Fearless chants and mournful blue tears painted West Hollywood Park this Thursday at a candlelight vigil dedicated to Mahsa Amini. Protestors gathered in their all-white armor, colorful signs with words such as “Women, Life, Freedom” in hand, to pay tribute to Amini and join in the global cry for governmental change.
Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, died in the custody of Iran’s “morality police” on September 22 after being charged for breaking the Iranian government’s hijab rules. The authorities claim she had a heart attack, but according to witnesses she was severely beaten and her cousin says her death was caused by “a violent blow to the head.”
Amini’s death was the catalyst for a revolutionary movement that has sparked a hunger strike for change: Iranians have taken to the streets to protest and countries around the world have followed suit in solidarity.
The night included speakers and musical performances before preceding to a communal march through the streets surrounding the park. Mariam Khosravani, the Founder and President of the Iranian American Women Foundation, was one of the speakers at the vigil.
“We need to take our emotion and turn it into action,” Khosravani said. “Maybe for the first time, the world is watching and listening.”
Social media feeds are exploding with posts and hashtags, tweets, and stories, in an attempt to get everyone informed on what’s happening in Iran. Immigrants have their eyes glued to the death count, watching it spiral upwards in horror. Despite their individual stories, however, Iranians and passionate advocates from near and far have gathered to unify in this fight.
“It’s so nice to see so many people here fighting for the same thing, wanting the same thing,” Jessie, a protestor from Monrovia with family in Iran, said. “And it’s also amazing as we’re walking around the block having people standing by and rooting for us, and feeling like there’s some solidarity in the community as well.”
Jessie hasn’t been able to reach her loved ones in Iran due to the government’s internet shutdown but finds strength in the knowledge that she is not alone in this difficult feeling. Fellow attendees like Navid, an L.A. local whose mother is currently in Iran, relate to not being able to reach loved ones amidst such strong political turmoil.
While the generation of Iranian immigrants who left following the 1979 Islamic Revolution have experienced radical political outcries, many young Iranians have not lived to see such a degree of rebellion. Mojean, a protestor born in Australia who now resides in the U.S., shared his inspiration in witnessing this passion for change.
“I’ve never in my young years experienced so much uprising and unity,” Mojean said. “I think it’s very important, and it is happening that Iranians from all backgrounds, Jews, Bahais, Muslims, Christians, non-religious, unite for this cause because a free Iran is an Iran for everyone.”
Mojean also shared that despite his identity as a man and global citizen, he found himself more moved than he anticipated during the event.
Today, protestors in Iran continue to fight for a new reality at the cost of their lives. Death tolls rise every day with social media shares, blood-red painted signs, and screams all calling for a better tomorrow.
“Until there’s change, you don’t really know where it’s going,” Navid said.
For now, women everywhere hold their breath, waiting to finally end years of violence and oppression.
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