MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - As the Iranian regime continues to crack down on over two weeks of demonstrations in the wake of a young woman who died in police custody, Iranian-Americans in Minnesota are mobilizing to demand change in their home country.
On Saturday, Iranian-Americans and their supporters will gather in downtown Minneapolis at Nicollet Avenue and 11th Street at 2 p.m. for a rally to support the protests in Iran. Similar rallies will be held in 32 cities across the United States.
Demonstrations were ignited in over 80 cities in Iran after the death earlier this month of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained by the morality police for allegedly wearing the mandatory Islamic headscarf, the chador, too loosely.
"There is a small Iranian community here in Minnesota, and the vast majority of us find it necessary to show our support for our brothers and sisters back home," Faraz Samavat, a third year graduate pursuing a PhD candidate in High-Energy Physics at the University of Minnesota, told FOX 9. "We may not be able to fight against the regime at their side, yet we still have the power to amass support for the Iranian people and against the Islamic regime."
Artists speak out
Local Iranian artists have also spoken out — a trend that is likely to continue at the Iranian Culture Festival that is happening in Minneapolis this weekend.
At The Music of Iran concert held at the Ordway last Sunday, two female musicians began their performances by addressing the audience.
"Women are fighting on the front lines, and I think it's really important to be aware of that, especially in the age of knowledge and communication, where something like your phone and the Internet at your fingertips is such, such a convenience. And when it's gone, people are silenced like things are in Iran right now..." said Minneapolis-based singer Aida Shahghasemi.
"So one of the least things we can do is to spread the word and make sure that all of us that have the Internet at our hands and can spread the word and spread the knowledge about what's going on. To just go ahead and do that, it's a very, very little thing that we can do just to make sure we can support everyone who is fighting for some of the most basic freedoms that people in Iran are fighting for," she said.
The Iranian government has resorted to frequent internet shutdowns as one of many measures to quell dissent. Activists in the international human rights community have called for the United States and leading major tech companies to take steps to facilitate Iranians using technology like VPNs and other workarounds that help get information out of the country and organize.
Niloofar Hadi Sohi, who was born in Tehran and is now studying her second master’s degree of performance after being awarded a fellowship at the University of Minnesota, also began by speaking about Mahsa Amini.
"Many of our friends and family members are back home and they're fighting for their rights while the Islamic Republic regime is silencing their voices. So please spread the word about Iran. The global awareness really matters," she said.
For more information about local protests, follow the Minnesota Committee in Support of a Democratic Iran (MCSDI) on Facebook.
Go Deeper: The full-text interview with Faraz Samavat
Describe in your words what lead you to organize this event and why you think it's important.
If one were to look at the timeline of protests and uprisings in Iran after the Islamic Republic gained power, one would quickly come to the realization that anti-regime protests are of the norm, and are increasing in both intensity and number as time goes by.
However, the protests regarding the death of Mahsa Amini are different in a few key aspects. First and foremost, it has effectively engaged the women of Iran, which constitute about half of the population, as freedom fighters that stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their male counterparts.
Secondly, even though the general population suffers from economic downfall due to the Islamic regime’s poor global policies, the uprising is not that of greed but stands on firm foundations of human rights and noble causes.
Thirdly, it is unprecedented for western media and celebrities to show this much interest and provide vast coverage of what transpires back in Iran. Most western countries believe the vast majority of Iranians to be practicing Muslims, and automatically think of the Islamic Republic as the representative of the people of Iran. They believe that the people want the Islamic regime in power, while all of this cannot be further from the truth.
At long last, they have now woken up to see the hate we have for the theocracy in power, and see how we stand with bare hands against an enemy armed to the teeth; an enemy that kills us with batons and bullets; an enemy of both Iranians and the west. All of this has breathed new life into us, and we believe that the time to strike at the foul heart of the Islamic Republic is now! Thus, we gather our people here, and show our support for our friends and family back home however we can; organizing events is one such way.
Why do you think it's important to do this here locally?
There is a small Iranian community here in Minnesota, and the vast majority of us find it necessary to show our support for our brothers and sisters back home. We may not be able to fight against the regime at their side, yet we still have the power to amass support for the Iranian people and against the Islamic regime. It is our duty to be their voice here, or anywhere in the world. That is why you see protests popping up on all the four corners of the world.
How can people show support? What can people do to help?
The simplest way the readers can show their support is to spread the word of our struggle against the Islamic regime, ask their leaders (congressmen, representatives, president, etc.) to aid the Iranian populace by cutting ties with the Islamic Republic, imposing sanctions on key figures of the regime, finding and reporting agents of the regime that are on US soil so that they can be arrested or deported, and providing free satellite internet for Iranians when the regime shuts-down all internet in Iran during protests to suppress the circulation of information.