*Last name omitted at source’s request
Fashioned with cardboard posters and mouths covered by duct tape, members of the UC Santa Cruz Iranian Student Union (ISU) convened for a die-in protest on Nov. 21. About 50 participants laid down in Quarry Plaza to show support for the Iranian people.
The Iranian government announced a 50 percent gas price increase on Nov. 15 for all gas purchased within a government rationed amount. The increase soared to 200 percent for purchases exceeding the rationed amount.
The hike in gas prices is the most recent in a series of controversial decisions by the Iranian government. The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution in 2012 outlining multiple human rights violations in Iran. After the Nov. 15 announcement, residents took to highways and streets to peacefully protest.
The government deployed special forces to the protests, killing an estimated 208 people over the course of two weeks.
“The Iranian government’s motive of trying to raise the gas prices is trying to deal and combat with the current economic stance in Iran,” said ISU President Shayda Hami. “A lot of this [economic stance] has to do with the various sanctions that the U.S. has been imposing on Iran. […] The surface level is the whole gas price thing, but truly it is deeply rooted in the corruption of the Iranian government and the influence of the U.S.”
In response to protests, the Iranian government implemented a weeklong internet shut-off, leaving the entire country in the dark. The shut-off incited more protests, and the government sent out more armed forces in response.
ISU member Ali* said it feels as though the government is attempting to silence the people’s voice.
Students abroad felt the effects of this shut-off when lines of communication went dark.
“I haven’t seen my family in over a year. The app we use to communicate is called Telegram,” said a student who spoke on the condition of anonymity. As they opened Telegram, they revealed conversations with extended family. “As you can see, the last time any of them were active was Nov. 16. […] It’s been six days since I’ve had communication. I don’t know if they are safe or not.”
At the demonstration, organizers handed out cardboard posters that read, “shot by special forces on the street” and “they killed us in silence,” among other phrases. Beginning with only 25 people, participation doubled as passersby joined the hourlong die-in.
ISU President Shayda Hami and other organizers encouraged onlookers to lay down for five minutes. While some lay down in solidarity, many passed by, earbuds in, staring at their phones instead of the protest.
“To the people who are walking through our protest, you represent what is happening in the world right now,” Hami said to onlookers. “The world is turning a blind eye to the Iranian people. Solidarity now!”
Hami said their protest acts as a reminder of other countries affected by imperialism and U.S. influence, such as Lebanon, Iraq, Bolivia, Chile and Pakistan.
Students from the Armenian Student Association and Bayanihan joined the protest, demonstrating their solidarity with the Iranian people. Afterward, participants from the various student groups thanked the ISU for bringing attention to the issue.
“I was born and raised in Iran. I came here after I finished high school, I’m an international student,” said ISU member Ali. “My dad called me an hour ago, right before the protest, so I don’t have to be too worried. But I don’t know what my classmates and friends are up to. I don’t know how many of them have been arrested. These are people that I’m close to, people that I grew up with and went to school with for years. These are students just like us that have been arrested protesting universities, these are working people just like us. They need to have their voices heard.”