Thousands protest Iran vote in San Francisco

Oct 10, 20090 comments

SFGate, July 25- (07-25) 16:58 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — Thousands of demonstrators shouting “Free Iran” thronged San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza Saturday to show solidarity with Iranian protesters who have taken to the streets of Tehran for weeks to dispute the June 12 presidential election there.

“A turning point has been made,” city Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, the first Iranian American elected to office in San Francisco, told the crowd. “This day is historic.” Mirkarimi, a main rally organizer, said the gathering and dozens like it around the globe Saturday marked the rise of a citizen diplomacy movement he compared to those that helped end the Cold War. The rally is part of a global effort sparked by Firuzeh Mahmoudi, an Iranian American mother in Berkeley whose organizing through traditional channels and social networking sites fueled demonstrations in more than 105 cities from Amsterdam to Tokyo. Mahmoudi, an environmental consultant on leave from United Nations work, said she was moved to act after watching online videos of Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s violent crackdown on supporters of opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. One showed an unknown woman reciting a poem from a rooftop, calling to God for help. “I just want that woman to know she’s not alone,” Mahmoudi said. “Seeing people, innocent people, being killed and beaten in broad daylight, one can only imagine what goes on behind prison walls.” Mirkarimi had already been organizing a San Francisco rally in support of democracy in Iran, and then melded it with the global day of action Mahmoudi sparked. The crowd, with a cross section of ethnicities, ranged from infants in strollers to grandmothers waving pre-Islamic Revolution Iranian flags. The gathering filled the center promenade of the plaza between two rows of trees a block long and spilled out onto the grass on either side, where children frolicked. It was studded with people in green shirts and armbands – the color of the Iranian opposition. One sign depicted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the disputed winner of the election, as Adolf Hitler. Organizers estimated the crowd at 10,000, which could not be confirmed. State Attorney General Jerry Brown and a host of city leaders spoke. Turaj Zaim, a 32-year-old San Francisco poet and musician, fled Iran with his mother when he was 6 years old. His father, Kourosh Zaim, an Iranian democracy advocate, was jailed after the recent election. “International awareness,” Zaim said, “seems to be the only pressure that is working on this regime.” E-mail John Coté at You may see this article at its source.