Woman, life, freedom: a year of protests in Iran

As the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death approaches, Iranian Montrealers reflect on one year of protests and uprising.

A year ago, in the weeks and months following the murder of Mahsa Amini in Iran, Pooya—then a graduate student at Concordia—was hopeful that this event and the protests that followed might be the spark needed to finally bring about change in his home country of Iran.

“Last year, I was personally thinking that this time is the time that something good will happen,” he recalled. “A hope was in our heart and our mind that a change will occur. But right now, when I’m talking to you right now, after almost one year, I’m devastated.”

Pooya, who asked his last name to be withheld for safety reasons, said he has lost hope that the people of Iran have the power to change the regime. His parents and sister, who still live in Iran, recently got work permits and are planning on moving to Canada this fall. “I don’t want them to stay in Iran anymore,” said Pooya. 

On Sept. 16, 2022, Mahsa Amini was arrested by Iran’s “morality police” for wearing her hijab incorrectly. She later died in custody, and witnesses claim she was beaten by officers. Her death sparked protests throughout Iran and the world. 

According to Amnesty International, more than 22 thousand people have been arrested in Iran in relation to the protests, including over 90 reporters and 60 lawyers. Seven people have been executed for their involvement in the protests, hundreds more were killed and thousands injured during protests. 

Despite all this, the chant of “Woman, life, freedom” still rings through the streets and on social media. 

For Forough Fereydouni, psychology student at Concordia and Iranian community activist, there is still a lot of hope in the movement. She said their biggest achievement is the widespread awareness of women’s situation in Iran. The fight isn’t over, and women in Iran are still protesting despite the risks.

“They know the Islamic Republic is going to arrest them, charge them, put them in jail,” said Fereydouni. “And they know suppression is very brutal. But these women are fighting for their rights.”

In the last few months, the regime’s crackdown on protesters has gotten even worse. “They are arresting activists very widely, many activists. They are [charging] them without any logical reason, they are suppressing women in the street very strictly,” said Fereydouni. “They are making themselves ready for the anniversary. They want to scare people.”

Aboozar Beheshti, a Concordia-graduated Iranian activist in Montreal, pointed out that protesting is almost impossible in Iran. “It is not possible to be there in the street and not be attacked by the police,” he said. “And when I say attack, it means attack. It means brutal attack, arrest, charges, prison.”

For Pooya, his hopelessness does not come from a feeling of having missed a chance to change the Iranian regime. It is a question of whether there was any chance to begin with. “I don’t think it’s possible to change the regime only by counting on the powers of people,” he said. “The people do not have guns, government have guns, and it’s a simple equation. They have guns. They kill.”

Despite these setbacks, both Fereydouni and Beheshti believe the movement against the regime can still change things in Iran. The activists explained that now that public awareness has been achieved, they are one step closer to their goal. 

“This new generation in Iran is different,” said Beheshti. “They don’t tolerate suppression. They are very brave. I could not imagine even that something like this [would] happen. They go ahead, they go in front of the bullets, they go in front of the police and they aren’t scared of anything.”

Fereydouni is grateful that the movement remains strong on social media when it is too dangerous for Iranians to take it to the streets. “Yes, we have a long way in front of us,” she said. “Imagine a day every woman, not just activists, fights for her rights, against mandatory hijab—how beautiful that would be.”


The unrest in Iran seen from across the ocean

Protests continue in Iran, and Iranians in Montreal struggle to be so far from their homeland

McGill University’s Islamic Studies Library is a quiet and inviting place. From the outside, it looks like any other McGill building, and a passerby may not realize the beauty it holds. It’s filled with rows of leather-bound books, large windows, spiral staircases, and students studying for their finals.

Above the library, the Islamic Studies lounge is not so quiet. People talk, laugh, and eat together. There, Sonia Nouri and Sheida Mousavi, second-year Iranian political science students at McGill University, are animatedly speaking Farsi with a friend. They bid him farewell before finding a quieter room to discuss their homeland and the turmoil it faces since the death of Mahsa Amini in September.

“Being Iranian is a lot more than the government, it’s a lot more than the hijab, it’s a lot more than being restricted every day,” said Mousavi. 

“A lot of it is that. But, when I talk to my [family], we talk about poetry, and Iranian food, and that’s also what it means to me,” she added. But right now, both students are having a hard time cherishing their Iranian identity.

Nouri and Mousavi both immigrated to Canada from Iran when they were young. They are co-founders of the Coalition for Iranian Human Rights McGill (CIHRM), a group they created to bring McGill’s Iranian community together and to hold a vigil for Mahsa Amini in October.

