Sunday , 21 July 2024

Her Name Was Mahsa; A Swimming Coach Who Wanted to Become a Doctor

Iranwire – Her name has been a symbol of resistance for women and all Iranians in their fight against government oppression and violence under a religious dictatorship that has claimed many lives over the past four decades. 

Her Name Was Mahsa; A Swimming Coach Who Wanted to Become a Doctor

By Diako Alavi, a journalist from Saqqez and family friend of Mahsa Amini

When they took the life of Mahsa Amini, a sudden storm erupted, infusing hope, anger, pain, resilience and determination. 

Perhaps Mahsa is merely an image for many, but for me, for the people of Saqqez, her friends and relatives, she remains a treasury of memories that persist to this day.

I wished for Mahsa to be more than just a name, a photograph or a news story; I wanted you to get to know her as well. 

She was a 22-year-old woman brimming with vitality, moving at her own pace and chasing her dreams. 

From aspiring to be a doctor to earning a coaching degree in swimming and contemplating a future in microbiology, her journey on earth was filled with aspirations and determination.

Her name was Jina. They changed the name on her birth certificate to Mahsa so that having a Kurdish name on official documents wouldn’t pose any issues, as was the practice two decades ago. 

As the times evolved, Kurdish names became widely accepted and both Jina and Mahsa remained. 

Mahsa shone like the bright moon, while Jina embodied life, warmth and cheerfulness. 

Mrs Mohammadi might have been the first to notice this. She was a literature teacher at Hijab school where Jina pursued her secondary education. Mrs. Mohammadi once said to Jina’s mother, “Mojgan, take care of this child; she’s incredibly genteel.” 

Teachers described her as a quiet girl, suggesting she should be a bit more mischievous. Her brother, Ashkan, was more mischievous, while Jina was gentler. Despite their small age difference, they rarely got upset to the point of anger.

Jina wanted to become a doctor. When she was a child, she held her father’s hand and accompanied him to the market to buy a white coat for her. When she couldn’t find one, she purchased white fabric for her mother to sew. 

She also acquired a stethoscope toy. She arranged her dolls in the room, examining and prescribing treatments for them. Mozhgan, her mother, would knock on the room’s door and ask, “May I have an appointment, Dr.?” or “Can I be your patient darling?”

Her mother was an active member of the Parents and Teachers Association for three years in Shahrak Elementary School, Hijab Secondary School and Taleghani High School. 

At school, Jina was cherished by her classmates and admired by her teachers as a model student. 

Her academic performance consistently excelled, and she exuded a calm and serene demeanor. She was energetic during sports classes as she would be jumping and playing volleyball

On weekends, the family sometimes strolled in Kowsar Park or Shahr Park or returned to the Seye Ava region, where her hair danced in the wind and her favorite volleyball partner was none other than Safa, her uncle.

 As her grandfather fondly said, “Don’t call my girl Jina; call her Shane,” meaning breeze in Kurdish.

Jina had a heart as small as a sparrow. At the sound of a barking dog, she’d hide behind her younger brother, but she adored animals. 

Safa once threw a stone at an approaching dog. Jina yelled, “Don’t hurt her, Safa! Don’t hurt my little niece!” 

Until last year, whenever they encountered a dog, they’d say, “Look, it’s Jina’s nephew,” and the young girl would burst into laughter. In her early years, Jina used to refer to dogs as nieces.

Jina was an athlete. In addition to her passion for volleyball, she also had a deep love for swimming and even held a swimming coaching certificate. 

She patiently spent two years preparing for her college entrance exams and temporarily set aside her ambition to become a doctor. She went to Urmia to study microbiology and always said, “I will become a doctor one day for sure.”

Like many of her peers, she also aspired to be an actress. Her eloquence and inner beauty was evident to anyone who saw her. 

She attended acting and theater classes for a brief period. Later on, she auditioned for several film roles, albeit without success. 

Throughout this journey, Amjad and Mozhgan, her parents, stood by her as companions and supporters, never imposing any limits on her aspirations.

Her favorite cosmetics included red lipstick and nail polishes. 

Unlike some families in the area, neither Amjad nor Mozhgan created obstacles to their children’s desires. They belonged to a moderately religious, middle-class family that cherished their children.

What shattered this idyllic life? Who extinguished the dreams of this simple girl? Who disrupted her innocent dreams of becoming a doctor? Who halted the ambitions of this swimmer and volleyball player who aspired to be an actress, who adorned her lips with red lipstick and couldn’t decide on just one nail polish color? 

Mozhgan once said, “I swear to God, my child said she wanted to serve humanity.”

What led this dear, unassuming girl who aspired to serve humanity to meet such a tragic end?

Jina was on a trip during which she had the opportunity to witness the beauty of the sea and the tranquility of the forest. 

In Tehran, she explored the market with her cousins and spent joyful nights playing with Ashkan and the children of the family. 

Laughter filled the air and conversations flowed until dawn. 

Tragedy struck when a dark cloud of hopelessness descended upon Jina near Haqqani subway station, close to Vanak Square. 

This area is often frequented by passengers heading to Nature Bridge and young people seeking picturesque spots for their Instagram posts.

It was Osman Esmaili, a labor activist, who shouted amidst the crowd during Jina’s funeral, “She could have been my daughter, she could have been your daughter.”

As I left the mosque, I wished to have hands large enough to crush Nature Bridge between my fingers. 

Then, I thought that if those hands possessed such strength, they could potentially dismantle other forces and systems as well.

I also remembered the small hands of Jina placing her stethoscope toy on her doll’s chest while whispering to herself her unswerving desire to serve humanity.