Iranian UTPB Professor speaks out about women’s rights, death of Mahsa Amini

Amini's death has sparked outrage across the world.
Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 10:33 PM CDT
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ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) - On the UT Permian Basin campus, Assistant Professor Dr. Amin Davoodi plugs away at his email.

“In the U.S., I started teaching as a doctoral student at Texas A&M University in 2016,” Davoodi said.

But email can only go so far. Right now, it’s difficult for Davoodi, born and raised in Iran, to reach his family there.

“They do not have the internet. The government shut down the internet,” he said.

That shutdown comes in response to mass protests in Iran – and around the world – over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

Amini was arrested in Tehran on Sept. 13 by Islamic morality police for showing too much hair under her hijab.

“They walk on the street, and usually they target girls and women,” Davoodi said.

While in police custody, Amini fell into a coma. She died three days later. The police have denied reports that she was beaten with a baton and had her head slammed into a car while she was in custody.

The incident has sparked outrage across the world, instigating mass protests in support of women’s rights in Iran.

“Our office has received numerous, verified videos of violent treatment of women, including slapping women across the face, beating them with batons, and throwing them into police vans,” said Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“What they are asking for is just basic human rights,” Davoodi said.

That’s something Iranians have struggled with since the Iranian Revolution in 1978. Since then, women’s rights have been methodically curtailed.

Protests have been common since the revolution, but the current iteration is notable due to its high involvement of Iranian women.

“Now, in their protests, they’re burning their headscarves and they’re saying we’re just tired of this and we want to be who we want,” Davoodi said.

But not all attention has been good. Davoodi said Iranians were upset when 60 Minutes reporter Leslie Stahl capitulated to the Iranian government’s request to wear a hijab during an interview in Iran, a request Christiane Amanpour denied when the Iranian President made a similar request for an interview days later in the United States.

“I very politely declined on behalf of myself and CNN and female journalists everywhere because it is not a requirement,” Amanpour told CNN.

With the internet being restricted, the Iranian people are relying on the West to spread Amini’s story through #MahsaAmini, to help keep her story alive and in the news.

“What the Iranian people want is very similar to what the American people want,” Davoodi said. “They want to have peace and quiet in life. They want to have dignity, and they want to be able to choose who they want to be.”