Earlier today, a few dozen students and a handful of reporters gathered in front of EC to rally for Iranian human rights. The event’s organizers, Jake Snider, David Fine, Eric Shapiro, CC’13, and Sam Schube, CC’12, originally intended to protest the CIRCA-Ahmadinejad dinner. But yesterday, CIRCA president, Rhonda Shafei, confirmed that CIRCA would no longer dine with the Iranian leader and had given the tickets away. Spec reported earlier today that the Iranian mission to the UN rescinded the invitation.”While undergraduate students’ plans to dine with Ahmadinejad have reportedly been cancelled, the serial abuse of human rights in Iran shows no sign of stopping,” reads the updated version of the Facebook page for the rally.
Organizers hung a few signs and set up a microphone as Bwog chatted with some folks from Glenn Beck TV. The other day, Beck declared on his TV show, “I find Columbia University to be one of the most arrogant places I’ve ever set foot on. And I don’t do that often unless I’m wearing a disguise.” Burn. In this clip from Glenn Beck’s show (skip to 3:25), audience member in her first year at Columbia, defends her decision to sign up for the dinner: “Who else can say they’ve met this dictator?” Beck takes off his jacket, and explains (in a surprisingly level-headed way, at least compared to his past Columbia-related outbursts) how talking with Ahmadinejad “gives him power” and “legitimizes evil.” It seems the dinner has stirred students across political lines. While the traditionally conservative news outlets covering the rally (Glenn Beck TV, NY Post, Fox News) seemed to support the protesters’ intentions, many students attending the event identify as liberal.
Sam Schube was first to take the mic. “We’re here because we hold the modest, but at the same time really grand hope that we might use our voices to draw attention to those who are silenced, and those who refuse to remain silent in the face to unimaginable hardship,” he announced. Jake Snider introduced featured speaker Shirin Nariman, an Iranian human rights activist and former political prisoner. “To those CIRCA students and others who associate themselves with Ahmadinejad,” she stressed, “your presence represents the principles you believe.” David Fine closed the rally with an eloquent and refreshingly pragmatic speech:
“It seems like a simple thing to protest against, and yet the most common question we’ve been asked is, ‘Why protest? Why involve students in something that will most likely never affect them in their day to day lives?’ Why in a time when the language of human rights and freedom is so transcendent should that even be a question?… Our presence, however small, here today, reminds Columbia and New York that although the terror of Tehran may be allowed to visit our city, though he may be allowed to sleep in our hotels, and eat in our diners, he will not do so as a welcome guest. Rather he will be greeted as the tyrant he is…but that seems a bit too easy. It’s kind of easy to come here and just listen to a few speeches and wave a few signs and go back to your classes. Though we are lending an important voice abroad to those who have been silenced in Iran, the fact remains that they will stay silenced, perhaps for a while. And so rather than ending our speech here with some type of tangible outlet for our frustration like chants or cheerings, I’d rather we do something a bit more unsettling, that we end with silence… in solidarity and to recognize their silence.”
And so we ended with a moment of silence, and then everyone dispersed.