On Saturday afternoon, around 100 people gathered at Dealey Plaza to protest the Iranian government and show support for pro-democracy demonstrators in that country, where the regime has been retaliating against widespread protests since the June 12 election.
Saturday's demonstration, one of several locally in recent weeks, was part of a worldwide Global Day of Action called by Amnesty International and other groups, and the local rally drew Iranians from around the DFW. They took turns leading one another in chants such as, "People yes, mullahs no," and "They are terrorists, they must go."
Some signs demanded freedom; others featured enlarged photographs of protesters fleeing club-wielding police on the streets of Iran and images of Neda Soltan, the 26-year-old woman who was murdered in Tehran and who has become an international symbol of Iran's grassroots freedom movement. Meanwhile, a group of young men swung a life-size puppet of the Supreme Leader with a sign that said, "Death to Khameni!"
Many of those protesting on Saturday said they'd been imprisoned or threatened with death before fleeing the Islamic regime. "If I went back to Iran, they'd execute me," said Ali Pamenari, a human rights activist who said he has recently worked to help homosexuals persecuted in Iran.
Reza Alizade fled the country 18 years ago after a friend told him he would be killed for sending documentation of torture to Amnesty International and the United Nations, he said. On what should happen in his home country, Alizade, like many Iranians, said total change is the only acceptable option: "Two factions are fighting each other, but neither has the answer. The whole thing needs to be replaced by a democratic government."
The umbrella group that organized the Dallas protest, The Iranian Committee for National Solidarity in Dallas, supports a secular government and democratic elections and calls for release of all political prisoners and sanctions on the clerical regime. Saturday was for Dariush Khairkhah not just an opportunity to demand change, but also the anniversary of the day in 1981 when he escaped from Iran.
"I made a coup d'état against the Islamic regime in 1980 and was sentenced to be executed," he said. The sentence was postponed because as a pilot, he was needed to fight in the war against Iraq, but, he says, after his plane was shot down, he heard the government planned to kill him.
"I took a combat mission to Egypt and never went back," he said. As he told his story, dozens of people, including several children, waved Iranian flags and shouted slogans: "U.N. action action, U.N. sanction sanction!"
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