Welcome to San Diego’s mega rally in support of freedom and human rights in Iran. Thank you for taking time to be here today. My name is Farrah Douglas. I’m an Iranian-American and I’m proud to raise my voice here tonight in support of millions of Iranians who struggle for their freedom.
Before anything else, I want to answer the question of: “Why are we here?” We are here as a nonpartisan group. This is a non-political event. We are not promoting, supporting or rallying for any political agenda or any candidate. Our primary goals for this evening’s rally are:
1) Giving Voice to the people of Iran in demanding civil & human rights. 2) Pressuring the Iranian government to stop its brutal treatment, the abuse of power, the imprisonment, torture and killing of peaceful demonstrators. 3) Announcing our solidarity with the Iranian people. Letting them know we have heard their voices, they are not alone in their struggle and they have our support.
We are proud to have prominent international organizations supporting and endorsing this non-political rally. We want to thank: Amnesty International (and their representative Cindy Mathews), Survivors of Torture International (and their representatives Maren Daugherty), End Violence against Women International (their representatives: Stephanie Hanson and Inez Baker) and IranPeace 2009 (their representatives: Cameron Malek and Bashir Eghbali). I also want to take time and introduce the other four ladies who helped organize this rally with me. They are: Stephanie Hanson, Kelly Morrissey, Fary Moini and Jamile Palizban. Our thanks to Bashir Eghbali and Cameron Malek as well.
Let me acknowledge that among us today are many factions of the Iranian- Americans. We honor you all and we want the world to see and know that despite our differences and differing political views, we are united in the most important cause of all: Freedom of speech and human rights for Iranians. In fact tomorrow, Saturday, there is another rally in front of the Federal Building in San Diego, at the corner of Front Street and Broadway. That rally is from 5 to7 pm and the organizers are inviting all of you to attend it.
Now let’s focus on the events that have prompted this rally and others all around the world. On June 12th 2009 a general election was held in Iran for the president. On the same day Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was announced as the winner of the election and the president of the country. According to the official results, Ahmadinejad received 62.6% of the votes, while his rival Mr. Mir Hossein Mousavi had received 33.8%.
The Iranians and most of the new media had expected the results to be much closer. Therefore, millions of Iranians did not believe the results and large crowds gathered in the streets to protest. We all saw the moving videos of these demonstrations on our TV screens. Signs of “Where is my vote?” were every where.
What we know is that at a minimum hundreds of these demonstrators were arrested, many were injured, and at least 20 were killed. The most famous victim is Neda Agh-Sultan. As we watched this 26-year old woman die on the streets of Tehran, we all cried for her and for Iran. Today in Iran is the 40th day of Neda’s death. There are demonstrations in Iran to remember her as a symbol of innocent Iranians whose lives are in danger just because they are asking for basic human rights and freedom of speech. With us today we have a young artist, Parmis Kashirad. She was born in Iran but raised in the United States. The recent events in Iran have moved her so, that she has devoted her time to paintings that portray and show the plight of the Iranian women. I invite you to take a few minutes after the rally and view her paintings.
What’s going on with human rights abuses in Iran? Amnesty International has complied a list of 368 individuals who have been identified as being arrested since the election. Tehran’s chief of police announced earlier this month that over 1,000 demonstrators were imprisoned. The families of these individuals have not been able to contact them or receive any information about them. Since June 12th, demonstrators have been met with clubs, bullets and tear gas. Worse yet, even when the streets are quiet, protestors disappear from their homes without word to their anxious families.
Human Rights Watch Group has collected accounts from detainees following their release, many of whom report mistreatment, threats and coercion to sign false confessions of being spies or working for foreign governments. For me, as a woman who lived through the Islamic Revolution of 1979, one of the most painful scenes, in addition to Neda’s death, was watching a video of one of the demonstrations in Iran, during which people chanted, “Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid. We’re together.” People who live in the free world don’t have any concept of what it means to be afraid of your own government and live in constant fear of being arrested.
We’re here this evening to support the Iranian people in their quest for freedom of speech and human rights. We are calling on the world to pay attention and to take notes of the mistreatment of the Iranians by the Iranian government. The following are addressed to the United Nations, President Obama, Mr. Ahmadinejad and the Iranian people :
1) We are calling on the United Nations and the world to impose sanctions on the Iranian government to force the release of all political prisoners.
2) We are asking the international community and the governments around the world to stop recognizing the Iranian regime as a legitimate government of this ancient country, while it is torturing and murdering its own people.
3) We are calling on President Obama to take a tougher stand against Iran and demand civility and human rights in Iran.
4) We are asking Iran’s Supreme Leader to free thousands of innocent Iranians who are imprisoned based on their political views. We in particular remember Shadi Sadr and Mirza Bahari amongst the other prisoners.
5) To the Iranian government we say: the world is watching you, the weight of the world’s moral judgment is on your shoulders. Practice civility. Hear the voices of the millions that you have silenced by force. NO MORE VIOLENCE.
6) To the world’s media: Please do not take your eyes off of Iran. As long as you’re watching, the Iranian government’s reaction to the demonstrators will be measured and somewhat civil. When you turn your eyes away, the brutality will begin.
7) We proudly proclaim ourselves to be the voice of the millions of Iranians who are voiceless now and need our support. We will use the same digital and global social media that the Iranians use to rebroadcast news from Iran: Twitter, facebook and so on.
8) We honor all Iranians, those who agree with their government, those who have demonstrated against their government with great risk to their lives, and those who tweet and tell us about their struggle.
9) We honor the Iranian women, who have taken the leading role in these demonstrations. We are your voice and will remain with you.
Now I want to call on every one to observe a minute of silence in respect to Neda and all other victims in Iran. Please bow your head in respect and reflect for a moment.
At this point I want to invite Mr. Ali Sadr To sing the “Ey Iran” anthem for us. God bless the freedom seekers of the world, the United States of America and all of you.
Farrah Douglas, 5 Women Who Care
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