Persepolis screening at York University brings up women’s rights in Iran

Free speech advocates show controversial film in defiance of censorship

The movie Persepolis shown at YorkU campus
Students for Free Speech view controversial film about Iranian revolution on campus. Zeenya Shah/Toronto Observer

The last lines of the poem “Children of Adam” by Iranian poet Saadi Shirazi spoke to York University students Thursday night: “If you have no sympathy for human pain, the name of human you cannot retain.”

Some students said it was the reason they attended the screening of the movie Persepolis on campus.

“It’s an emphasis of empathy,” former student Ilia Azari said. “We are all part of the human body. If your hand is limp, it effects your whole body. Likewise if something happens in one part of the world, we are all affected.”

Students for Free Speech and Students for Liberty Canada hosted a free viewing of the French film Persepolis, followed by a discussion of women’s rights in Iran.

The film directed by Iran born Marjane Satrapi is based on her graphic novel of the same title and provides an autobiographical account of her life growing up in Iran before and after the country’s Islamic revolution.

It portrays the sentiments of those closest to Satrapi’s family, while showing her defiance and pushback against the regime change and its strict Islamic rules that enforced hijab and banned dating.

Originally from Iran, Azari attended the screening with his girlfriend and believes the movie explains the current political situation in Iran.

He hopes that those who view the movie understand Iranian people are more like them than they previously thought.

“Viewing the movie, it is the most relevant exercise of empathy — you care about people you are not related too,” Azari said.

Lyon Hart, director of communications for Students for Free Speech, says the film’s banned status in Iran was the deciding factor in presenting it on campus.

His organization does not shy away from showcasing censored films at the university, and even aired a South Park episode that is banned in China.

“The movie was banned in Iran for its portrayal of Iran and the Iranian revolution and the subsequent oppression Iranians faced afterwards, in defiance of Iran’s censorship we are showing it in York University.” Hart said.

Hart says that discussing women’s rights is always relevant and important, but the event happens to take a closer look at Iran.

“Iran, its ideology favours a man more than a women, and women’s issues are always a hot topic,” said Hart.

Students for Free Speech at York University is an organization that describes its self as “dedicated to the protection and promotion of freedom of speech and expression on campus and in society at large.”

SFS can be found at different universities across Canada and originally formed at the University of Toronto. Their aim is to maintain open dialogue that respects different points of view.

Azari said he hopes the organization’s event helps others understand that in the end Iranian people “have the same hopes, same dreams and same fears” as they do.

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Posted: Feb 12 2020 10:53 pm
Filed under: News