Over the weekend, thousands of Iranian Americans, Canadians, and Europeans gathered to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the revolutionary movement in Iran that followed the death of 22-year-old Masha Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s morality police over her hijab wear.
In downtown Los Angeles, hundreds of Iranians gathered to rally behind months of anti-regime demonstrations in Iran, with many young and old Iranians marching throughout the streets of LA, carrying the traditional Lion and Sun flags and listening to various influential speakers like Beverly Hills Council Member Sharona Nazarian, former Acting Director of the United States National Intelligence, Richard Grenell and others who called for unity against the Islamic Republic.
“We coordinated with a total of 59 countries and cities worldwide for Mahsa Day,” said Arezo Rashidian, an organizer of the protests in Los Angeles said to The Foreign Desk.
In Washington, D.C., Iranian Americans marched to the White House with slogans denouncing the Islamic Republic. Outside the White House, protesters called on the Biden administration to increase sanctions on Iran, not negotiate with the regime over its nuclear program, and fire U.S.-Iranian envoy official Robert Malley.
“Mahsa Day is extremely significant; her death sparked a movement in Iran that led to deadly protests and worldwide outrage. The regime in Iran silences peaceful protesters, brutally beats and kills innocent people fighting for basic human rights,” Rashidian told The Foreign Desk.
Among some of the speakers at the rally in D.C. included Navid Mohebbi, Policy Director at the National Union for Democracy in Iran (NUFDI), and British Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi, who called for Republican and Democrat lawmakers to unite and help the people of Iran overthrow the Ayatollahs.
In the U.K., British Iranians rallied to mark the one-year anniversary of Amini’s death, calling on the British government to stand with the people of Iran and enact harsh consequences against the Islamic regime for their brutal repression of Iranian citizens and dissidents.
“We just wanted to let everyone know that this is not going to finish,” a female protester told CNN. Iranian protests also rallied in front of and called for the closure of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s center in Manchester, which, according to experts, serves as a base for the Ayatollahs to influence individuals in the U.K.
“Everyone knows that the Islamic regime is a terrorist regime that kills its own citizens and terrorizes and kidnaps foreign nationals, such as my dad, Jimmy Sharmahd,” Gazelle Sharmahd, an Iranian Activist and daughter of German American Journalist Jamshid Sharmahd, who is currently a hostage in the Islamic Republic of Iran told The Foreign Desk.
“What we did not quite understand is how much our so-called democratic countries contribute to their powers and terror. For example, right at the time of the anniversary, the U.S. is doing what they call a prisoner swap by freeing six billion in Iranian assets to be used for humanitarian reasons, just to protect and save Americans. Almost every single word in that statement is a misrepresentation of what it is and hides the actual support of terrorists,” she added.
Organizers like Rashidian say the protests and rallies outside of Iran are to “let the people of Iran know that we will continue to be your voice and stand with you in solidarity.”
“The atrocities that the regime inside of Iran is doing, has done, and will continue to do is a threat not only to the people of Iran but to the world.”
The Foreign Desk’s Editor-in-Chief, Lisa Daftari, tweeted a video commemorating Amini and the brave Iranians who died for peacefully protesting the regime, reminding the world of the 44-year rule of the Islamic Republic and the brutality that has continued to occur since 1979.
In Iran, demonstrations took place throughout multiple cities, including the capital city of Tehran, Mashad, Ahvaz, Lahijan, Arak, and the Kurdish city of Sanandaj. Many of the protesters chanted, “Women, Life, Freedom,” “Down with the Islamic Republic,” and “Death to Khamenei,” which were all popular chants used during the 2022 protests.
In response to the protests, the Islamic Republic wasted no time deploying armed guards throughout many cities as a show of force, arresting and beating protesters who rallied against the Islamic regime.
“The people inside of Iran are standing against the regime that has tried to silence them but has failed. As an organizer and long-time activist for regime change in Iran, I, amongst many others, will continue to stand for the voiceless,” Rashidian said.
Regarding the latest prisoner swap actions this week before the anniversary rallies, Sharmahd said that it was not a “prisoner swap because, on one side, we have Iranian prisoners that have been convicted of a crime in a real court and will be free, avoiding punishment and the other side had innocent American hostages, charged with bogus charges in sham trials for political pawns.”
Like many Iranian activists worried about the unfreezing of Iranian assets, Sharmahd said they belong to the Iranian people, including the “prisoners, women in the streets, people taken hostage, and families that lost their loved ones or were terrorized.”
Despite the protests and rallying cries, experts say the Islamic Republic of Iran and prominent regime officials continue to get a free pass from the U.S. and Western governments, who are still holding out for a nuclear agreement. Last week, the Biden administration unfroze billions of dollars for the Islamic Republic of Iran in exchange for several U.S. citizens.
“It is not the money of their oppressors, the terrorists that imprison Iranian people, killed Mahsa, and kidnapped my dad, for example,” Sharmahd told The Foreign Desk.
“The humanitarian reasons part is the one that hurts the most. For over a year, the world has finally witnessed with their own eyes the mercenaries of the regime, shooting a young girl in the eye and blinding her, raping a teenage boy in jail, poisoning children in school with toxic gas, hanging innocent men and women on public cranes every five hours, abducting Americans like my dad and plotting terror Attack on former USG officials on U.S. soil,” Sharmahd said.
Sharmahd noted that the mercenaries and supporters of the Islamic Republic are right now “being enriched by billions of dollars” by the Ayatollahs in power. “Even if there was a way to oversee what this money is spent on, the regime has its own budget for medicine and food that it will now spend on these Regime thugs and use the $6 billion maybe to replace that budget,” she added.
The Biden White House defended its decision last week to deal with the Islamic Republic to unfreeze billions of dollars in funds in exchange for American prisoners, stating it was not a ransom payment.
Regarding the recent release of American hostages, Sharmahd mentioned three more Americans currently left behind in Iran, including her father, Shahab Dalili, and Afshin Vatani, all U.S. nationals held hostage in Iran for years.
“Why are they being left behind? Who picks and chooses which Americans deserve saving? How come the only American hostage that was actually kidnapped and taken to Iran has a death sentence and is taken there because he used his First Amendment right of freedom of speech and was almost terrorized by the regime on U.S. soil and is left behind to die?” Sharmahd asked.
“Did we learn nothing when Obama left Bob Levinson behind? He is dead now… we assume. At the same time, the regime just broadcasted the forced confessions of three foreigners from Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. currently imprisoned in Iran. That means they were taken hostage as the negotiations were going on. What government doesn’t immediately say, ‘this deal is off’ when the White House receives brand new hostages, and they are handing them billions of dollars to release some but not all of the old ones?” Sharmahd said to The Foreign Desk.
“We did not only endanger my dad and other current hostages but also put a price tag on every single American,” Sharmahd said.
“The message is loud and clear, America bends over backwards for terrorists,” Sharmahd told The Foreign Desk.