Iran’s Women Persist | Crooked Media
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March 08, 2023
What A Day
Iran’s Women Persist

In This Episode

  • A fresh round of public anger is growing in Iran, and the focus is now on a series of suspected school poisonings, which may be targeting girls and young women. Suzanne Kianpour, a foreign affairs correspondent for BBC News, explains why Iranians fear it could be “retaliation” for the women-led protests over the death of Mahsa Amini.
  • And in headlines: Israeli military forces killed at least six Palestinians during a raid in the occupied West Bank, the Justice Department found widespread racist abuse by the Louisville police department, and a recent study shows there are more single women than ever before.


Show Notes:



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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Thursday, March 9th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What A Day where we’re sending our strength to everyone upset by the photos of Bad Bunny kissing Kendall Jenner. I hate it too, y’all. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, we get it sometimes a photo of two beautiful rich people kissing could ruin our entire weeks too. We are with you. 


Juanita Tolliver: Look, we may not be rooting for them, but we can root for us to get through this. We can do this together. [laughter] [music break] On today’s show, the Justice Department released a damning report on civil rights abuses by the Louisville Police Department. Plus, we now know how Tucker Carlson really feels about Donald Trump. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it’s the same way that we all feel. Hmm. What a crazy thought. 


Juanita Tolliver: Bet. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But first, protests in Iran stemming from the killing of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the country’s morality police are entering their sixth month. According to human rights groups, over 500 people have been killed and 20,000 have been arrested since the Iranian government began their brutal crackdown on these protests. And four young men were executed for their involvement. But still, the persistence and the defiance of Iranian women who have ditched their hijabs and are demanding a better future continue as they have sparked a revolution and it lives on. I wanted to talk to someone who could speak to the emotions of everyday Iranians, especially in light of the new reports that we’re seeing that thousands of schoolgirls have been poisoned in what may be a deliberate effort to prevent them from getting an education. So to learn more about where things stand in Iran right now, I spoke with Suzanne Kianpour. She is an Iranian-American journalist and foreign affairs correspondent with BBC News for the Middle East. And she joined us from Abu Dhabi on International Women’s Day. I started by asking her about this wave of suspected poisonings. 


Suzanne Kianpour: 2000 schoolgirls have been poisoned and now parents are afraid to send their girls to school. Ayatollah Khomeini came out and said these poisonings are despicable. And if it turns out that they’re deliberate, then whoever is responsible for them should be put to death. That’s obviously him insinuating that it’s not deliberate, i.e., it’s not the regime doing it. But there are human rights groups who are warning that this could potentially be linked to hardliners within the regime who are trying to stop girls from going to school. Because remember, it was really Gen Z girls, schoolgirls and young women who were leading these protests. I mean, this is a women led revolution. And so I was speaking to Nazanin Boniadi today, who is an actress and activist and is really one of the faces of the diaspora leading the kind of charge for change for Iranian women from outside the country. I mean, she’s obviously in exile and she was telling me that there’s nothing scarier to despots and dictators than a powerful woman and powerful women and mass even more so. And so there is suspicion that these schoolgirl poisonings may be linked to a crackdown. We don’t know for sure. The White House has called for an independent investigation, which actually would fall under the purview of the U.N. So we’ll see. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I imagine that in census, people in Iran, I mean, obviously throughout the world. But what is the response been from people you have talked to, from any sources you have that you have seen since this news of these poisonings has come out? You know, how are people feeling, especially within the context of this larger movement that’s been going on? 


Suzanne Kianpour: It’s utterly terrifying just to anyone because they don’t know where it’s coming from. It’s so sinister. Obviously, next door in Afghanistan, the Taliban has stopped girls from going to school, doesn’t allow girls to go to school. And so there’s a fear that Iran could go in the direction of Afghanistan. And Iran is I mean, the Iranian women are some of the most educated in the world. And I think the biggest concern when I speak to just average Iranians inside Iran is just the mental state. It’s just how you just keep going when it’s so dark. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. Like, what are your options?


Suzanne Kianpour: But they have hope. That’s why this revolution, these protests, will not end because it’s kind of two sides of the same coin in the sense that they have hope in themselves, but at the same time, they have nothing to lose. So they’re willing to die. I mean, what happened in the French Revolution? I wrote this in my piece, what’s more dangerous than a mob with nothing to lose? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. I want to talk about your piece in Politico, you know, it’s about the women leading the charge against the regime. You touched on, you know, one of the rallying cries that we have heard from this movement, woman, life, freedom. Can you tell us a little more about where that saying comes from and how it embodies everything happening in Iran. 


