Students and community members march on the Diag to protest in solidarity with the current protesters in Iran and to commemorate Bloody November, also known as Bloody Aban Saturday afternoon. Photo courtesy of Ji Hoon Choi.

Chants rang through the University of Michigan Diag Saturday as students from local universities and members of the Ann Arbor community came together to protest in solidarity with the protesters in Iran and to commemorate Bloody November, also known as Bloody Aban. During Bloody November, the internet was shut down across Iran and activists were arrested.

The death of 22-year-old Iranian woman Mahsa Amini, also known as Jina Amini, sparked the protests in September. The Iranian morality police arrested Amini for not wearing her hijab correctly and for wearing skinny jeans. She was struck in the head several times while in custody and died in the hospital on Sept. 16. Reform-minded activists took to the streets in the country and around the world, including the U.S.

The protest started at 1 p.m. Saturday. Music in both Farsi and English blared from the speakers. People also wore shirts emblazoned with red and black slogans, and some brought ropes and scarves to symbolize those who have been hanged for protesting during both Bloody Aban and the current Iranian protests. Many came with signs, too, with the words “women, life, freedom” in bold letters — the main slogan of this protest. 

Though many Iranians and those of Iranian descent attended the protest, students of other backgrounds also came to the Diag to promote progressive causes. Public health student Andrew Yang attended the protest and said he came to show solidarity.

“I (attended the protest), to show that there’s someone other than Iranians (alone) that supports (the protesters’) cause,” Yang said. 

The event began with the playing of the Iranian national anthem. People showed their respect by facing the Iranian flag held by one of the protesters. Once the song ended, speakers took the microphone and spoke in both Farsi and English, emphasizing that it has been over 60 days since the protests started in September and that the protesters want the international community to stand with the Iranian people. They also said the protest promoted not only regime change in Iran but also the empowerment of women in the country and beyond.

After the speakers finished, they led the crowd through chants demanding rights for the Iranian people. Protesters shouted, “freedom for Iran,” and called for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s removal.

“Say her name!” the speakers shouted. 

“Mahsa Amini!” the crowd shouted back.

The protesters marched from the Diag to Michigan Stadium and back, playing songs and chanting slogans with the group holding the Iranian flag and a large sign in red and white that read: “Jin, Jiyan, Azadi,” “women, life, freedom,” in English.

People were encouraged to scan a QR code to see protesters’ demands and sign petitions supporting the protesters many miles away in Iran.

Ronak Ziaee, a Michigan resident who attended the protest on Saturday, moved to the United States from Iran 18 years ago. To her, this was an important event for remembering those who lost their lives during Bloody Aban and the more recent protests. She said she was specifically moved by the story of Kian Pirfalak, a 9-year-old boy who just recently lost his life on Thursday to Iranian security forces. She said she was also there to support the younger generation working to hold demonstrations similar to the one in the Diag. 

“[We want to] support all the women, all the brave young girls and boys, the younger generation,” Ziaee said. “They are in the streets, and they are really not scared of any threat.”

Ziaee also said all those present on Saturday came from different backgrounds. She said it was influential to see everyone connected in the same message. 

“We really didn’t want a regime change 25 years ago, but the thing is, no matter how hard we tried, (the Iranian government is) not fixable,” Ziaee said. 

Michigan resident Mahtab Maleki came to the U.S. 18 years ago from Iran and said seeing the news sometimes makes her feel helpless.

“If you’re watching the news closely, we feel everyone’s pain,” Maleki said. “For our brave women in Iran.” 

However, Maleki said she feels hopeful, especially because of the strong community of Iranians who reside outside of the country. 

“Everyone is involved, we are all one, Iranians outside of Iran now are helping,” Maleki said. “They’re trying to help different communities. Human rights, activism, Everyone is involved, and they are all one.” 

NeDa Hayeri, an Eastern Michigan University graduate student who moved to the U.S. from Iran two years ago, said she participated to give voice to those that died.

“I’m here to scream the name of Iran, the name of the people with all my might, and we are here for freedom (which is) the most important thing for all of us,” Hayeri said.

Hayeri said the event was important because of the powerful statement she felt it made on womens’ rights. She said she remembers being a part of the protests in Iran two years ago. 

“I was in the street; I saw how people got killed, got shot,” Hayeri said. “In one week, we didn’t have any access to the internet; the internet was shut down totally for every single person in Iran.”

Hayeri said she hopes the protest will encourage people to oppose the regime in Iran.

“Please don’t support people who killed children in history,” Hayeri said. 

Daily Staff Reporter Ji Hoon Choi can be contacted at jicho@umich.edu.