As mass protesting and violence continue to rage through the streets of Tehran, Iranian-Americans and sympathizers from around the New York area gathered at the United Nations this past Saturday to demonstrate on behalf of Iranian freedom. The pouring rain did not stop over 500 people from showing up at the protest, many of them donning green to show their support for reform candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi.
While some protesters attended in an effort to do what they could to support freedom and democracy, for others, like a woman who wished only to be identified as Fahimeh, it was much more personal. "All my family is there, and right now everyone is in the street," she proudly stated. While contact with family members has proven to be a challenge for her and most other demonstrators, many of them are still finding ways to contact their friends and loved ones. Even though a few said they know how to use Facebook and Twitter, the majority of the demonstrators were able to stay in touch over the phone, despite cell phone service being shoddy at best in the divided nation.
It was clear that all those who attended this UN rally had similar goals and visions regarding the political future of Iran. Green flags were waved proudly and chants of "Khamenei, Khamenei, shame on you, shame on you," rang throughout the crowd in an effort to condemn Iran's Supreme Leader. However, there was no consensus among the crowd regarding how the United States has acted since the Iranian protests broke out.
"I think President Obama handled it very well so far," said Mehdi Noorbaksh, a political scientist at Harrisburg University, and one of the organizers of this event. "America does not have a very good credibility anymore because of the coup in 1953," Noorkbaksh continued, "so definitely, we are very satisfied with his reaction so far."
Others, such as Faramarz Etesan, were more critical about the United States' lack of involvement. "They do nothing, not any action, they do, just silence." Etesan has been living in the US for twenty-five years, but almost all of his family, including his brother, sisters, and mother are still in Iran. He was not of the belief that one election, even if it turned out in his favor, was enough to change the direction of his country. "Whether it is Ahmadinejad or Mousavi, the regime is what has to go," he declared.
There was however, a consensus that no matter how the United States acted, real change would have to come internally. A man named Kaveh, who supported President Obama's handling of the situation, summed it up best. "If change is going to happen, it will have to come from inside Iran. We are a proud nation and we will do it by ourselves."
This day at the United Nations was one to show support for freedom and democracy in Iran, and to express solidarity for those who had perished during the post-election protests. While specific political opinions of the protesters did vary, it was clear that what they all wanted was freedom and safety for their loved ones back in their home country.Click below for audio from the protest: