It's been a week, a month, a year and a lifetime. And I am tired, I am sad, and out of tears to shed and I feel broken, to be seeing my sisters across the world attacked for wearing or not wearing articles of clothing. Having their clothes ripped off them, being subjected to violence and death for covering up. And having their lives beaten out of them for not wearing that exact piece of clothing deemed appropriate by society or made into a law by a select few in the government.
On 16 September, in Iran, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini (also known by her Kurdish name Jina Amini) died in the custody of the morality police for not covering her hair.
For the uninitiated, Iran has a peculiar law enforcement unit called morality police, who roam free on the streets with impunity, and monitor what women have worn outside their homes.
If the woman had failed to meet their standards, the woman is made to pay a price - interestingly not a monetary fine per se. The woman is given notice or in some cases taken to a so-called education and advice centre or a police station, where they are required to attend a mandatory lecture on hijab and Islamic values. They then have to call someone to bring them "appropriate clothes" to get released.
Since her death became known by the public, women emerged on the streets across Iran. In protest of her death, they started to burn the very piece of clothing they are forced to wear by the country's law: the headscarf, or hijab.
Protests first erupted violently across Iran; and brave men, women and non-binary people have come forward to fight the patriarchal system placed to impose control over people's bodily autonomy. And at warp speed, the protests spread across borders.
In India, France, Denmark (and more), women have been on the streets protesting hijab bans. The same piece of clothing is also used to oppress Muslim women by forcing them to remove it. Here, an excuse of security and secularism is used to brand the sexist, imperialist and Islamophobic decision to strip clothing off Muslim women.
Because whether we wear too much or too little, the problem somehow is always with us and not those judging and objectifying us.
But these extreme situations above are not so far from the reality within our own country. There may not be a hijab ban or a hijab-mandatory law, but there are far too many archaic situations (the Narsingdi Railway Station incident comes to mind for one) that systematically hold women back.
We are aggressed almost daily, as we walk the streets of our country, streets where we are made to cower, shorten and reduce our existence so we are not visible and are therefore not attacked in some way or the other. I do not know a single woman, girl or female-presenting person who has not been physically assaulted in some way or the other on our streets.
Our bodies are touched without consent, whether we are in jeans or a burka. We are whistled at, thrown slurs at and aggressively called. If you are from a wealthy enough background to afford the luxury of a private car for commute, you are somewhat cushioned from the reality of having to brave our public transport.
The country is ours, we shed blood, sweat and tears to build it together, we birth and raise the next generation and yet, we remain victims of a structure that decidedly treats us as third-class citizens, unable to walk the streets without our bodily autonomy being invaded. But the structures exist to intimidate, compress and cower the female existence, so we are forced to take up so little space in our own homeland that we almost seize to exist in our true forms and are simply Matir Moyna that is shaped out of clay, hollow within, packaged for and by the patriarchy.
I stay awake at night, fantasising about what it might have been like to grow up without the trauma of a thousand men making decisions about my life and body. I daydream about living a life where I was not shaped by patriarchy telling me all the things I cannot do simply because I was born female, brown and Muslim in Bangladesh. In these moments, as I dream of a world where we truly were equal, I feel connected to women and girls all over the world in our common struggle to fight the archaic systems that continue to oppress us.
Globally, women are protesting for one thing, and one thing alone - equality. Our right to choose the clothes we wear is a statement so simple that it results in anger, just to think about it - be it from the realisation that something so simple needs to be fought for or that, for some reason, they are those select few who successfully get to dictate our lives.
I am exhausted by the narrative that we cannot and should not be allowed to make any decisions about our lives and bodies. We can't walk the streets, live, travel, or exist alone because it's not safe for anyone to do so but a cis-gendered heterosexual man. We can't speak our minds freely- in case we offend men and "provoke" an attack on ourselves. We can't wear what we want because we might be asking for it. No matter the cause or the effect, somehow the burden always lies with women.
We are considered emotional creatures, yet we are forced to censor ourselves consistently in case what we do somehow instigates an anger-based reaction from a man. As if anger is not an emotion, as if men are some archaic animals unable to control their responses. These misogynistic narratives affect men, women and trans people by controlling thoughts, emotions and actions in a bid to please the patriarchy and maintain the status quo of those in power. But perhaps, the thing I am most tired of is the fact that we are not able to fully occupy the only space that encompasses just us- our body.
Maliha Fairooz is a 31 year-old Bangladeshi travel writer, based in Berlin, Germany. She has travelled to 97 countries on a Bangladeshi passport. Through her blog www.maliharoundtheworld.com, Maliha shares her experience of travelling as a brown, Muslim, Bangladeshi woman while simultaneously encouraging a culture of travel amongst Bangladeshi youth. You can follow Maliha's current adventures on her Instagram page: @maliharoundtheworld.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.