After Mahsa Amini got arrested and killed by the Iranian morality police, Iranians have been risking their lives by protesting against the government and stand up for women’s rights. For years, the Islamic regime has been oppressing Iranian citizens, especially women. PhD candidate Danial has been experiencing this his whole life: “If you live in Iran, you feel a pattern in what the government is doing. You keep asking yourself: why is the government doing bad things? It is so obviously wrong, but they keep doing it. You can’t do wrong things accidentally for forty years. You must be aware that you do those things.”

‘The morality police told me they had pepper spray and would be using it if I didn’t come with them’


Morality police

The morality police in Iran are Islamic religious police attached to Iran’s law enforcement. Parnian, who finished her masters in Rotterdam and now works in the library, explains that they drive on the streets and arrest everyone they want in the most disrespectful ways. Most of the times, they say they arrest women for not dressing in the right way, according to themselves. Parnian has had an encounter with the morality police and even got arrested then. “They had no reason to arrest me, but they wanted my ID to check if I had a criminal background. I refused to go in their car, but the man told me he had pepper spray and would be using it if I didn’t come with them”, she says. “This is how they treated me, but there are videos all over the internet where you can see how they treat women even worse and drag them with them.”

‘What bothers me the most is that I never said anything. When they left, I just sat there and cried’


Not only Parnian had an encounters with the morality police, Ghazal, who just finished her Clinical Psychology studies, did too. According to her, almost all women in Iran deal with this at least once in their lives. “One day I was at the airport, fully covered in black clothes. Two women came up to me and told me my pants were too tight and I could not pass the gate in this outfit. Later, they let me go and told me that if I didn’t walk a lot and just sat down, I could pass the gate”, she says. Ghazal wore that same outfit more often to the university she studied at; there it was not a problem at all. When thinking back of her days in Iran she remembers every encounter she had with the morality police. “What bothers me the most is that I never said anything. When they left, I just sat there and cried.”

Internet shutdown

During situations like the protests happening right now, the Iranian government shuts down the internet for their citizens. Parnian and Ghazal aren’t always able to contact their families and friends living in Iran. This has occurred before the protests as well. “When this happens, it feels like my mother in Iran is in prison and I have no access to her. It feels scary, because I don’t know what is happening to her”, Ghazal explains. “Last night I was finally able to call her after a week, and she told me she got hurt by the police when she went shopping. I had no idea. It makes me feel powerless.”

‘Students don’t seem to know why their Iranian classmates are feeling sad’


The three Iranians stress how important support from fellow students, colleagues or the university is for them, especially when they can’t contact their friends and family. Parnian and Ghazal are concerned for Iranian students at the university. “The university is so quiet about the situation. Consequently, students don’t seem to know why their Iranian classmates are feeling sad.” Ghazal adds: “When there is no way to contact my family, I have a hard time concentrating on my work. I can’t even imagine how the students are focusing on their studies.”

On Thursday morning, Erasmus University published a statement about the developments in Iran. “We are concerned about academic freedom. The latest attacks by Iranian police on students and staff protesting at Tehran’s Sharif University have brought this matter even closer to home.”

No support

“Two years ago, I decided I did not want to go back to Iran”, Parnian says. Just before that decision, the Iranian government shot down an airplane full of Iranian people, including family members of friends and a friend of Parnian. This event is still very emotional for her and made her not want to go back anymore. She explains that she feels a lack of support. “You don’t want to go back, so you have to make a home for yourself, but what is a home if you don’t have any support from the people here?”, she asks while wiping her tears away.

Danial came to Rotterdam a month ago, so he hadn’t made a lot of acquaintances yet when the protests in Iran started. “There were days that I was on the verge of collapsing. My finger was going over and over on social media platforms so I could follow the news. I was going crazy”, he says. Though some people didn’t know about the situation, he appreciates any kind of supportive words he gets. “It helps a lot when someone says: ‘Hey, if you want to talk, I’m here for you.’ It means that they are aware and understand the situation. During the days I couldn’t contact my family and had no one to talk to, my mental health was not going well.”

Julian teaching 2 p

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