Last September, Amini died in custody after Iran’s “morality police,” the force tasked with enforcing Iran’s dress code, arrested her for wearing her hijab incorrectly. The Iranian government said that she died of a heart attack, but witnesses claimed that she was beaten by the officers.

Her death led to an uproar against the Islamic Republic of Iran, in which women filmed themselves removing and sometimes burning their hijabs in protest. According to Amnesty International, 15,000 protesters have been arrested, and 21 people are at risk of receiving the death penalty for the offenses of “enmity against God” or “corruption on earth.” The organization Iranian Human Rights states that security forces have killed at least 448 people since the beginning of the protests.

Protesters march in Montreal MARIEKE GLORIEUX-STRYCKAMN/ The Concordian

Nouri and Mousavi have watched these headlines from afar. “Being here has, in the most obvious way, been very difficult and upsetting,” explained Mousavi.

“The protests [in Iran] are only getting worse,” added Nouri, “and we don’t want the conversation to die down in McGill and in Montreal.”

Nouri was a year old when her family moved to Canada, and Mousavi was five. They grew up seeing their families in Iran facing oppression and developed an antagonistic view of the country’s regime. Despite all this, they also grew up with the Iranian culture, surrounded by its religions and traditions.

“Though I grew up here, I never felt really Canadian,” said Nouri. “I always identified more with being Iranian. I was raised grieving a country I never got to live in.”

Mousavi had a different experience. She tried to push away her Iranian heritage, and only in recent years has found a way to unite that heritage with her Canadian identity. “Being a migrant,” she said, “you do feel a constant loss about a lot of things, whether it’s a loss of culture or loss of language.”

In the last few weeks, they have struggled to stay proud of their Iranian identity.  “The ways people are describing this country that we consider our homeland, the language that’s being used around this, it’s very conflicting,” said Nouri. “Though we agree that the regime is horrible, it’s hard to see so much of it be generalized.”

These feelings are echoed by the Iranian Student Association of Concordia University (ISACU), and by the organization Woman-Life-Freedom Montreal (WLFM). Fora Fereydouni is a volunteer for ISACU and the co-founder of WLFM. She emigrated from Iran six years ago and is now studying psychology at Concordia University.

Fereydouni explained that the unrest in Iran has made her anxious and depressed. “My family is in the street. My friends are in the street,” she said. “We can just be their voice. We can’t do anything else. It is really exhausting.”

“It has given us a very strong survivor’s guilt,” added Darya Almasi, a volunteer for ISACU and WLFM. Almasi immigrated five years ago to pursue her PhD in sociology at Concordia. “I came here in search of freedom and liberty,” she said. “But the idea that I moved here, so I’m free, I’m on my own and living my life, it never came true. We were always tied to our roots back home. Now that our country is going through a revolution, with mass murder and unbelievable violations of human rights, we’re again finding ourselves in the middle of a war zone.”

Shayan Asgharian, president of ISACU and native Montrealer, experienced many of the same feelings as his colleagues. Asgharian studies political science and Iranian studies, and he grew up intertwined with Iranian culture and still has loved ones in Iran.

“I’ve been worried sick,” he said. “Thursday of last week, I stayed up all night. I called one of my friends 21 times, and he didn’t answer at all, because they didn’t have any connection to the internet.”

According to Asgharian, students are at the center of the crisis in Iran. “When universities are getting blown up, it directly affects us. When someone who is our age gets murdered, it directly affects us. For example, Zhina [Mahsa] Amini, she could’ve been a student. She could’ve been here, talking with us about a completely different subject.”

He is not the only Iranian student losing sleep these days. Pooya is an international student pursuing a master’s in computer science at Concordia, who withheld his last name for security reasons. He moved to Montreal in the winter of 2021. His friends and family are still in Iran, and many of them are in the streets, protesting.

“A couple of my best friends are going out there,” he said. “The first few days, the government were killing brutally, and every night, I was sleeping, and I was just hoping ‘God, just save them tomorrow.’”

Pooya misses his family, but if he goes back to Iran, he will have to do military service. His plan is to get permanent resident status in Canada before returning to his home country.

“It’s hard,” he said. “You cannot forget your hometown easily. But once your home is at war, you need to save yourself first.”

Nevertheless, he shared his hopes that the protests would be successful, and that the government would be replaced. “Only then we can say, now we survived. We can say, now we can provide opportunities for people to work, and live together, and thrive together. Only then we can decide.”

