppression, discussing how in Iran “everything happens under the name of religion.” Women cannot receive an education, and they have to be fully covered before leaving the house. Karim recalled how one time her father dirtied her brand-new, white sneakers because the university found them “improper.” They believed that her new shoes were going to be a distraction for some boys at school.
However, despite the push back she received in the Iranian schools, Karim was still able to study biology at a university in Iran. Yet some other girls in Iran and Afghanistan were not granted the same privileges.
She said, “I wanted the best for my daughter, but why do the girls in Iran or Afghanistan not receive the same opportunities?” Her daughter is an intelligent woman who was able to go to college, but she wondered why some girls that are as smarter or more capable than her daughter didn’t have access to a college education because of where they lived.
Karim desires similar opportunities for other girls from different parts of the world, not just for the girls In Iran. She said, “knowledge is the best weapon in your hand, especially as a woman.”
Now, this makes Karim realize that among diverse groups of people, there can still be commonalities. The girls in Iran and the girls in Afghanistan both want to receive education. Even though they might be from different cultures, they both have an identical goal. Or she comments about how one of her co-workers is a Christian from a Mexican background. Yet she and Karim both share a related passion: they both love their families.
“Our differences don’t make us enemies, they bring us together,” Karim said.
Karim doesn’t only advocate for women’s rights in Iran. Rather, she expands her advocacy much wider than that. She desires that girls’ voices from all around the globe be heard just as loud.