Message from President Ali A. Houshmand: Freedom is fragile

Message from President Ali A. Houshmand: Freedom is fragile

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Dear University Community,

Half a world away, in the country where I was born and raised, women are protesting and burning their headscarves in public and on social media.

They are courageously raising their voices to bring attention to the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, who died three days after she was detained and reportedly beaten by Iran’s morality police for not following the country’s hijab law, which requires women to cover their hair and wear loose-fitting clothing.

The women are not alone in their protest. Inspired by their example, tens of thousands of people have been gathering daily across Iran to share their outrage and disdain for a religious fundamentalist regime that has a tight grip on the minds of the people.

More than sadness and outrage

The Iran of today is not the Iran I grew up in. Although my family and I were impoverished, Iranians were free to follow their conscience. It all changed seemingly overnight in 1979. People protested, but religious fundamentalism soon won and transformed daily life in my native country. By then, I was already living abroad to pursue my college education and my dreams. 

What is happening in Iran breaks my heart in so many ways. I recognize, however, there are many Mahsa Aminis across the globe and not enough people paying attention to the plight of women, children and the vulnerable in so many countries—too many to keep track of. 

What’s different about 1979 and now is the potential for international support because of social media and the increased influence of a global community to advocate for the cause of liberty. As we have seen in Ukraine, a strong, brave people rallied the world to help them stand against their aggressor. Those like Mahsa Amini—whether in Iran or a Rowan classmate, coworker or neighbor—call for our support today. Please consider answering that call. 

Precious, fragile freedom

As Iran’s people continue to struggle, I’m reminded more and more of how fortunate we are to live in a country where the government—flawed as it may be—is expected to honor individuals and individual freedom in the pursuit of a stronger national community. We know this intrinsically as Americans. We know this intuitively as humans. 

Very truly yours,

Ali A. Houshmand, Ph.D.