Credit: Annabelle Fagans / Mustang News

On Wednesday, Nov. 30, students gathered on Dexter Lawn, joining a network of more than 150 universities participating in a global rally for Iran.

The rally was sparked by the recent death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman from Iran’s Kurdistan region.

Iran’s religious “morality police” arrested her for not wearing the hijab in accordance with government standards — too loosely and showing some hair.  

Although police claim Amini died after falling ill and slipping into a coma, witnesses claim her death stemmed from police brutality. 

Soon after news broke of her death on Sept.16, protests swept across Iran and worldwide.

Gabrielle Downey | Mustang News

An organization called Iranian Scholars for Liberty organized Wednesday’s global rally, tying together the pockets of protests and activism that have been seen at campuses across the world in support of the Iranian people. 

Iranian Scholars for Liberty is a collection of over 200 faculty, students, alumni and staff representing 76 institutions in the United States, 22 in Canada and one in Mexico. They have a list of short and long-term goals, but operate with the overall desire to spread awareness and to achieve rights for the people of Iran.

But this wasn’t the first time Cal Poly students have taken action against the violence in Iran.

Iranian Student Cultural Organization persistently works to raise awareness among Cal Poly students

Following the death of Amini, Iranian Student Cultural Organization (ISCO) published a statement on behalf of concerned students, encouraging Cal Poly faculty and staff to stay up to date on events in Iran and support their Iranian students and coworkers. the student body with a message that recognized the need to spread the word and stay up to date on events in Iran.  

“The number one way we can help here in the United States is to continue spreading awareness to ensure the voices in Iran do not become silenced,” The students said in the statement.

ISCO is a non-religious, student organization dedicated to hosting Iranian social and cultural activities, with the goal of fostering friendship and appreciation of their culture.

Business administration senior Hanna Zahabi helped organize an on-campus protest on Nov. 10 as a member of Cal Poly ISCO for the past four years. 

Zahabi decided to plan a protest to engage students on campus and take action. After researching the legal rights of hosting a protest on campus, she created a graphic to share with the people she knew.

“Seeing as this is my last quarter at Cal Poly, I hope to get ISCO’s help to take over holding events to spread awareness to everyone on our campus,” Zahabi said.

The Dean of Students contacted Zahabi the night before and they were able to plan a route for the protest.

“As an Iranian American woman, planning a protest on our campus felt like the bare minimum I can do to spread awareness while the women in Iran are putting their lives on the line for the 9th week in a row,” Zahabi said.

Zahabi mentioned that she spent some time working on posters that morning because she was anticipating a lot of people in attendance. Despite these efforts, she said she felt a little frustrated with bystanders of the protest. 

“As we walked this route around campus, I did not see many people interested in what we were doing,” Zahabi said.

Instead, people would read the signs, look confused or simply turn their heads the other way. With the positive reactions, head nods and claps from passersby, along with her hard work and the protesters passing out flyers, Zahabi felt satisfied with the amount of awareness brought to campus and was eager to continue spreading awareness.

The events that have had a major impact on Iranian students and faculty around campus seemed to have minimal impact on the remaining campus population, according to Zahabi. 

“It should also be impacting anyone who agrees with the slogan ‘Women, Life, Freedom,’” she said. “Anyone who believes in women’s rights. Anyone who believes in separation of church and state. Anyone who believes in human rights.”

Zahabi reflected on Amini’s death in relation to her own Iranian family.

“The death of Mahsa and many other young women in Iran makes me think of my relatives who experienced similar things in 1979, it makes me worried about my relatives there right now, and it has made me hopeful for a Free Iran that I can visit in the future,” she said.

Zahabi hopes that Cal Poly students become encouraged to advocate for such causes and spread awareness for the sake of their friends, family, classmates, professors and coworkers.

She said the movement is best followed on social media due to the internet access restrictions in Iran. She suggests following @middleeastmatters on Instagram, following various related hashtags and attending ISCO events. 

After months of global protests, Iran’s regime announced that it would abolish the morality police. But authorities were still reviewing the law requiring women to cover their bodies and hair, the New York Times reported.

“The best way to support is to make sure the voices in Iran are not silenced,” Zahabi said.

Update, Dec. 6: This article was updated to clarify Mahsa Amini was not an activist.