The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last Friday sparked a wave of mass uprisings in Iran against 43 years of tyrannical rule under the Islamic Republic. What began as outcry over the killing of an innocent woman by Tehran's misogynist 'morality police' over her hijab has quickly snowballed into an all-encompassing protest movement, demanding an end to the religious dictatorship and retrograde state cruelty Iranians have tolerated for two generations.
People of all ages and walks of life have been seen in video footage marching through the streets in the past few days. Some will remember the 1979 Islamic Revolution and even a time long before it; others have never known anything but the mullahs’ stifling rule. The Persian-language political slogans they have been chanting, too, have mixed origins: some are decades old, and some were coined just this weekend. All of them, though, speak to a series of goals that many Iranians share.
Below are some of the most important and popular slogans chanted at demonstrations this week, and their English translations.
ننگ ما، ننگ ما، رهبر الدنگ ما
“Nangeh Ma, Rahbar-e Aldang-e Ma”
“Our Disgrace is Our Incompetent Leader”
The word ‘Aldang’ in Persian is more cutting than the English ‘incompetent’. It refers to a person who is inept, corrupt, lazy, and freeloading: all the characteristics Iranians attribute to their leader.
ننگ ما ننگ ما بسیج الدنگ ما
“Nangeh Ma, Basiji Aldang-e Ma”
“Our Disgrace is Our Incompetent Basij”
This time 'Aldang' describes members of the Basij, the paramilitary brigade of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has been charged with suppressing protests in Iran for the past four decades.
مجتبی بمیری، رهبری رو نبینی
“Mojtaba, Bemiri, Rahbari ro Nabini”
“Mojtaba, We’ll See You Die Before Becoming a Leader”
It is widely believed in Iran that so-called Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is grooming his oldest son, Mojtaba, to become his successor, even though this is not a hereditary title.
بسیجی بی غیرت، داعش ما شمایی
“Basiji Bi-Gheirat, Daesh Ma Shomaei”
“Undignified Basiji, You are Our ISIS”
The Shia rulers of Iran have joined wars against the Sunni Muslim ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But at home, the attitude of the Basij and the IRGC towards women and social freedoms is comparable to their enemy.
بی شرف، بی شرف، بیشرف
“Bi-Sharaf, Bi-Sharaf, Bi-Sharaf”
"Disgraceful, Disgraceful, Disgraceful"
Sharaf is one of the most important words in the Persian language. It encompasses dignity, grace, and loyalty. Its absence is a mark of shame.
زن، زندگی، آزادی
“Zan, Zandegi, Azadi”
“Woman, Life, Freedom”
Respect for women, life, and freedom is what Iranians aspire to see in a future government and each other.
آزادی، آزادی، آزادی
“Azadi, Azadi, Azadi”
“Freedom, Freedom, Freedom”
Chanting for freedom in Iran is tantamount to chanting for regime change. Iran is currently run as a theocracy. For the majority of Iranians freedom means living as independent citizens and individuals with a stake in society and agency.
ما همه مهسا هستیم، بجنگ تا بجنگیم
“Ma Hameh Mahsa Hastim. Bejang ta Bejangim”
“We are all Mahsa, We Are All in This Fight Together”
Last week 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was arrested in Tehran over her hijab and taken for ‘re-education’. She died on Friday, September 18 after sustaining catastrophic head injuries in custody. She has become a symbol of the struggle of Iranian women, and all Iranians, for a government that is respectful and deserving of them.
مرگ بر ستمگر، چه شاه باشه چه رهبر
“Marg Ba Setamgar, Che Shah Bashe Che Rahbar”
“Death to the Dictator, Be it Shah or Ayatollah”
This slogan refers to the historical struggle of Iranians for freedom and an accountable state since the 1905 Constitutional Revolution, which was staged to rein in dictatorship.
رضا شاه، روحت شاد
“Reza Shah, Roohet Shad”
“Reza Shah, God Bless Your Soul”
Reza Shah was the king of Iran from 1925 to 1941. He was a nationalist monarch who fought against the clergy and tried to modernize Iran. In 1936 he banned the hijab, declaring it was an obstacle to progressive women.
مرگ بر دیکتاتور
“Marg Ba Dictator”
“Death to the Dictator”
This specifically refers to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has been ruling as Supreme Leader of Iran since 1999.
میکشم میکشم هر آنکه خواهرم کشت
“Mikosham, Mikosham, Har An Keh Khaharam Kosht”
“I Will Kill, I Will Kill, Those Who Killed My Sister”
This is a new slogan which manifests the solidarity between Iranian men and women in their struggle for civil rights. In times when men dominated the protests, it used to be “I Will Kill Those Who Killed My Brother”.
جمهوری اسلامی، نمیخواهیم، نمیخواهیم
“Jomhouri Eslami, Ne Mikhahim, Ne Mikhahim”
“We Don’t Want the Islamic Republic”
After more than four decades of autocratic rule and obsolete ideology, many Iranians have had enough. This slogan epitomizes their total disenchantment with the system imagined in 1979.
استقلال، آزادی، حجاب اختیاری
“Esteghlal, Azadi, Hejab Ekhtiari”
“Independence, Freedom, Optional Hijab”
Many Iranians believe there is a third way when it comes to hijab. Demanding it be optional instead of mandatory, as it is in many countries the world over, indicates they want to live in a pluralistic society where – amongst other things – women can choose their own clothing, traditional or not.
ایرانی میمیرد، ذلت نمیپذیرد
“Irani Mimirad, Zelat Nemipazirad”
“Iranians Die but Will Not Be Suppressed”
This chant takes a stand against the regime’s policy of trying to contain popular dissent and demand for change through violence.
خامنهای قاتله، ولایتش باطله
”Khamenei is a Murderer, an Illegitimate Ruler”
The Ayatollah, in theory, as the supreme Islamic jurisprudent keeping watch over Iranian affairs, ought to be just and honorable. But Ali Khamenei is a tyrant presiding over the mass murder of his own ‘subjects’. Many believe he is not the right person to rule this ancient, proud nation.
مرگ بر خامنهای
“Marg Ba Khamenei”
“Death to Khamenei”
One of the most oft-heard slogans in protests in recent years. It summarizes one of the most immediate desires of many Iranians.