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Iran’s violent crackdown spurs San Diego protesters

19 July 2010 No Comment

By Helen Kaiao Chang

See original story on SDNN

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Iranian Americans are intensifying rallies in San Diego and other U.S. cities, in solidarity with Iran’s election protestors, who have died in the wake of the Iran government’s bloody crackdown.

In San Diego, demonstrators held signs and chanted slogans Saturday afternoon outside the federal building downtown, the second such rally in four days. Another rally is planned Sunday, June 21, 12-2 p.m., at the United Nations Plaza in Balb0a Park. An estimated 400 protesters attended on Saturday.

Demonstrators said they wanted to share the message of Iranian protesters worldwide.

“We’re here to show solidarity for the people of Iran and all the people… who got killed in the recent demonstrations for freedom and democracy,” said Bashir, an Iranian American engineer, who requested to use his first name only. “My hope for Iran is that people will be able to get justice… elect the government that they desire, and have a government that’s by the people, for the people.”

“My people have had everything taken from them — their rights and democracy,” said Pedran, a sophomore at Palomar College, who asked to use a pseudonym. “We’re here to support everyone who got killed. They’re in the streets fighting for us. We’re here to get this message out.”

Many demonstrators hid their identities — wearing masks or scarves or using pseudonyms — for fear of repercussions from the Iran government towards family members in Iran or themselves when returning to the country.

Watching killings on YouTube

But they used Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media to get the word out and form networks of information.

Sara Zare, a PhD student at a San Diego university, was crying at the rally, after seeing a video on YouTube and Facebook of an Iranian woman who was crushed to death by Iranian military. “I cannot take the image I saw this morning of the girl dying out of my mind,” she said. “My heart goes for her… for her family.”

“Everything is out there on Facebook,” said Nima, a university student who asked to use his first name only. “You can see people dying, We’re all crying watching it. Everyone is so upset. We can’t just sit and watch. We have to get in the streets here.”

One of the rally speakers warned people to take security precautions using social media. He asked Twitter users to change their time and location to Iran to avoid detection; delete messages after sending; and use maps and information provided on Facebook.

This is because Iranian government militia are raiding the computer accounts of protesters they arrest to find evidence to imprison them.

“This is a Facebook revolution,” said one rally speaker.

News from Iran

Speakers at the rally also shared stories from Iran.

“We are keeping up with what people are actually doing in Iran on the streets,” said Kourosh Taghavi, who uses Facebook to communicate with protesters.”We believe the change will come from the streets of Iran.”

“People did not back down when the anti-riot police viciously attacked them with sprays and acid,” said Taghavi. “People did not back down, they are still chanting (slogans),” By nightfall in Tehran – early afternoon in San Diego – the rooftop chanting on houses had grown so strong that “someone actually said the entire city of Tehran is shaking,” Taghavi said.

Protesters have also learned of rallies in other U.S. locations, such as Orange County, San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Florida, said Sara Hosseinizad, a San Diego demonstrator.

Non-violent movement

Iranian American protesters said they are adhering to strict non-violence, in line with the wishes of Iranian demonstrators.

“We have experienced that violence is not going to get anybody anywhere,” said Taghavi. “People who have used violence, including the previous regime in Iran, have been duped.”

Taghavi mentioned Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela as leaders who have used non-violent means to achieve social goals. “We have had great teachers and we would like to continue that path,” said Taghavi.

Is non-violence the path that protesters in Iran are taking? “Absolutely,” he said. “This is the message we are receiving from them (in Iran).

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenChang.

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