Montrealers take to streets to support Iran’s people

By P.A. Sévigny on July 2, 2009

Over the past 10 days thousands of Montrealers have marched through the downtown core to protest what they described as a “stolen election” and Iran’s “Islamic coup d’état”. As the march made its way through the downtown core on its way to the Guy Favreau complex on Réné Lévesque Blvd, many participants told The Métropolitain they were there to support all their friends and relatives who were facing gas, water cannon and police bullets on the streets of Iran’s capital city, Teheran.

“As long as people keep taking to the streets,” said student spokesman Farzan, “you can be sure the mullahs will step up the violence.”

Following Iran’s June 13 general elections, millions of people opposed to the nation’s theocratic rulers were outraged to see how incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared himself the winner long before the day’s votes had been counted. 

“It was fraud, pure and simple,” said Concordia student Reza who refused to cite his real name because he has family back in Iran. “There’s no way Ahmadinejad could have won this election with those numbers.”

Iran-demo-CO026BW.jpgAfter massive popular demonstrations began to pour onto the streets, authorities began to arrest and detain various opposition leaders, cell phone messaging systems and assorted internet services came under attack and were systematically cut off after which the government began to flood the streets with police and para-military troops. While the state’s media report only 17 dead over the past week, Farzan said thousands were injured, hundreds arrested and scores of people were killed or simply “gone”, never to be seen again. What could become a revolution is now being televised as Iranian students are using instant communication venues through Facebook and Youtube facilities to get their story out as to what’s happening on the streets of Teheran. Farzan (not his real name) said students are a favorite target for the government’s paramilitary police corps because students are on the cutting edge of the nation’s movement for political and social reform. Despite efforts to close the media down, reports of midnight beatings, rapes and students being thrown out of windows are beginning to slip through the cracks and protests against the regime’s escalating violence are being seen and heard around the world.

Dressed in stylish black with a green scarf wrapped around her head and shoulders, “Tara”, a Concordia biology student, said she had to hide her face because she was soon going back to Iran and she did not want to have Iranian security agents waiting for her at the airport. As a member of the city’s growing Iranian student community, she said everybody had to be careful because the Iranian government is supposed to have placed its own agents among the city’s student community.

“You never know if there’s going to be a problem with your papers or with your visa,” she said. “If they really want to make trouble, someone just walks up to the table while you’re having a coffee, drops a picture of your sister on the table and tells you to behave because your sister’s going to be in big trouble if you don’t shut up….nobody really knows but there’s enough going on within the community to keep everybody nervous.”

Reza agrees with Tara. 

“This isn’t going to stop and the violence will just get worse.” he said. “During the Islamic revolution, over 300,000 people were thrown in jail after which only a few people were released. The rest were killed because the authorities didn’t know what to do with them. Trust me, these people aren’t afraid to kill their own people….so things are going to get worse — a lot worse.”

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