In the classroom above the Islamic studies library, Nouri called on people outside the Iranian community to keep up to date on the news and to offer solidarity for the Iranian community.

“Seeing increased frustration with our generation, seeing these women risk their lives, it’s really empowering,” added Mousavi. “I think that the times will change.”


Concordia’s Iranian community demands better support from the University 

Fora Fereydoumi at the Freedom for Iran rally. HANNAH TIONGSON/The Concordian

The Iranian Student Association of Concordia University is calling out the University for lack of support amid protests in Iran

Last month, Iran’s morality police arrested 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for not wearing a hijab. Amini died several days later while in custody, and many Iranians believe she was killed due to police violence. Her death triggered worldwide protests denouncing the Iranian regime. 

As demonstrations continue to take place in Montreal, many Montrealers are helping organize and raise awareness. The Iranian Student Association of Concordia University (ISACU) is proactively spreading the word but demands more support from the University. 

ISACU is a cultural club at Concordia, part of the International and Ethnic Associations Council (IEAC). Shayan Asgharian, president of the club, shared his frustration and disappointment with the lack of funding. 

“We’re a cultural club. We barely get the funding for doing things like this. So everything we’re doing right now is almost out of pocket,” Asgharian explained. 

“The IEAC has been more than slow in returning our money. We’ve made banners for protests, we’ve made posters, everything you can think of, and they’ve been horrible at returning our money,” he added. 

Asgharian explained the lack of funding is worrisome for international students with limited access to money due to the current strikes in Iran. Since the death of Amini, Iranians have been striking every day and leaving their jobs, making it difficult for Iranian parents to support their children abroad financially. 

A solution proposed by Asgharian is to divide tuition fees into segments for international students. Asgharian brought this up to Concordia’s Dean of Students Andrew Woodall in an email but was not acknowledged. 

“Many students have had no contact with their family members, and [for] over a week due to the government’s shutting down the country’s internet. The shutting down of the country’s internet has also caused all international students to lose access to their banks in Iran,” Asgharian wrote.

“Therefore, paying tuition for them has become extremely hard. I was wondering if it would be possible to extend the date of the tuition deadline and even maybe divide the tuition into segments for students to be able to pay their tuition off easier,” he added. 

Another request was better mental health support.

“We’ve all been really distraught […] by the current events in Iran. It feels like watching a genocide happening live in your country. There is no word to describe it,” said Daria Almasi, a member of ISACU. 

Fora Fereydoumi, another member of ISACU, emphasized the need for better mental health support, specifically for Iranian students. 

Earlier last week, the International Student Office (ISO) sent a letter to students of Iranian nationality to offer support and resources. A notice of support for Iranian students, faculty and staff was posted on Carrefour and the Student Hub. 

“We appreciate the accommodation that the University offered to Iranian students in Concordia, but most of them are always open to all students. There is not something extra for Iranians,” said Fereydoumi. 

Aboozar Beheshti, another member of ISACU, suggested that psychological services be provided in Farsi, the spoken language in Iran, to encourage Iranian students to communicate and express their thoughts. 

Beheshti also asked the University to support the Iranian community the same way they supported the Ukrainian community. 

“The Ukraine [war] did not [happen too long ago]. You know, it was just a few months ago. We can take it as an example of how the University tried to [raise] awareness and how the University tried to reach people to offer support,” said Beheshti. 

Regardless of their current busy schedules, Asgharian, Almasi, Fereydoumi, and Beheshti all attended the Freedom Rally for Iran last Saturday, Oct. 1, in front of McGill University. 

Saman Abolfathi is marching at the Freedom for Iran rally. HANNAH TIONGSON/The Concordian

Saman Abolfathi, a fourth-year psychology student, participated in the demonstration and raised similar concerns that members of ISACU did. 

“I believe Concordia should have an official statement about what’s going on in Iran. Why [are] Concordia administrators and directors silent about it?” Abolfathi asked. 

For international students like Abolfathi, exams and assignments are the least of their worries. 

“I’m trying to help the organization of this protest, and every time I tried to contact my professors about it, they didn’t care that much, or maybe they did care, but they were like, ‘I cannot do anything for you,’ ” Abolfathi explained. 

Protestors at the Freedom of Iran rally. HANNAH TIONGSON/The Concordian

While Concordia tries its best to support Iranian students and raise awareness, Montrealers were united as thousands gathered and marched for the Freedom Rally for Iran. 

Among the many different women who delivered speeches was Alia Hassan-Cournol, elected official of the City of Montreal and associate councillor of Mayor Valérie Plante. Hassan-Cournol was present to share a word on behalf of Plante. 

