Multi-culture Story

This is the era of multiculturalism for 2 million people. If you look around, you can easily see neighbors with different skin colors and languages. However, Korean society's notion of multiculturalism is not keeping up with the changes of the times. To solve this problem, the Joongbooilbo has planned a ‘multi-culture story(다문화 스토리)’ that introduces multicultural neighbors living in various ways. ‘Multi-culture Story(다문화 스토리)’ aims to calmly capture the stories of multicultural people living around us and create changes in Korean society in the age of multiculturalism. -Ed-. 


Wearing the clothes you want to wear and being able to go where you want to go. There are people who are restricted from taking these obvious and ordinary actions. This is the tragic story of Iranian women. In September of last year, an Iranian woman was taken into custody for not wearing the hijab properly by the Morality Police and she died for a mysterious reason. Many Iranians were outraged. The incident sparked protests against the Iranian government and Morality Police. And the protests took place not only in Iran but all over the world where Iranian lives.

Iranian student Niusha Shariloo, who has studied in Korea, is one of the leading figures in the 'hijab protest' in Korea. If her identity is known, she may endanger herself and her family, but she is determined to accept any sacrifice in anticipation of women who promise to be different. She even wiped away tears, saying that she was too ashamed compared to her compatriots who risked their lives in protests in their homeland where guns and knives were rampant. Why did the unfortunate situation arise where an international student who have tried to make her dream come true in another country led a protest to condemn the government of his country? Joongbooilbo talked with her about the story.


Q. What made you come to Korea?

Like other foreigners, I became interested in K-pop and dramas. In the meantime, I learned about Korean history. In particular, I was surprised to learn that Silla during the Three Kingdoms period interacted with the Persians along the Silk Road. At that time, I didn't know the Korean language at all, so I only read books in English. I wanted to know more, so I decided to come to Korea and entered Seoul National University's language school in 2020. I am currently in a master's degree at the National Cancer Center in Ilsan.

Q. Did you study medical science in Iran before?

I studied Biotechnology in Iran. From an early age, I often followed my parents to volunteer work. One day, I volunteered at a hospital with childhood cancer patients, and I wanted to develop medicine after seeing sick children. So I chose a major related to pharmaceuticals.

Q. What kind of research are you currently doing?

Currently, I am conducting research related to breast cancer. In fact, it is not easy for graduate students to develop new drugs. However, I am continuing my research with the hope that the current research will help prevent or treat breast cancer in the future.

Q. As an international student, what made you difficult?

It's hard to have to solve everything by myself when a problem happens. Korea and Iran are completely different. I have experienced something new every day. In addition, there are also problems because we are Iranians. Some of my friends are unable to open bank accounts because they are of Iranian nationality. I also have to visit the bank once every six months to prove my identity. Probably because of US economic sanctions against Iran.

Q. I know you are active on social media such as Instagram or YouTube. Is there any special reason?

I started it because I wanted to properly introduce Iran. Koreans do not know much about Iran and are not interested. It seems to recognize it as a country that believes in Islam in the Middle East. That's not wrong. However, Iranians have a stronger pride in their identity as Persians than in Islam.

Q. What is the best thing while living in Korea?

Freedom. It may be difficult to understand for you, but I love that I can do what I want to do without hesitation. As you can see now, I don't wear a hijab. However, the hijab is compulsory in Iran. Many Iranian women live in anxiety about being pointed out by the Morality Police. Actually, there were times when I was arrested for not wearing the hijab properly.

Q. Protests are taking place all over the world demanding the freedom to wear the hijab. What are your thoughts on this?

In fact, there have been several protests demanding the liberalization of hijab-wearing. However, it used to be easily suppressed most of the time, but this time it's a little different. Protests have been going on for more than 100 days. As the economy is also struggling, it seems that more anger toward the government is expressed than before. The unfortunate thing is that as the protests get longer, more people are being sacrificed. Not long ago, I heard the news that children aged 6 and 8 died at the protest site. I feel very sorry about it.

Q. Why do Muslims have to wear a hijab?

According to Islamic doctrine, women should not show their inner skin to strangers. Even the parts that can be slightly exposed depending on the action, such as the wrists and ankles, should be covered.

Q. I am concerned about the human rights of Iranian women.

It can be said that there are no women's human rights in Iran. This protest is not about forcing women to take off their hijab. It's just that we want to choose whether or not to wear a hijab. there are many Iranian women who wear hijabs and go to protests. We just want to have freedom of choice.

Q. Is the hijab issue the only reason for protests?

On September 16, 2022, the protests were sparked by the death of a woman named Mahsa Amini while being detained by Morality Police. At first, we criticized the behavior of the Morality Police and started to bring out the autonomy of wearing the hijab. But now, it seems that the protests are calling for the resignation of the Iranian government. Iranian people do not consider Islamic culture to be their own culture. There are many people who do not believe in Islam. They just think the Iranian government is using Islam to dominate the people. The hijab is nothing more than a tool used by governments to rule people as they want.

Q. You attend protests in Korea every week. Families in Iran could be at risk if your faces or names are known. Aren't you scared?

People who go to protests in Iran risk their lives to participate. My participation in protests in Korea is nothing compared to their sacrifice. I also participate weekly in the idea of wanting to do something for a change. Protests will continue until the Iranian government changes.

Q. What changes do you expect to see in Iran after the hijab protests?

Even if the protests are over, it will take time for tangible change to take place. However, I believe that the Iranian people will enjoy true freedom in the future.

Q. Is there anything you would like to say for the compatriots participating in the protests?

People who go to protests in Iran right now do so with the determination that they will never come back home. Without them, we would not have been able to promote the protest. If there is anything I can do in Korea, I want to do my best to contribute.

By Seyong Lee

Photos by Kyungmin Kim


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