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Iran protests spark solidarity rallies in the U.S. and Europe

A man gestures as people attend a protest against the Iranian regime in Berlin on Saturday.
Markus Schreiber
/
AP
A man gestures as people attend a protest against the Iranian regime in Berlin on Saturday.

WASHINGTON — Chanting crowds marched in the streets of Berlin, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles 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 U.S. National Mall, thousands of women and men of all ages — wearing green, white and red, the colors of the Iran 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 D.C. 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 a undulating wave of red, white and green.

"We want freedom," they thundered.

Shooka Scharm, an attorney who was born in the U.S. 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.

Iran's nationwide anti-government protest movement first focused on the country's mandatory hijab covering for women following Amiri's death on Sept. 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 antigovernment protests took place at several universities.

Demonstrators carry a large photo of Mahsa Amini during a protest against the Iranian regime, in Los Angeles, on Saturday.
Richard Vogel / AP
/
AP
Demonstrators carry a large photo of Mahsa Amini during a protest against the Iranian regime, in Los Angeles, on Saturday.

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.

The Biden 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.

Between chants, protesters in D.C. 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.

The movement in Iran is rooted in the same issues as in the U.S. 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 rollbacks of abortion laws in the United States. "It's about control over women's bodies."

Several weeks of Saturday solidarity rallies in the U.S. 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.

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."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press