ISA hosts remembrance ceremony for protesters in Iran

The Iranian Student Association (ISA) hosted a remembrance ceremony on June 30th to honor victims of recent violence in Iran.

The event, which was held at the Campanile, highlighted issues facing Iranian society today, as well as the problems faced by members of the Iranian-American community at Tech.

“We really wanted not only to educate the community about what is going on in Iran but to also bring together the Iranian-American community so that they could share their concerns about what is going on in Iran,” said Melissa Parham, second-year CHBE and president of ISA.

In recent weeks, violence has rocked the capital of Iran, Tehran, due to disputed results of the country’s presidential election.

In the days leading up to the election, the main opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi emerged as a strong contender against the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. After the election, the opposition accused Ahmadinejad’s government of orchestrating a widescale fraud and stealing the election away.

The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamanei, has come out in support of Mr. Ahmadinejad. However, other members of the clerical establishment have expressed doubt about the legitimacy of the election, suggesting a strong fissure between the otherwise united government.

As a result, the streets of Tehran have erupted with protests, which were attended mainly by students, young people and women.

Seen as a serious threat to the Islamic Republic since its founding in 1979, the government has harshly clamped down on dissidents, making use of the pro-government Basij militia and more recently, the Revolutionary Guard. As a result, many protesters were injured and some killed.

Due to a ban on foreign media in Iran, traditional news outlets have turned to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter for information. The Iranian government has blamed western media for inciting the riots.

Parham stressed that Tech’s ISA does not have any political or religious affiliation but instead held the remembrance ceremony as an appeal to end the violence in Iran.

“The latest events have moved every Iranian, all over the world. The taboo has been broken about speaking out against the government’s injustices. Although we cannot be directly involved with the change movement, events like this really help the community come together,” said Mr. Abel, a member of the local Atlanta community and an Iranian-American.

The remembrance ceremony began with a reading of a Tehran professor’s personal account of the protests, intended to humanize the protestors and understand what it would be like to protest in that political climate.

The event also included a candlelight vigil for the victims of the recent violence in Iran as well as the airing of songs in Farsi and a recitation of the Iranian national anthem.

Organizers also handed out green arm-bands, similar to those worn by the protestors, in an effort to show solidarity for their cause.

“I was really motivated by what I saw on TV and the web, and I was concerned about how students from Iran would cope,” said Rev. Chris Hannum, who attended the event to learn how to support Iranian-American students at Tech who seek him for help. Other attendees had a more personal connection to the events in Iran.

“I am half Persian, and I wanted to pay respects to my family in Iran,” said Daryoush Vaqar, fourth-year ME.

The delicate nature of the political and social climate in Iran was highlighted by the fact that many attendees of the ISA event did not want to be filmed or provide their names to reporters and event cameramen, fearing that it may have unintended consequences.

“The one positive that has come out of the violence in Iran is that the Iranian people are more united and together in a way that they weren’t before,” Parham said.