Students Hold Vigil and Protest in Response to Iran Humanitarian Crisis

Jules Brütsch / The Triton

Members of the Persian American Student Association (PASA) at UC San Diego held a protest on November 22 to raise awareness about the current humanitarian crisis in Iran. Participants gathered on Library Walk with signs and flyers, bringing awareness to protests in Iran.

According to Al Jazeera, on November 15 tens of thousands of protesters across Iran took to the streets in response to cuts in gas price subsidies and the rollout of a rationing scheme. The Iranian government reacted by placing nearly the entire country under an internet blackout.

PASA members carried signs such as “Student activists are being arrested” and “Over 200 killed,” while speaking with students and handing out flyers about the Iranian protests.

Parham Pahlevani, a pre-law student and member of PASA, told The Triton that since the internet was shut down, it has been difficult to gain insight into the full extent of the government’s response to the protests. On Monday, Amnesty International reported that there have been at least 208 unlawful killings in response to the largely peaceful protests.

“These protesters were peaceful; the first few days they were handing flowers to the police officers, and then the third day the government started killing the protesters,” said Pahlevani.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who came out in support of the gas price hike, called the protesters “thugs” and accused foreign enemies of fueling the unrest. The United Nations called on the Iranian government to end the excessive use of force and uphold the protesters’ right to organize.

“The protesters are so brave to go out on the streets and risk their lives for basic human rights,” said a PASA member who requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation from the Iranian government. “We’re just trying to raise awareness as much as possible about what’s going on in Iran.”

The hike in oil prices is intended to increase cash handouts to combat poverty and soften the blow of U.S. economic sanctions following U.S. President Donald Trump’s unilateral exit of the 2015 Nuclear Deal. President Trump has tweeted about the protests in Iran, criticizing the Iranian government for its internet shutdown.

In addition to November’s campus protest, PASA organized a vigil on the evening of November 21, in observance of the citizens that were killed by the government during the protests. Everyone who attended embraced one another in a moment of silence, followed by a group circle and the singing of the Iranian national anthem.

“We are here today because of the recent activities happening in Iran,” Pahlevani explained. “The government has been shooting protesters; in five days, over 200 people have been killed.”

Pahlevani told The Triton that PASA felt obligated to speak out about what’s happening to raise awareness as the Iranian people are not able to do it themselves.

Pahlevani emphasized, “This is the least we can do, as Iranian Americans, or as any human being. We feel like it’s our responsibility to say something.”

Since the November protest at UCSD, internet service in Iran was restored and videos of clashes between protesters and state security forces have surfaced online.

Jules Brütsch is a Staff Writer for The Triton. You can follow her at @BruetschJules.