Nfld. & Labrador

'They want the world to hear them': St. John's rally held in solidarity with Iran protests

A crowd of roughly 300 people gathered at the Colonial Building in St. John’s on Saturday in support of protesters in Iran, many of whom are their own friends and relatives.

Rally held in support of protests following death of Mahsa Amini

A protester holds up a sign.
About 300 people gathered in St. John's on Saturday in support of protests in Iran. (Henrike Wilhelm/CBC)

The Iranian community in Newfoundland and Labrador came together for a rally Saturday to show solidarity with the people of the nation.

Following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody on Sept. 16, large-scale protests against the country's morality police have erupted. 

Amini was arrested in Tehran for allegedly failing to wear the hijab in accordance with the country's strict laws governing women.

A crowd of roughly 300 people gathered at the Colonial Building in St. John's on Saturday in support of protesters in Iran, many of whom are their own friends and relatives.

A man stands outside on a sunny day.
Attendee Mohammad Afkani says Iranians are tired of living in fear. (Henrike Wilhelm/CBC)

'She's not the first … and she definitely won't be the last'

Mohammad Afkani, one of the event's attendees, says after decades of brutality, Amini's death was a tipping point.

"There were many Mahsas before in Iran," said Afkani. "She's not the first one. She definitely won't be the last. People are tired of 44 years of the Islamic regime killing people. This corruption should be done. We're tired of this situation."

Afkani, originally from Tehran, is completing a master's degree in physics at Memorial University. He said given the internet shutdown in Iran after Amini's death, he has been unable to speak to his family.

"We don't really know much," said Afkani.

"But [from] the videos and voices that we can see, we know that everyone in Iran, in every city, every village, they are shouting and they want the world to hear them."

Afkani said the goal of the rally was to implore government to impose sanctions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of the Iranian Armed Forces.

"This can be any of us," said Afkani. "Any of my friends, my family. I feel really terrible that I live in this fear that [they] can die any day."

A woman stands in front of a building on a sunny day.
Sheyda says the protests in her home country are about the freedoms that all human beings, not just women, deserve. (Henrike Wilhelm/CBC)

Struggle of Iran's women

Sheyda, another attendee, saw it as an opportunity to support action against what she called a dictatorship in her home country. CBC News agreed to withhold Sheyda's last name over concerns for the safety of her family in Iran.

"Women need freedom," said Sheyda. "All human beings need freedom. In Iran, people want to choose their religion, or anything in their lives. They don't believe that religion, or anything should be mandatory, including the hijab. Especially for women."

Sheyda said deaths like Amini's are all too common, adding that the situation brought about deep grief for all women in her country.

In Iran, Sheyda explained, her father and husband would ask her to ensure she was "properly dressed" before going out in public, so as to not draw the attention of the morality police.

"I really can't say [in a few] sentences what exactly is the experience of the women there or people there," said Sheyda.  "But I can say every day you wake up with fear, with stress, even financially people are under pressure, because every day prices will go up and it doesn't stop. People really feel frustrated [that] they cannot critique or say anything."

"Now, the young generation, they come to the streets," said Sheyda. "They're asking all of the world, 'Please, help us finish this dictatorship.'"

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nick Ward

Reporter

Nick Ward is a journalist with the CBC bureau in St. John's. Email: nick.ward@cbc.ca.

With files from Henrike Wilhelm

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