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Bruins rally for Iranian women in International Women’s Day march

(Ethan Manafi/Daily Bruin staff)

By Emily Rusting

March 9, 2023 11:27 p.m.

Dozens of Bruins and protesters gathered in front of Royce Hall on Wednesday to denounce discrimination against women and political oppression in Iran.

The event – organized by the Iranian Student Group at UCLA, Iranian Scholars for Liberty and Persian fraternity Sigma Pi Beta – was organized to amplify Iranian women’s voices and bring international attention to their repression, said Paria, a fourth-year cognitive science major and president of ISG, who requested to remain anonymous for safety reasons.

Rallies took place around the world Wednesday in recognition of International Women’s Day, with many condemning the repression of women in Iran.

Widespread protests against the Iranian government began in September after Iran’s morality police, which has since been disbanded, killed 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, also known by her Kurdish name, Jina, after detaining her for allegedly wearing her hijab incorrectly.

Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi directed the morality police to crack down on violations of Iran’s headscarf laws when he came to power in July. Almost 4,000 women have been arrested in Iran since September for participating in mass demonstrations condemning violence, discrimination and gas poisonings targeted toward women and girls.

The event began with a march to Bruin Plaza, with demonstrators chanting, “Woman, life, freedom” and “Justice for Iran.” Ralliers gathered in the plaza to sing protest songs before presenting a series of speeches from local Iranian American activists and elected officials.

Human rights attorney Sara Seyed spoke to the crowd and said she admired the bravery of Iranian youth at the forefront of the movement who have been poisoned, tortured and killed for resisting the government.

“The world deserves to be inspired by those young girls whose day it is today … who have circumvented every oppressive measure and risked their lives to bring us the truth,” Seyed said in her speech.

Medalion Rahimi, an actress and producer, said in a speech that she believes that protesters in democratic countries such as the United States have a duty to uplift the voices of women in Iran, where women’s freedom of expression is highly restricted.

In her speech, West Hollywood mayor Sepi Shyne called on the protesters to express solidarity with other marginalized communities and encourage their elected officials to cut ties with the Iranian government.

Both Shyne and activist Yasmine Aker connected the woman-led revolution in Iran to the continuing worldwide struggle for women’s rights in the context of International Women’s Day.

“We will not be complicit in the oppression of our sisters, and we will not rest until women in Iran and all over the world are granted freedom and dignity,” Aker said.

(Christine Kao/Daily Bruin staff)
Protesters march down Bruin Walk during the rally. Speakers at the event advocated for support of women in Iran. (Christine Kao/Daily Bruin staff)

Iranian Americans from across Los Angeles participated in the demonstration. Niki Jazayeri, a third-year student at California State University, Northridge, said she came to the protest hoping to amplify Iranian women’s voices and garner attention from the media.

Sara Sangari, a third-year political science student and a member of Sigma Pi Beta, said the rally was not only a way to bring attention to the oppression of Iranian women, but also a celebration of their tenacity.

“It’s so important to showcase our culture, what we stand for and just how strong we are as Iranian women,” Sangari said.

The rally concluded two hours later with an original protest song written and performed by Farnaz Michelle, an Iranian American actress and singer.

Paria said she hoped UCLA’s prominence as a world-renowned institution would strengthen the voices of women advocating for human rights under the Iranian government by directing worldwide attention to their cause.

“UCLA is not just a national school. It’s a global school,” she said. “We need to use the power that we have.”

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Emily Rusting
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