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Nine faculty members from the Yale School of Medicine gathered blindfolded on Cedar St. on Dec. 15 to spread awareness for the Iranian government’s violence, which includes the torture of Hamid Ghare-Hasanlou — a 54-year-old radiologist in Iran who was accused of killing a militiaman he was trying to assist. 

Ghare-Hasanlou and his wife, Farzaneh, had attended a 40-day anniversary memorial for the death of Hadis Najafi, a 23-year-old woman who was shot in the face, neck and chest during a protest. When he stopped to walk to the gravesite, he saw an Islamic militaman and later a Mullah — a member of the Islamic clergy — being beaten by the crowd. Ghare-Hasanlou stopped to check the Mullah’s pulse before calling an ambulance for him. Though the Mullah survived, the militiaman did not. 

The next day at 2 a.m., militia forces broke into Ghare-Hasanlou’s house, beating him in front of  his daughter and accusing him of killing the militiaman. He and his wife were then imprisoned and tortured until she confessed that he had kicked the militiaman once. His wife later rejected the confession, explaining that it was obtained under torture.

Once Ghare-Hasanlou awoke from the third surgery attempting to save him from the life-threatening injuries he had sustained while being tortured, he learned that he had been sentenced to death for “waging war against God.” His wife would serve 25 years in solitary confinement.  

“I am Anahita, but today, I’m Dr. Hamid,” clinical fellow at the Yale School of Medicine Anahita Rabiee said, putting on a black blindfold. “Don’t kill me for trying to save a life,”

Rabiee, as well as the other speakers at the event, drew attention to the abnormally fast trials for Iranian protestors, noting that multiple people could be tried at once without lawyers. The blindfolds, which attendees could take and wear themselves, are telling of the nature of the executions: the sentenced person would traditionally be blindfolded before walking toward a crane from which they would be hanged. 

At the protest, Yale psychiatry resident Yauss Safavi said that hanging was not only a slow and excruciating way to die, but symbolic of taking away one’s ability to speak. 

“Almost [every Iranian] has a family member or friend who was tortured, imprisoned or executed,” she added.

Along with Associate Professor of Medicine Susan Kashaf, Safavi read a poem from the perspective of someone who had just heard the “excruciating screams of a mother” whose young son was hanged publicly. 

The poem condemns hanging as the most premeditated form of murder, ending with saying a mother who “has lost her son will scream louder than any man ever could.”

“She will never forget, and she will never forgive,” Safavi said. “I don’t know [this woman], but I’m sure she would tickle when he was a toddler, would make him eat everything on his plate, get worried with every single fever, and make sure he had a scarf around his neck when he went out to play in the cold.” 

According to Kashaf, the punishment of assisting protestors falls upon more than doctors simply trying to do their job. Earlier in December, actress Taraneh Alidoosti was detained for standing in solidarity with protestors on her Instagram page, where she posted a photograph of herself not wearing a hijab and holding up a piece of paper that said: “women, life, freedom.”

It is because of Iranians losing their voices — both physically and in the media — that Kashaf encourages all members of the Yale community, especially non-Iranian Americans, to participate in an online movement to amplify Iranian stories. At the conclusion of the event, she asked for volunteers to stand with the speakers and record a short video of themselves saying: “I am ___, but today, I’m Dr. Hamid. Don’t kill me for trying to save a life.” The clips were later compiled into a video and posted on Instagram under @Iranian1000stories — a group of diasporic Iranian-American physicians. 

“[Outside support] makes me feel like the pain and suffering of those in Iran isn’t invisible, that they are not forgotten, even in the depths of a prison cell,” Safavi said.

For issues where any and “all exposure is helpful to the cause,” concerns over performative activism in overseas nations lose relevance, Kashaf said. She emphasized that social media can galvanize a revolution for Iranians who currently do not have a voice, that it is an effort which non-Iranian Americans can partake in to mitigate the pressure of Iranian Americans who place their families at risk and jeopardize travel plans to Iran when they speak out. 

On Dec. 15, the same day of the Yale School of Medicine, faculty at the University of Los Angeles staged a similar call to action. Stanford University followed suit on Dec. 16. 

“We are starved for adequate, accurate [and] fair coverage by the press, so I’ll tell you, honestly, every time a friend posts anything that reminds the world of the horrors happening in Iran, I am grateful and touched,” Kashaf wrote in an interview with the News.

In Iran, girls as young as 9 and boys 15 or older can be sentenced to death. 

BRIAN ZHANG
Brian Zhang covers student life for the University desk, and previously housing and homelessness for the City desk. He is a sophomore in Davenport College.