‘Beautiful and definitely needed’: Middle Eastern Student Association holds Campus Rally for Iran

Over 200 rallies occurred across college campuses internationally to bring awareness to ongoing protests in Iran.


Tasfia Alam

People gather at the Federal Building in downtown Nashville to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, as photographed on Oct. 1, 2022 (Hustler Multimedia/Tasfia Alam)

Tasfia Alam, Staff Writer and Photographer

Students gathered on Central Library Lawn on Nov. 30 to join the Campus Rally for Iran organized by the Middle Eastern Student Association as part of simultaneous demonstrations taking place in over 200 universities across the world.

Attendees participated in chants and listened to speeches. The rally sought to bring awareness to ongoing protests in Iran that arose as a result of the Sept. 16 death of Mahsa Amini after she did not wear her hijab according to government standards. 

This rally follows similar events held in the past two months, including a city-wide rally in downtown Nashville on Oct. 1 and another at Vanderbilt on Oct. 26. Students held up signs with the slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom,” and distributed flyers to passersby with QR codes that linked to more information about the situation in Iran. 

Senior and MESA president Laith Kayat said the organization felt the need to hold another rally to bring awareness to the hundreds of protesters that have died in Iran since September. Kayat gave a speech calling for Americans to stand in solidarity with the Iranian people as they continue to protest the current government. 

“The Iranian people are strong; they are loving; they have nothing but peace in their hearts. And they want rights, just like every single one of us. We have a very particular place of privilege to be here today to speak out without any repercussions,” Kayat said. “And it’s important that we use this privilege in order to speak out for injustice throughout the world.” 

Senior and MESA Community Service Chair Pouya Mehr said that he felt uplifted after seeing students come together to show their support for the Iranian people, but he wishes the university would address the situation as well. 

“Both of these protests have been initiated by MESA and Iranian faculty, and it was incredibly promising today to see new faces and new students joining us,” Mehr said. “Unfortunately, I personally haven’t heard of any reaction or any sort of statement released by the university officials and administration, standing in solidarity with Iranian students and faculty and staff. I hope we [can] get more support from the administration.” 

The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Junior Shayda Niksefat attended the rally and described it as a “very beautiful and definitely needed” way to bring awareness to the censorship of Iranian voices by their government, which includes making services such as WhatsApp and Instagram inaccessible. Niksefat said Vanderbilt students were capable of using their platforms to share Iranian stories to bring attention to the situation.

“We can’t go to Iran and give them freedom. But what we can do is bring awareness by posting on our accounts. We can inform our friends who aren’t Iranian of what’s happening in Iran, and just bring awareness and only hope in the future that they will receive [the] rights and freedom they deserve,” Niksefat said.