Roughly 200 students, faculty and staff gathered at the steps of Oviatt Library Wednesday evening to show their support for Iranian-American grad student Esha Momeni, who was released Monday from prison in Iran.
Momeni’s sister, CSU Long Beach student Raha Momeni, and close friend, Hassan Hussain, were among those who spoke at the vigil to thank those who attended the event. ‘We’re truly indebted to you all,’ Hussain told the crowd.
‘ ‘I’m happy to see everyone here,’ Hussain later said.’ Momeni and her family in Iran are aware of the efforts of her friends and colleagues, he said, and they were ‘really thankful for everything CSUN has been doing.’
Momeni was arrested Oct. 15 while she was working on her thesis project about the women’s rights movement in Iran.’ Her footage was confiscated by Iranian authorities and she was held in solitary confinement in Evin prison in Tehran. The grad student was released Monday after the deed to her parents’ home was taken as bail.
Hussain said Esha asked that her supporters ‘don’t forget’ those who were still in prison. Raha Momeni said she ‘didn’t know Esha had such good friends’ as she thanked the crowd.
The vigil was organized by mass communications grad students with the help of several other campus organizations.
Claire Rietmann-Grout, a first-year journalism grad student who attended the event, said the organizers ‘have been putting their heart and soul into this (for the past three weeks).’
Rietmann-Grout said though she did not know Momeni, she and other students were shocked to hear of her arrest because ‘(she’s) like one of our own.’
English major Daniel Morris, 19, said he ‘didn’t really know about the true impact of what she went through’ until he attended the vigil.
‘I think it’s terrible that they would take a college student and throw her in jail,’ Morris said. Speakers read aloud blog posts and letters written by friends to Momeni, along with the student’s first English poem, ‘Dear Eve.’
Hava Razza, a volunteer for the California chapter of the One Million Signatures campaign who joined the organization two months ago, said she hoped vigil attendees learned that Iranian women ‘have a voice’ and the stereotype of ‘Middle Eastern passiveness’ is not true.
‘That’s what Esha was trying to do’ with her project and prove the strength of Iranian women, said Razza, who has not met Momeni.
San Fernando High School student Elioth Fraijo, 16, came with several friends to the vigil to show his support.
‘Something has to be done,’ said Fraijo.’ ‘She’s done nothing wrong.’
Grad student John Daquioag, who helped organize the vigil, said he was ‘scared to death’ when he learned of his friend’s arrest.’ ‘I gotta say that hasn’t gone away,’ he said.
Anasa Sinegal, grad student and part-time professor, also helped organize the event and said although Momeni was released, ‘we don’t know the Iranian legal system and until she’s back, we can’t stop our work.’