Iranian community in Milwaukee speaks out amid mass protests

NOW: Iranian community in Milwaukee speaks out amid mass protests


MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A community in Milwaukee is hoping to spread awareness of a young Iranian woman who has become a symbol for change after her death sparked outrage in Iran and across the globe. 

Mahsa Amini, 22, was arrested in Tehran, Iran, on Sept. 13 by the special unit called the “morality police,” for what was perceived to be an “improper” hijab or headcover--largely worn by Muslim women to cover their hair.

In Iran, women are required by law to wear hijabs, regardless of their religion. Amini was told she violated the strict dress code.

The United Nations confirmed that she collapsed at a detention center, fell into a coma and died three days later.

Authorities claim she had a heart attack, but after a photo of Amini bloodied and bruised leaked, many now believe she was tortured at the hands of police.

"This is like a longtime, 40 years (of) harassment against Iranian girls," said Sammie Omranian. We just want to say, stop!"

Omranian opened up to CBS 58 and said this was the main reason she left Iran in 2012.

"I moved here because my father abandoned me," she said with tears in her eyes. "When I said that I don't want to wear a hijab anymore, my father just said 'go, you're not my daughter anymore.'"

Omranian helped organize a candlelight vigil in Milwaukee last Friday. She said over 100 people showed up in solidarity.

Local political activist Ali Soltani is part of the Iranian-American Community of Wisconsin organization. He said he flew from Milwaukee to New York last Wednesday to protest alongside thousands of people as Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi addressed the U.N. General Assembly.

"We basically want the international community to not recognize the Iranian regime as representative of the Iranian people, and just side with the Iranian people rather than the regime," he said.

It's been about a week since Iran shut down the internet and blocked social media. Soltani said he receives one, maybe two messages from family a day because access to the outside world is so limited.

Protests have sparked worldwide and in Iran, the country’s security forces have opened fire on crowds using live ammunition, pellet guns, and tear gas. 

The death toll continues to rise on a daily basis and there's been multiple reports of widespread arrests of protesters and civil rights activists as well--all in hopes for the downfall of the Islamic Republic. 

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