‘Mahsa is the spark that lit this fire’ — Iranian students speak up for human rights
A ’Justice for Mahsa Amini’ poster is displayed at the McMaster Iranian Students Association vigil on Wednesday, September 28 at the McMaster University Student Centre. Photo: Georgia Kirkos
On Sept. 16, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died of her injuries in Iran after being detained by the country’s morality police over the way she wore her hijab. Her death touched off a wave of protests, and more than 40 people have been killed in Iranian crackdowns in the days that followed.
“The tragic death of Mahsa Amini and the protests in Iran are impacting many members of the McMaster community, particularly those with personal connections to Iran,” said Sonia Anand, acting associate vice-president, Equity and Inclusion. “We share your outrage and resolve in supporting women’s rights and an unwavering commitment to human rights and dignity.”
The ongoing protests are still making global headlines and #MahsaAmini and related hashtags continue to trend internationally on social media, despite a crackdown on internet in Iran.
The McMaster Iranian Graduate Students Association held an event last week in Amini’s memory “We want people to know how brave people are in Iran,” association member Romina says. “They are fighting for their basic needs. This is possibly one of the biggest women’s rights movements in the world and we’re fighting against oppression.”
Their undergraduate counterpart, the McMaster Iranian Students Association, held a vigil Wednesday to raise awareness of the situation and keep the momentum going.
“It’s horrifying. No one should die over an extra inch of hair showing,” says association co-president Lida.
The students emphasize that the vigils and protests are not critical of religious practices or Islam, despite a systematic campaign of misinformation that says so.
“Mahsa is the spark that lit this fire,” says co-president Sara. “It’s not about a hijab or a faith. It’s about basic human rights, women’s rights. It’s about accountability, it’s about freedom, not fear.”
“Ask any Iranian woman and she will tell you about a time she was harassed or confronted by the morality police. They have no accountability, and it’s been going on for years.”
Now that the issue is in a global spotlight, they are determined to make it count. Many of the Iranian students at McMaster have been unable to reach their parents, siblings and other loved ones in Iran after the country cracked down on internet service.
“We are going to be the voice of our families,” says Sara. “Spreading awareness is how we are going to spark change.”
They hope that others will take up the cause and use their platforms to raise awareness.
“What we are doing here at these vigils and events is to raise voices of women in Iran,” says Mohad, a graduate student. “These people who were killed—we don’t want it to be for nothing.”
Mental health and wellness resources
As many students, faculty and staff members are personally affected by the situation in Iran, there are many McMaster services and resources available to support them, says McMaster’s acting associate vice-president, Equity and Inclusion.
“The university has many services to support students and others in our community who are struggling as the situation in Iran continues to evolve,” Anand says. “I encourage anyone who needs assistance to reach out for help.”
Students are encouraged to reach out to the following resources:
- Contact the Student Wellness Centre at email@example.com
- If you need academic accommodation during this time, please reach out to your program academic advisor
- International students can book a 1:1 appointment with International Student Services by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
- For a list of 24-hour services, please visit https://sscm.mcmaster.ca/resources/support-resources/
- Empower Me provides 24-hour accessible counselling services for graduate students. Call 1-833-628-5589
- Good2Talk provides 24/7 confidential counselling, information, and referrals to all post-secondary students in Ontario via phone at 1-866-925-5454 or text GOOD2TALKON to 686868.
Faculty and staff can find support through the Employee & Family Assistance Program: