On September 21, Iranian and Kurdish students and UBC community members gathered at the Martha Piper Plaza to mourn the passing of Mahsa Amini and share in the sadness of Iranians around the world.
While Amini was travelling to Tehran with her family, she was stopped by the morality police — a law enforcement unit dedicated to arresting those who violate the country’s dress code — for not properly covering her hair with a headscarf.
Amini was taken into police custody for three days before the Iranian police reported her death as a result of complications related to a heart attack. However, several eyewitnesses reported she fell into a coma after being beaten inside the police van. Her CT scan also shows “skull fractures caused by severe blows.”
Since, protests have erupted in Iran and around the world, with some women burning their headscarves in defiance.
“No one still knows exactly what happened yet … right now the internet has been shut down in Iran,” said Sajad Hosseini, a master’s in engineering student who attended the event.
On September 21, Iranian citizens experienced a mass restriction of mobile networks and social media platforms. This act has been described as the most severe internet restriction since a near-total blackout ordered by Iranian authorities in 2019, following fuel prices rising by over 50 per cent.
Amini’s death is the latest report surrounding a long history of police brutality in Iran.
“It’s been almost 45 years that they’ve been suppressing people, suppressing opinions, suppressing women’s rights,” said Fatemah Saghafifar, a mathematics PhD student.
Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, women were mandated by law to wear a headscarf, regardless of religion or nationality. Failure to do so has resulted in arrests, detentions and forced confessions.
Saghafifar came to raise awareness about the actions of the Iranian government.
“[Gatherers] sing and ask for regime change. They’re asking for persecution of the people in charge,” she said.
Ali, a masters student in biomedical engineering, is hoping to see the university take action by spreading news about this on social media or other relevant platforms. He has asked to remain partially anonymous for his safety.
“The government’s police are directly shooting people with guns, and they’re killing people,” he said. At least seven protestors have been killed.
“If UBC can post this ... this could help us tell the government that all the world is hearing us, that we are against it,” he said.
“It’s so important right now to amplify Iranian and Kurdish women’s voices and not speak for them,” said Niki Taromi, a second-year philosophy student. She believes it is a crucial time for people to be fighting against oppressive political regimes.
She went to the event to stand in solidarity with her Iranian and Kurdish community, spreading awareness about Amini’s story. A memorial for Amini has also been erated on the first floor of the Nest.
“No man, no state, should dictate a woman’s body,” Taromi continued.
“An injustice somewhere is an injustice everywhere.”
— With files from Isabella Falsetti