At vigil for Mahsa Amini, Persian Society urges NYU to issue statement

Students and community members mourned the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini and protested against the Iranian government during a vigil held in Washington Square Park on Sept. 29.

Yezen Saadah, Staff Writer

Around 150 people gathered in Washington Square Park to mourn and protest the death of Mahsa Amini — a 22-year-old woman who died after being detained by Iran’s morality police — on Thursday, Sept. 29. Attendees of the vigil organized by NYU’s Persian Cultural Society expressed their frustration that NYU has not yet issued a public statement on Amini’s death, which has sparked protests across the world.

“It shows that the NYU community is in solidarity of Iranian people and the fights they’re doing to take their rights back,” said one of the vigil’s organizers, a Ph.D. student at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences who asked to remain anonymous due to fear of retribution from the Iranian government. “I hope this will make NYU leadership realize that they have to side with the people of Iran pretty soon.”

Amini, an Iranian Kurdish woman, was killed on Sept. 16 in Tehran after being arrested for reportedly not wearing her hijab in accordance with government standards. Amini’s family says officers beat her in a police van after her arrest, citing eyewitnesses who support that claim. Her death sparked protests against gender apartheid and unjust oppression under the Iranian government. Dozens have been killed and hundreds more have been injured while protesting, according to Amnesty International. Women have removed and burned their hijabs, and police have responded with tear gas and arrests in the country’s largest demonstrations against the government since 2009

Protests have erupted across New York City, including one which drew thousands, marching through the park and down Fifth Avenue on Saturday, Oct. 1. During the vigil on Thursday, students, organizers and East Village residents also paid tribute to other Iranian protesters who have been killed during protests, whose pictures were taped to the ground near Washington Square Park’s arch.

“Mahsa Amini’s death was the flame that ignited the years of frustration and anger coming from every Iranian experiencing it daily,” the anonymous student organizer said. “People are protesting very viciously — they are angry, and women are at the forefronts of these protests.”

Throughout the vigil, members of the Persian Cultural Society chanted “Woman. Life. Freedom” — a phrase that originated during the Kurdish independence movement — in Persian and Kurdish. They also played the song “Baraye” by Iranian singer Shervin Hajipour, who was arrested by Iranian police soon after sharing the song online. The song was created in protest against the Iranian government after Amini’s death and gathered millions of views online. 

The vigil also offered a moment of reflection for Iranian American activists who said they were personally affected by her death. 

“I see a lot of myself in Mahsa,” said a Gallatin sophomore and member of the Persian Cultural Society who also requested to remain anonymous. “We’re pretty much the same age, and to think that she was killed for something I do daily is insane to think about.”

Contact Yezen Saadah at [email protected].