Some of the students were there for personal reasons, whilst others simply wished to show solidarity with the plight of the people in Iran and Afghanistan. The students spent two hours shouting ‘Zan, zendegi, azadi’ (‘Woman, life, freedom’). “It’s important for students to speak out now. Particularly in view of the university’s conspicuous silence yet again.”
The protest started after the protesters congregated on Blaak. It was still quiet shortly before five o’clock, but then a deluge of students emerged from the Willem de Kooning Academy building holding banners and posters bearing the words ‘Woman, life, freedom’ in all languages. The group in front of the Markthal grew bigger and bigger, reaching around seventy people just after five o’clock. EUC student Juliette Douet is one of the initiators: “I know several women from Iran and Afghanistan myself and so I think it’s important to be here today.”
While a number of concise statements from students in Iran were read out in front of the Markthal and a song by an Iranian rap star was played, Douet talked to us about the protest. “We’re here to make it clear that this is a big issue and that the way in which women are treated in Iran is unacceptable.”
'Not about my hair'
Sociology student Jaïr joined the protest too. His reasons for doing so today include a personal one: “I’m from a colonised nation, Aruba, and I see the lasting effects of colonialism and imperialism and the way in which people are oppressed. That is why I want to show as much solidarity as possible with other people who have it tough and are being oppressed.”
“I’m from Turkey, so I grew up with the idea of oppression”, said EUC student Deniz Hakman as the march got started. “It’s good that the subjugation of women in Iran and Afghanistan is now getting so much coverage in the West, as people here can’t imagine what it’s like over there at the moment.” She stressed that people in the Netherlands could learn a lot from this protest march, “The Dutch often think that headscarves are oppressive, and that that’s what we’re protesting against. But they’re missing the bigger picture.” During the march, this was explained several times with a slogan “It’s not about my hair, it’s about my voice. It’s not about my body, it’s about my choice.”
As the demonstration headed towards Beurs, sociology student Jasper Schut explained that he is taking part not only in solidarity but also out of political interest. “I find the intersectional aspect really unique. The fact that even the Iranian labour movement is standing up for women’s rights, for instance.” This is a reference to a statement on women’s rights made by oil workers in Iran shortly before the march. “I get the feeling that’s a pretty new phenomenon. I also know students in Iran who are all extremely critical of the political status quo, so the wind of change is definitely blowing throughout the nation.”