The Observer | Iranian-American community reacts to death of Mahsa Amini, seen from New York


All sources in this article have chosen not to disclose their full names for fear of reprisal and/or for security reasons based on rumours, government surveillance of the internet and social media, and the alleged presence of spies. Iranians on behalf of the Iranian government during the rallies. .

Protests have been sparked across New York City following the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, in Iran on September 16, who was detained by the Guidance Patrol, Iran’s “morality police.” Amini was arrested for allegedly wearing her hijab improperly, a violation of the country’s strict enforcement mandatory hijab which has been in place since 1979.

Authorities attributed his death to a heart attack despite her family’s assertion that she did not suffer from any health problems. Hours later, the Persian nation was engulfed in turmoil as tens of thousands of civilians poured into the streets across Iran demanding retaliation. Ongoing protests and civil unrest have resulted in at least 142 victimsaccording to Iran Human Rights, although the death toll remains unconfirmed.

The 1979 Islamic Revolution, which took place on International Women’s Day on March 8, introduced the obligation to wear the hijab for all Iranian women. Over the years, the Iranian government has introduced more legal measures and social restrictions to enforce mandatory hijab laws. Since his election as President of Iran, Ebraihim Raisi has imposed a tougher law on hijabs, allowing the vice squad to use physical force and verbal harassment, as well as the use of imprisonment and even enforced disappearances, to enforce the said law.

The protests, which have been going on for two and a half weeks, have sparked protests in Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. In New York, the protests drew a crowd of more than a hundred Iranian Americans.

Fordham community response to unrest in Iran

Fordham’s departments, such as the Department of International Studies, have shown their awareness of Iran. In his Middle Eastern Comparative Politics class, Fordham Lincoln Center political science professor John Entelis discussed with his students the implications and potential outcomes of the women-led movement in Iran.

“In my experience with these kinds of movements, they ultimately don’t change the balance of power between the state and civil society,” he said. “Among the problems we have seen is that while they are mobilizing large numbers of people, attracting global attention, at the end of the day autocratic rule remains the same. Personalities can change, individuals can be replaced, but the systemic character of an autocratic regime will remain the same.

Also fueling the protests is decades socio-economic and political grievances, such as electoral corruption, the freedom of political prisoners, the mismanagement of the economy and demands for a modern secular democracy. Entelis highlighted how this ongoing protest reflects the overall frustration and anger against the Iranian regime, but added that the inclusion of women distinguishes the current revolutionary movement from others.

Protesters flooded the streets on October 1 with signs following the death of Masha Amini. (KIA FATAHI)

“There is a distinctive revolutionary dimension to the participation of women who lead this, and end up creating a political and social space that they perhaps did not have before,” Entelis said.

Ariana, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’24 and US-born Iranian student, uses social media to keep up to date with what is happening in Iran. Expressing her fear and anger over the violence in Iran, she mentioned how privileged she was to be where she is now. She also noted disparities between her and her distant relatives currently living in Iran, people she knew would not have the same opportunities.

“If you’re in a position where you have privilege, you have to protest for people who can’t be in that position,” Ariana said. “It’s important to share a sense of community not just in Iran but around the world.”

Iranian Americans rally for Amini

Enraged by Amini’s death, the Iranian-American community in New York City has held several rallies in solidarity with Iranian women and protesters. The protests began at Grand Army Plaza on September 26, with participants staging further protests at the New York Times Building and throughout Lower Manhattan on September 27 and October 1.

A crowd of hundreds marched Oct. 1 from 5th Avenue and 14th Street, two blocks from Union Square, to Washington Square Park as part of a coordinated global protest That day. Rally attendees ranged from Gen Z to Millennials. The crowd chanted in both English and Farsi, saying things such as “Say his name!” Masah Amini! and “People of Iran, take your pick!” New York Times, listen to our voice.

