On a chilly Wednesday morning right before the wind down for winter break, onlookers began to gather outside the Yale School of Medicine (YSM) rotunda where several white coat wearing members of the community quietly stood in a line with blindfolds in their hands. Susan Kashaf, MD, MPH, spoke into a microphone, addressing the growing crowd.
“We are gathered here to raise awareness about the Iranian protestors who are at imminent risk of execution by sharing with you the story of one of them, a colleague, a physician, a radiologist, Dr. Hamid Ghare Hassanlou,” she began.
A few months prior, Kashaf and her colleagues had shared vivid protest stories to a packed auditorium on the ongoing uprisings in Iran. With the attack on universities continuing in Iran, and peaceful protests being met with live ammunition and mass arrests, Kashaf and her colleagues, several of who are Iranian-American, felt compelled to speak out once again.
“Hospitals and medical personnel, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists and medical technicians have been targeted for doing their jobs: threatened, arrested, imprisoned,” said Kashaf.
According to a recent NPR interview with his brother, Hassanlou had been participating in an mourning ceremony for Hadis Najafi, a 23-year-old woman who was shot in the face, neck and chest during the protests of the Islamic Regime in Iran. The following day, militia members broke into Hassanlou’s home where they badly beat him, resulting in multiple broken ribs. Hassanlou was arrested on the charge of being involved in the death of a militia member from the day before. He and five others have been sentenced to death.
One by one, participants in the YSM demonstration shared details of Hassanlou’s story. They and volunteers who stepped forward from the crowd placed blindfolds on, demonstrating what would typically be done to those sentenced to death in Iran, before being hung by a crane. Two young men were publicly executed in the past week this way. They were 20 and 22.
“We hope that hearing about our colleague today will inspire you to learn the stories of others in his unimaginable situation, and take action to support him and others who are facing unjust death sentences,” said Kashaf. “International attention makes it clear that this is a terrorist regime, and not worthy of sitting on the UN commission for women. Advocacy resulted in that egregious wrong being corrected yesterday.”
Kashaf concluded the demonstration by inviting individuals to record themselves saying ‘I am Dr. Hamid’ for a compilation video, which can be viewed here. “This is not performative. Amplifying their voices, saying their names can actually help save lives and impact policy,” said Kashaf. “It helps if you join, and spread the message. This is in part a digital revolution. Use your voices, your privilege, your power. Fight for human rights. Stand with us.”