Suzanne Kianpour: Jin, jiyan, azadî. It’s interesting because we in America grew up with this notion ingrained in us that life is about pursuit of happiness, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Suzanne Kianpour: And if you really listen to this rallying cry, woman, life, freedom, it’s not that far apart. And, you know, in Iran and Persian language, even the feminine comes before the masculine when you’re speaking. So, you know, you say Zana Shohad, which is wife and husband, we would say husband and wife. Right. You know. [Persian for sister and brother] which is sister and brother. We would say brother and sister. In Persian culture, there’s a respect for women. And one of the symbols of Persian culture is the lioness. And so now the women are rising up, the lionesses are rising up and are demanding freedom to live their lives as women. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I think that also is part of why it’s become so resonant around the world, too. Like, these are such basic things in this slogan and this rallying cry that so many can identify with. And I want to ask you, you know, Iranian people obviously continue to face this extreme crackdown on dissent. You know, what should do you think the international community be doing right now to show their support for these people? What should we be doing to make it clear that what’s going on is intolerable? Like, do you think we’ve seen enough? And what would you and other people in Iran like to see? 


Suzanne Kianpour: So the messages that I get constantly from people inside Iran or people who have left Iran since the protests started, and actually a lot of the sources that I was speaking to inside Iran, those who have been able to leave have left. But they all say, please don’t let the world forget about us. You know, there is this notion that they want military intervention. That’s not necessarily the case for everyone and the diaspora. They’re very aware of that. And they say that they’re taking their orders and their cues from the people inside. And so they’re speaking to US lawmakers and going to the White House and they want to make sure the world doesn’t forget about them. They want to make sure that– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Suzanne Kianpour: –their story is staying in the media. I mean their next effort now that they’re working on is they’ve got this letter where they’re signing on trying to get all government entities to acknowledge that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a gender apartheid state. So that because, you know, obviously they worked on getting Iran taken off of the Committee for U.N. Women’s Rights, that was a concerted effort that the White House was involved in. And so now this is kind of their next accountability vehicle. People ask if there’s possibility for the regime to reform, but to have people come out in the streets and say, down with the Islamic Republic and death to the dictator, I mean, that genie doesn’t seem like it’s going to go back in the bottle. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That was my conversation with Iranian-American journalist Suzanne Kianpour. You can find a link in our show notes to her piece about the women who are at the forefront of this movement against the Iranian regime. And we’ll, of course, continue following what is happening in Iran. But that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break] 




Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s wrap up with some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Tensions flared up again in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday after Israeli military forces killed at least six Palestinians during a raid in the city of Jenin. Israeli authorities said that they were looking for a man suspected of gunning down two Israeli brothers last month, which touched off a spree of revenge attacks by Jewish settlers. American and other international officials are keeping a close eye on the situation amid concerns that violence could escalate during the upcoming observation of Ramadan and Passover in the coming weeks. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is making a short trip to meet with Israeli leaders in Tel Aviv today. He was actually forced to push back the visit from earlier this week because ongoing demonstrations against the government’s judicial overhaul plan are expected to snarl traffic across the country. 


Juanita Tolliver: The Justice Department yesterday released a long awaited report on the Louisville, Kentucky, Police Department. It found that police routinely engaged in abusive and discriminatory practices against Black people. The review was launched after Breonna Taylor was killed during a botched raid conducted by a specialized police unit in 2020. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who was in Louisville to announce the findings, said a police official told the DOJ, quote, “Breonna Taylor was a symptom of problems that we’ve had for years.” The review also found a widespread pattern of officers using excessive force and conducting warrantless searches. The city of Louisville and its police department have agreed to work out a legally binding settlement to improve law enforcement practices. And I’m very curious for what that would mean for the Black people of Louisville. I suspect probably not much. 


Priyanka Aribindi: President Biden is set to release his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year later today, his annual spending wish list is expected to call for a $3 trillion dollar reduction from the national deficit over the next decade. Very similar spending wish list to what I have, but uh we’ll see if we get there. It’s a big jump from the $2 trillion dollar cutback that he promised during last month’s State of the Union. It also includes several health care proposals, closing financial loopholes and other benefits enjoyed by billionaires and fossil fuel companies, as well as a new tax on the extremely wealthy. Though all of these things will be a tough sell in Congress, the proposals are meant to put the ball in the GOP’s court because Republicans have yet to reveal their vision for the national budget. 


