Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor Talks Justice, Civic Engagement at Radcliffe Day


Church Says It Did Not Authorize ‘People’s Commencement’ Protest After Harvard Graduation Walkout


‘Welcome to the Battlefield’: Maria Ressa Talks Tech, Fascism in Harvard Commencement Address


In Photos: Harvard’s 373rd Commencement Exercises


Rabbi Zarchi Confronted Maria Ressa, Walked Off Stage Over Her Harvard Commencement Speech

Op Eds

Jina Amini was a Kurdish Woman Like Me. Here’s Why That Matters.

By Nathanael Tjandra
By Dalal Hassane, Contributing Opinion Writer
Dalal Hassane ’26 lives in Matthews Hall. ​​​​​​​

“Jin, jiyan, azadi!”

From a young age, Kurdish women like myself are introduced to this powerful phrase, which translates to “women, life, freedom.” Our families teach us that this phrase is an integral part of the liberation struggle against the powers that occupy us, coined by Kurdish resistance fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. They teach us that we, too, are a part of the movement for our homeland; for women, life, and freedom.

In the past month, we’ve heard people repeat “zan, zendegi, azadi,” the Farsi translation of this phrase. I see people emphasizing solidarity with “Iranian women,” to fight for “freedom for Iran,” and to honor “Mahsa” Amini. While I will always join Iranians in standing against this regime, I can’t help but feel anger and resentment towards the erasure of Kurdish voices in this movement.

After the death of Jina Amini, I immediately thought of my own mother, who experienced the same injustices Kurdish women still face in Iran today. After surviving the 1988 Halabja massacre in the Iraqi state, she fled to Iran, where she lived for three years. Unlike Jina, however, she survived the oppression and violence that the Iranian regime inflicted, and continues to inflict, on Kurds.

Jina Amini, who was just 22 years old, was from the city of Saqqez in the Kurdistan province, the same city where the protests after her death first erupted. The city where Kurds continued to chant “women, life, freedom” as they have been for decades. Kurds have constantly echoed this phrase, but people finally joined us only after the Kurds of Saqqez screamed it in pain in the wake of Jina’s death.

To see this revolutionary phrase co-opted into Farsi without the acknowledgment of Jina’s Kurdish identity and its implications for her death is devastating. This phrase, the phrase I grew up with, the phrase that helped me reconnect with my Kurdish heritage, was taken away from me – from us. Many people had never heard of “women, life, freedom” until they saw it in Farsi, in headlines as part of the movement “for Iranian women.”

Under the Iranian regime, Kurdish names are banned. “Mahsa” was known to her family, friends, and community as Jina. Jina, the same name her mother repeated before her grave. Like many Kurdish women across our homelands, Jina often wore jili Kurdi (traditional Kurdish clothes). Like me, she heard Sorani Kurdish in her house. She, too, was familiar with the vibrant colors of the Kurdistan flag, a daughter of the sun.

Jina’s Kurdish identity was not irrelevant to her death. It is more than likely that the morality police knew that Jina was Kurdish when her brother allegedly pleaded with the police, telling them that they were not from Tehran, that they were just visitors. Iranian identification cards include postal codes, which indicate the province the detained person is from. Jina was from the Kurdistan Province of Iran.

Kurds make up only 10 percent of the Iranian population, yet in 2019 constituted nearly half of the political prisoner population in Iran. The Iranian regime has focused its attacks on predominantly Kurdish areas as well as other ethnic minority regions such as Balochistan. Iranian forces have gone so far as to attack military bases in the Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq for their uprisings against the Iranian regime. Yet, we only hear about the bravery and resilience of “Iranian” people.

Now, more than ever, is the time to stand in solidarity with Kurdish women fighting for independence not only in Iran, but all four occupied parts of Kurdistan. The people of Iran will never see a world free of this violent regime until the people of Kurdistan are able to freely walk our lands. This world would have allowed a young 22-year-old girl to walk the streets of her beloved Kurdistan while people greet her as Jina.

Our liberation is shared. Not only should we stand with Iranian protesters, but we should stand with Kurds, who are at the forefront of this movement. Jina Amini was a Kurdish woman; call her such. Call her by her real name, not the one imposed on her by the regime. Realize the history behind the phrase “women, life, freedom,” and start chanting it in the language of the women who coined it. The language that I grew up hearing in my house, just as Jina did in hers.

As a Kurdish woman on this campus, I have felt the erasure and exclusion of Kurdish voices from this movement, both intentional and unintentional. Likewise, I have seen the power of uplifting Kurdish voices, whether at the protest in front of Widener or the die-in at the John Harvard statue. However, there is so much work to be done: changing our rhetoric, asking President Bacow to express solidarity with both Iranian and Kurdish women, to chant “jin, jiyan, azadi,” and no longer using Jina Amini’s regime name in conversations and demonstrations on campus.

When you continue to march in the streets in solidarity with protesters in Kurdistan and Iran, when you post on social media, when you have conversations about what is happening, include the brave Kurds who made this movement possible. Include the women who continue to defend their homeland despite countless attempts at censorship and ethnic cleansing. Stand with Kurdish women.

One day, Kurds like Jina, in a safe and free Kurdistan, will continue to chant the phrase that we all should remember. Jin, jiyan, azadi.

Dalal Hassane ’26 lives in Matthews Hall.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Op Eds