Last Thursday at lunch, the M-A Middle Eastern Group of Students Club (MEGOS Club) took to the Green to raise awareness for the death of Mahsa Amini and the subsequent protests in Iran.
Club Presidents, seniors Parsa Zaheri and Datis Hoghooghi, operated a small table with informative posters and pamphlets about the recent protests. The club prepared extensive pamphlets documenting the issue and passed them out to curious students.
Protests began after the death of Mahsa Amini, an Iranian woman, on September 16th. Iranian police took her into custody for removing her headscarf and chanting “death to the dictator.” She died in custody three days later. Since her funeral on September 17th, the movement has spread to 80 cities across Iran. Women have been publicly burning veils in the street, demonstrating both their outrage at her death and their desire to fundamentally change the system under which they are forced to live.
According to the Iran Human Rights group, the death toll of protestors has risen to 141 as of October 25th. BBC has reported that commanders have been seen ordering riot police officers to “not pity the protesters and shoot them.” Over 12,500 protestors have been arrested and sent to major detention centers or to small police stations and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) centers. According to an article published by BBC, in some cases officials locked over 80 women in small confinement rooms, where security officers might threaten physical or sexual assault. About ten percent of women have been released without charge, and the rest got out on bail.
However, protests are not new to Iranian women. Before the Iranian Revolution in 1979, women were largely allowed to dress how they pleased. But, when Khomeini took control on March 7th of that year, he announced that all women must wear hijabs. The following day, which happened to be International Women’s Day, tens of thousands of women removed their hijab and marched in protest. These Iranian citizens are determined to see a change in their government after 44 years of the Islamic Republic. However, this is easier said than done, as the government would have to change their political ideology when many might not be ready for such a change.
Zaheri explained, “The Middle Eastern Group of Students Club planned this as an awareness event for the global protests that sparked after the death of Msha Amini in Iran. As the only Middle Eastern culture club on campus, we felt obligated to make the M-A student body more aware of what’s going on.”
MEGOS is a new club on campus this year. Co-presidents Luke Hanna, Datis Hoghooghi, and Parsa Zaheri founded the club to increase the representation of Middle Eastern culture in the community. Hoghooghi explained the reasoning for making the club, saying, “We realized how important it would be to have a cultural affinity club for all Middle Eastern students.”
Seniors Sufie Sheikh-Bahaei and Kiana Gholamy were also operating the table. Sheikh-Bahaei explained, “We’ve talked about a Middle Eastern student group or club since freshman year, so we were really excited to see it become a reality this year. M-A celebrates a lot of Latin American culture, which is great, but I wish that we celebrated more Middle Eastern culture, like Persian New Year, as well.”
With regard to the protests, Gholamy said, “It’s super difficult for us to have a direct impact, but by raising awareness, we are doing a lot because the Iranian government censors a lot of things.” Sheikh-Bahaei added, “There are a lot of active groups in the Bay Area that do have more direct impacts. My parents went to some protests at Berkeley and San Francisco, and they started a GoFundMe that raised $3000.”
“MEGOS is open to all kinds of students that want to learn about Middle Eastern culture,” Zaheri said. You can learn more about the death of Masha Amini here.