Iranian community members speak up following Mahsa Amini’s death

A+flyer+on+the+Lory+Student+Center+Plaza+with+a+QR+code+linking+to+information+about+ongoing+protests+in+Iran

Collegian | Michael Marquardt

A flyer on the Lory Student Center Plaza with a QR code linking to information about ongoing protests in Iran Sept. 30.

Ivy Secrest, Life and Culture Director

Editor’s Note: Quotes have been removed from this article for the safety of the source. 

On Sept. 16, Mahsa Amini, an Iranian woman, died in a hospital in Tehran, Iran. She was hospitalized due to severe injuries sustained after being arrested by the morality police for not properly wearing her hijab. 

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Amini’s death sparked countrywide protests and led to the burning of hijabs, women cutting their hair short and the country of Iran shutting off internet access. For family and friends abroad, that loss of internet access is devastating. 

“I was heartbroken,” said Parnian Shahbazian, a communication studies student at Colorado State University. “I was devastated to see something this brutal happen to a girl who could have been me (or) any of my friends or relatives back home.”

Shahbazian hasn’t been able to speak with her family since they lost internet access. This and Amini’s death led Shahbazian, like many of her peers, to speak at a table set up to raise awareness in CSU’s Lory Student Center Plaza last week.

“I, like many other Iranians, want a better country and want a more free, civilized place to live in,” Shahbazian said. “That’s just one of the many reasons why we think that raising awareness about what is happening is important.” 

Shahbazian and other speakers at the table said many of their American peers were unaware of the events in Iran and often have several misconceptions about Iran, from mixing up Iran and Iraq to believing all Iranians are Arabic. The group felt it was important to speak to community members themselves. 

Wanting to bring attention to their country and possibly alleviate some of the pain they are feeling in the community, the Iranian stand was in The Plaza from Sept. 26-30. 

“We don’t feel well,” said Mojtaba Harati, a civil engineering Ph.D. student and research assistant at CSU. “Because we don’t have any kind of communication to our country. I don’t have any chance to talk with my mom and my dad, sister, friends and all of these people.”

There’s incredible stress in losing communication with friends and family. As the protests continue in Iran, Iranians who are abroad have felt the guilt of not being there and the stress of not knowing how their family members are doing, said Mahsa Roointan, a volunteer at the CSU Women and Gender Advocacy Center. 

“We can’t really sleep; I don’t think any of us have slept in the past two weeks,” Roointan said. “We’re just checking the internet the whole time because maybe there’s something new, and I have to know it immediately.” 

The Plaza tablers hoped to encourage the CSU community to reach out to their government officials to put pressure on the Iranian government, Roointan and Harati said.

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“When it is about Iran, nobody cares.” –Hamidreza Ghafouri, Iranian graduate student and teaching assistant in the department of construction management

Not all actions from the U.S. are created equal. Roointan said the sanctions put on Iran often hurt average citizens more than the government, as government officials have access to more resources and can take money from the people to support their lifestyles. The Plaza tablers hope the table will encourage more conversation and different forms of action against the Iranian government.

Posters on the Lory Student Center Plaza in support of ongoing protests in Iran
Posters on the Lory Student Center Plaza in support of ongoing protests in Iran Sept. 30. (Collegian | Michael Marquardt )

The group also emailed CSU Interim President Rick Miranda asking that more attention be brought to the issue considering how much of the community it affects and what the Iranian community may face if the international community doesn’t intervene. 

The email mainly focused on the riot police crackdown at the Sharif University of Technology that led to the beating and unconfirmed killing of Iranians. The email said Iranian CSU community members fear for their families and are under a great amount of stress. 

The email closed by saying, “We urge the Colorado State University to strongly condemn the Iranian regime’s attack on the university campuses and students and announce it loudly through all university channels, as was the case in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and gross human rights violations. We also ask for full support of Iranian students at CSU in this critical condition and endorsing it to all colleges and departments.”

These students have been cut off from a major source of support that many CSU students can rely on: their families. 

“I haven’t had contact with my family for like two weeks,” said Hamidreza Ghafouri, Iranian graduate student and teaching assistant in the department of construction management. “It’s really sad. It’s a really very important period in my life now because I need to decide my future, … and I can’t talk to my family to talk about this stuff.” 

Young people are being killed in Iran for protesting, several human rights violations are taking place and many Iranians want to see these things come to an end. According to the email, Iranians are fighting for “women, life and freedom.” 

The group on campus is pushing for government action on the U.S. side, starting with asking the CSU community to support them.

“When it is about Iran, nobody cares,” Ghafouri said. “I don’t know the reason, but it’s really sad for us.”

Reach Ivy Secrest at life@collegian.com or on Twitter @IvySecrest.