Protesters flood DTLA streets demanding freedom for Iran and rights

Protesters flood DTLA streets demanding freedom for Iran and rights for Iranian women

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Demonstrators flooded the streets of downtown LA on Saturday in the largest of the growing protests here over the death of Masha Amini, 22, and others fighting for women’s rights in Iran.

Demonstrators shouting “Free Iran” and carrying flags and homemade signs filled a route as far as the eye could see, beginning at Pershing Square and ending at City Hall.

“Women, life, freedom,” which has become a rallying cry after Amini’s death in the custody of Iran’s morality police, has been a frequent chant.

The backstory

Amini was arrested in Tehran on September 16 by the Iranian Morality Police, who accused her of not wearing a hijab, which has been mandatory for women since the Iranian revolution. She died three days later. Iranian authorities said the 22-year-old suffered a heart attack, witnesses said police beat her.

Since Amini’s death, protests have escalated across Iran and around the world.

A woman holds a photo of Mascha Amini in front of a purple fabric banner that has the words on it "To offer resistance!" with a raised fist.  Other protesters help hold up the banner.

Activists protest in Paris on Friday.

(Thomas Simson


AFP via Getty Images)

Our newsroom recently spoke to New York Times reporter Farnaz Fassihi, who heads its United Nations office, to put the protests into context.

Fassihi described the growing intensity, numbers and anger that now reflects not only Amini’s death but wider women’s rights issues in the strict Islamic state.

“The crowd chants the end of the Islamic Republic. They are targeting the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directly and demanding his death and calling him a dictator, which is extremely brave,” she said. “Women on university campuses, on the streets of Tehran, tear off their headscarves and burn them in the middle of the street. It’s quite extraordinary because they are fearless.”

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Why now

Fassihi says the response is “an explosion of years and years of pent-up frustrations over oppression, economic hardship and religious restrictions.”

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Why the reaction is so strong in LA

A vast majority of the Iranian diaspora live in the greater Los Angeles area. More than one in three Iranian immigrants in the US is here (over half in California overall).

Tawny Mazarei, executive director of the Iranian American Women’s Foundation, called it “an incredibly emotional and traumatic time for all of us.”

“Just to see what happened to Mahsa – and also what is happening to so many other women who are standing up for their rights for what happened to Mahsa – and the turmoil that the country is going through,” she said. “It was an incredibly emotional experience.”

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Scenes from the protest

One poster shows a woman standing over a crowd with her hair uncovered and her fist raised

A rally called for justice and human rights by Iranian Americans in downtown LA

(Courtesy Iranian-Americans for Justice and Human Rights)

The protest officially started at 10:30 am in Pershing Square.

Demonstrators hold flags, signs and a picture of Masha Amini with the words in English and Farsi: Women, Life, Freedom

Images of Masha Amini, the 22-year-old who died in Iran’s morality police custody, were widely shared along the protest route.

(Brian Feinzimer for LAist)

read characters "Freedom for Iran" and "Iranian lives matter."

Many demonstrators carried Iranian flags.

(Brian Feinzimer for LAist)

A predominantly female group of drummers, women and girls, in white marches on a city street.

The sound of drums punctuated the protest route.

(Brian Feinzimer for LAist)

Women with faces painted green, white and red wear shirts with Masha Amini's face on them.

Demonstrators walking from Pershing Square to City Hall shouted and chanted.

(Brian Feinzimer for LAist)

Protesters' fists are raised in the air with the LA skyline in the background

(Brian Feinzimer for LAist)

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