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Iran is burning right now. There are fires on streets across the country, women are combustion sets their mandatory veils in public and the government demonstrators on fire from the northwestern Kurdistan region to the southeastern provinces of Sistan and Balochistan. There are bullets and smoke everywhere, endangering the lives of innocent Iranian citizens.
On November 13, an Iranian court issued its verdict first death sentencewith estimates of 15,000 others, many protesters, in custody.
All we see in the news and on social media is the cycle of news about Iranian youth being shot in the streets, with more news of people mourning them and some being shot during the mourning . Yet, despite the pain that leads to their arrest, Iranians are fighting and knowing the consequences. Sometimes nobody knew who arrested them and where they were imprisoned. Families usually hear back from messages after a few days. Occasionally, all they get back is their child’s corpse.
This is worrying. While this isn’t the first time protests have turned violent due to state repression, this time the scale is much larger. Can you imagine hearing the news of fatalities every day for two months? Or watch videos on social media that are usually marked as “sensitive content”?
This has been the reality in Iran for almost two months now. It started on September 16th when Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, died in police custody because of her “improper” headscarf. That moral police, or the “Guidance Patrol” as it is known in Iran, is the department of the police force responsible for enforcing these laws. They are in public places and can arrest people, especially women, if the officer feels that their clothing is not holding up Islamic codes, as interpreted by the Islamic Republic regime. Sometimes they violently arrest and beat inmates.
The name Mahsa Amini has become code for revolt and social change, along with the slogan: “woman, life, freedom.” Street protests have then spread across the country and into universities, high schools and even among younger crowds. Celebrities and athletes have shown their support for the movement despite facing pressure from the government themselves. Women have started to stop wearing headscarves, which has been mandatory since the Iranian revolution 1979. Strikes are spreading among workers across the country, and people have begun boycotting state-affiliated companies.
This is not just life in Iran. For all Iranians outside the country, the past two months have been confusing. My Instagram newsfeed for almost two months has consisted almost entirely of stories and posts about Iran, be it news, a critical viewpoint, artworks or just feelings of anger, courage, fear and solidarity from Iranians living outside Iran. Aside from the psychological pressure and trauma, it is difficult to speak or make video calls with loved ones in Iran due to internet conditions. Support is also coming from friends and family in Iran, although the internet was down for most of the day and the government is cracking down on any form of protest.
Then comes the question of what we can do from here. I keep hearing this question from Iranians and non-Iranians alike, and there are many ways to help. Some have bought and shared VPNs with people in Iran to facilitate internet access. Those overseas are sharing on social media to raise awareness, while some are donating to campaigns. Others are urging their officials to urge governments and international organizations to support the Iranian people and protesters and increase pressure on the Iranian government.
We the Iranian Student Association at Syracuse University, have also held several events on campus so far, both out of solidarity with the people of Iran and to provide emotional support for one another here. There were memorials and candlelight vigils, information tables, performances to lift people’s spirits and more.
It is hard to keep up with what is happening in Iran right now, which is adding to the problems of our normal life and academic responsibilities. However, every effort made and awareness-raising in this struggle is important for the liberation of Iranian women as well as that of the country. Until then, woman, life, freedom!
Mehdi Nejatbakhsh, President of the Iranian Students’ Union at Syracuse University
Published November 14, 2022 at 11:58 p.m