‘Literal war’: Memorial raises awareness about situation in Iran

    A person holds a bouquet of flowers in honour of Mahsa Amini outside Fredericton City Hall on Sept. 23, 2022. (Daniel Salas/AQ)

    Fredericton’s Iranian community held a memorial at Fredericton City Hall Friday, calling for the ceasing of violence in Iran.

    The ceremony was held in honour of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died on Sept. 16 while in custody of the Iranian morality police — a branch that enforces the state’s interpretation of Sharia law. Her death has caused outrage in Iran, sparking protests and demonstrations, according to The Associated Press

    The memorial aimed to bring awareness about women’s rights and police brutality in Iran. During the memorial, organizers gave flowers to attendees and waved signs, denouncing the violence in Iran and the violation of women’s rights. 

    Residents take to the streets of Fredericton, N.B. in honour of Mahsa Amini at a memorial held outside Fredericton City Hall on Sept. 23, 2022. (Daniel Salas/AQ)

    Rashin Basiri, a Persian woman at the memorial who came to Fredericton when she was 26 years old, said she was arrested back in Iran for similar reasons. She said she was taken to the same building Amini was in for interrogations.

    “I feel Mahsa could be me,” she said. “I was in the exact same situation. I don’t know how to express my sadness and my anger.”

    Basiri said even outside of Iran, people who speak up are in danger of retaliation from the Iranian government. Many people at the memorial hid their faces due to fears that they — or their families — could be arrested or killed if they went back home.

    “I’m so furious that even if they kill me, I don’t care. I have to tell my words,” said Basiri.

    Another person, who wished to remain anonymous citing concerns for a family member in Tehran, said she was told the situation was “literal war.” After the Iranian government shut down internet access in parts of Tehran and Kurdistan, she hasn’t heard back from her relative.

    “He was telling me either [he] will come back or [he] will be dead,’” she said.

    As an Iranian-Canadian, she said she appreciates the freedom she has in Canada, but she can’t enjoy it until people from Iran also have it.

    “I feel so selfish when I think about the freedom that I have, which my people don’t have even a [fraction] of this freedom,” she said.

    A person holds a sign in honour of Mahsa Amini outside Fredericton City Hall on Sept. 23, 2022. (Daniel Salas/AQ)

    Shabnam Jabari, an Iranian professor of geodesy and geomatics engineering at the University of New Brunswick, gave a short speech and said she was devastated to hear about Amini’s death.

    “That girl could have been any of my students here,” said Jabari. 

    However, the news did not surprise Jabari, who said this is not the first time this has happened. When she was in Iran, she remembers the state controlling what women could and could not wear.  

    “It might be new to many people around us, but it’s definitely not new to us,” she said. “It’s just a matter of people getting sick of [the Iranian government’s] position of brutality.”

    Both Basiri and Jabari said they want the international community to support the people in Iran. 

    “I want people from all nationalities to be posting about this,” said Basiri. “We are all together in this.”

    With files from Guinevere Santaguida.