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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Students support Iranians with protest

By Michael McFall, News editor

U students took to the steps of Utah’s Capitol Wednesday morning with other demonstrators to support Iran’s young protesters, who are leading a revolution against incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial re-election.

The conservative leader reportedly defeated his reformist opponent, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, by a landslide in Friday’s election.

Moussavi’s supporters–mostly Iranian youth, Iran’s largest demographic–cried foul when signs pointed to possible voter fraud. Election results were announced two hours early. A greater number of district ballots were reportedly counted than the number of that district’s eligible voters. And Moussavi lost in his hometown, which historically voted strongly in favor of him in previous elections.

Allegations that Friday’s election was rigged thrust hundreds of thousands of infuriated protesters into the streets of Tehran. They were met by police and Ahmadinejad’s supporters, and in the midst of the weekend-long violence that ensued, seven people were reportedly killed. As of Wednesday morning, more peaceful public demonstrations from both sides have not shown any signs of backing down, and U students decided to join them.

Sohrab Mirmontazeri organized the rally with Salt Lake City’s Iranian population–a number he estimated is around 10,000–to show their support for a free Iran.

Most of the protesters at Wednesday’s rally wore green, a color of the Iranian flag and Mousavi’s political party. But although the protests in Iran were initially about the candidate, they’ve transformed into something greater, Mirmontazeri said. Some protesters alsoheld up V-signs. Although it’s a trademark of the reformist candidate’s campaign, it’s also come to represent free elections and democracy in Iran.

“They got cheated,” Mirmontazeri said. “It’s not about the election anymore. It’s about freedom for the Iranian people.” He said he wants to see Ahmadinejad’s government overthrown and power restored to the people after 31 years of oppression under what he said is a corrupt system.

Kiyan, a senior in political science who requested his last name be withheld for fear of reprisal when he returns to Iran, still has friends and family living in Tehran. Bringing American attention to Iran’s problems was the least he could do, and the entire view of Iran is changing for it, he said. Before the elections, Iran was solely characterized by its dictator, his denial of the Holocaust and pursuit of nuclear weapons, he said.

“Now the news frame is an oppressed people” in Ohio State sweatshirts using Twitter, not so much different from their American supporters, Kiyan said.

The Internet and Twitter in particular have played an important role in the revolution. The Iranian government has tried to ban online access to media and social networking Web sites, but the young protestors in Iran found ways around it. Many young protesters at Wednesday’s rally said they heard about it through Facebook or Twitter.

Protestors in Iran are using Twitter to coordinate protest strategies and report back to their loved ones on just what’s happening in the chaotic streets of their homeland. By registering accounts in other countries, officials have a hard time telling who is truly Iranian. Payam, a senior in engineering who asked to have his last name withheld for fear of reprisal, is setting up an account tonight to follow the protests.

“My best friend is from Iran, and while we’re sad about (the unrest), it’s exciting having people speak up,” said Natasha Ivanoya, a sophomore in chemistry. About 60 percent of Iran’s population is under the age of 30, and their generation is finally making their presence known on both Iran and the world’s stage, she said. What began as the country’s youth getting fired up about an election has brought in every generation in Iran to change the entire system.

The protesters hope the rest of the world will join them in their revolution. Their Utah protests will continue Saturday on State Street and 400 South, at 9 a.m. Hundreds are expected to march from the courthouse to the Capitol.

[email protected]

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Thien Sok

Members from the Iranian community in Salt Lake City gather at the Capitol to protest the Iran elections and the Musavi regime. Another rally is schulded to take place Saturday.

Thien Sok

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