Local protests ignite over death of Mahsa Amini


photo courtesy of Soraya Johnson

Junior Soraya Johnson holds posters in support of Iranian women at the local protest outside the Westfield Galleria mall.

Zan, Zendegi, Azadi”

The Farsi phrase, which means “Woman, life, freedom” is echoed by a crowd of more than 100 protesters.

On Sunday Oct. 8, 2022, outside the Galleria Mall protesters carried signs and sang the national anthem of Iran along with other impactful refrains. 

“A general theme of…freeing the women of Iran…(and) help(ing) Iran is the common message (though the chants),” junior Shereen Kazemi, an attendee of the protest, said. 

On Sept. 16, 2022 an incident sparking a revolution for Iranian women’s rights occurred.

Twenty-two year old Mahsa Amini was a Kurdish woman visiting the capital of Iran, Tehran. Amini’s hijab failed to cover a few strands of hair which, in response, the morality police, a police force enforcing the Islamic dress code including a mandatory hijab policy, began to brutally beat her. The government announced that Amini died due to a stroke, but many Iranians believe it was due to the aggression imposed on her. 

In response to Amini’s death, violent protests have taken place with men and women alongside burning hijabs and cutting their hair. 

The 1978 Iranian Revolution overthrew the monarchy and replaced it with the Islamic Republic. Since then women’s rights have been diminishing. Many strict clothing restrictions have been set with the morality police going out of their way to implement it as seen in the recent incident. 

The protests in Iran sparked many global protests including a local one in Roseville at the Westfield Galleria mall. 

Some Granite Bay High School students attended including juniors Soraya Johnson and Shereen Kazemi. 

Similar incidents have happened like Amini’s in the past. 

“What’s really causing it to have an impact now was just like social media, and its ability to spread (information),” Kazemi said. 

There have been over 949,000 posts under #mahsaamini, spreading information and awareness of the situation.

The Iranian government has limited access to popular platforms, preventing many family members from communicating with each other. Many Iranians who do speak out on social media are risking their lives in order to do so.

“There’s a lot of pride for our Iranian sisters and cousins in Iran, because they’re finally…rising up against something incredibly oppressive and powerful,” Johnson said. 

Mixed emotions have risen within many Iranians. Anger has grown towards the regime but at the same time, a sense of fulfillment over initiating their first act of rebellion and change.

Kazemi could see the visual emotions of the different generations at the protest. 

“My mom sees people like Mahsa and…every (Iranian) women can see themselves in her so it’s just really emotional for her.

— junior Shereen Kazemi

“The older generations were… sad that this (is what it) had to come to… (but) our younger (generation were more) angry and patriotic,” Kazemi said.

Many families were able to leave during the 1978 Iranian Revolution including Johnson’s mom. Johnson still has family in Iran. By attending the protests she hopes to do her part in helping amplify Iranian voices in the States. 

“For immigrants who escaped (there is) a certain obligation to try to do everything we can to support our family because we got away and they did not,” Johnson said. 

For Iranian students, these events have impacted them personally seeing their home country be consumed in corruption. 

“I feel as much as I want to visit (Iran and) connect with my culture, it’s just knowing that I feel like I can never go somewhere that does things like this.” Kazemi said.

Through Kazemi’s parents’ personal experience of living in Iran before, looking back at their home has been disheartening for the family. 

“My mom sees people like Mahsa and…every (Iranian) women can see themselves in her so it’s just really emotional for her,” Kazemi said. 

Kazemi who has attended several other protests since, encourages people of all backgrounds to attend them as well as post on social media to raise awareness.