“We’re proud to see you fight for women’s rights, for freedom. So keep on doing that. Montreal is behind you guys,” said Hassan-Cournol. 


Thousands of Iranian Montrealers gather to protest the murder of Mahsa Amini

The Iranian community of Montreal organized a second demonstration on Sept. 24 after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in police custody for wearing her hijab too loosely.

This article was originally published online and in print (Issue 3, Oct. 6) with an illustration of a woman wearing a hijab, which was later deemed to be inappropriate given the context of the article. We realized that placing this image in context with this story was insensitive and possibly offensive to some readers, and have since replaced it with a more appropriate image.

Iran has been overtaken by social unrest in the last few days following the murder of Mahsa Amini. The 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman died on Sept. 16, after having been arrested by the Iranian morality police for violating the state’s strict dress code by wearing her hijab incorrectly. 

Following Amini’s death, protests have swept through Iran against the current authoritarian regime. Groups of Iranian women have been burning their hijabs and cutting their hair to protest the state-mandated control of their bodies.

Iranian state authorities have responded to the protests with strong repression, including an Internet shutdown to prevent Iranians from communicating outside of the country.

In spite of these measures, these protests have sparked an international movement of support among the Iranian diaspora.

Shayan Asgharian, president of the Iranian Student Association of Concordia University (ISACU), explained that these strong demonstrations are the sign of an uprising in Iran.

“The internet has been cut so we have relatively no access to our friends and family in Iran,” said Asgharian. “The people are out in the streets and they’re angrier than ever.”

On Saturday Sept. 24, Montreal’s Iranian community gathered for a second protest organized by ISACU.

Protesters stood at the intersection of de Maisonneuve Blvd. and Guy St. carrying signs that read “Women, life, freedom” and “#MahsaAmini”. According to Asgharian, around 6,000 people attended the protest.

“Around 10 per cent of Iranian people live outside of Iran,” explained Asgharian. “The diaspora has been more than vocal. In Montreal, in New York, in Toronto, in Berlin. In London the English police had to hold Iranian protesters from invading the Iranian embassy.”

Aida Naji, an Iranian refugee, was among the protestors on Saturday. 

“I cut my hair for them, for Mahsa Amini,” said Naji. “She’s Kurdish, I’m half Kurdish too but it doesn’t matter where I’m from, I’m Iranian.” 

Along with the other protesters, Naji chanted slogans in Farsi, French and English. “I’m a refugee here, I cannot go back but I’m here for my people,” said Naji.

Manijeh, an Iranian refugee living in Canada for over thirty years, was eager to talk about the protest but wanted to keep her last name anonymous. “There is this regime around the people, you understand it is a fascist government,” she said.

She explained that she was forced to leave her country after the Islamic Revolution of 1979 that ushered the Islamic Republic of Iran into power. 

“After this regime came to power they started killing people, torturing people, putting people in prison so we had no other choice than to escape from the government and lose everything,” explained Manijeh. 

Like many other Iranians living abroad, she and her loved ones decided to join the rising protests. “We are here to protest against what happened to this beautiful young woman that was killed just because she didn’t put on her hijab perfectly,” said Manijeh.

Asgharian believes that the anger felt during the protest has been building up for over 40 years, and that this is the first time the Iranian people are expressing this contestation towards the regime.

“The Iranian people have been malcontent but it is like a cup of water: one drop makes it overflow,” explained Asgharian.

Since the beginning of the protest movement, at least 50 protesters have been killed, according to the NGO Iran Human Rights (IHR). Nevertheless, Iranians are still taking to the streets. 

“It seems like it is leading towards a full scale revolution,” said Asgharian. “We’re either gonna see some changes within the regime or in general. I think the regime can’t go back to the way that it was.”


Art therapy as a means to cope with grief

Concordia’s Iranian community shows us how art-making can help heal past trauma

Whether it’s venting, crying or spending time with your loved ones, grief differs from person to person. Poetry, storytelling and painting are forms of art therapy healing that took place on Jan. 16 at Concordia’s Art Hive event in efforts to heal together rather than apart.

In light of the recent plane crash that occurred in Iran, Concordia is offering support resources for students that have been affected by the tragedy. Programs like Concordia’s Art Hive, located at the Sir George Williams Campus, are there for students who feel mournful and need a creative outlet.

Hanieh Tohidi, a Creative Art Therapy graduate student at Concordia, created the Persian Art Hive event out of a necessity to do so for her fellow Iranians. 

