The USC Iranian Student Association wants the university to promote awareness and solidarity for the women of Iran after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman, was killed by morality police in Iran on Sept. 16 for wearing her hijab incorrectly.
Since the killing, protests and demonstrations worldwide have erupted in support of Iranian women’s rights, including two events organized by the Iranian Student Association at USC — one on Greene Street on Sept. 21 and another at the Statehouse on Oct. 4. It is believed that more than 200 people have been killed as of Oct. 15 in protests in Iran, according to PBS News.
The morality police in Iran are a law enforcement sector focused on ensuring women follow Islamic law. This includes wearing the hijab correctly and making sure the entire body is covered in clothing. Some Iranians at USC believe this is a denial of these women's basic human rights.
“I want people to understand that this is a women’s rights issue," a professor at USC who asked to remain anonymous said. "And women’s rights issue in the Middle East is women's rights issue here in the U.S. as well."
According to the association, approximately 50 members of the organization separately emailed university President Michael Amiridis, the office of the provost and others asking for support and for information to be sent to students and faculty about the crisis.
“We reached out to the university, the deans, the provost, everything ... everyone should know what Iranians are going through right now," Elham Jafarigol, a second-year Ph.D. student and president of the Iranian Student Association, said.
USC spokesperson Jeff Stensland said because there are so many requests for statements, "the university rarely issues public statements about unfolding global events."
The university's internationally-focused department at USC, Global Carolina, did email international students on Oct. 4. The email explained the difficulties Iranian students are experiencing and outlined how the Iranian government shut down the internet, so students may be unable to contact their families.
Although the association believes this is a good first step, they wish an email would be sent to all students.
One of the members who sent an email to university leaders, Kaveh Shariati, a fourth-year Ph.D student studying chemical engineering, said he was disappointed when he received the email response from Stensland. Shariati responded by pointing out the extent the university went to support Ukrainians after Russia invaded in February 2022, but he received no response.
He said he believed USC should show the same support to everyone equally.
“All of the students with any nationality are a family of the University of South Carolina,” Shariati said.
Some Iranians at USC said they do not feel completely heard by their fellow students and faculty.
“I haven’t had any friends outside the Iranian community who would come in to show support," the anonymous professor said. "So I feel like I’m just a colleague, a friend, but not an Iranian colleague or friend who is going through a really rough time right now.”
The student association believes an email from Amiridis would be an opportunity for everyone at USC to learn about the hostilities happening in Iran.
The association plans to have more gatherings in the coming months to continue to raise awareness and build support.
“Please support us, please understand us," Shariati said. "Try to inform all the world what we want and what is going on in Iran."