'Death does not scare us': Iranian teen speaks out as protest crackdown continues

After a few failed attempts, the Zoom call finally began and staring back at me was a confident young woman - ready to tell her story with defiance.

I reiterated to her that her speaking out carried a risk, before I could finish she cut me off - saying that she was sure and that she needed to do this, so that the world can hear her message.

In an interview conducted over a couple of hours due to the failing internet, 'Arzu', who is in her late teens, told me: "You can never understand the huge fear we go through every day."

"Right now, there is a lot of plain clothed officers with guns under their clothes.

"It’s like constant fear of anyone who might walk past you. Getting arrested is not an option because you have no legal rights in Iran as a girl."

Listen to a longer version of this interview on our podcast: What You Need to Know

Iran is continuing to crackdown on women who speak out against the regime as forces head to schools searching for ‘anti-hijab’ girls. Reports have emerged of police moving from school to school demanding lists of names of pupils who have taken to the streets.

Arrests have continued across the country with those taking part in the protests running the risk of being killed in the name of women’s rights.

Arzu is one of those who has taken to the streets in recent weeks and she’s adamant there is a revolution happening right now.

"When you see a lot of young women with their hijabs off or they don't even have a scarf in their bag, then you go, it's happening.

"Dying is not something that we fear about, not getting back our country is what we fear about. Death does not scare us anymore at this point."

Worldwide there have been demonstrations including women cutting their hair as a symbol for change.

"I want to be able to walk free on the streets. I want someone to be responsible if they hit me, if they killed me. And it's not a big thing to ask for but it's what we are fighting for and what we are dying for," says Arzu.

Speaking out in Iran, especially against the regime is forbidden. There can be devastating consequences for those who do speak.

16-year-old Nika Shakarami vanished days after taking part in protests in the capital, Tehran. Her body was found in a morgue a week later.

She was seen in a video singing just days before she disappeared.

TikToker Hadis Najafi was shot dead during demonstrations. 

TikToker Hadis Najafi, who was just 23 years old, was shot dead during demonstrations in Karaj. 

Many other women have been arrested or killed for doing the same thing - fighting for their rights.

Mahsa Amini died after being taken into police custody by the ‘morality police’. Credit: AP

The movement for change was sparked after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last month. She died after being taken into police custody by the ‘morality police’ who arrested her for not adhering to the strict hijab rules. 

Many things that are seen as primary rights in other parts of the world are a dream for women in Iran.

Females in Iran are not allowed to sing or dance or even watch films in the cinema.  Even something as simple as walking your dog is forbidden as a woman.

Women have to be aware of what they’re wearing in case they get arrested, which means being forced to wear a hijab. 

"Most of our mums do that, looks at your outfit to see if it's not too short for you to get arrested. If it's not too open to get arrested. And they might tell you to change what you're wearing."

Arzu says this fight isn’t against the hijab, it's against not having these basic rights, and she says she won’t stop fighting until Iran sees change.

"I can be next. I have no idea. We are losing young souls that were full of life, full of hope, full of happiness, and we just want to do what they couldn't do as long as each one of us is alive."