LUBBOCK, Texas — Earlier this month in Iran’s capital, Tehran, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in the custody of the country’s morality police.

Cameron Khansarinia is the policy director of the National Union for Democracy in Iran. He said Amini was detained because she wasn’t covering her hair properly.

“Under the current Islamic dictatorship in Iran, women above a certain age, once they pass the age of puberty, are required to fully cover their hair as part of Islamic Sharia law,” Khansarinia said.

Three days later, Amini died in a hospital.

“She was effectively beaten into a coma, and then she died,” Khansarinia said. “That sparked nationwide anti-regime protests, which are now calling for the overthrow of the Islamic regime in Iran.”

Texas Tech University professor and Iranian native, Dr. Mayhar Hadighi, said in many cases, Iranians’ voices aren’t heard by the government. He said many Iranians complain they’re not seeing changes they want to be made, even when they vote.

“The young generation started saying, ‘ok, this is enough,’ and basically, were willing to die to have a better life, and for all other countries around the world to hear our voice,” Hadighi said.

Khansarinia said this is a new generation of Iranians protesting on the streets.

“We’ve had protesters 10 and 12 years old, killed by the Islamic Republic in the past several days, so it’s a very young group of people on the streets right now,” Khansarinia said. “They’ve only grown up under this violent, repressive, religious dictatorship that has attempted to take every freedom, every right from them, and so they’re pushing back.”

Khansarinia said every sector of Iranian society, particularly the youth, has been suppressed by this regime.

“They have been forced for their entire lives to live under a system that for women are considered second class citizens, artists are unable to practice their crafts, women aren’t able to sing in public, LGBTQ people are killed for being gay,” Khansarinia said. This is really an explosion of anger. This is a freedom movement in the truest sense of the word, and particularly this generation, they’re no longer willing to put up with the limitations that were forced on them by this regime.” 

Hadighi said many young students come from Iran to TTU in search of a better life, but the Iranian government restricting internet access makes life a little harder. 

He’s been in touch with family and friends in Iran through social media and said they agree with the protestors.

“These young students in the United States, in Texas, at Texas Tech, they don’t even know what’s going on with their families because they cannot talk with them,” Hadighi said.

In 1978, then Iranian crown prince, Reza Pahlavi, trained at Reese Air Force Base in Lubbock. Because of Pahlavi, Khansarinia said some locals may remember an Iran before the Islamic republic.

“They remember an Iran, that was a friend of the United States, that was a friend of Israel, that was a friend of most countries in the world,” Khansarinia said. “It was a partner for peace, it was an economic partner, it was a security partner, and that’s what the people of Iran want again. I have a sense that they’re not going to rest until they get that. They don’t want to be isolated from the world.”