Students hold candlelight vigil for Iran
Students call for ‘basic human rights’ during Candlelight vigil following Iranian government restrictions
Students gathered outside the Student Union Thursday for a candlelight vigil, illuminating the restrictions of the Iranian government.
Twenty-three students attended the vigil, which Hesam Ghodrat* said he coordinated not as a form of protest, but as a call for “basic human rights.” The Iranian government has placed “very big limitations” on its people, according to Ghodrat, such as restricting internet access and news censorship.
Students set a table and decorated it with white roses and candles for attendees to light in support of those in Iran. Signs illustrated the restrictions the Iranian and U.S. governments have placed on those seeking refuge in the U.S., Ghodrat said, including the travel ban, preventing people from entering the U.S. and the trade sanction U.S. placed causing inflation in Iran.
Ghodrat said these restrictions have prevented him from contacting his mother and his friends from checking news updates from Iran.
“[Can you] imagine yourself, more than 20,000 miles away from your family and you’re sending a message to your mom, ‘What’s happening there?’ and I don’t know,” Ghodrat said. “This is challenging and many people here, they are really worried about their family.”
One sign showed names and some pictures of the “106 martyrs” who protested the Iranian government’s decision to raise fuel prices in response to U.S. sanctions.
John Edwards* attended the event and said the protesters were participating in a “regular protest” against inflation but were killed because the Iranian government didn’t “want to have these people in the streets.”
Roughly 106 protesters in 21 cities have been killed, according to Amnesty International, but the death toll could be as high as 200.
“... Because they were going [to] kill more people, [the government] shut down the internet so nobody knows,” Edwards said. “But we know that it’s really more than this.”
Ashley Brown* said her family back home is “worried” about her because they haven’t been in contact due to the government restrictions. She believes these restrictions are “ignoring human rights” and said the U.S. travel ban further complicates the situation.
“It means that our family can’t come here to visit us,” Brown said. “So the only way we can call our families is through internet, [but] we were banned from [the] internet for five complete days.”
Ghodrat believes it “is not fair” and “not acceptable” for the people of Iran to be “sacrificed” by the Iranian government and that the U.S. government doesn’t care. He said the vigil “won’t change anything” but needs to be held in support of human rights.
“We are small and this is the United States, this is the University at Buffalo. Definitely we don’t have plans to say that the government of Iran should go or whatever some people might claim,” Ghodrat said. “But we are saying that we are talking about basic human rights –– having access to information, having access to freedom –– that has been deprived from people.”
*Students’ names have been changed for their safety
Alexandra Moyen is a news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.