Iranian journo-activist Masih Alinejad recently talked with Real Time host Bill Maher about the popular uprising in Iran over the killing of a 20-year girl, Mahsa Amini, by the Iranian “morality police.”
Alnejad’s message: Western governments and liberals are pandering to fundamental Islam on human rights, especially when the “humans” happen to be women.
To quote her, “…for years and years, we have been warning them (the liberals) about the dangers of morality police. You know why? Because most of them speak in perfect English and… who actually talk about Islam and Islamic countries. They never go and live under Sharia laws…they don’t even let us talk about our own experiences. You know, I grew up in a country where I was told that if you show your hair, you’re gonna go to jail, you will receive lashes, you will get killed like Mahsa. Here, they tell me that if you talk about this, you’re going to cause Islamic phobia. Phobia is irrational, but believe me, my fear and the fear of millions of Iranian women in Afghanistan are rational.”
Transcripts of Bill Maher’s interview with Masih Alnejad (“Real Time with Bill Maher,” aired on HBO Original on September 30, 2022)
Bill Maher (introducing Alinejad): She’s a journalist, activist, and author of the book “The Wind in My Hair: My fight for freedom in modern Iran,” Masih Alinejad!
You’re a very brave person. And I want to get to, of course, all the things we want to talk to you about today with what’s going on in Iran. But let’s do it like they do on episodic shows, and start with the most dramatic scene first, and then we’ll go five years early. Okay, so a couple of years ago, four Iranian agents were actually charged in absentia with trying to kidnap you.
Alinejad: Can you believe that?
Maher: Well, I’d like to Okay, so tell us. Now, why were they trying to kidnap you? What was going on?
Alinejad: First of all, they’re scared of women. And right now that I’m talking to you, they killed a 20-year-old woman; they are even scared of her hair, I mean, right? But when they came after me here, my job was just giving voice to voiceless women inside Iran. I launched a campaign against compulsory hijab because I couldn’t cover my head (pointing to her big afro hairstyle). Because I was publishing videos of women, fighting back morality police, being harassed, and the industry filming them. That created huge anger among mullahs because they hate when they see that women are fighting back, hedgehog, police, and morality police. That’s why they tried to kidnap me.
Maher: So that’s what we’re seeing now in Iran, what we’ve seen for two weeks now, and it’s not stopping apparently all these demonstrations. Women have finally had enough, as you said. This young woman was killed in custody and taken in by the morality police. They claim some bull… it’s about pre-existing conditions. Being she was a woman, I think, was a pre-existing condition. And so, there’re all these riots, people, a lot of people have died. My question to you is, so, we’ve seen this before in Iran. There was a kind of uprising in 2009. We saw the Arab Spring in 2011. Obviously, Persians are not Arabs, but we’re talking about the same religion that’s behind all this. Is this time going to be different?
Alinejad: Of course! Because first of all, women are burning the headscarf. And this is not just a small piece of cloth for Iranian women and women in Afghanistan. This is the most visible symbol of religious dictatorship. In 2009, it was about an internal fight between conservatives and reformists. This time, from the beginning to the brutal death of Mahsa (Mahsa Amini, the girl murdered by the Iranian morality police). I mean, it created a huge anger; Iranian women are not only burning the headscarf, they’re actually chanting against the dictator from the first day. So the brutal death of Mahsa actually became a turning point for women who have been pushing back this gender apartheid regime for years.
Maher: So take me through what’s gonna happen in the next months or years? I mean, this regime is just not going to give up.
Alinejad: No, don’t say that! We are not just going to give up! Because we are seeing right now, for years and years, we had the fear inside us. Now, this is the (inaudible). Believe me, the Iranian regime is really scared of their women. And right now, this has become a tipping point throughout the Islamic republic, because it’s not just in Iran. Across the world, people are watching that, wow, these fearless women walking towards the morality police, and they’re ready. And tick-tock generations are being killed right now in the streets. So that scares the regime. And I always say that this for the Islamic republic or Taliban, this is like the Berlin Wall. Now, we’re tearing this wall down and the Islamic Republic won’t exist.
Maher: I hope you are right…but you mentioned Afghanistan. We (Ed. The US) pulled out of Afghanistan, the Taliban took over and they went right back to the bad old days.
Alinejad: That’s why I don’t have any hope in the Biden administration. I don’t have any hope in Western countries. They abandoned my sisters in Afghanistan. But guess who came to the streets to support Iranian women? The first group who came to this feud was the women of Afghanistan. Can you believe that? The western feminists who actually went to my country wore hijab! They bowed to the Taliban! They didn’t make this easy.
Maher: Why are liberals so moronic about the problem?
Alinejad: It really breaks my heart because, for years and years, we have been warning them about the dangers of morality police. You know why? Because most of them speak in perfect English and…who actually talk about Islam and Islamic countries. They never go and live under Sharia laws, but they don’t even let us talk about our own experiences. You know, I grew up in a country where I was told that if you show your hair, you’re gonna go to jail, you will receive lashes, you will get killed like Mahsa. Here they tell me that if you talk about this, you’re going to cause Islamic phobia. Phobia is irrational, but believe me, my fear and the fear of millions of Iranian women in Afghanistan are rational.