The Iranian Graduate Student Association held a rally in the student union on Friday, March 10 to bring awareness to the issues facing women in Iran.
Over 100 universities worldwide held a similar event on the same day to commemorate international women’s day. The event was organized with the support of the Iranian Scholars for Liberty, an international collegiate organization that aims to amplify the voices of Iranian students and raise awareness for their struggles.
Tina Behzad, a first-year Ph.D. student studying computer science, described the conditions women are facing in Iran, and what the Iranian Graduate Student Association was protesting against.
“Some of these things may seem very basic, like women walking on the streets without [a] hijab,” Behzad said. “But they all have a death penalty right now, all of these women are risking their lives. Not even just their own, but their family, their friends.”
On Sept. 16, Mahsa Amini died while in the custody of Iran’s “morality police,” a law enforcement agency meant to make sure the country’s citizens are abiding by the strict dress code put in place by the government, especially when it comes to wearing a hijab. She had been arrested a few days prior for not wearing a hijab. Protests began all over the country after her death. Soon after, the U.S. hit Iran with sanctions over Amini’s death and the treatment of protesters.
More recently, a new wave of protests has emerged after hundreds of schools in Iran experienced attacks involving poisonous gas that began in November after the nationwide protests began to take place. The attacks seem to target schoolgirls specifically. It is currently unknown who is responsible, but an Iranian Armed Forces said the Iranian government has arrested five individuals.
In order to protest the mistreatment by the Iranian government and the poisoning of schoolgirls, the Iranian Graduate Student Association set up a tabling in the Union. Pictures depicted the struggles of the Iranian people, and passages next to them described what was being shown and how it demonstrated life under the regime of the Iranian government.
Kayla Yousefzadeh, a senior studying business administration who attended the rally, described the harsh conditions her parents faced when the Islamic regime took over the country in 1979.
“Both of my parents were born in Iran,” Yousefzadeh said. “And when the Islamic regime took over in 1979, they both had to flee due to religious persecution. So now that this government is hopefully being overthrown, I think it is more important than ever that the Stony Brook community knows what’s happening in Iran.
Yousefzadeh also expressed concern that major news outlets in the U.S. have stopped covering Iran.
Samira Arfaee, a second year Ph.D. student studying mathematics who came from Iran to study at Stony Brook, described the conditions in which the protests began.
“We had a lot of problems with the government financially and [with] human rights,”Arfaee said. “We had protests before this, but then a massive one happened, and from now on, for two, three months, we have protests outside on the streets.”
The event closed with Arfaee giving a speech about the struggles under the Islamic regime. She spoke about the bravery of people suffering there as well as the work that women’s rights groups are making all across the globe in an effort to combat oppression there.
“Combating gender inequality, socioeconomic inequity, and other forms of systemic discrimination in an intersectional global fight must be integrated into our daily lives,” Arfaee said in her speech. “We have overcome many barriers, yet the long path towards justice for all human beings requires an unwavering course of action.”