Iran invites black Americans to discrimination conference

Tehran continues to claim support for victims of police violence, and some families of victims say they want to attend

Demonstrators protest outside the Ferguson police department on October 10, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP)
Demonstrators protest outside the Ferguson police department on October 10, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP)

Iran has invited African-Americans affected by police violence to a conference on discrimination in Tehran, the Telegraph reported Sunday.

“A large group of black Americans, including victims of police brutality and black activists, are due to arrive in Iran for the conference,” an organizer told the Islamic republic’s Shargh newspaper, according to the Telegraph.

The family of Kawanza Jamal Beaty, a 23-year-old man shot and killed in Newport News, Virginia in July said they would attend.

“I’m interested in coming to the conference,” Kawanz’s father Clyde Dargan told the Telegraph. “I want to bring awareness. It’s just to bring awareness to the world about what’s going on in America. This is an epidemic and cops are not getting prosecuted.”

Dargan said he wasn’t worried about going to Iran.

“A black man in America is just like a foreigner. They’re killing us. We live in the land of the free and the home of the brave but we’re not worried about terrorists, we’re worried about the police.”

As incidents of police violence towards African-Americans have received increased exposure and media attention in recent months, Iran has sought to capitalize on the controversy and claim moral superiority over its rivals in Washington.

In April Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the US of tyrannizing its African-American citizens, saying “black people (in the US) are oppressed, disrespected and humiliated.”

Khamenei was referring to the demonstrations and unrest in US cities against perceived racism in local police departments.

In a series of tweets in December, Khamenei disparaged the United States’ treatment of Native Americans and African-Americans, highlighting the events in Ferguson, Missouri and the Wounded Knee incident of 1890 — a battle between the US government and Native American forces that ended in the massacre of hundreds of Native American noncombatants, including women and children.

“Was it not colonialists who killed Native Americans & enslaved millions of Africans? Are these American values? #Ferguson #WoundedKnee,” the Supreme Leader tweeted at the time.

Freedom of speech is severely limited in Iran. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are all banned in the country. A 2009 protest movement claiming voter fraud in the reelection of then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was met with an iron fist, with thousands arrested and dozens killed by authorities.

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