Iranians rally across Europe to decry vote

Some demand regime’s ouster

(Francois Mon/Associated Press)
By Deborah Seward
Associated Press / June 19, 2009
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PARIS - Iranians demonstrated in capitals around Europe yesterday to protest the disputed Iranian presidential election and the regime’s treatment of its critics.

In Paris, Reporters without Borders, the media advocacy group, also held a rally across from the Iranian Embassy to protest a crackdown on Iranian and foreign media by the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.

Iranians in Paris, London, Stockholm, and The Hague were out on the streets to show their support of opponents of Ahmadinejad and the powerful Islamic clerical elite.

The biggest demonstrations were in Stockholm, where up to 800 mainly expatriate Iranians gathered in the city’s main square, and at The Hague, where about 300 people rallied outside the Dutch Parliament.

Hundreds of protesters wearing green or holding green placards demonstrated outside the Iranian Embassy in London. Some held candles like the silent protesters in Tehran, while others shouted slogans. Police said there were no reports of arrests or violence.

Several separate protests in Paris drew fewer than 50 people each.

Some 30 Iranian protesters gathered near the National Assembly in central Paris held up banners, including one that said “Mullahs Terrorists.’’ They chanted “Bye, bye dictator.’’

In The Hague, about 300 protesters sang and chanted outside the Dutch Parliament to show support for protesters killed during demonstrations in Iran.

“We want to show our solidarity with all the people who have been killed on the streets of Tehran,’’ said Cyrus Aryamanesh, who left Iran at age 13 in 1987.

Aryamanesh said Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei should be forced out of the country.

“Two days ago, he ordered troops to open fire on our people,’’ he said. “I do not recognize him as a leader in Iran.’’

Many of the protesters wore green to show support for opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi. Others wore black as a sign of mourning for slain protesters. They waved banners with texts including: “Where is my vote?’’

But not all the Iranians in The Hague supported Mousavi.

History student Azadeh Achbari, 29, said Mousavi and Ahmadinejad were both products of the Islamic leaders who run Iran.

“We are against a theocracy. We want a democracy,’’ Achbari said.

In Stockholm, police and organizers estimated that between 500 and 800 people, mostly expatriate Iranians, gathered at the capital’s main Sergels Torg square.

Braving cold winds and a persistent drizzle, demonstrators chanted slogans and joined in, as nostalgic Iranian fight songs poured from the sound system. Speakers at the event called on the Iranian government to respect human rights.

One corner of the square was dedicated to the people who have fallen victim during protests in Tehran, with graphic photographs of the bodies of those killed laid out on the ground. Demonstrators laid down pink and red roses by the pictures.

“They are for the students killed in Iran after the election,’’ said Mojgan Zand, a travel agent from Iran, as she laid down a flower.

Also yesterday, the British government said $1.64 billion in Iranian assets are frozen in Britain under international sanctions imposed over Tehran’s nuclear program, Reuters reported.

The UN Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions on Iran since 2006 over its nuclear program, which Western powers suspect is aimed at developing atomic weapons.

Tehran says its program is designed only to generate electricity.

The UN sanctions include freezing the assets of companies and people alleged to be engaged in or supporting sensitive nuclear work or the development of ballistic missiles, including state-run Bank Sepah and firms controlled by the Revolutionary Guards.

The European Union has frozen the assets of Iran’s biggest bank, Bank Melli.