On 25 July 2009, an ambitious human chain stretching across 10 city blocks was formed in downtown Vancouver, Canada, to demonstrate solidarity with the Iranian people on a day of global protests under
On 25 July 2009, an ambitious human chain stretching across 10 city blocks was formed in downtown Vancouver, Canada, to demonstrate solidarity with the Iranian people on a day of global protests under the banner of United for Iran. Signs for the event read “Human Chain for Human Rights”.
Thousands of people held hands and chanted “Iran” as swarms of green balloons filled the sunny skies. The participants ranged from recent immigrants to former political prisoners, and even included non-Iranians. Pop star Bif Naked also participated. The cars driving by honked loudly and waved peace signs out the window. All shared the common goal of promoting human rights and democracy.
The event was organized in response to the recent disputed election, but it was not affiliated with any political party. “It’s not about Mousavi; it’s about democracy,” a participant told me. One woman, of non-Iranian descent, said it was important to support people around the world who are struggling to build democracies in their own country, especially in Canada where democracy is strong.
Although Canada may seem worlds away from Iran, the presence of the Iranian community in Vancouver is strong.
The size of the community has more than tripled since the new millennium. The Iranian-Canadians at the event generally agreed that their ties back home remain strong, despite the Iranian government’s efforts to cut off connections to the outside world. Sara Irani said that her son is a university student in Canada, but tears sprung to her eyes when she spoke of violence perpetrated in universities in Iran. “That could have been my son,” she said.
Although there was appreciation for the freedoms in Canada, many criticized the Canadian government for not taking stronger action. Mahbubeh Moj, who had just completed a hunger strike, urged the Canadian government to break off its diplomatic relations with the Iranian government. There was general agreement that the global community could do more, and many called for sanctions by the United Nations.
Although the event was politically non-partisan, a division formed between some participants because of disagreement over use of the original Iranian flag. Despite the dispute, many proudly displayed the original flag, eager to demonstrate the significance of its design. “The flag should be for the nation, not for the religion!”
Many participants acknowledged fear of the incumbent government in Iran. One couple new to Vancouver worried that they may never be able to return. The government searches for names and faces of the individuals that attend protests abroad. Despite this, the Iranian community in Vancouver follows the struggle back home and looks for ways to help.