Protesters gathered at South Lawn in support of Iranian women on International Women’s Day on Wednesday March 8, as part of a larger global “Campus Rally for Iran.”
Protesters gathered at South Lawn in support of Iranian women’s fight for freedom and equality on International Women’s Day on Wednesday March 8, as part of a larger global “Campus Rally for Iran” organised by Iranian Scholars for Liberty.
Speakers present talked about the harsh treatment Iranian women are subjected to by the “Islamic Republic regime” in their country.
“The Islamic Regime and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] have shown no remorse and no indication of slowing down their crimes against humanity. If anything, their actions are becoming more atrocious and appalling as the world is watching”, said University of Melbourne Iranian Society President Shakiba.
She spoke about the “brave-spirited protesters” fighting oppression in Iran, while asking Australia to take a firm stand against the Islamic Regime.
“It is time for the Australian government to take action in line with the secular, democratic and humanitarian values that Iranian people have been trying to achieve.”
Speakers throughout the rally called out the Australian government for their lack of protection, and demanded further action, such as putting the IRGC on the list of terrorist organisations.
Dr. Minoo Ghamari, a human rights activist, mentioned an attack plotted by the IRGC in Australia two weeks ago, and the unwillingness of the Australian government to prevent it from happening again.
“This organization [IRGC] has threatened and plotted an attack on Australian soil. And our question to our politicians should be: what are you doing? What actions are you taking?”
“We migrated here in a first world country to be safe, first of all.”
Iranian dancer dancing to the English version of the song ‘Baraye’ by Shervin Hajipour, that symbolizes the revolution.
Ek Thaghdir, a Melbourne barrister practicing in family law and Iranian community activist, said these kinds of protests are very important to protect “the infiltration of Australia with an ideology that is actually dangerous”.
When asked about how students at the University of Melbourne could help, Thaghdir said they should use their influence as members of one of Australia’s leading universities to amplify the voices of Iranian women.
“If they become aware of the issue at hand and spread the message, then certainly our politicians will hear that message and take note.”
Shiva Nouri, a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, and one of the organizers of the protest, said the event was an opportunity to learn and hear from Iranian womens’ stories.
“I want my struggles to be heard and to be seen,” she said.
Despite being a little disappointed with the rally’s small attendance, Nouri said it still sent a strong message. She, and other students present, said they hoped to receive more active support from the University in organizing more events and joining the protests, but that little has happened yet.
Arezo, another PhD student present at the rally, said that active measures such as taking part in protests, organizing more events and increasing public awareness would help significantly in amplifying public pressure.
Arezo also spoke about the ongoing impacts that the repression in Iran had on her mental health.
“I could not find enough time to focus on my studies. I see that my countrymates are suffering. And I’m bombarded with the news: everyday, there is something happening in Iran,” she said.
The news often brings back bad memories for Arezo, as she had been arrested by the Gasht-e-Ershad — Iran’s morality police — multiple times.
Another PhD student, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution, said she thinks the University should be taking more action to support Iranian students and increase recognition. .
“I really hope our voice would be heard, and we feel that support.”
She said that the protest created opportunities to get other people involved, so they know what is going on. “We are amplifying the voices of the people in Iran.”
UMSU Womens Officers Ngaire Bogemann and Alessandra Soliven, who helped organise the event with Iranian Scholars for Liberty,, said it was important because women’s rights remain an international issue.
“It is stuff that resonates with us here; it is gender inequality, it is discrimination against women, non-binary and gender diverse people. It is something that we are fighting here as well”, Soliven said.
Bogemann also pointed out that the events in Iran affect Iranian women every day, even at the University of Melbourne. “They live through that every day, even if they are in Australia, and even if they are coming to uni here.”
When asked if UMSU and the University are looking at other options to support Iranian students, Bogemann and Soliven explained that they believed any further actions should be led by students “who have the most lived experience, who have the most knowledge, and who are personally affected by the issue.”
“Going forward, we plan to work with the organizations we have now created relationships with, to support them and to sort of take their lead going forward; be that further action, or some sort of other change.”