“It started with her name”: Mahsa Amini 

University holds vigil to honor Iranian woman

Pictured: Event attendee standing outside MSSC listening to the speakers at the vigil for the women in Iran. PHOTO CREDIT: Maddie Bataille | Photo Editor

The people of Iran have been protesting their government for just shy of two weeks, according to an NPR article published Monday morning. 

On Tuesday, the University of Rhode Island hosted a vigil to show support to the Iranian community and honor the life of Mahsa Amini. 

Hosts of the vigil singing in honor of Mahsa Amini and lives lost in protests following her death.

Amini was a young woman who was taken forcefully from her brother’s side by the morality police in Iran, according to URI graduate student and one of the hosts of the event, Parisa Rafiee. 

The police detained Amini for wearing her headscarf incorrectly. A few hours later, she was admitted to the hospital in a comatose state. 

Witness reports say she was brutally beaten over the head by the police. She was pronounced braindead with severe head trauma. 

Amini’s death gave rise to the protests against the Iranian regime. Calling for her justice, the people of Iran were met with violence by the police who opened fire on protesters. 

While the protests in Iran started with Amini, it has turned into protesting against the entire government, according to Rafiee.

“It started with her name,” Rafiee said, “but it’s much more than that, people are protesting the regime.”

The vigil, entitled “Women, Freedom, Life,” spoke out against the oppression of the women in Iran and stood in solidarity with the Iranian community at URI. 

Two community members hold hands during the vigil.

“We are not our government and we don’t want that government,” Rafiee said.

During the vigil, it was discussed that the people want to be seen as more than their wars, but their culture, their songs, their food and to let their women free with flowing hair as they please. 

President Marc Parlange was invited to speak to the students. He said he knows what it feels like to feel far away from home and encourages the URI community to support your neighbors. 

Members of the URI Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies set up the “Women, Freedom, Life” vigil outside the MSSC.

“Obviously, global conflicts are happening around the world,” Parlange said. “We have to just recognize that our University is very international and that we want to be respectful and supportive.”

The director of URI’s Multicultural Student Services Center, Jean Nsabumuremyi, said it is important to hold events like the vigil to gain knowledge on what is happening to others. 

“It’s so critical that you understand that we all come from different places,” Nsabumuremyi said. “We are all one community supporting the Iranian community.”

Students who came to the vigil said that awareness is a big part of feeling supported on campus. 

Two attendees hug following the speeches at the vigil.

Rafiee said the fight between the citizens of Iran and their government is not easy, probing the question ‘where should we turn to?’

“If someone kills someone else, you go to the police,” Rafiee said. “If the police kill someone, you go to the government, but if the government does that, then where should you go?” 

She said, “So we are calling the world.”

Attendee Mohammad Behzadi said that knowing about international affairs can help understand how your state interacts with the world. 

Behzadi explained that calling on representatives, senators and governors to stop supporting the Iranian government is crucial. 

 “This is the only way that probably you can help us,” Behzadi said. “But if we can get rid of the Islamic regime, that would be beneficial to all over the world, all the countries and you probably have much more peaceful places in the world.”

If you want to take action… 

Contact RI senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse.

Contact RI representatives David N. Cicilline and James R. Langevin. Contact Governor Dan McKee here.