Washington DC had an excellent demonstration on August 5, despite the fact that it had been pouring down rain all afternoon and into the evening. People still tried to come despite the rain, but even then there were obstacles: traffic was gridlocked throughout the city and many people called to say that were so badly tied up in traffic that there was no way they could reach to protest in time.
Despite the unfavorable weather and traffic circumstances, an undeterrable group met in Lafayette Park at 6:30pm. This park is directly across from the White House. This location was chosen both because there is an opportunity to interact with passers-by, and because of our demand that all national governments, including the US government, cease to recognize the Islamic Republic as a legitimate government and representative of people in Iran.
When we arrived, there was a large troupe of Boy Scouts taking a group photo in front of the White House. A few of them came over to video-record and photograph our demonstration. Voice of America, Washington Times, and blogger Niv Ellis of Quotidian Dissent were present, which was impressive given the weather (it was thundering and still raining as we started our protest). Fortunately, the rain slowed, then stopped during the course of the event.
Everything went according to our posted agenda, except that two of the speakers didn’t attend because of the rain. The group was ideologically very mixed, including greens, supporters of MEK/PMOI, independents, and reds/leftists, which at the end of the day made it a very successful event in and of itself. Stopping executions in Iran is something that people from all ideological and ethnic backgrounds can and should work towards together – this is a global concern that has implications for everyone.
Shirin Nariman, a human rights activist and former political prisoner, and who worked with Mission Free Iran to coordinate the protest, was the first speaker (pdf of Shirin’s statement). She spoke compellingly about the political prisoners at imminent risk of execution. After she presented her prepared remarks, she issued a call to all groups to work together to do whatever we can to bring about the end of this regime, suggesting as another opportunity the impending visit of Ahmadinejad to New York City for the UN’s annual meeting. Some excerpts of her statement follow:
As a former political prisoner who had witnessed tortures and massive daily executions, I can only say that each of us who were lucky enough to be alive and here now are responsible to do whatever we can to not only raise the awareness of severe violations of human rights in Iran but also we are responsible to expose the ruthless face of this regime. We must fight this regime by saving every single life of any prisoners in general so be it a political prisoner.
If we chose silence then we have granted our approval to criminal decisions of this regime.
I would like to alarm the world today that if Kazemi, Saremi and others are executed, then the new wave of mass murder of political prisoners will begin. This regime is falling and this is the end for the regime, so for sure it will do anything to suppress and kill anyone who is defying them to intimidate people so they can continue their dictatorship.
It is up to us and our responsibility to be united against this regime, only hand in hand with one strong voice to stand up to this brutal regime and say NO, not even one more execution, nor cutting off of hands or legs or gauging eyes in Iran.
Although we always have an open microphone, where anyone who wants to speak has 5 minutes of time allotted to do so, the weather deterred us from extending the event and no one chose to speak. Maria Rohaly gave the closing statement on behalf of Mission Free Iran. Some excerpts follow:
The calls that emanate from Iran, from the earliest post-election videos, to the use of social media to communicate across borders, to the letters from Sakineh’s children have met the ears of a world that has shown understanding, selflessness and compassion. The call from Iran and the response from the world has catalyzed a movement that benefits not only the people of Iran in their struggle against the Islamic regime but the whole human race.
The Islamic regime of Iran can not exist for a second without a reign of terror, without execution, stoning, imprisonment, and barbaric torture; and through the campaign for Sakineh, the world is learning that she is not the only one in imminent danger of execution. The Islamic regime, now under immense pressure from the world, more than ever needs to re-establish its already weakened barbaric authority over the people. Killings of people on all kinds of Islamic charges are continuing. …
It is under these grave circumstances that we come together here today to demand an immediate end to all executions in Iran, and to demand the immediate release of ALL political prisoners.
We are here to say to the Islamic regime that WE are not going away. WE stand with the Iranian people to the end, until the fall of the Islamic regime.
WE are here to say to our national governments that WE do not accept and WE do not tolerate recognition of a regime that “governs” through murder, torture and rape, whose official domestic policies are comprised of nothing more than savagery and barbarity.
WE are here to say: NOT ONE MORE EXECUTION.
Afterward, everyone in attendance seemed encouraged by the feeling of humane collaboration that characterized the event, and one person expressly stated how important this kind of event was for helping the community to try to work in a pluralistic way towards a common goal – getting rid of the regime.
Mission Free Iran
All photos courtesy of PR for Personal Rights