As unprecedented protests continue across Iran following the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini, a singular image has come to represent the movement: women cutting their hair in defiance of the country’s morality police.
Videos shared on TikTok and Twitter show protestors dancing and burning their hijab, along with taking scissors to their long hair. “No to the headscarf, yes to the turban, yes to freedom and equality,” has become a defining chant blazed across social media feeds.
Allure spoke to one Iranian woman last week, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. “Here people are dying in the street and our internet is cut,” the woman wrote over Twitter direct message. “I feel extreme and insolvable pain and misery.”
It’s what led the woman, who is 18 years old, to pick up a pair of scissors and begin cutting her hair. In a video she uploaded to Twitter, the woman holds back tears while she silently snips at her shoulder-length hair.
“I feel frustrated and desperate,” the woman adds. “So I decided to demonstrate my dissidence by cutting my hair.”
Though Iran’s protests began over the death of Amini, who was arrested while visiting family in Tehran, the woman who spoke to Allure says she’s “been familiar with these situations for a while.”
She mentions two other high-profile killings that sparked demonstrations in Iran: Neda Agha-Soltan, who was shot in 2009 near a protest against a disputed presidential election, and Satar Beheshti, a blogger who was killed while in custody for criticizing the government on Facebook in 2012.
“I won’t allow [another] one of my compatriots’ names to become a new hashtag on Twitter,” the woman said.
The woman was able to speak with Allure before the Iranian government imposed an internet blackout across the country. According to the New York Times, the State Department and other intelligence agencies are trying to connect Iranian protestors with Starlink, a satellite system owned by Elon Musk’s company SpaceX. In the meantime, Reuters reports that internet access remains cut, that Iranian state media has depicted the protestors as “hypocrites, rioters, thugs and seditionists,” and that security forces have used “teargas, clubs and, in some cases, live ammunition” on demonstrators in multiple Iranian cities.