Iranian students urge Notre Dame community to amplify protestors’ voices

Author: Ansari Institute

Iran Protests

Protestors gather in London's Trafalgar Squad to support equality, women, and human rights in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini. Photo by Neil Webb on Unsplash

Iran has experienced widespread protests after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, died while in custody after police said she did not wear her headscarf appropriately in public. Several Iranians in our community have expressed disappointment at the lack of coverage and public conversations relating to these protests, both in the mainstream press and at Notre Dame. After listening to their concerns, the Ansari Institute is publishing the following piece, authored by them. The individuals wish to remain anonymous to avoid potential backlash.

The Ansari Institute stands in solidarity with movements for peace and justice. We invite you to responsibly join together in advocacy for the people of Iran, who have endured sanctions and political interventions from abroad while confronting repression at home. We encourage everyone to educate themselves about the protests in Iran, and to amplify the voices of the marginalized and the multitudes. As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., recognized, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” 

By Anonymous

Like so many others, we were shocked by recent news from Iran. More than two weeks ago, Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old girl from Iran’s Kurdistan province, died in police custody. She was accused of not properly covering her hair. Since then, Iranians around the globe have risen and protested against the government fighting for freedom and basic human rights.

The news spread rapidly and sparked a wave of public protests not seen since the popular unrest that shook Iran in 2009. Brave women and men in Iran and around the world planned a massive protest on October 1 in support of the Iranian people. People from 150 cities participated, and protests continue despite the heavy crackdown. What we are observing in Iran is amazing. We see even high school girls and boys joining the protests. Meanwhile, young girls remove their scarves in public, resist the mandatory hijab law, and chant against the government.

The government of Iran routinely violates human rights. It does not allow reasonable dissent. Opponents of the government find themselves in danger of being arrested or worse. The government discriminates against minorities, including Baloch, Kurdish, and Baha’i, in almost all sectors of life. In response to the recent protests, which are taking place within Iran and around the world, the government has imposed restrictions on internet and social media access as well as on journalists, causing distress to families while controlling the narrative around the protests. Despite this level of control, there have been reports of hundreds if not thousands of injuries, deaths and arrests (including journalists, civil leaders, actors and sports personalities, who have come out and bravely supported the protests).

It is time for Notre Dame to stand with Iranians crying out for justice. Iranian lives matter, too.

The fragmentary reports that have leaked from the country indicate a dire situation. For example, students at Sharif University of Technology, the most prestigious university in Iran, were attacked by the security officers. Authorities chased students through parking lots, causing injuries and making arrests. In addition, we witnessed similar student protests in other parts of Iran, and we are extremely concerned about the imminent danger to students’ lives. 

We are writing this because we want Notre Dame, as a nationally ranked Catholic research university in the US that supports justice and democracy, to support the people of Iran. After the killing of George Floyd, the University mobilized for racial justice. After Russia invaded Ukraine, the University mobilized against the war. It is time for Notre Dame to stand with Iranians crying out for justice. Iranian lives matter, too.

Above all, women are at the heart of the current protest movement. But this movement is not only for women. It is for human beings seeking dignity and rights everywhere. It is for majorities and minorities alike. In a country where, according to some estimates, more than 60% of a population of 80 million is under the age of 30, the gap between the governed and those who govern them couldn’t be any greater. A whole generation is looking for opportunity and social freedoms. Iranians are struggling with a system of government that controls almost every aspect of their lives. The government in Iran is not working for its people.

We are writing this because the world needs to know what is happening in Iran. Media outlets have not been covering the protests adequately. The focus in the US media has been on Ukraine when it comes to international issues, and on the upcoming midterm elections when it comes to domestic issues. Even the hurricanes in Florida and Puerto Rico have not received the attention they deserve. In the midst of so many urgent issues, we are doing what we can to bring more attention to the historic movement in Iran.

As people who are privileged to live in free societies, we want to amplify the voice of Iranians who are unable to make their voices heard. We raise our voices to tell the world about the tragedy occurring to our beloved ones in Iran. We stand in solidarity with the brave Iranian people in their struggle to have freedom, justice, and democracy. And we welcome others, including those within the Notre Dame community, to join us in supporting them.

We encourage all members of the Notre Dame community to speak up in the support of Iranian students, faculty members, and young generations for their courageous resistance.

This is the longest protest in Iran since the revolution in 1979. The protests are intergenerational and cut across many sectors of Iranian society. They draw merchants and students, women and men, the young and the elderly, and even junior clerics. The crackdowns have taken many innocent lives and cannot be sustained. Iranian activists have garnered support for the protests both at home and abroad. More than 86% of Iran's adult population is literate, and they seek a new government that upholds women's rights and human rights.

The death of Amini has contributed to some of the most active days on Persian (Farsi) Twitter in years, with more than 200 million tweets under the hashtag #Mahsa_Amini posted since Sept. 21, 2022.The protests have spread to more than 80 cities in Iran, leading to hundreds of arrests. Iran Human Rights (IHR), a Norway-based nonprofit, reported on Oct. 4 that more than 150 people had died in the protests.

We respectfully urge everyone to strongly condemn the Iranian government’s use of violence against its own people. We encourage all members of the Notre Dame community to speak up in support of Iranian students, faculty members, and young generations for their courageous resistance against forces of ignorance and oppression. Women and girls in Iran and beyond are watching the world stage right now, hoping that their voices and values matter enough for us to act and help ensure this never happens again.