Montreal, News

Thousands in Montreal join solidarity rallies for anti-government protests in Iran

Content warning: Mentions of violence and misogyny 

Montrealers gathered in solidarity with Iranians on Oct. 22 to protest Iran’s oppressive regime and detainment and  killing of Jina (Mahsa) Amini at the hands of Iran’s morality police for improperly wearing a hijab. The rally was one in a series of similar events in Montreal and across the globe to support the women-led movement.Recent reports estimate that 244 Iranian protesters have been killed and another 12,500 have been detained since the uprising began.

The march began in the afternoon outside the Berri-UQAM metro station with “Baraye” by Shervin Hajipour blasting from speakers. The song, which has become an anthem for protestors, elicited heavy emotion as many in attendance sang along through tears. As the march continued, Persian, Kurdish, English, and French iterations of the chant “woman, life, freedom,” the slogan of the movement, echoed through the streets of downtown Montreal. Other chants included “silence is violence,” “revolution,” and “down with dictators.” 

As Reza Azarpoor marched, he held a Persian sweet lemon sapling with fake blood dripping down his hand. In an interview with The McGill Tribune, Azarpoor explained that this representation mourns the youth who have been and are being killed and detained by Iranian authorities, while also celebrating their resilience.

“This is a symbol of the kids, youth, and young people that are dying. But honestly, they’re not dying. Every day, every moment, there is another tree coming out of [Iran], and it’s not gonna stop. This is a revolution, there is no going back.”

Reza Azarpoor

When the march reached Place du Canada, organizers made speeches and announced the demands of ralliers: That Canada sever ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran, sanction and try people connected to the regime in Iran, and designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. Marchers also asked the Canadian government to address PS752—a Ukrainian International Airline flight which was shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, killing all 176 people on board including 57 Canadian citizens and permanent residents—with a criminal proceeding. 

One of the organizers of the rally, Darya Almasi, noted that, compared with previous events held in Montreal, there was a larger presence of non-Iranian supporters and attendees overall on Oct. 22.

“The world is ready to hear what people demand in Iran,” Almasi said. “At this point in history, there’s a revolution happening in Iran. It has escalated from a movement or a riot or a protest. It’s a revolution and seeing non-Iranians’ support little by little, it’s growing, it’s ever-expanding, and seeing their support is really heartwarming.”

Another organizer and President of the Iranian Student Association of Concordia University (ISACU), Shayan Asgharian, believes that students, as political entities, ought to get involved.

“Our institutions are political, therefore, it is important for us to have a presence in the political scene,” Asgharian said in an interview with the Tribune. “[At] institutions of higher education, where freedom of expression is a core pillar, we believe it is our duty as students to be the voice of the voiceless.”

Amidst the Iranian regime’s deadly crackdown on protests and imposed internet outages, members of the Iranian diaspora in Montreal and other parts of the world have been using rallies such as the one on Oct. 22 to show their solidarity and support. 

“It’s a big shout-out to Iranian people that we heard you, we are watching you, we are standing behind you, holding your back,” Almasi said. “We are here for you and the world is watching your courage and your bravery. You’re not alone.”McGill announced in a university-wide email on Sept. 22 that the university is offering academic accommodations and priority counselling appointments at the Student Wellness Hub to community members affected by the situation in Iran. The McGill Iranian Student Association (MISA) has also encouraged those who could benefit from support at this time to reach out to Keep.meSafe, a 24/7 mental health service that provides access to licensed counsellors through telephone and mobile chat for free.

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