Thousands gather in Vancouver to support Iranians fighting for democratic rights9:18 am - 06/26/2009
Federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff told about 3,000 people at a candlelight vigil in Vancouver Thursday he's proud of Canadians who are fighting for democratic rights in Iran.
"The Iranian regime did not anticipate you," he told the last of a series of 10 nightly vigils at the Vancouver Art Gallery aimed at raising awareness of the violence in Iran and calling for a return to a fair and democratic electoral process in that country.
"They thought they could suppress democratic rights and bully, beat and intimidate the people of Iran and the world would not care, the world would not watch," Ignatieff told the cheering crowd. "They did not anticipate you.
"I'm proud of Canadians who understand that when others cannot stand up we must stand up for them, and when they cannot speak we have to speak for them."
The nightly Silent Scream for Iran vigils began June 16, drawing increasing numbers of mostly black-clad, mostly Iranian Canadians who denounced the violence that has erupted in Iran since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared himself president.
Thursday night's event included a moment of silence for those slain in the protests. A screen showing graphic images of the protests in Iran topped the art gallery steps. Also attending Thursday's event were NDP MP Libby Davies (hey girl hey!), NDP MLA Spencer Herbert, Liberal MP Hedy Fry and Conservative MP James Moore. Earlier, Ignatieff told reporters that "Canada has known for a long time this was a regime with which we could not have normal relations.
"This is a regime that has denied the reality of the Holocaust, that's attempted to develop nuclear weapons, Long before the election we knew this was a regime with which we could not have normal relations." Arta Alagheband, one of the vigil organizers, said he has been seeing more non-Iranian Canadians with every Silent Scream vigil each night.
"The tone has changed a bit," he said. "People are a little more depressed but there is still hope. This is not about mourning, but this is also about bringing attention to Iran and what the people of Iran have to say."
A video of student Neda Agha Soltan dying in the streets of Tehran has made the young woman an icon of the fight for democracy. On June 20, Ignatieff released a statement condemning the violence.
"We... share the anguish and outrage of Canadians of Iranian origin at the suppression of peaceful protest and the apparent denial of fully free and fair elections," he said last week.
On Friday, participants lit tealight candles, joined hands and spread out onto the Georgia Street sidewalk in a "human chain." Alagheband and his fellow organizers have also organized a blood donation campaign.
"When we donate blood, it's for all Canadians, and it's a symbolic way of saying people in Iran are shedding their blood in Iran," he said.
Thursday night's Silent Scream for Iran event was the last of a 10-day series that began June 16. It has been held outside the Vancouver Art Gallery at 9:30 p.m. nightly. The protests followed an allegedly rigged presidential election on June 12 in Iran that saw President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad re-elected in a landslide win.
Ahmadinejad is supported by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the head of the theocratic state.
BTW, is it possible to create a "British Columbia" tag? TY <3