A vigil is being held to raise awareness on the arrest and imprisonment of Iranian-American grad student Esha Momeni, who was detained in Iran last month while she was working on her thesis project and is now being formally charged.
Iranian authorities announced last Tuesday that the 28-year-old student is being charged with ‘acting against national security’ and that a preliminary investigation is still underway, said Iranian Judiciary spokesperson Alireza Jamshidi in a report from BBC Persia.
Mass communications grad student and part-time professor Anasa D. Sinegal described Momeni’s situation as ‘surreal’ and that she and other students organizing the event hope the vigil will bring attention to Momeni’s case.
‘It’s unbelievable how many people are hearing her story and want to help out in any way they can,’ said Sinegal, who has known Momeni for two years.
Kara Lawton, a mass communications grad student, is also helping organize the event. ‘The reason we’re planning the vigil is because we care about what happens to Esha,’ Lawton said.
‘As a group we decided that we had to do something because we know her and because she’s just like us, a regular student,’ said Lawton.’ ‘I personally am spending so much time on it because I ask myself, ‘If I don’t’ (do something), who will?”
Lawton said several students and alumni bands will be performing at the event, including the Karabal Nightlife and Fort King, along with the CSUN Communication Studies Performance Ensemble.
Several local businesses, including Northridge Copy ‘amp; Print, G2 Graphics and Matty Blue clothing, also donated services to their efforts, said Lawton.
‘We’ve wanted to cry,’ Lawton said.
The vigil is also drawing support from a wide number of departments, said Lawton, including English, anthropology, journalism and groups such as MEChA,’ Chicana/o Graduate Student Associate, Save the Planet and others.
Luis M. Rodriguez, a member of the Chicana/o Graduate Student Association who is also helping with the vigil, said although he doesn’t know Momeni, ‘you don’t have to know somebody in order to know that their human rights are being violated.’
‘I think that what’s happening to her, it speaks and calls for the humanity in all of us’hellip; (we want to) show solidarity with her,’ Rodriguez said.
Since Momeni’s arrest on Oct. 15, the student’s case has received international attention, including from the Italian government and organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and many women’s rights groups.
Momeni had been interviewing volunteers involved in the One Million Signatures campaign for her thesis project, which focused on the women’s rights movement in Iran.’ When she was arrested by undercover police for allegedly passing another vehicle illegally on the highway, she was subsequently escorted to her home, where her computer and video footage for her project were confiscated.
Momeni’s parents have spoken out against their daughter’s arrest.
Gholamreza Momeni, the student’s father, told the Islamic Republic News Agency ‘considering the kindness of the responsible authorities of the Islamic system’hellip; I hope they will make a good judgement’ in his daughter’s case.
‘We want her released,’ said Sinegal.’ ‘By and large people don’t know about her; we want people to see her as a friend and a classmate’hellip; and just call for her release.’