The implications of Mahsa Amini’s death for McMaster’s Iranian Students
McMaster University has taken steps to memorialize Mahsa Amini but has not mandated accommodations for Iranian students
On Sept. 16, 22 year old Iranian resident Mahsa Amini died tragically, sparking protests around the world regarding the circumstances of her death and the treatment of women by Iran’s morality police.
After being arrested by morality police on Sept. 13 in Tehran for wearing her hijab improperly, Amini was taken to a re-education center where she collapsed. She was then transferred to the hospital where she died three days later. Authorities claim Amini’s death was due to a heart attack. Amini’s father claims authorities lied about the cause of his daughter’s death. Eyewitnesses support her father’s claim, saying she was beaten repeatedly by officers in the patrol car before being taken away.
Signs reading “Say her name: Mahsa Amini” appeared on McMaster University campus near the path running behind Hamilton Hall and were accompanied by scarves and paper chains. This initiative was led by Iranian student Roya Motazedian, who felt the need to commemorate Mahsa Amini and stand with the protesters in Iran.
“I was just filled with a lot of anger and kind of this feeling that I can’t sit still like I need to do something, especially since a lot of people in Iran are putting their lives on the line going out. . . what I decided I could do at that time was make use of the McMaster space,” said Motazedian.
Another way Amini has been commemorated on campus was at the memorial held by the McMaster Iranian Student Association on Sept. 28 outside of McMaster University Student Centre and Mills Library. MISA Co-President Sara Rafiei spoke about memorial and Amini’s death.
“The majority of people were so interested in learning, non-Iranians were interested in learning more, and then we had a few professors who came and spoke to us and offered support, which really warmed our hearts because for as long as I can remember, it’s always been, in my Iranian view of the world, no one really wanted to hear our voice,” said Rafiei.
As of Oct. 28, at least 270 people have been confirmed dead after taking to the streets to protest Amini’s death. Iran’s military warned protesters of backlash and have taken an aggressive approach in shutting down protesters. MISA executive member Sara Ghasemi said it was difficult to contact loved ones in Iran at the moment due to widespread cut off to internet access and a drop in cellular service in some parts of the country, making it almost impossible for McMaster students to reach their loved ones in Iran.
“Your friends are not responding or family’s not responding . . . it’s mentally draining, I can say for myself. Every day that I wake up, I’m crying. I see the videos and it makes me, apart from the guilt of not being there, it makes [me] feel even more guilty that [I’m] in a safe country,” said Ghasemi.
Co-president of MISA, Lida Nosrati, said that McMaster could further support Iranian students at this time by providing academic accommodations for those affected by the current state of Iran. She said so far, the school had not mandated any accommodations for Iranian students and they have had a difficult time tracking down who would have the authority to grant this request. Nosrati spoke about the struggle to find further accommodations.
“We went to the associate dean, we went to SAS, we went to the Student Wellness Center hoping for a bigger level of accommodation. We want them to reach out to our course instructors to let them know about what’s actually happening and how our whole community at McMaster is really affected,” said Nosrati.
On Oct. 26 protests erupted with a new force in Iran, due to the significance of the fortieth day since Amini’s passing often recognized as a day of remembrance and mourning in Shiite Islam.
“Everyone’s been feeling like the way we felt when it first happened because of how important the 40 day mark is. So I think everyone, even students, are still grieving,” said Motazedian.
Some Iranian students have received individual accommodations, but no widespread relief has been offered by the university. McMaster has encouraged students to utilize the Student Wellness Center, individually reach out to academic advisors for accommodations or book an appointment with International Student Services for additional support.