‘I want the air of freedom […] to go to Iran’: Kingston rallies for Mahsa Amini

Community gathers for speeches and solidarity in front of Stauffer Library

Many people gathered with signs to show solidarity.

A group of over 100 students, community members, and Kingston residents gathered outside Stauffer Library to rally in support of Mahsa Amini on Friday.

The rally in front of Stauffer followed nationwide protests in Iran after the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman. She was detained by Iranian authorities for allegedly wearing a hijab improperly, and eventually died in detention a few days shy of her 23rd birthday.

On Sept. 26, the Government of Canada announced sanctions on multiple Iranian individuals, including Iran’s “morality police,” otherwise known as the Gasht-e-Ershad. This body is tasked with enforcing Iran's strict dress code.  

The rally in front of Stauffer was centred around the hijab being a woman’s choice, and not forced out of compulsion. 

At the rally, Qazi Mustabeen Noor, a non-Iranian international student, read a note from Ariel Salzmann, a Queen’s professor studying Islamic and World History. 

“Mahsa’s experience is that of every woman in Iran—in a country suffering extreme poverty and the ravages of the climate catastrophe,” Noor said at the rally. 

In reading Salzmann’s note, Noor highlighted that Amini's family has not had the chance to grieve. According to Noor, the Government of Iran is pressuring the family to lie to absolve the Iranian regime of responsibility. 

“The women in Iran who are now risking everything to defy the regime should also remind us that the revolution [of 1979] promise began and ended more than 40 years ago when men like the current president [of Iran] stripped them of their rights barely a month after the revolution was won,” Noor said. 

Salzmann described the current events in Iran as a revolt, led by women fighting against rules made by men. 

“This revolt in particular led by women—women who refuse to be shut out and silenced, speak loudly of the betrayal of the Revolution by men like President Raisi,” Noor said.

“Men continue to reduce half of Iran's population to second-class subjects and strangle true self-determination by maintaining a single religious figure, initially as Khomeini, and now in the person of Khamenei, as the ultimate ruler over its government, the judiciary, and the military.”

Another Iranian female student, whom The Journal has granted anonymity for fear of state-based reprisals against family members in Iran, spoke about the recent events and the impact on the Iranian community. 

She brought up the death of Amir Moradi, who passed away on Ukraine International flight PS752 in 2020. She spoke about the people killed by the Iranian regime over four decades of rule.

READ MORE: Amir Moradi, beloved by peers, planned to attend medical school

“Iranian women are taking back their rights. You observe women with their utmost bravery shouting ‘woman, life, freedom’ in front of police,” she said. 

One speaker at the rally spoke about the need of organizing in countries outside of Iran. 

“We all need to try to be the voice of the range of people whose demands and rights are very often ignored, and their voices have been violently silenced,” he said.

“We need to support the solidarity to continue and eat the world to hear the struggles. And we need the world to hold the Islamic Republic responsible for its violence and brutality for depriving the whole nation of basic human rights.” 

The final speaker at the protest read a Farsi poem she had handwritten.

When The Journal caught up with her after the protest, MGH* spoke about the meaning of the poem and the impact on Iranians in Canada. 

“The poem talks about suffering that the people had for many generations. Especially women and mothers [...] It's night right now in Iran. I am asking the sky to take the light from here and give those people support—the light is a metaphor,” MGH said. 

MGH’s poem identified the symbol Mahsa Amini has become in Iranian society. MGH said Amini is a symbol for generations of oppression, and now there’s motivation to rise and fight back.

In the poem, MGH used the Farsi word “Azadi,” meaning freedom to evoke the image of the current movement in Iran. 

“Azadi is freedom, but it's also a name. People name their children that sometimes. Now we are using that name to fight and seek the freedom we are named after [...] these men don’t recognize these basic freedoms,” MGH said. 

“I want the air of freedom that we have here and take for granted to go to Iran.”

*Name changed for safety reason.

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