WASHINGTON (AP) — Chanting 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 Irantriggered by the death of Mahsa Amini, aged 22, in the custody of the morality police in that country.
On the US National Mall, thousands of women and men of all ages – wearing green, white and red, the colors of Iran’s flag – chanted to the beat. “Be afraid. Be afraid. We are one in this,” the demonstrators shouted, before marching to the White House. “Say his name! Mahsa!”
The demonstrations, organized by local organizers in the United States, drew Iranians from across the Washington DC area, some who traveled from Toronto to join the crowd.
In Los Angeles, home to the largest population of Iranians outside Iran, a crowd of protesters formed a slow procession along the blocks of a closed downtown street. They chanted for the downfall of Iran’s government and waved hundreds of Iranian flags that turned the skyline into a rippling wave of red, white and green.
“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 a second-class citizen and they’re sick of it,” Scharm said.
Iran’s anti-government protest movement first focused on the country’s mandatory hijab covering for women after Amiri’s death on September 16. Demonstrations there have since turned into the Islamic Republic’s biggest challenge since the 2009 Green Movement over contested elections. Several anti-government protests took place at several universities in Tehran on Saturday.
Iranian security forces have dispersed gatherings in that country with live ammunition and tear gas, killing more than 200 people, including teenage girls, according to rights groups.
The Biden administration has said it condemns the brutality and repression against Iran’s citizens and will seek ways to impose more sanctions on the Iranian government if the violence continues.
Between songs, the DC protesters broke into song, singing traditional Persian music about life and freedom — all written after the 1979 revolution brought religious fundamentalists to power in Iran. They sang one in particular in unison – “Baraye”, meaning because, which became the unofficial anthem of the protests in Iran. The artist of that song, Shervin Hajipour, was arrested shortly after posting the song on his Instagram in late September. It has accumulated over 40 million views.
“Because of women, life, freedom,” chanted the protesters, echoing a popular protest song: “Azadi” – Freedom.
The movement in Iran is rooted in the same issues as in the US and around the globe, 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 D.C. march. She referred to the repeal of abortion laws in the United States. “It’s about control over women’s bodies.”
Weeks of Saturday solidarity rallies in the US capital have drawn growing crowds.
In Berlin, a crowd estimated by the German police at several tens of thousands turned out to show solidarity for the women and activists leading 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 demonstrators there said they had come from other parts of Germany and other European countries to show their support.
“It’s so 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’s a revolution, in Iran. And the people of the world need to see that.”
Blood reported from Los Angeles.
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