Iran: Australia-bound Iranian PhD candidates see hopes fade amid unrest

Mahsa Amini's demise a death sentence for Australia-bound Iranian Ph.D. aspirants who have been waiting on their visas for years.

Abhishek NairUpdated: Wednesday, September 28, 2022, 02:26 AM IST
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Iran: Heavy traffic in downtown Tehran as Iranians protest Mahsa Amini's death over wearing a hijab | AP Photo

“They are the reason we are in this situation,” Samira Amini, an Iranian woman who wishes to pursue Ph.D. in Australia, attributed the cause of her visa woes to the prevailing regime in the country led by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Samira, who lives in the capital of Tehran which has seen massive protests over the death of Mahsa Amini after she was allegedly beaten by morality police for not wearing the hijab in accordance with the government standards, is one among thousands of Iranian Ph.D. aspirants waiting on their visas to Down Under for years and sees the current unrest in the country prolonging the problems they are facing.

“I try to be hopeful about the future and to see changes in our country but I just know that it is very hard to achieve. We had different protests many times before, but nothing changed after them, just people were killed, but this time seems different,” said a hopeful Samira who lost her scholarship to a University in Australia once and dreads the idea of losing it again.

Candidates see red in Iran's relationship with the West

With Iran having a difficult relationship with the West, aspirants like Samira believe the current regime’s actions are leading Australia’s Department of Home Affairs to scrutinise candidates from Iran, more than other countries, which is not fair.

“I have never worked for the Iranian government, and my family has not been working for them as well. I just want to say, it is not fair to lose all my dreams for just being a normal person in Iran,” stated Samira, who is also a mother and has avoided going to protests in the country keeping her son’s safety in mind.

Fight for visas and Mahsa goes hand in hand for some

Candidates are also resorting to appealing to the Iranian and Australian governments on social media while pushing a Twitter campaign against the issue of visa delays with the hashtag #helpIranianstudents. Mohammad Hossein, another aspirant from Tehran who has been one of the most prominent students behind this campaign, has also found a fight in Mahsa’s death as his posts on the microblogging platform call for justice in the case but Iranian authorities pulling the plug on internet connection has been a cause of concern.

“We have the internet connection for almost 10 hours per day and even for that duration we require a proxy to get in applications like Twitter as they all have been blocked by the government,” said Hossein, who is making use of anti-block software which he won’t be able to access after 6 PM.

An employee at a blood transfusion research centre, situated in the capital, Hossein says that the blackouts have severely affected his work.

Unrest adds fuel to worsening mental health

The mental health of some candidates, whose visas are yet to see the light of the day, has taken a hit and the onus of the same is partly being ascribed to the Australian government apart from the ongoing unrest in Iran.

“We are at a high level of stress and anxiety at this stage, and the Australian government makes it worse by this delay in the visa processing. They've put us in an uncertain situation and this is not fair,” said Hamid, a part time English instructor, who wants the Albanese government to believe in human rights and logical approaches which guarantee legal immigrants like him a chance.

More than 75 individuals have been reported to be killed in the Mahsa Amini protests in Iran, according to the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights, while the government figures have kept the numbers at 41 which includes members of the security forces.

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