Group gathers in solidarity with Iranian protests

A crowd gathered in front of Joseph S. Stauffer Library on Friday to bring awareness to protests that have dominated Iranian cities for the past week, and to the violent response which is fearfully expected to continue from an oppressive Iranian regime.

Nationwide protests in Iran were sparked by the death of 22 year old Mahsa Amini - whose Kurdish name is Zhina - after she was detained by Iran's morality police for "immodest clothing".

The 22 year old's arrest has been said to be over simply some strands of hair loose from her headscarf.

Amini fell into a coma while detained by police, with police blaming a stroke and a heart attack, denying harming Amini in any way.

Morad Roohi, an organizer of Friday's demonstration and a PHD student in history, says the story being shared by the state is a clear lie.

"We don't trust what the state is telling and selling to the people," Roohi said.

"We all know that the police were responsible, and she was killed by the police."

Despite her family actively refuting any alleged health problems the police chief of Tehran, Iran's capital and the site of Amini's detainment and eventual death, has claimed Amini suffered from epilepsy and diabetes.

In response, large scale protests have erupted all over Iran, combining with frustrations around Iran's difficult economic conditions.

Women have played a prominent role in the protests, with some seen burning their veils or cutting their hair in protest.

Speakers at Fridays demonstration said that Amini's death was just the latest injustice faced by women in Iran, and that the people of Iran are simply fed up.

Women, Life, Freedom - a slogan coined in the early 2000s within the Kurdish movement - has become a chorus for protestors, and Roohi says it is a movement that has grown and is supported by men and women alike in Iran.

Due to the oppressive system in Iran, there are Iranian people spread throughout the globe including a large population in Kingston, and protests have been observed by communities in a number of other cities including Montreal and Toronto.

Roohi says the media coverage seen in the western world has been disappointing.

"We ask human rights for all, we ask life, and we ask freedom," Roohi said.

"Unfortunately there's not that much coverage of that in the Canadian media... we really ask the Canadian media to extend their coverage generously. It is a real, great, feminist movement and if successful it will definitely touch the whole Middle East and we all need to stand in solidarity with women and men who are nowadays fighting with one of the most oppressive forces in the region."

Roohi says Iran is at the "main" of crisis in the middle east, and that democratizing Iran will affect the whole middle east and rest of the world.

As protests continued last week, the Iranian government blocked internet access for its people, leaving concern of increased state sanctioned violence.

Iranian state media has confirmed at least 17 people have been killed in the protests, with unconfirmed claims of over 30 deaths by other sources in Iran.

In the midst of the internet blockage, President Biden announced a license to relax internet sanctions on Iran, and on Friday it was announced that Elon Musk's Starlink satellite internet would be activated in Iran in light of relaxing sanctions.

Many Iranians want to see support from western powers, who have routinely made themselves involved in the political spectrum of middle eastern countries and Iran in particular, notably the 1953 coup of democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh.

Roohi says international powers often ignore the wrongdoings of Middle Eastern "bullies" and support them for their own gain, recently disastrous aftermath of choices such as America's support of the Taliban has been seen.

He added Canadians can help by writing to their MPs, and that Iranians fighting for their rights need the support of solidarity throughout the world.

"We are not asking for world leaders to defend us," Roohi said.

"Just let us do our thing. But we are definitely asking the democratic forces all across the globe and in this case in Canada... to stand in solidarity with Iranian people... be their voices and keep their voices up."

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, YGK News