From Where We Are

Amidst protests in Iran, USC students find ways to reflect and take action

Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died in the custody of Iranian law enforcement after not wearing her hijab properly has become the subject of Iranian protests.

Candles left at the foot of Tommy Trojan to honor 22-year-old Mahsa Amini

Over the past week, protesters have filled the streets of Iran, following the death and funeral of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after a struggle with Iranian law enforcement after not wearing her hijab properly. Iranian USC students have expressed their concern on the matter.

Mahsa Amini died in the custody of Iranian morality police, who strictly enforce the conservative dress-code of Iranian women. According to the Iranian government, three days after being detained in Tehran for apparently wearing her hijab too loosely, Amina collapsed from a heart attack and died at a hospital in Tehran. Her family, however, has claimed that Amini was beaten in the back of the patrol car while on her way to the detention center. Her death has caused outrage in the country, among people who say Mahsa’s death highlights the decades of discrimination and violence that women in Iran continue to face. Protestors, primarily female, continue to fight for the rights and freedoms of Iranian women. Officially, 41 protesters have died in what has become the largest protest in Iran since the 2019 protest on fuel prices.

The protests have also hit close to home for the Iranian community here at USC. One student, who has asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution, has struggled in dealing with the emotional toll of the events.

ANONYMOUS: It’s, it’s really bad. And I can’t even focus on what I’m doing. I have a lot of deadlines, projects. I have midterms, but I always check my Instagram to see if anyone’s alive. No one died again. And I’m worried about my people in Iran, and I talk with many other students here and all of them have the same feeling about that.

But among the emotional hardships that these events have brought the Iranian people, women have continued to protest by removing their hijabs, cutting off their hair and chanting for women’s liberation.

ANONYMOUS: People in Iran really want to be free, you know? And we don’t want anyone to tell us what should we wear, what should we doing. And we need the support of the other countries. We need the support of countries to help us and be our voice.

Arianna Werner, president of the Persian Student Organization, echoes the same desires for progress and has felt inspired by the Iranian protests, hopeful that they could actually enact change.

ARIANNA WERNER: Iranian women, I think, have always been at the forefront of the fight for their own rights. And it’s very inspiring to see all the protests and the massive movements that have been that are happening right now.

The fire these protests have ignited within Werner has sparked her hope for real, long awaited progress to be made.

WERNER: Seeing the women protest the way that they are is very, for me, it was very inspiring and it’s like, oh my God, maybe things will actually change.

As Werner also highlights, these protests have garnered global attention and media coverage which has helped propel the decades long struggle for freedom into new territories.

WERNER: It’s nice to see people come together and be unified and like, we’re all going to fight for this. We’re all going to. We might be like a world away, but we’re all going to like to do the fight together. And I feel like we’ve had a strong sense of unity.

Solidarity protests have taken place all around the world, including Istanbul, New York, Paris and even a candle light vigil here at USC.