Chants of defiance echoed through downtown Calgary on Wednesday night as hundreds of members of the Iranian community came together to protest the death of a young woman in Iran.
Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman, died last week while in police custody. According to reports on social media, Amini was detained by the so-called "morality police" after officers apparently took issue with the way she wore her hijab.
Her death sparked worldwide protests, outrage and a global call for change in the country.
"We're here to say that we exist, be aware of what's going on … we cannot afford to be ignorant, we cannot afford to be indifferent," said Sara Kani, an Iranian-Canadian who was at the protests in Calgary.
"We may be here with very different opinions about politics, religion, all those things, but here, we've got one thing in common — we're infuriated by what is going on in Iran," she said.
According to reports on social media, Amini was detained by the so-called "morality police" after officers apparently took issue with the way she wore her hijab.
The hijab has been compulsory for women in Iran since after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and members of the morality police enforce the strict dress code.
Police said last Thursday that Amini, who was arrested on Sept. 13, was taken to a hospital after she allegedly had a heart attack while in custody.
Pro-reform news websites quoted her uncles as saying she had no history of heart disease.
Khani Ghaffari, who organized the protest in Calgary, says he doesn't believe the police account of the events.
"This is not the first case. They have done this many, many times from 40 some years ago," he said.
"So many people have been innocently killed in the prison with wrong accusations. That's absolutely wrong."
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He's hopeful that Amini becomes a symbol for unity and a catalyst for change.
"I think our message to the Canadian leaders is that they should condemn the Iranian regime, because of the brutality that the regime is doing against its own people," Ghaffari said.
"And we want the leaders of the Canadian government, when they are dealing with the Iranian regime, to consider the human rights violation by the Islamic Republic."