Give Her Back Her Kurdish Name: Jina Amini

We all know her as Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old girl that was tortured and killed by the “religious morality police” of Iran’s Islamic Republic. However, her name was Jina, a beautiful Kurdish name, meaning “life.”

In Iran, the Kurdish population is being discriminated against, and Kurdish names are banned. “Iran controls of how its citizens name their children. Iran denies names that are not on their approved Persian and Islamic list, names that represent ethnic nationalism or regional pride are banned, with the exception of Persian names,” Kurdish affairs commentator Hamid Mustafa explains.[1] Therefore, in her official documents, she was registered as “Mahsa,” a Persian name permitted by the Islamic Republic. Yet, at home, she was Jina. This is the name her family used to call her, this is the name her mother uttered, while crying on her grave.[2]

The Kurdish slogan “Jin, Jiyan, Azadi” (“Woman, Life, Freedom”). (Source: Twitter)

She Was Forced To Carry “Mahsa” As Her Official Name

Kurdish human rights activists on social media point out that Jina was not just beaten to death because she was wearing her hijab too loosely and not in accordance with the regime’s standards, but also because she was Kurdish. The Kurdish-Swedish activist, Dr. Kochar Walladbegi, writes: “In Iran… minorities such as the Kurds are being suppressed… For Kurds, being killed and tortured is a systematic behavior [of the Islamic Republic], they face this every day of their lives!… Jina was tortured by the Iranian morality police… also because she was a Kurd and a woman, which makes her a minority within a minority! I decided to call her by her Kurdish name Jina that stand for living, a name she, like many other Kurds, was not allowed to carry. Instead, she was forced to carry ‘Mahsa’ as her official name, for the short 22 years of her life.”[3]

The Islamic Republic Accuses Kurdish Opposition Groups Of Helping The Protesters

After Jina’s death, the demonstrations against the Islamic Republic intensified all over the country, especially in the Kurdistan region. Kurdish media outlet Rudaw reported that the Iranian government told the Kurdish opposition parties based on the Kurdistan Region borders “to evacuate” their bases, otherwise the regime “will consider other options.” “Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) showered the skies of the Kurdistan Region’s Erbil and Sulaimani provinces with ballistic missiles and suicide drones late last month, targeting bases of Kurdish opposition groups, whom they accuse of providing arms to the protesters in the country,” Rudaw explained.[4]

Furthermore, Nazim Dabbagh, the representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government office in Tehran, said: “The Iranian government has investigated and found that a number of the Iranian [Kurdish] opposition parties have interfered in the protests and accuse them of inciting chaos, therefore Iran has stressed that the parties must evacuate their headquarters.”[5]

Jin, Jiyan, Azadi

It is worth noting that the protests’ Farsi slogan “Zan, Zendegi, Azadi [Woman, Life, Freedom]” is in fact a popular Kurdish one, which has been used for years in the Kurdish independence movement. It was Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed founding member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who popularized the slogan in his writings.

Political activist Zozan Sima writes: “But the intimidation, [which the Islamic Republic of Iran] tried to bring to bear on women, Kurds, and those opposed to the system in the person of Jina, has kicked back and lit a new spark in the struggle against the system. Most significant are the crescendo of slogans [that] women and men – in Iran in general and in Iranian Kurdistan in particular – are chanting in Kurdish and in Farsi as one voice: ‘jin-jiyan-azadi!’ and ‘zan-zendegi-azadi! [Woman, Life, Freedom!].”[6]

Explaining the meaning of the slogan, in her book, “The Art of Freedom,” Kurdish freedom movement activist Havin Guneser states: “You’ve probably heard of ‘Jin, Jiyan, Azadi.’ Because of this theory… the Kurdish freedom movement has shown the connections that make women’s revolution the liberation of life itself. It is about freeing life. Therefore, men also see that, in fact, they do not have any real privileges. Similarly, we say that the colonization and oppression of Kurds prevents Turks from becoming democratic [and the same can be said of Iran!]. The enslavement of women also perpetuates the enslavement of men… That’s why we say women’s revolution liberates life. In Kurdish, the root of the word life is ‘Jin’Jin means woman, while jîn means alive and jiyan means life. The root word is the same. And that’s why we say Jin, Jiyan, AzadiAzadi means freedom. And given that the Sumerian word for freedom is Amargi, which means ‘returning to the mother,’ the three words are so interconnected and make perfect sense: women, life, freedom. As women become free, it is inevitable that life itself return to its magic and enchantment. Thus, the slogan, Jin, Jiyan, Azadi.”[7]

What Is In A Name?

It is undeniable that the protests for freedom in Iran have also a Kurdish root. The change in Iran will be coming from women and ethnic minorities that are tired of being oppressed and persecuted.

In social media, many users are writing: “Say her name.” Well, her name was Jina. Let us not forget her death and let us not cancel her Kurdish identity. The fight “for freedom” (“baraye azadi,” as the popular anti-regime song goes)[8] is in opposition to the Islamic Republic’s discrimination against women, against minorities, and against Kurds. Jina was both a woman and a Kurd.

Her name Jina finds its source in the slogan for freedom, Jin, Jiyan, she was a woman, she represents life. Say her name: Jina Amini.


Anna Mahjar-Barducci

Anna Mahjar-Barducci is a MEMRI Senior Research Fellow.


[1], September 28, 2022.

[2], October 3, 2022.

[3], September 20, 2022.

[4], October 9, 2022.

[5], October 9, 2022.

[6], September 22, 2022.

[7] Havin Guneser, The Art of Freedom: A Brief History of the Kurdish Liberation Struggle, PM Press, Oakland, CA, 2021.

[8], Baraye Azadi by Shervin Hajiaghapour.

EDITORS NOTE: This MEMRI column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

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