Vanderbilt MESA holds protest in solidarity with Iranian women

The protest intended to raise awareness and to build a community for Iranian students at Vanderbilt.


Barrie Barto

Members of the Vanderbilt community protesting outside of Rand Dining Hall. (Hustler Multimedia/Barrie Barto)

Danni Chacon, Staff Writer

Vanderbilt’s Middle Eastern Association hosted a protest outside Rand Dining Center  in solidarity with Iranian women on Oct. 26. Roughly 30 individuals participated in the protest, wearing black and holding signs with slogans such as “Women, Life, Freedom” and “Silence is Violence.” 

Similar protests have been taking place in Iran and around the world—including one in Nashville on Oct. 1—in response to Jina Mahsa Amini’s death, calling for freedom and governmental response. Amini died shortly after being detained and beaten in the custody of Iran’s morality police for not wearing the hijab in accordance with government standards.

Senior and MESA President Laith Kayat said the goal of the protest was to utilize their freedom of speech as Americans to uplift the voices of marginalized communities in Iran. Kayat added that undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff all took part in the protest. 

“The purpose of the protest is to raise awareness of what is really happening in Iran,” Kayat said. “We hope to uplift the voices of all women and to send a message to the Vanderbilt community: Stay informed.”

Senior and Community Service Chair of MESA Pouya Mehr said students have a responsibility to stand up for marginalized communities in Iran, adding that people need to work together to achieve this goal. 

“We want to show solidarity with the people of Iran who have been courageously demanding and fighting for justice, equality and freedom,” Mehr said. “It is also our responsibility to use our platform to spread awareness about the injustices happening in Iran against women, LGBTQ+  people, ethnic minorities, and everyone in general since the government there has violated everyone’s human rights and dignity in some way.”

Sophomore Shalini Thinkaran attended the protest and said she was glad to see that it helped create a community for Iranian students on campus and raised awareness of the issue.

“The protest was a beautiful declaration of solidarity for women in Iran,” Thinkaran said. “Additionally, the Iranian community on campus was able to have a moment with each other. They were speaking in their native languages and singing songs together. I hope Vanderbilt got exposed to the situation in Iran, [and] I’m hoping to see more.”