Juanita Tolliver: So far, the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit has been airing all of Fox News’s dirty laundry. We’re still calling them news when they’re really just a right wing, you know, talk show. But okay. And let’s just say the bow ties are looking filthy. To bring you up to speed, Dominion, which makes voting machines and other election technology, is suing the network for a cool 1.6 billion, saying its anchors knowingly pushed lies about nonexistent election fraud during the 2020 presidential election. Thousands of pages of documents have already been filed in the lawsuit, including text messages, emails, and transcripts of sworn depositions from Fox executives and its TV hosts. In one particularly juicy filing, Fox host Tucker Carlson texted someone just two days before the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol saying of former president, Donald Trump, quote, “I hate him passionately.” 


Priyanka Aribindi: Same. 


Juanita Tolliver: Other recently unsealed documents also show that Fox Chair Rupert Murdoch privately told other Fox executives that hosts like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, quote, “went too far” by repeating Trump’s claims about election fraud. The trial is set to begin next month. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’d be a real shame if this lawsuit were to uh bankrupt their little news operation. 


Juanita Tolliver: A girl can dream. 


Priyanka Aribindi: “News” [laughter] Using quotes. All of the single ladies, put your hands up. We are trying to see something. According to a recent study by Wells Fargo more adult women are unmarried than ever before. The Census Bureau has tracked women’s marital status since 1900, when only 9% of adult women were unmarried. And according to the report, that number has become 52% by 2021. Women are also more likely to live alone with single women at the helm of 26% of U.S. households, including mine. How exciting. And while single women have become a crucial arm of the economy, both as workers and consumers, nevertheless, the wage gap persists. Last year, never married women earned 92% on average compared to the wages of never married men and have 29% less accumulated wealth. Unmarried women may be behind men when it comes to wealth, but we all know which side is more likely to have a bed frame and sheets that aren’t navy. So at the end of the day, who is really winning here? 


Juanita Tolliver: Not the mattress on the floor. But let’s give this some context too Priyanka, because historically it all comes down to financial security. Women couldn’t have a bank account until the 1960s and couldn’t have– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: –their own credit card without a male cosigner until 1974. So I’ll just say this number tracks. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, makes a lot of sense in context. 


Juanita Tolliver: Leave it to the British monarchy to always have some tea brewing. In a statement yesterday from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex or Harry and Meghan to their close friends, they announced that their daughter had been christened in Montecito, California, last Friday. Congrats on the christening and all, but the real news is how they announced it y’all. Calling their daughter Princess Lilibet Diana publicly for the first time as grandchildren of the reigning King Charles the third, both Lilibet and her older brother Archie are entitled to the designations of Princess and Prince. The Buckingham Palace website, however, has referred to the young children with the plain, if not unnerving, titles of miss and master giving full on colonizer. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, very unnerving. 


Juanita Tolliver: Since the news of Lilibet’s christening, a source with the Palace has indicated that the website will be soon updated to reflect the change, leading some to believe there’s been recent correspondence with the King. And the plot thickens, as my chemistry teacher used to say. On Sunday, a spokesperson for Harry and Meghan confirmed the couple had received an invitation to King Charles’s coronation in May, but have not yet signaled if they intend to accept. I guess we’ll have to wait for season 20 of the Crown to find out how this pans out, Priyanka. 


Priyanka Aribindi: You brought this up earlier, but like hysterical that Charles could get nobody to confirm that they’re going. 


Juanita Tolliver: Girl. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Not one soul. 


Juanita Tolliver: He is asking everybody. Harry Styles. I couldn’t believe he had the gall to ask Elton John, who famously performed at Princess Diana’s funeral. But he did that and both said, no. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Juanita Tolliver: Nobody wants to go to this. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Everyone’s passing. If Harry and Meghan aren’t a confirmed yes, this publicity spectacle. I don’t know. And those are the headlines. [music break] That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review, claim your royal title, and tell your friends to listen. 


Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just the shadiness on the Buckingham Palace website like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Juanita Tolliver.


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


[spoken together] And we hate him too Tucker. 


Juanita Tolliver: Oh, also, I hate agreeing with Tucker Carlson on anything. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I know. 


Juanita Tolliver: Fuck that guy. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s like a broken clock. It’s like right twice a day. But this is only one time. I don’t think there’s going to be a second. 


Juanita Tolliver: No. Ugh.


Priyanka Aribindi: Mm mm. Not a fan. Sorry. [music break]


Juanita Tolliver: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jocey Coffman and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.