Washington DC, July 10, 2003. In a lively demonstration in front of the west side of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Iranian-American protestors voiced their support for the recent wave of student demonstrators in Iran, and called for an end to the theocratic regime in Tehran. Organized by the Coalition for International Harmony, the demonstration drew a crowd of 400 supporters (according to U.S. Capitol Police), as well as several key Congressional leaders who voiced their support for regime change in Iran .
Visible throughout the crowd were posters and banners denouncing the current Islamic regime in Iran as state sponsors of terrorism, and pictures of Iranian torture victims resonated the fervor of the audience. "We want those in Iran to know," stated Masood Akhani, one of the event organizers, "that their struggle has been noticed." Akhani continued, "The Islamic regime has lost its legitimacy with the Iranian people."
Congressman Christopher Cox (R-CA) was the first congressional leader to take the podium, and his message of democratic change was received with applause from the crowd. "Iranians, like all people," stated Cox, "deserve to choose their own government, and their own destiny." Congressman Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA), reiterated the message that, "It's time for the mullahs to go back to the mosque."
When asked about the role of the United States in this movement, representatives from the Iranian Youth Freedom Organization stated, "The United States should aid through moral support of the democracy movement, rather than any direct involvement, including militarily." A minor disturbance took place, however, when individuals unaffiliated with the demonstration organizers held up a large sign stating, "US Hands Off Iran ." Demonstration organizers made an effort to block the sign from view with large Iranian flags.
Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), who introduced the Iran Democracy Act to Congress, restated America's support for the demonstrators in Iran . "We stand today in solidarity," stated Brownback, "with the people who are standing up to a repressive regime." Brownback concluded that, "the U.S. must be on the right side of history, and that side of history is with the Iranian people and a free Iran ." Senator Brownback left the podium with a chant of Irani Ah-zahd! (meaning, "free Iran ," in Persian). The Iran Democracy Act would use US government funds to finance Iranian satellite stations in Los Angeles and exiled opposition groups.
The crowd's enthusiasm never waned, as chants of "Death to the Islamic Republic," and "Down with Hezbollah" rung loudly during the intermittent time between speakers. When asked the hopes of what an event like this would accomplish, Payam Amir-Soleymani, one of the demonstrators in the crowd, stated, "We hope the people of the world hear our voice."
Another demonstration was organized on Tuesday at the Capitol by a collation of groups, including students from Georgetown University and the International Alliance of Iranian Students. The message of that demonstration was very similar; it too supported the establishment of a secular democracy in Iran, with the key difference that the earlier demonstration opposed any U.S. funding of pro-democracy groups in Iran and in exile.
The National Iranian American Council is a Washington, DC-based non-profit educational organization promoting Iranian-American participation in American civic and political life. For more information, please visit www.niacouncil.org, email NIAC at email@example.com or send a fax to 202-518-6187. NIAC is a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization. All donations to NIAC are tax-deductible.
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