Protests over woman's death escalate in Iran, solidarity rally draws hundreds at UC Berkeley

Hundreds of people from the Bay Area joined protesters across the country Friday. They're upset about the death of a woman in Iran who was arrested after being accused of not wearing her hijab properly. A crowd, estimated to be as many as 500, marched at University of California Berkeley

Putting their pain into signs and chants of protest, hundreds of people from the Bay Area's Iranian communities joined together.

They chanted the name of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Iranian woman who died in police custody after she was arrested September 16 by Iran's morality police for her alleged offense of not wearing her head scarf tightly enough.

Police said she died of heart failure. Witnesses said she was beaten in the head.       

Hasti Mofidi, a UC Berkeley Iranian American student, helped organize the protest. 

"This is a really big landmark for our people, a big landmark for women's rights in Iran." 

Mofidi said she thinks how she could have been in Amini's shoes.

The crowd, a mix of young and old, spoke in English and Farsi. 

Many were seen grieving for the young woman; angry at the regime that imposes mandatory head coverings on women in Iran and has cut off social media to quell the protests that have erupted across Iran.

"Communication has been cut, voices have been silenced. We're here to bring that voice back," Mofidi said. 

Many said they are inspired by the Iranian women and supporters who have since taken to the streets in Iran, removing their hijab and burning them. 

Dozens have been killed in the protests. 

"Definitely worried about our family and friends back there, but at the same time everyone is proud. We are all proud of our women, and we are all proud of our new generation that are so brave," said Hossein Falaki of Lafayette. 

"I'm very proud of Iranian women because I grew up in Iran. They are so brave that they take off their headscarf in front of the troops," said Afsoon a protestor. 

There was a sense of frustration and a deep desire for change in the country that has been ruled by religious leaders since the revolution a generation ago.

"25 years ago, this might have only touched a few people, a few families, a few lives. Now, there's no reason that the whole world can't know about it and social media makes it easier for people to get angry and express their anger," said Darius Fatemi of Hayward. 

There was sadness, but a mix of hope for change. 

"It's also at the same time exciting to see that people have had enough, that they're mobilizing not just in Iran, but all over the world, the whole Diaspora is affected by this," said Fatemi. 

Another solidarity protest is set for 11 a.m. on Saturday at San Francisco City Hall. On Sunday at 11 a.m., protesters plan to form a human chain across the Golden Gate Bridge.