Protesters hold a sign in Persian which translates to ‘women, life, freedom’. (KIA FATAHI)

Women have been seen cutting their hair, which is a gesture that was featured in “Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings” as a sign of grief, pain and/or anger. This practice is now used as a way to act in solidarity with women’s rights and to express support for what Iranians call a “revolution” against the theocratic regime led by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the current leader. Supreme of Iran.

Zoya, an Iranian protester who has lived in the United States for more than 40 years, noted that she had lost several family members during the Iranian protests. She added that, despite this affliction, she continues to advocate for the rights of Iranian women alongside the younger generation in the United States.

“Iran is always in my heart. Iran is my home,” she said. “People don’t deserve this. Enough is enough. The whole of Iran has become a prison.

A women’s rights protester writes Iran on her forehead upside down to express her defiance of the regime. (KIA FATAHI)

Zoya added that she was proud of all the participants in the protest who were around the same age as Amini and noted that she counted on them to carry “the flag of freedom”.

Other participants used this gathering as a reflection of their own personal experiences under the Iranian regime. Sanam, another Iranian protester who learned of Amini’s death from her family members at home, was heartbroken by the news but said the incident was common in Iran.

“I was absolutely devastated, but this is nothing new in Iran because women have been oppressed for decades,” Sanam shared. “The morality police and the ayatollahs are the most violent regime.”

Amini’s death brought back the trauma of Sanam and his family’s personal encounter with the morality police. In 2016, she was arrested by vice police while out with her mother in Tehran, the national capital. They were met with verbal abuse and discriminatory insults, with one of the officers commenting on their actions of wearing a loose hijab “unacceptable”, the same action Amini was accused of committing. Sanam and her mother were not physically injured, but the incident left an impression.

“If they take you, you’re gone. No one in your family will be able to contact you,” she said. “It’s a terrifying experience of what could have happened to me.” Sanam, an Iranian protester

“If they take you, you’re gone. No one in your family will be able to contact you,” she said. “It’s a terrifying experience of what could have happened to me.”

Lian, a graduate student at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, shared her personal experience of being arrested by the vice squad. She said she was abruptly approached by police and reprimanded for rolling up her sleeves, smoking, and her clothes were described as “too revealing”. She described the incident as “irrational” and “immoral”.

“They often use manipulative language. They don’t tell you you’re arrested,” Lian said, “They just tell you to come with them so they can check your IDs and promise they’ll let you go afterwards.

Roberston, a public high school teacher in the Bronx, fled the Kurdistan region of Iraq due to political oppression in 1991. As a Kurd, she is no stranger to chanting “Women, Life, Freedom!” (Jin-Jiyan-Azadî — Zen-Zendegi-Azadi), in reference to Kurdish women freedom fighters of the 1990s. Robertson said she found the chant, now a viral slogan among Iranian and Kurdish women around the world, more invaluable than ever.

Supporters of revolutionary change in Iran carry placards reflecting their message. (KIA FATAHI)

“(Women, Life, Freedom) now applies everywhere, whether among those who suffer from the deprivation of reproductive rights, the inability to show their hair in public, or the freedom to choose with whom they get married,” Robertson said. “There will be no freedom if women are not free too.”

Robertson added that while she is grateful for the massive turnout at these rallies over the past few weeks, she expressed her disappointment in Western institutions, from government to universities, for not taking further action to express their support. At the move.

As of October 11, Fordham University had not released an official statement on the incident. Student-run journals from other universities, including Cornell University’s The daily sun and New York University Washington Square News, reported on their respective community’s response to the Iranian protests, both of which stand in solidarity with the Iranian community. Ariana pointed out that Fordham, a Jesuit university, is highly unlikely to raise awareness of the unfolding events, possibly due to the religious and political ramifications.

“As far as administration goes, I don’t think they will do anything,” she said. “I don’t expect them to do anything and unfortunately that’s the truth.”

Despite the lackluster response, she, like all other Iranian-Americans, continues to stand in solidarity with the Iranian people and to raise awareness among members of the New York community who have not heard of the issue.

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