WASHINGTON — 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 United States, drew Iranians from across the D.C. area, with some traveling down from Toronto to join the crowd.
In Los Angeles, 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.
‘Women, Life, Freedom’
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.
Iran’s nationwide antigovernment protest movement first focused on the country’s mandatory hijab covering for women following Amiri’s death on Sept. 16. The demonstrations there have since transformed into the greatest challenge to the Islamic Republic since the 2009 Green Movement over disputed elections. In Tehran on Saturday, more antigovernment 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 rights groups.
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.
European Protesters Gather in Berlin
In Berlin, a crowd estimated by German police at several tens of thousands 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 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.”
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.