Hundreds of Londoners protest for young woman who died in Iranian police custody

“Women, life, freedom” were the words chanted by more than 200 people from the Iranian community in London, Ont., who gathered Thursday at Western University to protest the death of a young woman in Iran. , who died while on the force. keep.

Mahsa Amini, 22, died last week after being arrested in Tehran for wearing “inappropriate attire”. Amini was detained by the country’s so-called “vice police” who allegedly challenged the way she wore her headscarf. She fell into a coma while in custody and eventually died.

“I was beaten, I was humiliated. My sister was arrested because of the really unfair rules we have in Iran for inappropriate hijabs,” said Besat Zardosht, one of the organizers of the event, came from Iran to Canada 12 years ago. .

Zardosht organized the protest in London as a way to defend women’s rights and the freedom of Iranians.

Zardosht said part of the significance of protests outside Iran comes from speculation that the Iranian government has blocked internet access in parts of the country to limit protesters’ ability to s organize and be heard at the international level.

Besat Zardosht, one of the organizers of the protest, said that when she lived in Iran, she was also arrested and humiliated by the morality police. (Isha Bhargava/CBC)

Attendees at the event echoed Zardosht’s sentiments, including the grief she said she felt upon learning of Amini’s death.

“It hurts me deep down because it’s a woman’s right to choose what she wants to wear, no matter where she lives,” said protest participant Mo Akbari. “Besides that, there is nothing provocative about his clothes, or anything of that nature. There was no reason for his arrest.”

Akbari has two daughters who live in Toronto. He said he was proud of them and their right to wear what they see fit in Canada.

“It Could Have Been Me”

Mahsa Manavi, 21, left Iran ten years ago. Learning that a young woman of the same age who shared his first name was arrested because of his attire was too personal for Manavi.

“It could have been me if I was still at home,” she said. “It really broke my heart and I thought ‘This has to change’, we want our freedom back.”

Mahsa Manavi, 21, was heartbroken when she learned that a young woman her age had been arrested and died in police custody. (Isha Bhargava/CBC)

Manavi believes the women protesting in Iran are showing the government that Iranian citizens have had enough and want to control their own bodies, she said.

Amini’s death sparked widespread protests both nationally and globally calling for a change in the country’s hijab laws. Some women in Iran refuse to wear the hijab in public. Similar protests have taken place in Canadian cities, including Calgary and Montreal.

Protesters holding signs of Mahsa Amini say her name has become a symbol of women’s freedom in Iran. (Isha Bhargava/CBC)

A call to action

A common thread in the protest’s reasoning is to demand change from Ottawa.

“The governments of the world must stop interfering with the Iranian government and trying to please it. For 40 years, the Iranian people have suffered, while foreign governments try to appease them,” Akbari added.

Bahram Zardosht, 19, believes the fight for freedom is more important than ever, especially for the younger generation of Iranians. He felt shock and disgust upon learning of Amini’s death, he said.

Bahram Zardosht, 19, said the protest represents the struggle for freedom of Iran’s young generation. (Isha Bhargava/CBC)

“My friends, young men and women in Iran don’t live, it’s so frustrating for me because I can’t do much from Canada,” he said.

“Mahsa’s death was like a trigger for all of us young people who thought if they kept quiet it would keep happening.”

Iranian police said last Thursday that Amini, who was arrested on September 13, was taken to hospital after allegedly having a heart attack while in police custody.

Iranian authorities said they would open an investigation to determine the cause of his death.


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