‘We are one in this’: Iran protests trigger large solidarity rallies in US, Europe

Thousands demonstrate against Tehran’s fundamentalist regime in Washington, Los Angeles and Berlin, in wake of major rallies in Islamic Republic over killing of Mahsa Amini

US demonstrators rally at the National Mall to protest against the Iranian regime, in Washington, DC, October 22, 2022, following the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of the Islamic Republic's notorious 'morality police' (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
US demonstrators rally at the National Mall to protest against the Iranian regime, in Washington, DC, October 22, 2022, following the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of the Islamic Republic's notorious 'morality police' (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Chanting crowds marched in the streets of Washington DC, Los Angeles and Berlin on Saturday in a show of international support for demonstrators facing a violent government crackdown in Iran, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of that country’s morality police.

On the US National Mall, thousands of women and men of all ages — wearing green, white and red, the colors of the Iranian flag — shouted in rhythm. “Be scared. Be scared. We are one in this,” demonstrators yelled, before marching to the White House. “Say her name! Mahsa!”

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

In Los Angeles, home to the biggest population of Iranians outside of Iran, a throng of protesters formed a slow-moving procession along blocks of a closed downtown street. They chanted 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.

“We want freedom,” they thundered.

Shooka Scharm, an attorney who was born in the US after her parents fled the Iranian revolution, was wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “Women, Life, Freedom” in English and Farsi. In Iran, “women are like a second-class citizen and they are sick of it,” Scharm said.

US demonstrators carry a large photo of Mahsa Amini during a protest against the Iranian regime, in Los Angeles, on October 22, 2022, following the death of Amini in the custody of the Islamic Republic’s notorious “morality police.” (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Iran’s nationwide anti-government protest movement first focused on the country’s mandatory hijab covering for women following Amini’s death on September 16. The demonstrations there have since transformed into the greatest challenge to the Islamic Republic since the 2009 Green Movement over disputed elections. In Tehran on Saturday, more anti-government protests took place at several universities.

Iran’s security forces have dispersed gatherings in that country with live ammunition and tear gas, killing over 200 people, including teenage girls, according to rights groups.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has said it condemns the brutality and repression against the citizens of Iran and that it will look for ways to impose more sanctions against the Iranian government if the violence continues.

US demonstrators rally at the National Mall to protest against the Iranian regime, in Washington, October 22, 2022, following the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of the Islamic Republic’s notorious “morality police.” (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Between chants, protesters in DC broke into song, singing traditional Persian music about life and freedom — all written after the revolution in 1979 brought religious fundamentalists to power in Iran. They sang one in particular in unison — “Baraye,” meaning because of, which has become the unofficial anthem of the Iran protests. The artist of that song, Shervin Hajipour, was arrested shortly after posting the song to his Instagram in late September. It accrued more than 40 million views.

“Because of women, life, freedom,” protesters sang, echoing a popular protest chant: “Azadi” — Freedom.

US women shout during a protest against the Iranian regime, in Los Angeles, on October 22, 2022, following the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of the Islamic Republic’s notorious “morality police.” (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

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 DC march. She referred to rollbacks of 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 growing crowds.

In Berlin, a crowd estimated by German police at several tens of thousands turned out to show solidarity for the women and activists leading the movement for the past few weeks in Iran. The protests in Germany’s 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.

People attend a protest against the Iranian regime, in Berlin, Germany, October 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Some demonstrators there said they had come from elsewhere in Germany and other European countries to show their support.

“It is so important for us to be here, to be the voice of the people of Iran, who are killed on the streets,” said Shakib Lolo, who is from Iran but lives in the Netherlands. “And this is not a protest anymore, this is a revolution, in Iran. And the people of the world have to see it.”

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