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Iran women the driving force behind Mahsa Amini protests

Iranian women shop at the Grand Bazaar in the capital Tehran on September 28
— Tehran (AFP)

Among Iranian women protesting in recent nights, many are proud of not only playing what they say is a key role -- but that men are following in their footsteps.

A wave of unrest has rocked Iran since the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini on September 16 following her arrest by Tehran's morality police for reportedly not observing Iran's strict dress code.

"A woman who comes to the streets with her life in her hands is definitely strong," Farideh, a 64-year-old in Tehran, said with a smile.

"Women will get what they ask for. But how and when? I can't say for sure."

The protest movement, which has spread to other cities in the country, has led to the deaths of dozens of people, mostly protesters but also members of the security forces.

Each night for the past two weeks, crowds have chanted the slogan "Woman, Life, Freedom!"

For Farideh, a painter, what is even more significant is that in a patriarchal society women have convinced men to join their movement.

"The problems of men and women are not separate from each other," she said.

"Next to every woman there is a man in the street protesting. Our women are the sisters and mothers of our men."

In Tehran's upmarket shopping district of Tajrish, several women walk around without covering their head, just a scarf on their shoulders -- something seen occasionally before the protests, but that has become more common.

"When women are involved, naturally their husbands are too," says 66-year-old Elahe. "I think that, in the long term, we will have to make our voices heard."

For this housewife, "women should not be underestimated; they are strong. They are the ones who manage the family, and it is not an easy task."

Pouya, a 50-year-old man working in the private sector, believes one cannot close their eyes to the problems of society.

"When people are ignored, problems can go unnoticed for a while, but with the slightest tension, society will crack and (problems) will emerge," he said.

"Iranian women are human beings who have demands that they intend to make. As long as they do not break the norms of a traditional society, their wishes must be granted."