University of Wisconsin-Madison students from the Persian Student Society (PSS) and members of the Iranian community gathered Wednesday afternoon to join protests over the Iranian government’s treatment of women. Through the Iranian Scholars for Liberty (ISL), over 100 other campuses worldwide held similar protests to spread awareness of the human rights atrocities in Iran.
“Our main goal is to really spread awareness on what is going on in Iran, so people can share and they can spread awareness,” said Borna Riazi, PSS committee member. “This is actually happening at universities around the nation and around the globe.”
Protestors chanted “Say Her Name” and “woman, life, freedom” to raise awareness about Mahsa Amini’s death after she was in police custody due to improperly wearing a hijab.
“‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ is the slogan of our movement. Other than that, we chanted ‘Say Her Name, Mahsa Amini’ whose murder under the custody of the so-called morality police, or the Sharia force, ignited the most recent uprising in Iran,” said an anonymous Iranian student at the protest who will be referred to as Khodanoor. “This chant is also a nod to the BLM movement.”
Members of the campus community also printed images of the murdered protestors in Iran and taped them to the ground near candles and flowers to honor their lives. Flyers from the ISL were handed out to passersby on the cold day at Library Mall.
“The murders in Iran should not be just nameless statistics and numbers,” Khodanoor said. “That is why we printed the faces of some of the victims and lit up candles. The numbers you hear from Iran have faces and names.”
For some Persian students at UW-Madison, the event brought the community together and connected them to the protesters in Iran.
“A lot of us were born and raised in Iran, and we still have families and friends in Iran,” Khodanoor said. “We know what our fellow Iranians are going through. We have been there, and we still want to be a part of the movement.”
The protesters hope other students recognize the importance of the human rights violations in Iran, and take action politically or by spreading awareness of the Iranian government’s actions.
“We want the other students to pay attention to the human rights situation in Iran. Girls in Iran deserve the same rights as the girls in the United States — same for ethnic minorities and the LGBTQ+ community,” Khodanoor said. “We want them to ask their politicians to get involved. There is a lot the Western governments can do in terms of policy.”
Riazi hopes the awareness PSS generated through the demonstration will help to inform other students and encourage them to research the protest movement and uprising in Iran.
“There is definitely a cultural ignorance that surrounds Middle Eastern and Iranian people in the United States, so our main goal is to spread awareness on what is going on in Iran so that people here [at UW-Madison] can spread awareness as well,” Riazi reiterated.
Editor's Note: This article was updated at 1:21 p.m. to change the headline from "Woman, fight, freedom" to "Woman, life, freedom."
Noe Goldhaber is a staff writer for the Daily Cardinal specializing in campus and state news reporting.