College students protest human rights violations in Iran


Photo: Ryan Forgosh

Protestors gathered at Stratton Student Center.

By Ryan Forgosh, Staff Writer, News

Trigger warning: links included in this article contain graphic imagery.

Beheshteh Ghaderi and her husband John traveled an hour to Boston to show their support for those suffering under the regime in Iran at protests hosted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and University of Massachusetts-Lowell. 

“The government, they just kill children, they kill ladies,” Beheshteh Ghaderi said through tears.

“Her cousin was one of them,” John Ghaderi continued. “We come to as many protests as we can. We’re in it for the people of Iran and the people who want to be free.”

On Sept. 16, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was murdered by Iran’s morality police, which enforces religious guidlines in the country, for wearing her hijab improperly. This sparked a revolution throughout the nation, with support spreading globally.

The Iranian government is considered a theocracy, meaning it is based on religion. The morality police enforcing these religious standards has reportedly been disbanded.

Attorney General in Iran Mohammad Javad Montazeri said the morality police were abolished Dec. 4th, but these reports remain unconfirmed by the Iranian government. Conflicting reports reflect an increase in patrols by authorities since Montazeri’s statement, which led to more protests.

The rally was among the over 200 college protests happening internationally on Nov. 30 in solidarity with the Iranian people. The MIT protest was part of a global rally organized by the Iranian Scholars for Liberty, protesting the Iranian government’s human rights violations against people protesting the morality police. 

The Iranian Scholars for Liberty website lists demands to academic and government institutions across the world. The site calls for boycotts of Iranian university officials and academics who have actively facilitated the regime’s attacks on Iranian students and scholars, disengagement with those supporting the regime, and an official statement against the regime.

At MIT, protestors gathered in front of the Stratton Student Center where the organizers played Iranian music and chants over a speaker and handed out letters detailing the situation in Iran.

The protestors held signs reading, “Islamic Regime = Child Murder” and “500+ murders, 0 f**ks given.” Meanwhile, the organizers led the crowd in chants, yelling “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, this regime must go away,” “Down with theocracy, we want democracy,” and “MIT be their voice, people of Iran made their choice.”

The one chant that rang above all else was, “Woman, life, freedom”—the motto for the revolution. These words are featured at the top of the Iranian Scholars for Liberty’s Campus Rally website

“The slogan, in its essence, brings light to the systematic suppression of women’s rights and all minority groups in Iran,” the website reads.

Parmiss, who declined to share their last name due to safety concerns, helped organize the protest. They, along with members of MIT’s Persian Students Association began protesting weekly since Amini’s murder.

“We’ve had a rally every weekend for the past nine weeks just to try to get more attention on this and to get people more involved,” Parmiss said.

Many of the protestors, Parmiss included, have stakes in the Iranian regime.

“I grew up in the States, but my parents are Iranian. That was always a forefront in our home,” they said. “Talking about being Iranian, watching the news, talking about politics—that’s been a part of my life for my entire life.”

Despite being far from the Iranian regime, protesters in America like MIT postdoctoral fellow Shiva Razavi seek to show solidarity with those fighting for freedom on the front lines.

“The Iranian girls and boys are extremely brave,” Razavi said. “They’re on the streets trying to have their voices heard against one of the biggest authoritarian regimes in the world. The least I can do is try to amplify their voice.”

What’s happening to the people of Iran has an effect on individuals across the world.

“My cousin is Kurdish. She was killed for it,” Beheshteh Ghaderi said. “This has been 43 years of brutal regime and hate.”

Kurds are an ethnic group coming from the mountainous region of western Iran, northern Iraq, and eastern Turkey. As an ethnic minority and predominantly Sunni Muslim group, Kurds are discriminated against for both their language and religion.

Aside from a moral obligation to spread information about Iran, many protestors felt protesting was necessary because Americans seem to be ill-informed about the Iranian regime.

“This is the first time that I see my colleagues are kind of shocked about it,” Razavi said. “They’re like, ‘We had no idea that this is the real image of Iran.’”

Since the start of the protests, Iran has censored its media and limited the number of journalists in the country.

“Western media isn’t really covering the news,” Parmiss said. “If you go on CNN or something there’ll be small blurbs about it, but that’s really it.”

They added that while the war in Ukraine deserves the coverage it gets, so do the protesters in Iran.

The Persian Students Association at MIT plans to continue with its protests to make students aware of the human rights violations committed by Iran’s regime.