“I felt a lot of sadness and grief coming from Iranian people and felt that I needed to start this event,” she said. After receiving an award provided by the J.A. De Sève Foundation to finance the Art Hive at Concordia’s downtown campus, Tohidi was finally able to make her vision a reality.

The idea started a year ago when sanctions began in Iran and tensions started rising. “The plan was to start the Art Hive much later, but unfortunately this tragedy happened,” she said. “We started the hive under pressure, knowing that the community would need more support; especially students starting their semester.”

Najmeh Khalili-Mahani, a scientist at Concordia’s PERFORM Centre and affiliate assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering as well as Design and Computation Arts, joined the effort to create the downtown Art Hive. She felt a lack of culturally-specific support for Iranian students. “I thought the magnitude of the event is something that would not be appreciated unless somebody understood the cultural and political context from which we had fled to Canada,” she said.

Art therapy allows people to express their emotions and complex feelings without having to verbalize them. “It is very hard to communicate decades of trauma happening to us to someone who may not necessarily know the background of it,” Tohidi said. “We would have to explain to psychotherapists or councillors why we are getting triggered by specific events.”

People tend to respond to the sense of community that is formed through art and simply being together, according to Tohidi. Since language may not be everyone’s favourite means of self-expression, art therapy introduces a number of creative outlets to allow for free art-making such as music therapy and drama therapy.

Art therapy is highly regarded as a method of coping with bottled-up emotions. Everyone is welcome to let their emotions come together to create a piece of art.

According to Tohidi, the practice of art therapy predates traditional psychotherapy by several thousands of years. Before there was language, there was art. “People would paint on the walls of caves to express their fear of facing hatred from the unknown,” said Tohidi. “That was the sort of therapy that they resorted to. Art was there to allow them to communicate.”

A 2015 scientific study suggests that art therapy can be beneficial in treating issues such as depression, anxiety, low mood, inability to cope, low-self esteem, post-traumatic stress disorder and even some phobias.

Coping with grief through art, poetry and storytelling is very much a part of Iranian culture. “The idea of healing together comes from the psychology of liberation, which is what art hive is based on,” said Tohidi.

“The idea of artist doesn’t exist in art therapy,” she said. “We are all artists.”

The concept of art therapy gives weight to the personal process of artistic creation. Rather than being a result-driven artistic endeavour, Tohidi wants people engaging in art therapy to forget about the outcome of their art. “Art therapy is a re-learning of being in the present moment and observing what we are doing and how we interact with people,” she said.

Most importantly, the Art Hive is a safe space. “If we are non-judgmental, we can have conversations about our art and our inside world,” Tohidi said.

As beneficial as art therapy may be, Tohidi points out that it is hard to come by nowadays due to financial limitations. “The public population can’t benefit from art therapy as they would psychotherapy in public service because insurance may not cover it,” she said. More often than not, art therapists are hired through extra funding that is raised through fundraising or donations.

The Art Hive (SGW campus) continues to be available to the Concordia community, as well as outsiders. For information about the scheduling of Art Hive events, please check the Concordia Art Hive and Montreal Art Hive Facebook page.






Photo courtesy of Gabriele Zambito and Hanieh Tohidi.

Briefs News

World in Brief: de-escalation, volcano, false alarms

President Hassan Rouhani announced Iran’s intentions to de-escalate from long-lasting tensions with the US last Sunday. Rouhani met with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, to conclude de-escalation was the only solution for the wellbeing of the region. “We’ve decided to have more consultations and cooperation for the security of the entire region,” said Rouhani, according to the Agence France Presse

Qatar diplomatically rests uncomfortably between Iran and the US with the largest American military base in the region as well as strong relations with Iran. This comes shortly after high-ranking Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was shot down by a US-led drone attack and a Ukranian Airlines airplane crashed near Tehran after takeoff. It was confirmed the plane had been “mistakenly” taken down by an Iranian missile.

A small volcano near Philippines’s capital Manila erupted on Sunday. The eruption was ranked at a danger level of four, five being the highest ranking. The eruption ejected dust and pebbles 10 to 15 kilometres into the sky. Ash quickly covered the runways at Manila’s international airport, grounding all domestic flights. The eruption was followed by a series of earthquakes, reported the authorities, who rushed to evacuate nearly 300,000 people in the region, reported the Associated Press. The volcano was famous among tourists for its breathtaking scenery.

