Iranian Protest Roundtable Discussion


Abby Gaver

Bridgewater College students and staff gathered in the Center for Engaged Learning to discuss the Iranian protests in an environment meant to harbor safety and be welcoming for any questions.

Abby Gaver, Web Editor

Bridgewater, Va.- On Nov. 16, senior Anton Kopti planned and led a roundtable discussion on the current Iranian protests alongside Associate Professor of Political Science Bobbi Gentry and the Center for Engaged Learning. 

“I am trying to encourage global and political literacy on our campus,” said Kopti.

The Iranian protests surged in September following the death of Mahsa Amini, known by her Kurdish name, Jina, in the custody of morality police. This is a unit of Iran’s police force which enforces laws on public Islamic dress code and traditional Islamic law, including the donning of a hijab. 

Amini was arrested for allegedly wearing her hijab too loosely. Coroners attributed Amini’s death to organ failure due to lack of oxygen to the brain. 

Her family and protestors assert that Iranian morality police beat Amini to death. In protest, Iranian women have taken to burning their headscarves and cutting their hair publicly.

“This event was organized to shift the narrative from a Westernized, orientalist perspective into an Iranian women perspective. This protest is not an anti-Islam or anti-hijab movement, it is a movement about choice and women’s choices regarding their bodies,” said Kopti.

The round table event included discussion of multiple topics surrounding Iranian protests, such as the history of Iran and the context in which the Mahsa Amini protests have taken place. Gentry assisted in answering questions during the roundtable.

“I think Anton did an amazing job organizing this event, and the campus really wanted to engage with what was happening in Iran,” said Gentry.

There was discussion on the importance of looking for bias in news outlets and which outlets to look at for information. Women’s rights and the treatment of women in different cultures was also discussed.

“I most enjoyed the discussion that pertained to the way in which women’s bodies are policed in several cultures across the globe and how that becomes a formative part of the cultural understanding of what it means to be a woman,” said Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion of Students Gauri Pitale.

While learning about the events in Iran, attendees discussed the reflection and understanding of their own experiences or others they have heard about globally.

“Learning about happenings across the globe allows us to reflect on our own culture and prepares us to be the global citizens we are meant to be,” said Pitale.

As a history and political science major, sophomore Ewan Benjamin found the discussion interesting and noted the importance of learning about current events around the world.

“It was fascinating. It was a topic I did not know a lot about, but I knew there was a lot of contention about,” said Benjamin. “It is very important to know this stuff because the world changes in so many ways, and people aren’t always open to hearing about it or knowing why. It’s important to learn about current events like that.”

Those who attended the event wanted to know how they could stay accurately informed regarding protests in Iran and how they can support the protestors.

“Three actions that people can take to support the protestors are to share their story in their own words, research more information about Iran from reliable sources, and follow the ongoing protests as they evolve,” said Gentry.