Demonstrators in B.C. vow solidarity with protesters in Iran as unrest continues

A student identified as D.D. cuts off her hair in protest to the recent death of Iranian Mahsa Amini — who died while being held by Iran's morality police — is pictured during a protest at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. on Friday. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
A student identified as D.D. cuts off her hair in protest to the recent death of Iranian Mahsa Amini — who died while being held by Iran's morality police — is pictured during a protest at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. on Friday. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

The death of a young Iranian woman in police custody has sparked protests in Iran and around the world, including in British Columbia.

Mahsa Amini, 22, died last week following her arrest by Iran's morality police for "unsuitable attire" after she allegedly wore a hijab improperly.

Her death unleashed a nationwide flood of protests over human rights, security and an economy reeling from international sanctions. Iranian state TV suggested the death toll from the unrest could be as high as 26, without offering details.

Iranian police have denied mistreating Amini and claim she died of a heart attack. The country's authorities say they are investigating.

At Simon Fraser University's Burnaby campus on Friday, dozens gathered in solidarity with Iranians upset over Amini's death.

Attendees held signs that read "Stand with the women of Iran" and "No justice, no peace."

One protester, identified as D.D., cut off her hair, mirroring scenes of Iranian women who have cut their hair and burned their hijabs.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Parisa Moshfegh said international rallies are critical to shine a light on the bravery of Iranians who are taking to the streets at great personal risk.

Moshfegh, who moved to Canada from Iran three years ago, says she knows too well the conditions that sparked protests.

"I was taken by the morality police three times myself," she said. "I saw suppression every day, belittling of women every day."

Moshfegh says protesters in Iran face real danger, noting that 2019 protests over a rise in the state-controlled price of gasoline claimed more than 1,500 lives.

Iran has also disrupted internet access, according to internet traffic monitor Netblocks, and tightened restrictions on popular platforms used to organize rallies, like Instagram and WhatsApp.

Moshfegh has been following the protests as closely as she can, on edge as she worries about family and friends in Iran.

"You see people [close] to you going on the streets, you're just like, 'Please be careful' or 'Don't go,' but at the same time you want this movement to continue, you want ... once and for all for this regime to end."

Rafferty Baker/CBC
Rafferty Baker/CBC

Friday's protest came after a rally in downtown Vancouver on Monday. Another protest is scheduled for Sunday afternoon outside the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Protests have also taken place in Kelowna and Victoria with another slated for Prince George this weekend.

The local Iranian community says it will continue to raise awareness about the unfolding crisis.

"How many people should die just for having basic human rights?" Iranian Canadian Sahra Hakkakpour said.

"Today it's Mahsa, some other day it's going to be some other innocent woman."