Those in solidarity with a growing global protest movement against Iran’s theocracy plan to rally in Victoria Park on Saturday.
There have already been several gatherings in London, Ont. since the Sept. 16 death of a 22-year-old woman held in custody by the Iranian regime’s morality police.
Organizer Besat Zardosht said the Saturday event coincides with a similar rally happening in Berlin, where there have been reports of around 50,000 pre-registered participants.
“What we want is democracy for Iran, and for people to be able to choose who is going to govern them,” said Zardosht, who came to London 12 years ago as a Western University student. “We want minority people in Iran to have their basic rights.”
The movement was sparked after Mahsa Amini was arrested in Tehran on Sept. 13 for “inappropriate attire.” She had allegedly worn her mandatory headscarf too loosely, as per the country’s strict dress code enforced since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Amini fell into a coma after she was detained and died in hospital three days later. Police say she suffered a heart attack, while her family denies she had any heart problems. They say she died with bruises on her legs, while a coroner’s report given through state media linked her death to pre-existing medical conditions.
The Iranian government has ordered an investigation into her death.
Last week, human rights groups estimated that at least 201 people have been killed, hundreds injured and thousands arrested during protests that the government has described as a plot by Iran’s enemies.
‘This is the time to act’
Following the revolution 44 years ago, protesters have vented their anger over the treatment of women and the wider repression in Iran.
“This time is different,” said Zardosht, “because it has been viral, and all of the Iranians have been united and they just want one goal, [for] the Iranian regime to go.”
Azadeh Erfanian is going to the rally too. She’s been living in Canada for over 30 years and works in London as a social worker.
It’s been “impossible,” she said, to stay in touch with friends and family due to frequent Internet disruptions she blames on the government, an issue that started before the protest movement.
Protesters in the movement are fighting for everyone’s rights, not just their own, she said.
“The whole world has been targeted to some extent,” she said. “If [people] care about the future of this world, the future of our children and about humanity and about love and freedom and women – this is the time to act, not just shake hands or even just cut hair. We are way beyond showing solidarity by figurative actions. We need voices, we need loud voices.”
Amini’s death was the last blow in what has been decades of oppression, said Erfanian.
“Mahsa wasn’t the only one,” she said. “If you’re upset about it, you need to do something. Otherwise tomorrow is going to be late.”
London Morning8:22Local Iranians calling for democracy and more freedoms