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San Diegans rally, network to support Iran protest

13 July 2010 No Comment

By Helen Kaiao Chang

See original story on SDNN

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

With violence mounting as Iranians protest the questionable outcome of last weekend’s presidential election, San Diego sympathizers have harnessed social networking tools to voice their support.

Iranian-Americans in San Diego used Facebook to organize a downtown rally on Wednesday evening supporting election protesters in Iran. More than 150 supporters RSVPd, said one organizer Ali Sadr. As of 6 p.m. 400 people had arrived.

The San Diego protestors are also using social media to support friends and relatives in Iran, where the government has severely cracked down on phone and Internet access.

“These pictures will be uploaded tonight and shown,” said Sadr. In Iran, “they will see that people in the world — their friends and family support them.”

Protests broke out in Iran after the election results were announced Saturday, declaring the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner. Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets supporting the defeated reformist Hossein Mousavi under charges of rigged elections.

The Iranian government has responded by beating some protestors to death, as well as cracking down on cell phone and Internet access, according to Kourosh Taghavi and news wire reports. However, many Iranians are using Twitter and Flickr to send out information.

“We all feel that we need to help the Iranians who are peacefully marching in Iran to be heard by everybody,” said Taghavi, an Iranian American musician from Rancho Bernardo. “Human rights have taken center stage in this movement.”

Twitter and Facebook

In San Diego, Iranian Americans have been using Facebook and Twitter to communicate with Iranian relatives. Sara Hosseinizad, a quality manager at Nokia, said she has daily contact with Iranian friends through Facebook.

“I’m sitting here in America in safety and I feel for my (native) country,” said Hosseinizad, who lives in Rancho Bernardo. “In a way, I feel to so helpless. That’s the only way I can help them — be a contact point here and show them we care about them and try to distribute their message to the world.”

On her Facebook, she and hundreds of friends have replaced their photos with logos in the colors of the Iranian flag, asking, “Where is my vote?” Non-Iranian friends are also showing support by uploading logos that state: “In solidarity with Iranian people.”

Free elections

Many of San Diego’s Iranian-Americans said protesters in Iran are fed up with excessive government controls.

“This non-violent movement is pushing forward to reach the goals of this movement, which is more legal participation regardless of the political views,” said Taghavi. “But this peaceful approach to democracy is being responded by the government with vicious attacks by the police against peaceful demonstrators on the streets.”

“On one (hand), people in the opposition are pushing for non-violent approach to democracy by voting, by letting their voices be heard,” said Taghavi. “On the other hand, the government is trying to suppress their voices by clashing with the peaceful demonstrators, and in some instances by shooting and killing them.”

The election results were “the straw that broke the camel’s back, when people realized that the non-violent approach was being crushed by the government,” said Taghavi. “This is the main frustration behind the protests we are witnessing in Iran.”

U.S. government

The U.S. government should maintain a distance, said Sadr. “It should be resolved by Iranian people. Any foreign intervention will backfire. Anything that (the Iranian government can use to) say that this is not controlled by the people, they will say the foreigners are controlling it.”

“This is a grassroots effort by people who are fighting for their dreams,” Sadr said. “They want change.”


Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenChang.

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