An alert about the Pickering Nuclear Generation Plant was sent out on Sunday morning. It was soon found to be a mistake during a routine training exercise conducted by the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre, reported CBC. It was only two hours later that a second alert was sent out to reassure the public about the incident. The nuclear plant is located east of Toronto. Emergency Management Ontario will conduct a thorough investigation to find out who was responsible for the alert.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Briefs News

World in Brief: political turmoil in the Middle East, deadly wildfires

Iran’s top security and intelligence commander, Qassem Soleimani, was killed in a US-led drone strike near Baghdad’s airport last Friday, reported the New York Times. Since Soleimani’s death, the Iranian government announced its intentions of ending all commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal, raising fear all over the world and the new #WW3 storming Twitter. Escalations also reached Iraq, with the government calling for the expulsion of all foreign troops amid Soleimani’s death. There are currently about 5,000 US troops on Iraqi soil. While seen as a hero by many in Iran, Soleimani was listed as a terrorist by the US. In a statement, the Pentagon accused Soleimani of planning terrorist attacks on the US and approving an attack on the US embassy in Baghdad last week.

Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, referred to Israel as a nuclear power in a slip of the tongue during a weekly cabinet meeting about a subsea pipeline deal with Greece and Cyprus. Netanyahu said “the significance of this project is that we are turning Israel into a nuclear power,” he then paused, acknowledged his mistake with a shy smile before correcting his statement to “energy power,” reported Reuters. Israel has been long-denying the possession of a nuclear arsenal.

Ongoing wildfires ravage Australia despite large efforts to tame the blaze. Since September, five million hectares of land have been destroyed killing 23 as of Jan. 4, reported Global News. Efforts from Australian forces and other countries like Canada have been fighting the flames. The causes of the fires are still unclear, but officials are pointing fingers to the extreme temperature, drought, and human activity. A 19-year-old was arrested on suspicion of arson. The individual was charged with seven counts of setting fire.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Briefs News

World in Brief: Swapping prisoners, U.S. shooting, and 43 casualties in New Delhi fire

The United States and Iran swapped prisoners last Saturday. U.S. citizen Xiyue Wang was released by Iran in exchange for Iranian Massoud Soleimani. Wang was held for spying charges and Soleimani for violating U.S. sanctions, reported Reuters. This is one of the few acts of cooperation between the two rival countries whose ties have been worsening since the election of President Trump. Leading efforts in appeasing U.S.-Iran tensions were scattered when President Trump retracted the U.S. as a signatory of the 2015 nuclear deal. After thanking Iran on Twitter for a “very fair negotiation,” President Trump said that the deal showed that U.S. and Iran “can make a deal together.”

At least 43 workers died in a factory fire last Sunday in New Delhi. The victims were workers sleeping in the factory. “Most who’ve died were sleeping when the fire broke out and died due to asphyxiation,” said Sadar Bazar’s assistant commissioner of police to Agence France Presse. Although the nature of the fire is still unknown, the Director of the Fire Department of New Delhi said the building did not comply with fire regulations. The Agence France Presse also reported that in many Indian cities, factories are utilized as dormitories for poor workers at night to save money. They are usually located in old and cramped neighborhoods where rent is cheaper.

Three were killed and eight injured in a shooting at a naval base in Pensacola, Florida last Friday. The three victims were honoured as heroes by the U.S. Navy for trying to stop the shooter, reported the Associated Press. The shooter, Mohammed Alshamrani, a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force, was shot dead by one of the injured sheriff’s deputies. Alshamrani was undergoing flight training in Pensacola, like many other members of foreign militaries. Whether Alshamrani acted alone, in affiliation to a broader group, or if it was a terrorist act, is still undisclosed.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Briefs News

World in brief: deadly typhoon, Iranian women’s victory and religious violence in Burkina Faso

Oct. 10 became a historic day, as Iranian women were allowed into a football stadium for the first time in 40 years. The decision came after FIFA threatened to suspend Iran over their male-only policy that has been governing the country for decades. The Guardian reported that the death of Sahar Khodayari earlier this September had a major impact on the FIFA directive. The 29-year-old woman set herself on fire in fear of being jailed after dressing up as a boy, trying to attend a football match. Her tragic death fueled a national outcry, but resulted in more than 3,500 women finally obtaining their first ticket to a football game.

Two people were killed and nine remain missing as a result of the biggest typhoon to hit Japan in decades. Since the hit on Oct. 12, more than one million people have been urged to leave their homes. While Japan is frequently hit by typhoons, BBC has described Typhoon Hagibis as the worst storm in 60 years. It was reported that 270,000 homes have since lost power caused by flooding from the heavy rains. The last typhoon to have caused serious damage was back in 1958, killing over 1,200 people.

