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L.A. joins worldwide rallies in support of Iranian demonstrators

Events at UCLA and in front of the Federal Building are just two of more than 100 that took place around the world to recognize human rights violations and Iran's disputed presidential election.

July 26, 2009|Raja Abdulrahim and Amber Smith

Protesters in Los Angeles joined thousands across the world Saturday evening to rally in support of demonstrators who have taken to the streets in Iran to protest human rights violations and that country's disputed June presidential election.

Organizers with United 4 Iran, a coalition of individuals and human rights organizations that came together to organize the "Global Day of Action," said more than 100 rallies took place in cities around the world.

In the aftermath of the June 12 election, hundreds of thousands participated in street protests in Iran to dispute the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. More than a month later, the treatment of protesters detained or injured during demonstrations has continued to energize the opposition. Saturday's demonstrations were the latest in a string of local protests held in support of the Iranian demonstrators.

In Los Angeles, two separate rallies took place within blocks of each other.

At UCLA, thousands filled Bruin Plaza waving green flags and wearing green, a color that has come to represent the resistance in Iran since the election. At the base of a stage were several photos of people who have been killed since then.

"All those who have been harmed must have their grievances addressed and must have their day in court," Patrick Ashouri, a member of the Iranian American Lawyers Assn., told the crowd.

Fellow demonstrator Ramin Hey, 44, said it was a time of change in Iran.

"They're in trouble; I think they're in trouble," the Beverly Hills resident said, referring to the Iranian government. "It's the first time I've had hope. Every 30 years we the people become [conscious] of their rights."

Some of the biggest cheers of the night came when author Reza Aslan told the crowd that their cause was finally gaining mainstream acceptance.

"For many of us, we've been trying for I don't know how long to get people to pay attention to Iran," he said. "Iran is hip. Now Iran is all the rage."

He recounted what one young protester recently told him: "When the world watches, the regime kills fewer of us," Aslan said. "Well, today the world is watching."

A few blocks away, in front of the Federal Building on Wilshire Boulevard, more than 100 protesters waving the pre-Islamic Revolution Iranian flag stood for a more drastic change in the country. Many in the group had not wanted fellow Iranian expatriates to vote in an election they regarded as a sham.

Pooya Dayanim, 35, who came to Los Angeles with his family from Iran when he was 15, said that unlike his reformist counterparts, those attending the rally on Wilshire support the removal of the entire regime.

"Unless the constitution changes, the reform will not work," he said.

Roya Teimouri, 50, who said she left Iran in 1975 before the revolution, said demonstrations in support of Ahmadinejad's opponent, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, in the aftermath of the election helped galvanize a wide array of Iranian expats.

"Personally," she said, "I think that he was an excuse for the people to get out of their shells and demand for freedom."

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raja.abdulrahim@latimes.com

amber.smith@latimes.com

Times staff writer Paloma Esquivel contributed to this report.

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