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Iranian students and expatriate communities in Rome held rallies to condemn the Islamic Republic for brutality against anti-government protesters since mid-September when 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was killed in the custody of the so-called morality police. All over Italy their extraordinary unity gives voice to the "Donna Vita Libertà" revolution. The protests have been the longest by far in the past four decades with no sign of ending despite a bloody crackdown by Iran’s totalitarian regime, and for the first time, women took center stage, as “woman, life, freedom” became the rallying cry for protesters. The protesters first want to be heard and get news coverage by the world's media. Opposition figures and civil society activists continuously call for more pressure on the regime to stop the violence and to hold it accountable. From those who fled in the 1980s after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution to a younger generation of Iranians born and raised in Western capitals, many in the diaspora community say they feel an unprecedented unity of purpose and affinity with the demonstrations at home.
Since the beginning of the protests, international media have reported on the bravery of the protesters and on the fatal consequences inflicted by the Iranian government. While this has fuelled global support for the protests, it has also perpetuated an all-too-familiar, hypocritical savior narrative from the West, which claims to support the same women and people that its policies, sanctions, and brutal interventions have greatly harmed. Unsurprisingly, the media has also focused heavily on the issue of the hijab itself - particularly on women’s rejection of it. The bravery of protesters in Iran is indisputable, and many have paid a high price for it - but the media’s focus on the hijab, rather than on the women’s bold resistance to an oppressive regime and their ongoing struggle for their right to bodily autonomy, is simplistic and counterproductive. In reducing the protest movement to the question of unveiling, rather than exploring it as a struggle for choice and freedom from intersecting forms of oppression, mainstream media narratives contribute to the victimization and homogenization of Iranian women.