Iranian Humanitarian Crisis Impacts Local UNH Community

UNH reacts to death of Mahsa Amini.


Ava Montalbano, Staff Writer

The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini of Iran has shocked millions and sparked over 40 protests across the country and many others around the world. 

Mahsa Amini was killed on Sept. 16, 2022 by Iranian morality police, a section of law enforcement tasked with monitoring the Islamic dress code. Law enforcement detained her on the grounds of violating government hijab standards, a common cause for arrests of women in Iran. In the wake of her passing, Mahsa Amini has inspired thousands of Iranians to protest Iranian law and government and the systematic mistreatment of Iranian women.

The news of Mahsa Amini’s detainment and death hit hard for members of the University of New Hampshire (UNH) community. Mahsa Moradi, a UNH Ph.D. student, and Fatemeh Rahmanifard, a UNH research scientist, were deeply saddened by the death of Amini. 

“In just one moment, I feel I’m not myself anymore. Something died in me, and I just want to yell,” says Moradi. “This is not the life anyone should live. Not just me, but 80 million people are experiencing the same degree of violence, of brutality, in their life.”

Rahmanifard recalls what it felt like when she first heard the news of Amini’s death. 

“It was very devastating to hear about her, and the first thing to come to your mind as an Iranian is first feeling sympathy and empathy for her family and for her.” Rahmanifard states. “More than that is rage; the second feeling to come is rage.”

Iran’s law enforcement is known for its brutality and fear tactics. Moradi and Rahmanifard both recall being targeted by Iran’s morality police.

“As an Iranian woman, myself and my friends, we have all encountered hijab police several times in our lifetime, and they have all been traumatic encounters,” says Rahmanifard. 

Both women expressed their grief as well as their anger. They stated their anger stems from frustration, not only from the Iranian government but from the western world’s response to the incident, they both explained. 

Rahmanifard feels some grievance with how politicians have reacted to the humanitarian issue in Iran. She states that while she understands there are a significant amount of world issues, she wishes there was more western support. 

“You hear from politicians that ‘we support brave Iranians’ and everything, but there is a huge difference in what they say in their speech and what they actually provide in their support,” states Rahmanifard.

Moradi described her frustration with UNH for failing to speak on the human rights issue in Iran during the first month of protests. 

“There is a lot of frustration from UNH itself because we hear left and right from UNH that we have an inclusive community,” said Moradi. “We tried to make them send an email, to acknowledge it, but nothing happened.”

Over a month after the original protests began UNH responded to concerned students and employees. President of UNH, James W. Dean Jr, sent out a university wide email on Oct. 26 acknowledging Iranian protests and death of Mahsa Amini as a humanitarian issue. 

“We understand the anger, stress and anxiety the violence in Iran is eliciting in members of our community and offer our support,” said Dean.

Screenshot of President Dean’s monthly update #48 email addressing death of Mahsa Amini. Email was sent out on Oct.26.

The Iranian Association of New Hampshire has produced a statement expressing solidarity for the Iranian community at UNH in conjunction with addressing the need for more local awareness of the human rights issue. Like Moradi, the Iranian Association of New Hampshire asks for the UNH community to act as a voice for the women and men of Iran. 

“We encourage you to raise your voice and chant with us’ Woman, Life, Freedom’ to let the world know your concerns about the crime against human rights in Iran,” said the Iranian Association of New Hampshire in a statement sent out on Oct. 15.

The protests in Iran and the brutality under the current Iranian government are still ongoing. The death of Mahsa Amini has inspired a revolution, and the people of Iran continue to fight for their freedom. The protests, which have lasted over a month, have demonstrated bravery, courage, and determination. These sacrifices for freedom have been an admirable achievement. 

“Be the voice of the voiceless people,” said Moradi.“This is what we ask UNH to do.”