At its Oct. 25 meeting, the Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution titled “Human Rights: Women, Life, Freedom” condemning the atrocities committed by the Iranian government’s morality police that resulted in the deaths of Mahsa Amini, Sarina Esmaeilzadeh, Nika Shakarami and others. The resolution stands with a similar one approved by the City Council on Oct. 11, condemning the government of Iran for the wrongful death of Amini and calling upon the United States government and the United Nations to increase sanctions against Iran. Amini’s death sparked sustained protests worldwide and prompted a movement in the name of women’s rights and human rights. In Los Angeles, a city home to the biggest Iranian community outside of Iran, Beverly Hills is known as its own hub.
To shed light on how the movement is impacting many in Beverly Hills, the board invited Mayor Lili Bosse, Councilmember Sharona Nazarian, former BHUSD School Board President Nooshin Meshkaty, district parent (and aunt of Board Member Gabriel Halimi) Maryam Halimi, and Beverly Hills High School Associated Student Body President, Ashley Jourabchi to share their perspectives as part of the BHUSD Community Spotlight.
“There’s an unprecedent number of women fighting for human rights in Iran,” President Mary Wells said. “These women and their supporters are putting their lives at risk and are calling for the world to amplify their voices. The City Council of Beverly Hills has taken the lead with a resolution calling for action. Although our lens is an educational one, we stand with all women of Iran and their bravery and fighting for what are unabashed violations of fundamental human rights.”
“Our community is an exceptional one, with residents from around the world,” Nazarian said. “Many Iranians immigrated to Beverly Hills 43 years ago because they were exiled when the Islamic regime and the Islamic Revolution took over. They felt that Beverly Hills was a safe place and a welcoming space.”
Nazarian herself moved to the United States as a young girl, being “among the first wave of immigrants from Iran.” She is the first Iranian American female to serve on the Beverly Hills City Council.
“Our amazing young people have the intellect, courage and strength to make a difference and bring about global change,” Nazarian said. “With resolutions like these, we are showing them why they matter, and the reason why we are united as part of our international stance of solidarity with the people of Iran.”
“What makes Beverly Hills so unique is that we value human rights,” Bosse said.
“And that no matter where we came from, one thing that we have in common is that we will always stand up and stand strong for one another.” The words ‘Justice for Mahsa Amini’ continue to shine on Beverly Hills City Hall “until there is justice,” Bosse said.
Meshkaty asked the community to save the date for a “peaceful rally through the city, just to let everyone know that a city as glamorous as Beverly Hills is not there just for merchandise They also stand there for what’s right.” The rally will be held on Nov. 5 at 1 p.m. with more details to come.
Halimi, a parent with three children enrolled in the district, was born in Iran during the Islamic Revolution and lived there until 1993, when she left her country in search of freedom. In sharing her story, she recalled being “constantly harassed” by the morality police during her teenage years for “anything from a little hair showing out of our hijab to laughing with friends. Sometimes, even for being good looking.” Halimi’s mother, a pediatric physician forced to work at a government clinic, suffered from a heart condition, and died at age 48 after being denied leave for a specialized treatment overseas. “Since we were Jewish, we were not permitted to leave Iran,” Halimi said.
“A few years after my mom’s passing, the government, not having any use for the rest of us, allowed us to leave Iran for a duration of two weeks,” she said. “But we took advantage of it, and fled Iran.” At the time, Halimi was 15 years old.
As a first-generation Persian American high school student, “we’ve been severely, severely affected by these tragedies,” Jourabchi said. “And now, seeing the rise in antisemitism, we’ve been baffled by what’s been happening at this day and age.”
Jourabchi, whose father fled Iran some 35 years ago, hopes to ignite change by increasing awareness beyond the Persian and Jewish community. “It’s important for us to stand for what we believe in,” she said. “And I really believe that we truly can make a difference as we stand together as a community.”