Oct 18, 2022

Congressman joins Austin protest for Iranian human rights

Reporting Texas


A protester at a Texas Capitol rally for Iranian human rights wears a shirt honoring Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old woman who died in police custody for wearing her headscarf too loosely. Dominique Ramirez Bejarano/Reporting Texas

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett joined over 200 protesters outside the Texas Capitol on Sunday in solidarity for Iranians and to raise awareness of the 22-year-old woman who died last month after being arrested for wearing her headscarf too loosely.

“I admire the courage of Iranians and Iranian-Americans,” Doggett, D-Austin, said after his speech on the south steps of Capitol. “It is vital to stand up for human rights and the horrors that women are facing. I came to find what are the most effective ways to help. It is important for the story of brutality to stay in the press and in headlines.”

Though Doggett was appearing for the first time, it was the fourth consecutive week that Austinites have rallied at the Capitol after the death of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish woman who was arrested by Iran’s morality police for having her hair visible under her hijab. Amini’s death in custody on Sept. 16 triggered protests in Iran and around the world, creating viral videos of women defiantly cutting their hair and throwing their head coverings into fires. 

“I want to share with my fellow UT-Austin students to not turn their heads,” said Sam, a former University of Texas student from Iran who was protesting. He asked that his last name not be published because of fear of reprisal for family members in Iran.

“We stand for human rights, and we need the help of the people,” Sam said. “If anyone cares, retweet, share, ask your politicians. There is hope in younger generations.”

Protesters sang revolutionary songs and proudly chanted in Persian “Zan, Zendegi, Azadi” followed by the English translation “Women, Life, Freedom.” The slogan comes from the Women’s Kurdish Liberation movement and was adopted by Iranians after the funeral of Amini. 

The protesters said they were advocating not only for women’s rights but for “justice for Iran” with “one solution, revolution” dominating Sunday evening’s speeches. 

The protests have encompassed “more than a decade of grievances” against the regime, said Nahid Siamdoust, a Middle Eastern studies professor at UT.

“It certainly started with the killing of the women in morality police custody, but Iranians have had all kinds of grievances over the last decade, crushing U.S sanctions, extreme government corruption on all levels, this level of government impunity, where no one is held accountable,” Siamdoust said.

An Iranian woman from Zoreh, Iran, and an Austin resident since 1984 who asked for anonymity said, “We are hoping all the people can get behind us, the Iranians, and the side of freedom.” 

Several protesters said they fear repercussions for themselves and their families who still live in Iran. “In Iran there is a body called ‘The Internet Police,’ that uses facial recognition software and are nervous to have their names or faces in the registry,” Siamdoust said.

Two students speaking at the rally called on UT to be more supportive of Iranian students and groups. “UT could do better at amplifying Iranian voices,” said one UT student.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, right, speaks with a protester about Iranian human rights at a Texas Capitol rally. Dominique Ramirez Bejarano/Reporting Texas