Rallygoers at S.F.’s Union Square denounce Iranian government squashing protests
Amid a flurry of holiday shoppers at San Francisco’s Union Square, Iranian-Americans from around the Bay Area rallied on Sunday against the Iranian government’s recent crackdown of protests surrounding a drought that has affected central parts of the country.
The rallygoers numbered more than two dozen and all wore homespun eyepatches on their faces to symbolize the injuries that protestors in Iran have sustained when authorities used birdshot and tear gas in a November clampdown in the city of Isfahan. Thousands of protestors gathered last month in the city calling for the government to take action over the dry conditions that have affected hundreds of thousands of farmers in the region.
“They targeted their eyes,” said Shahin Toutounchi, who left Iran in 1978 and traveled to Sunday’s rally by BART from Pleasanton. “In solidarity, we are (wearing) the eyepatch.”
Toutounchi also carried on his shoulder a red, white and green flag with a lion and a sun in the middle, a flag that was used until the 1979 revolution when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini overthrew the Shah. Other rallygoers chanted for the ousting of Iran’s current President, Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner who was elected this past August.
Also at the action was San Jose resident Sheila Neinavaie, who was imprisoned by the Iranian government for close to a decade when she was 15 years old. On Sunday, she carried pictures in a binder of fellow prisoners whom she got to know over the course of her incarceration.
“They just need water,” said Neinavaie about the farmers in the city of Isfahan. “Nothing else.”
The action was organized by the Iranian American Community of Northern California, an group that has been around for about 25 years and calls for democratic changes to the Iranian government. It’s estimated that up to one million Iranians live in the United States, with most located in Southern California.