CMU students support women's rights at march for Mahsa Amini

Protestors march for Mahsa Amini and women's rights in Iran, Wednesday Oct. 26, around CMU's campus.

On Oct. 26, chants of “say her name” and “women, lives, freedom” resounded on Central Michigan University’s campus as over 100 people attended a march in support of Mahsa Amini and women of Iran. 

Amini was a 22-year-old Iranian woman who was arrested, tortured and killed by the Iranian police for wearing her hijab incorrectly. Her death sparked protests in Iran and all over the world.

Inspired by the protests that were fueled in Iran, people all over the world have united to stand against the Iranian government to support women’s rights. 

The march was organized by CMU students. Arya Tavakoulnia is a sophomore in the College of Medicine. He had the idea to hold the march. 

Medical student Arya Tavakoulnia speaks at 'March for Mahsa Amini and the women of Iran, Wednesday Oct. 26 in front of Warriner Hall. Tavakoulnia and Kiara Timmerman organized the event.

People at the march were a voice for the voiceless, Tavakoulnia said. 

Tavakoulnia said he has a family in Iran from his father’s side. He said when the internet in Iran was shut down, he hadn’t had a chance to speak to his family.  

“Once I found out about (Amini's) story, and once I found out that my relatives are a part of this now, I knew that I had to do something,” Tavakoulnia said. 

Tavakoulnia reached out to his classmates first he said. 

A friend of Tavakoulnia who helped him organize the march, Kiara Timmerman, also studies in the College of Medicine. She is in her second year of studying to be a physician and is a chair of the Student Diversity Committee (SDC) in the college. 

“One of the biggest things is – I think a lot of us forget how important our voices are here,” Timmerman said, “and how far our voices spread when we put them to use for really important events.” 

Timmerman said the goal of the march was to spread awareness and help women of Iran fight for their freedom.

“We see them,” Timmerman said, “and we support them.” 

Protesters of all types come together at the march for Iranian women's rights, Wednesday Oct. 26, on CMU's campus.

President Bob Davies attended the event said that he was there to support students. Davies encouraged CMU students to be global citizens, be active and do research on the things happening in the world. 

Taylor Idema, president of the Student Government Association, joined the march. She said Tavakoulina and Timmerman reached out to SGA to help spread awareness of the march, and a lot of members were there to support the event.

“We are very excited to be here to support women of Iran and women all over the world,” Idema said. “It’s a great turn out – I am very encouraged by that. It’s awesome to see so many different groups coming together.” 

Sina and Yasna are students from Iran. They asked that their full names not be included in this article to protect their family in Iran. Sina is studying mechanical engineering, and Yasna is a doctoral student. 

Both said they grew up in Iran, and they know the pain of the dictatorship. Yasna said she starts the day with following the news.

Yasna said said girls like her are fighting for their freedom and “are killed just because of having a normal life.” 

Sina said it's the least they can do to support their people, women and country by joining the march. 

“(The world) has to know how strong our women in Iran are, like my wife,” Sina said.

“We have many intelligent people in our country and I hope there are going to be more opportunities for them to come here, to study and get a job,” Yasna said. 

Tavakoulnia encouraged people to go on social media, find out about the movement and repost the stories.

He also cited the Iranian government's treatment of competitive climber Elnaz Rekabi as a symbol for protests. Some news sources, including Fox News and The Guardian, have published reports that the Iranian government has placed Rekabi under house arrest for competing without a hijab in South Korea.

“Social media is the catalyst,” he said. “It is the fire that’s going to fuel this flame and we need everybody to just keep posting and do not stop talking about it.” 

Tavakoulnia asked CMU students to spread awareness about protests in Iran and he hopes other colleges in Michigan would pick up the movement. 

“I was very thankful that everybody came out to support (the march),” Timmerman said. “They were so fantastic and willing to come out through the cold and possible rain. It was really great to see all the support we had for this movement.” 

Timmerman encouraged students on campus who are passionate about diversity and equality to not hesitate to start something like the march.  

“It only took two people and we made all this happen,” Timmerman said. 

Protesters cheer Arya Tavakoulnia as he concludes his speech and march, Wednesday Oct. 26, in front of Warriner Hall.