December 2, 2022

Chanting crowds marched in the streets of Berlin, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles on Saturday in a show of international support for demonstrators facing a violent government crackdown in Iran, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of that country’s morality police.

On the U.S. National Mall, thousands of women and men of all ages – wearing green, white and red, the colors of the Iran flag – shouted in rhythm.

“Be scared. Be scared. We are one in this,” demonstrators yelled, before marching to the White House. “Say her name! Mahsa!”

The demonstrations, put together by grassroots organizers from around the U.S., drew Iranians from across the Washington, D.C., area, with some travelling down from Toronto to join the crowd.

Iran protests Washington, D.C.
Protesters march in solidarity with protesters in Iran on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 22, 2022. 


In L.A., home to the biggest population of Iranians outside of Iran, a throng of protesters formed a slow-moving procession along blocks of a closed downtown street. They chanted for the fall of Iran’s government and waved hundreds of Iranian flags that turned the horizon into an undulating wave of red, white and green.

“We want freedom,” they thundered.

Shooka Scharm, an attorney who was born in the U.S. after her parents fled the Iranian revolution, was wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “Women, Life, Freedom” in English and Farsi. In Iran “women are like a second-class citizen and they are sick of it,” Scharm said. 

Amini died Sept. 16 while in the custody of Iran’s morality police. She was in police custody for allegedly not wearing her headscarf correctly. The death prompted outrage and has led to weeks of anti-government demonstrations in Iran.

Solidarity march for Iranian protests in Germany
An aerial view shows people gathering in front of the Victory Column in Berlin, Germany, during a solidarity march for Iranian protesters on Oct. 22, 2022. 

Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The protest movement first focused on the country’s mandatory hijab covering for women. The demonstrations in Iran have since transformed into the greatest challenge to the Islamic Republic since the 2009 Green Movement over disputed elections. In Tehran on Saturday, more anti-government protests took place at several universities.

Iran’s security forces have dispersed gatherings in that country with live ammunition and tear gas, killing over 200 people, including teenage girls, according to human rights groups.

The Biden administration has said it condemns the brutality and repression against the citizens of Iran, and that it will look for ways to impose more sanctions against the Iranian government if the violence continues.

Between chants, protesters in D.C. broke into song, singing traditional Persian music about life and freedom – all written after the revolution in 1979 brought religious fundamentalists to power in Iran. They sang one in particular in unison – “Baraye,” meaning because of, which has become the unofficial anthem of the Iran protests. The artist of that song, Shervin Hajipour, was arrested shortly after posting the song to his Instagram in late September. It accrued more than 40 million views.

“Because of women, life, freedom,” protesters sang, echoing a popular protest chant: “Azadi” – Freedom.

The movement in Iran is rooted in the same issues as in the U.S. and around the globe, said protester Samin Aayanifard, 28, who left Iran three years ago.

“It’s forced hijab in Iran and here in America, after 50 years, women’s bodies are under control,” said Aayanifard, who drove from East Lansing, Michigan, to join the D.C. march. She referred to rollbacks of abortion laws in the United States. “It’s about control over women’s bodies.”

Several weeks of Saturday solidarity rallies in the U.S. capital have drawn growing crowds.

In Berlin, nearly 40,000 people turned out to show solidarity for the women and activists leading the movement for the past few weeks in Iran. The protests in Germany’s capital, organized by the Woman Life Freedom Collective, began at the Victory Column in Berlin’s Tiergarten park, and continued as a march through central Berlin.

Some demonstrators there said they had come from elsewhere in Germany and other European countries to show their support.

“It is so important for us to be here, to be the voice of the people of Iran, who are killed on the streets,” said Shakib Lolo, who is from Iran but lives in the Netherlands. “And this is not a protest anymore. This is a revolution, in Iran. And the people of the world have to see it.”

On Wednesday Iranian mountain climber Elnaz Rekabi — who competed in an event in South Korea last weekend without wearing a mandatory headscarf — was greeted on her arrival in Tehran by cheering crowds.

There had been fears for her safety after reports of her friends being unable to reach her.

Many saw Rekabi’s appearance in the climbing competition without a hijab as a show of support for the protests. Upon landing on Wednesday, she gave an interview to Iranian state media in which she repeated claims made in a text-only post that appeared the previous day on her Instagram account.

“I was suddenly and unexpectedly called on to compete while I was at the women’s locker room,” Rekabi said Wednesday, according to BBC News. She was wearing a baseball cap and a hood, which covered her hair. “I was busy wearing my shoes and fixing my equipment and forgot to wear my hijab, which I should have worn.”

On Tuesday, Rekabi had her passport and phone confiscated after being lured into the Iranian Embassy in Seoul on a ruse, sources told CBS News. There were also reports that she had left her hotel in Seoul two days earlier than planned.

Meanwhile, at least eight people died in an Oct. 15 fire at Iran’s notorious Evin Prison. Evin holds many political prisoners. CBS News learned that both of the Iranian-Americans held in Evin prison were safe, Siamak Namazi and Emad Sharghi. However, Sharghi had been moved to solitary confinement.

The cause of the fire is unclear. Iran’s government has claimed that it started during a fight among inmates, but critics dispute that, suggesting it was instead linked to the anti-government protests.

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