Sixteen people were shot dead while attending prayers in a northern Salmossi village mosque in Burkina Faso.  As reported by Al Jazeera, the armed gunmen who are yet to be identified entered the mosque on Friday evening and opened fire. It resulted in an ongoing climate of panic as citizens started to flee the area. For the past few years, the region has been struggling with ethnic and religious tensions advanced by armed groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS. More than 500,000 people have been forced to leave their homes since January due to extreme violence, the United Nations said on Friday.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Sounds from the shadows: Sasan’s story

Iranian Master’s student finds serenity in electronic and experimental music, regardless of what his home has to say

“They think Iran is just a desert with no culture, no music. They think it’s just politics, but it’s not,” said DSM.

As DSM – a 25-year old Master’s student in Building Engineering – explored Concordia’s SGW campus this past winter, shortly after arriving in Montreal from his home country of Iran, he stumbled across a copy of The Concordian on a stand in the school. After flipping through to the paper’s music section, he decided to reach out to its editor in an attempt to share his story.

“I thought, let’s try, send an email and see what happens,” said DSM. “I was also afraid because I thought you might not answer, or that you wouldn’t care to speak to me.”

Now we’re here.

See, education in Iran is often regarded as the ideal route, with other activities seen as extracurricular, and only that. “When I was in Iran I told myself that I was nothing,” said DSM. “I didn’t have good marks, and they think people who make music are just losers.”

For creators of electronic music, that principle reigns true, with an even deeper sentiment of taboo. “Many people believe that [western music] brings you to hell, and others think it encourages you to do bad things,” he said. “So we have legal music and illegal music.”

DSM, an avid techno-listener and experimental producer, began creating music in his house in Iran. He was inspired by a video clip he saw of superstar DJ/producer Tiesto commanding a crowd at a major festival, demonstrating music’s deep ability to bring all kinds of people together.

“It was so amazing for me to see that,” said DSM.

He first began dabbling in music by creating mash-ups, or “mixes,” for him and his friends on their long bus ride home from school. Though he later shifted towards producing his own songs, using the software Ableton Live. It’s now been four years since DSM has been seriously working on his craft, and the hard work is paying off.

DSM has been featured in Visions of Darkness, a compilation album of contemporary music by Iranian musicians, and is set to release multiple tracks through Montreal-based record label and creative agency, Husa Sounds. He also released an EP last December, titled Abstracted.

While his passion has continued to blossom, DSM chooses to keep his musical identity a subtle part of his life.  His parents are aware of it and are supportive of his musical endeavours so long as he stays in school and completes his Master’s.

“I usually play music at parties and gatherings, but also sometimes in my father’s car with my family,” he said. “We would listen to popular music in Iran, or old music that my father or mother love. I tried playing some mellow, deep house for them, not the hard stuff, and they liked it too. Sometimes I’d try to sneak in my own songs and if they didn’t say ‘next song’ I would tell them it was mine.”

For DSM, music is more than just a hobby or even a passion – it’s a form of therapy.

“I just wanted to release my feelings – it’s my way to calm down,” he said. “If I have too many things on my mind, music is the way to release my stress, to forget any bad things in my life. It’s like my Advil. If the music is so good you can get high on that, you don’t need weed or alcohol.”

Back in Iran, DSM was not able to peacefully enjoy electronic music as a result of the government’s strict rules and regulations surrounding public musical performances.

Musical performers are required to obtain a government license in order to perform publicly, whether it be at an art gallery or musical event. This leaves room for subjective decisions, which thereby controls the music scene in the country. However, a police officer’s bad day could very well turn into deeper troubles for a performing artist, despite whether or not they hold a license.

As a result of this musical censorship, many Iranians travel to remote locations throughout the nation, often deserts, where they can enjoy electronic music at any volume, dancing and partying through the night up to the morning. This added risk actually has its benefits, according to DSM. “If you want to have fun there you have to stress about the police. Even alcohol is illegal,” said DSM. “But if it’s harder, sometimes it really feels better.”

With one and a half years remaining for his Master’s, DSM hopes to maintain his 4.0 CGPA – though he continues to raise the bar when it comes to his music as well.

“I really hope that big DJs will play my songs at clubs or shows,” said DSM. “I hope that people are dancing and feeling my music. I really want people to feel it, that’s my goal.


Canada to deport former Iranian prisoner

Former prisoner and activist faces threat of torture and murder by Iranian regime

A crowd gathered across the street from the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) office in support of Roghayeh “Mina” Azizi Mirmahaleh, a 60-year-old human rights activist from Iran. She recently had her application for her Canadian refugee status revoked and will be sent back to Iran on Feb. 28.

