Around 50 Harvard affiliates gathered on the steps of Widener Library on Friday to stand in solidarity with women in Iran, where protests have erupted in recent weeks after Zhina Mahsa Amini died in police custody.
Amini, 22, died on Sept. 16 at a hospital in Tehran after she was arrested by Iran’s “morality police” for allegedly breaking the country’s hijab rules. Her family says she was beaten in police custody and died after suffering blows to the head.
Iranian authorities deny wrongdoing, but the country has erupted in unrest in recent weeks, with many women burning their hijabs in protest of the Iranian government.
“Iranians are asking us, the international community, to be their voice, to amplify them, and to stand with them,” Saba Mehrzad ’25, an organizer of the rally, said during a speech at the event.
The protest was organized by Mehrzad, Tarina K. Ahuja ’24, Alaha A. Nasari ’24, and Dina M. Kobeissi ’24, who all spoke at the rally, alongside other faculty and students.
The crowd on the Widener steps chanted “women, life, freedom” in both English and Persian.
Ahuja said the goal of the rally was “to be in solidarity” with women in Iran and provide them a platform on Harvard’s campus.
“The women in Iran, they are leading a revolution. They don’t need the U.S. or us to save them, they need a platform,” Ahuja said. “They need to be amplified because they’re the ones that are just truly putting their actual lives on the line, so the least that we can do is be there with them and for them.”
The protests in Iran are some of the largest in years.
“I think the power of social media allowed us to really spread [the rally] and to get different people and communities involved in the organizing and in coming today,” Kobeissi said.
In interviews after the event, Nasari and Kobeissa said they organized the rally to protest government restrictions on women, emphasizing the difference between state policies and the religion of Islam.
“I really want people to see that this is not an issue of Islam — this is not the religion that they portray it to be — and I think that is such a common misconception that people in the West are still battling today,” Nasari said.
“A veil does not have any symbolic meaning on its own — it’s when you put it on willingly that it becomes your hijab,” Kobeissi said.
Ahuja said “solidarity is the most important part of” Friday’s demonstration.
“When we show up for each other, we’re unstoppable,” she said.
—Staff writer Ella L. Jones can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @ejones8100.