Hundreds of people gathered in Halifax Saturday in support of the freedom movement in Iran, one of many rallies taking place across the world.
The streets of Iran have been flooded with protests in the last two weeks, since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
Amini died on Sept. 16 while in police custody. She was apprehended in Iran by the country’s morality police for “unsuitable attire,” allegedly wearing a hijab improperly and breaking a strictly enforced dress code.
Iranian officials say that she died of a heart attack and was not mistreated, but Amini’s family casts doubt on that account, and United Nations experts have said reports suggest she was severely beaten.
Atousa Costandi, one of the organizers of Saturday’s rally in Halifax, called Amini’s death “disgusting.” Dozens of protesters in Iran have also been reportedly killed.
“It’s unbelievable (to) kill an innocent girl,” she said. “I feel terrified for all those women in Iran, that they have to go through this. It’s terrifying.”
Costandi is from Iran originally but has been living in Nova Scotia for more than two decades. She said she still has family in Iran, who she is unable to reach due to widespread internet outages.
“I’m worried about them, I’m worried about the whole country. It’s so scary,” she said.
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Halifax was one of 150 cities to organize rallies calling for freedom in Iran.
One of the attendees Saturday was Iranian-born Reza Rahimi, whose mother-in-law, Halifax dentist Shari Faghihi, was killed on a plane shot down by the Iranian military in January 2020.
Rahimi said he was there in solidarity with the people suffering in Iran.
“It’s not like here, where you can just gather in Victoria Park,” said Rahimi. “If they’re in the street, if they go out, they’re going to be arrested by police, and police (are) going to shoot at them.
“So, if I can come here just to tell the Canadian politicians what is happening in Iran, that’s the least I can do for them. They are doing the hard work. They are putting their lives ahead of them.”
Women all over the world have also been cutting their hair in protest as a direct sign of mourning and anger.
Last Thursday, Sophie Hashimi, who also helped organize the rally, cut her locks in front of a crowd of people at Parade Square.
“They are asking for very basic human rights. They want to choose to decide what they wear,” she said of women in Iran. “I don’t want this hair. Just let people be free. That’s it.”
Costandi said the aim of the rally was to provide a voice for people in Iran who are being punished for expressing their opinions, and to pressure the government to impose further sanctions on Iran.
“I want the whole world to know that Iranians in the country, they need help. They need our support,” she said. “They need to know that we’re behind them, and we will get their human rights back for them, hopefully very soon.”