“What’s Happening in Iran?” Discussion Hosted by MSA and Others Campus Organizations 

By Jilleen Barrett, Features Editor/Managing editor

The Muslim Student Association, the Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center, the Holocaust and Genocide Interfaith Center and Campus Ministry & Social Action hosted an event called “What’s Happening in Iran?” this past week. The event, which attracted many audience members, was held to inform students about the revolution that was sparked after Mahsa (Jina) Amini passed away while detained for not wearing a hijab, a head covering often worn by Muslim women.

Wafa Quhshi, the president of the Muslim Student Association, opened the event by reminding the audience that Islam as a religion is separate from any governmental regulations.

“No woman should be forced to wear a headscarf nor denied the right to wear a headscarf,” Quhshi said. “Islam has given us an ideal code of human rights. Those rights aim to confer honor and dignity and eliminate injustice, exploitation and oppression.”

Evelyn Scaramella, Ph.D., Pamela Chasek, Ph.D., Mehnaz Afridi, Ph.D. and Conor Reidy were the panelists for this event. They started by showing a YouTube video by Al Jazeera English entitled “Iran Protests: Mahsa Amini’s Death,” which explained that 22-year-old Amini was allegedly arrested by morality police for dressing inappropriately while on vacation with her family on Sept. 13, 2022, because she was not wearing a hijab.

Women in Iran are now being mandated to wear the hijab, and those who choose not to are sent to a reeducation class like Amini was. Sometime after being taken to this class, Amini passed away. Authorities claim she died due to a heart attack before she fell into a coma and suffered from a second heart attack. Her family believes this is not true, and that Amini was abused by police.

Once the backstory was laid out, Chasek explained the political background of the case. She said that up until 1979, the country was progressing in terms of women’s rights. However, a revolution began in order to take the Shah out of power as he was seen as an “American puppet,” Chasek said.

Chasek explained that the protests Amini’s death sparked are not the first of their kind, and that since the 90s, women have been protesting the law that they must wear the hijab as well as other laws that were enacted over time after the revolution.

“There have been numerous accounts of women rising trying to challenge these laws and to express their, you know, calling for their rights,” Chasek said. “And so over time, women have photographed themselves without the headscarf, they’ve posted videos online. Social media has been a very big part of this, rap music has been a very big part of this. And so, in this case, this has been the one of the longest protests that we’ve seen.”

Afridi’s role on the panel was to explain the religious aspects of the protests. She said that only three countries currently require women to wear the hijab: Iran, Sudan and Saudi Arabia. However, wearing it is ultimately a religious choice in the faith.

“We want to be careful about how we see Islam, specifically in this instance … the hijab is certainly a choice,” Afridi said. “Modesty is required of both males and females. However, the hijab is a choice in Islam, and in the Quran, as well.”

Afridi mentioned the way Islam is seen because of what Quhshi touched on earlier in the event; that the Muslim faith is not a form of oppression in and of itself.

“The religion isn’t the problem,” Quhshi told The Quadrangle after the event. “The political part — that’s the problem.”