Protests in Iran trigger solidarity rallies in the US and Europe



WASHINGTON (AP) — Singing crowds marched through the streets of Berlin, Washington DC and Los Angeles on Saturday in a show of international support for protesters facing a violent government crackdown in Iran sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, of 22 years old, in the custody of the moral police of that country.

On the US National Mall, thousands of women and men of all ages, dressed in green, white and red, the colors of Iran’s flag, shouted to the beat. “Be scared. Be scared. We are one in this,” protesters shouted, before marching toward the White House. “Say his name! Dough!”

The demonstrations, organized by grassroots organizers from across the United States, drew Iranians from around the Washington DC area, with some traveling from Toronto to join the crowd.

In Los Angeles, home to the largest population of Iranians outside of Iran, a crowd of protesters formed a slow march along blocks of a closed downtown street. They sang for the fall of Iran’s government and waved hundreds of Iranian flags that turned the horizon into an undulating wave of red, white and green.

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“We want freedom,” they thundered.

Shooka Scharm, a lawyer born in the US after her parents fled the Iranian revolution, wore a T-shirt with the slogan “Women, Life, Freedom” in English and Farsi. In Iran, “women are like second-class citizens and they are fed up with it,” she Scharm said.

Iran’s nationwide anti-government protest movement first focused on the country’s mandatory hijab for women following Amiri’s death on September 16. Since then, the demonstrations there have morphed into the biggest challenge to the Islamic Republic since the 2009 Green Movement over disputed elections. More anti-government protests took place in Tehran on Saturday at several universities.

Iranian security forces have dispersed gatherings in that country with live ammunition and tear gas, killing more than 200 people, including teenagers, according to human rights groups.

The Biden administration has said that it condemns the brutality and repression against the citizens of Iran and that it will seek ways to impose further sanctions against the Iranian government if the violence continues.

In between chants, protesters in DC began singing traditional Persian music about life and freedom, all written after the 1979 revolution that brought religious fundamentalists to power in Iran. They sang one in particular in unison: “Baraye”, which means because of, which has become the unofficial anthem of the protests in Iran. The artist of that song, Shervin Hajipour, was arrested shortly after posting the song to his Instagram in late September. It racked up over 40 million views.

“For women, life, freedom”, chanted the demonstrators, echoing a popular protest chant: “Azadi” – Freedom.

The movement in Iran is rooted in the same problems as in the United States and around the world, said protester Samin Aayanifard, 28, who left Iran three years ago. “It’s forced hijab in Iran and here in America, after 50 years, women’s bodies are under control,” said Aayanifard, who drove from East Lansing, Michigan, to join the DC march. He referred to the setbacks in abortion laws in the United States. “It’s about control over women’s bodies.”

Several weeks of Saturday solidarity rallies in the US capital have drawn ever-increasing crowds.

In Berlin, nearly 40,000 people gathered to show solidarity with the women and activists who have led the movement in recent weeks in Iran. The protests in the German capital, organized by the Woman(asterisk) Life Freedom Collective, began at the Victory Column in Berlin’s Tiergarten park and continued as a march through central Berlin.

Some protesters said they had come from other parts of Germany and other European countries to show their support.

“It is very important for us to be here, to be the voice of the people of Iran, who are being killed in the streets,” said Shakib Lolo, who is from Iran but lives in the Netherlands. “And this is no longer a protest, it is a revolution in Iran. And the people of the world have to see it.”

Blood reported from Los Angeles.

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