The campaign was organised by Psychology student Forough Hatami. She’s from Iran herself, as is co-organiser Aura Mkaryan. Both their fathers spent time in prison in Iran before fleeing to the Netherlands as political refugees. “There are plenty of students here who have first-hand experience of the situation”, said Hatami, pointing out a fellow student who lost friends in the protests in Iran. “We want to raise awareness of what’s going on there.”
The roses that were handed out symbolise the people being oppressed. “White ones for the dead and red ones for the people who are still alive, though we’ve included some other colours too.” Those other colours served to commemorate a young boy who was accidentally killed during a protest in Iran. “He was always praying to the rainbow god”, explained Hatami. There was a photo of the boy on the ground, as well as other posters in remembrance of people who died.
The tree was adorned with cards expressing the desire for peace. At lunchtime, the campaign had only just gotten under way, yet the tree was already completely full. “Students will be able to show their support for people and students in Iran throughout the day”, said Mkaryan.
Iranian Psychology student Sepehr Tabatabaei also hung a card in the tree, along with his Polish fellow student Julia Kubiak. “We’ve written ‘women, life, freedom’ in the three languages we speak, namely English, Polish and Persian”, said Sepehr. Both were pleased that the campaign had been created. “Even just the banners and pictures will get students thinking about the issue and make them realise just how much freedom we actually have here”, said Kubiak. Tabatabaei’s family lives in Iran and he regularly keeps in touch. “It’s great to see that we can protest like this here. It’s a breath of fresh air.”
PhD student Marcelo Malbec also added a card. As a Chilean national, he said he could relate to the plight of the people in Iran. “We’ve experienced plenty of oppression in Chile too. I’m hoping for a brighter future.” His hope echoed that of all the students who gathered here. Mkaryan already had a clear idea as to what form she wanted her contribution to take: “I intend to return to Iran and spread the good stuff, the freedom, that we’ve learned here.”
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On Thursday evening, Studium Generale is organising a programme about women’s rights in Iran. The film Persepolis will be screened and there will be a discussion afterwards.