Bahrami, in the brown jacket, next to her mother Azizi Mirmahaleh. Photo by Savanna Craig.

“Keep Mina here! Keep Mina here,” chanted protesters as they stood opposite CIC in downtown Montreal on Feb. 21, urging Canadian Immigration not to deport her.

Sahar Bahrami, Azizi Mirmahaleh’s daughter, said the Iranian regime knows Azizi Mirmahaleh’s identity and of her political activism in Canada, which would result in her mother facing torture, imprisonment and execution if she were forced to return back to Iran. Azizi Mirahaleh was imprisoned in the 1980’s for three years due to advocating for human rights, women’s rights and free elections in Iran.

“[The regime] executed her husband in 1988 in a mass execution,” said Bahrami. “She has participated in protests [in Canada] against violation of human rights in Iran.”

Photo by Savanna Craig.

Azizi Mirmahaleh moved to Canada in 2012 after receiving a temporary resident visa, acquired by her daughter. However, when she registered for refugee status in late 2013, Azizi Mirmahaleh’s application was revoked. According to the CBC, in January a Canadian Immigration officer determined she was fit to go back to Iran.

Her lawyer Stéphanie Valois told Radio-Canada that, on Feb. 17, Azizi Mirmahaleh filed for a request to stay in Canada, in the wake of being denied refugee status.

Azizi Mirmahaleh was among the crowd of protesters, and she eventually went into CIC to speak with an immigration officer about her flight to Iran on Feb. 28.

Azizi Mirmahaleh entering Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Photo by Savanna Craig.

According to the Journal Métro de Montréal, Valois said Azizi Mirmahaleh was arrested following her appointment at CIC on Feb. 21, due to immigration officers suspecting she would not arrive for her flight next week.

“We do not support deportation of any political refugees right now, so we’re here to make it very visible and so our voices are heard,” said Sherry Guppy, an organizer of the event, who is also on the NDG Senior Citizens Council where she met Bahrami and Azizi Mirmahaleh.

Guppy said she has been working with Azizi Mirmahaleh and her daughter for the past nine days since they approached the NDG Senior Citizens Council for aid.

Gubby among other activists mobilizing across the street from CIC. Photo by Savanna Craig.

“They’ve needed a lot of support, so we’ve just been trying to mobilize in any way that we can. We’ve been traveling around, going to see different political constituents and rallying,” said Guppy.

“It’s a human rights issue. Mina is a human rights activist,” said Guppy. “Human rights, regardless of what your politics are…it’s very basic and it’s very fundamental to our safety here and everywhere in the world right now.”

Guppy said it is vital to mobilize in circumstances such as this, as many people around the world have their human rights in jeopardy.

There is a petition available for advocates, which calls upon Ministers with power to stop Azizi Mirmahaleh from being deported.

For more information and updates on Azizi Mirmahaleh’s case, visit the Facebook group “Stand With Mina.”


A liberated Hoodfar arrives at Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport

Hoodfar said her arrest is not stopping her from continuing her research

After spending 112 days in Iran’s Evin prison, Concordia University professor Homa Hoodfar arrived at Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport on Sept. 29 armed with a big smile.

“I’ve had a bitter several months, and the detention has really left me weak and tired,” said Hoodfar in a press conference held at the airport upon her arrival.

She said the most difficult part of her incarceration was not being able to communicate with a lawyer or her family. “That was the hardest thing,” said Hoodfar. “Not knowing what is happening, and knowing that my family are very worried [about] not being able to talk to me.”

A smiling Hoodfar addresses the press at Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport beside her niece. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

Hoodfar said she was reluctant to believe she had actually been released. “I didn’t feel that I would be released until I was in the jet,” said Hoodfar. “Because in Iran, nothing is complete until it’s complete.” She said she was not sure if plans would change at the last moment. “They hadn’t told me what the plans were,” Hoodfar said. “When I was in the jet, I knew I was free.”

Hoodfar said this experience will not stop her from conducting research. “Not only has it not stopped me from that, it has opened new avenues that maybe I would not have pursued in the same way before,” said Hoodfar.

Photo by Alex Hutchins.

Hoodfar said she does not plan on returning to Iran any time soon. “I think for a while I’m going to stay in Montreal,” she said.

“It is just wonderful to feel you are in a place [where] you feel secure and you can see friends,” she said.

Hoodfar being greeted by the press in Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. Photo by Nelly Serandour-Amar.

Hoodfar said in the coming days, she looks forward to spending time with family and friends, as well as enjoying the tail end of summer.

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