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Iranian Canadians expresses fear, frustration at election unrest

Saturday, June 20, 2009

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  • Iranian Canadians rallied in support of protesters in Iran, who claim the country's presidential election was rigged (Greg Benet

    Iranian Canadians rallied in support of protesters in Iran, who claim the country's presidential election was rigged (Greg Benet

Written by Greg Beneteau

Members of Canada’s Iranian community took to the streets in Waterloo Thursday to protest the results of Iran’s presidential election.

The crowd of about 400 people, who painted their hands green and carried green signs in a show of support for opposition candidates, also denounced recent crackdowns by Iran's police and religious militia that left at least 19 people dead.

At a peaceful rally held on the University of Waterloo Campus, speaker Ali Nesseri told demonstrators that the government of Iran did not hold free and fair elections and was "ruthlessly" silencing the dissent of its opponents

"We have gathered here today to express our solidarity with the Iranian people," Nasseri said.

"Evidence is mounting that the government of the Islamic Republic has not only disrespected people's votes, but it has ruthlessly suppressed the people's right to dissent by employing violence against its own citizens."

Nesseri said the international community should refuse to recognize the victory of the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, until protester's grievances are addressed.

According the Iran’s Interior Ministry, Ahmadinejad won the June 12 election by a landslide with 63 per cent of the vote. His nearest opponent, Mir-Hossein Moussavi, took 34 per cent. Moussavi and fellow opposition candidate Mehdi Karroubi have alleged that the vote was rigged.

In the past week, thousands opposition supporters demonstrated in cities across Iran in a rare show of defiance against the country’s religious leaders, who back Ahmadinejad.

Javid Jaffari said he supports protester's demands for a new election because a partial recount offered as a compromise by Iranian officials would only "confirm the already fraudulent outcome."

"They have betrayed the trust of the Iranian people," Gharghi said. "When so many people come out to protest the result and ask where their votes have gone, redoing the election is the only way to restore trust."

He also expressed frustration that the international community was not putting enough pressure on Iran's government to stop the violence against peaceful demonstrators and conduct new elections.

With foreign journalists barred from reporting inside the country, protesters have used social networking sites like facebook, Twitter and Youtube to share information with each other and the outside world.

Iranian expatriates have also been receiving information from families and friends about escalating violence in the country. One Iranian student at the University Guelph said she feared for her family’s safety after her father, a Moussavi campaign worker in Tehran, was detained by authorities.

“They went to his office and they destroyed everything. He was arrested, and even though he was let go after two days, it’s still very worrying,” said the student, who asked not to be identified.

“You can’t imagine how dangerous it is in Iran right now.”

She also expressed concern for her siblings, who joined the protests in the streets of Tehran despite reports of violent clashes with police.

Leading a prayer service on Friday at Tehran University, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, dismissed allegations of large-scale voting fraud and called on protesters to cease their agitations or face "consequences."

"If they do not stop these actions, then any consequences will be their responsibility," Khamenei warned.

He accused western, powers including the United States and Britain, of trying to "sow doubt and confusion about the electoral process" in order to destabilize the country.

See more photos of the protest at the University of Waterloo.

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