It was Sizdeh Bedar and Easter Sunday, but Japan continues in its unacceptable failure to give the appropriate response in the Jamal Saberi/Jalal Amanzadeh Nouei case, so once again we were out in front of the Japanese Embassy on April 4: the fourth time within the span of three weeks.
To hold our own seasonal celebration, we brought along a little table and set it with a tablecloth, a bouquet of spring flowers, good china plates laden with sweets (some of which were homemade and the most beautiful things I’ve ever tasted), and a small plate holding little cards with our website information for people in the local community who want to learn more about Jamal.
Photo courtesy of Saeed Salehinia
We also debuted our Saberi Solidarity Cherry Tree, an 8′ tall “tree” made of chicken wire wrapped in plaster sheets then painted to resemble a tree trunk, and topped with a crown of blooming branches of cherry blossoms. The branches were then decorated with Saberi Cherry blossom shapes were cut from papers in various patterns and shades of pink, with the FREE JAMAL! logo glued to one side. This was fun. :)
Photo courtesy of Saeed Salehinia
I think our friendly approach to community outreach was effective, as several people from the neighborhood stopped by to learn more about why we were protesting. Certainly one of the most wonderful gifts of the day was Ruth, a local photographer journalist who happened across our demonstration just as we were setting up and stayed with us for at least an hour, taking photographs and learning more about Saberi. We were so happy to have met Ruth and really enjoyed her company. I wonder if maybe we’ll see her again one of these Sundays! :) The police assigned to our demonstration are by now very familiar with our presence, and were helpful and friendly. There were many pedestrians out and about, given the lovely weather, and all seemed interested and curious in our demonstration, with some stopping to talk and learn more about the situation of Saberi specifically and Iranian refugees in general. Lots of people carried cameras, and several stopped to take pictures of us.
Several double-decker buses full of out-of-town tourists took photos of our demonstration (we provided a little local flavor for their tour, you know) and will surely will follow up on Saberi’s case when they have a chance to look more closely at their pictures and read Saberi’s name on the signs. As always, the cars in the neighborhood slowed nearly to a stop in the middle of the street so that they could read our signs.
There was significant traffic in and out of the Japanese Embassy, even on Sunday, and the Japanese saw and heard our protest chants and critiques. We also had another visit from the representatives of the Islamic regime, who demonstrated the eloquent extendability of their manicured-just-so middle fingers as they drove past. I guess that’s the white flag of the sullenly defeated. :) We did not feel compelled to respond to their display, as we all know that the Iranian people have repeatedly and as recently as Chahar Shanbe-suri told them what to do with that finger. :) Anyway, these boys should be careful – if they keep coming around our way to visit, we might get the impression that they’d like to join us in demanding Saberi’s freedom. :D
Once again we had a wonderful mix of Iranians and non-Iranians, women and men from a variety of ideological orientations, all of whom have shown impressive dedication to human rights, to the cause of Saberi, and by extension to the cause of all refugees, Iranian and non-Iranian, worldwide.
Our group has done a fantastic job so far: we have been present in front of that Embassy 4 times in the span of 3 weeks, and that is excellent work. We will keep our presence in front of the Japanese Embassy lively, consistent, friendly and creative. In this way, we intend to maintain pressure on Japan for Saberi’s case, while educating the community about Saberi specifically, and about Japan’s well-established racist history of abusing refugee rights in general, and violating the principle of non-refoulement specifically.
And yes, we WILL be back next week in front of the Japanese Embassy at 3pm. Japan, you see we are just getting warmed up, right? :) Hope to see you out there, Sunday, April 11, 2010, at 3pm at the Japanese Embassy (2520 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington DC). Everyone is welcome to stop by to share in sweets and discussion about Saberi’s situation. Even those pesky regime boys.
~ Maria Rohaly