British Columbia

Thousands gather in downtown Vancouver to show support for Iranian protests

Thousands of people gathered on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday then marched through downtown calling on Iran to end laws requiring women to wear hijabs in public as well as to abolish the country's use of capital punishment.

Latest of several protests in B.C. following death of Mahsa Amini, 22

Thousands of people rallied in Vancouver on Sunday in solidarity with protesters in Iran over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. (Janella Hamilton/CBC News)

Thousands of people gathered on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday then marched through downtown calling on Iran to end laws requiring women to wear hijabs in public as well as to abolish the country's use of capital punishment.

It's the latest of several protests this week across B.C. following the death of Mahsa Amini, 22.

The Iranian woman died last week after she was arrested by Iran's morality police for "unsuitable attire" after she allegedly wore a hijab improperly.

Her death has reignited anger over restrictions on personal freedoms in Iran, including the strict dress codes for women and an economy reeling from government sanctions. 

While Amini's death has become a flashpoint for this round of protests, many people in attendance at the events say there is wider anger at the ultra-conservative policies of the regime that has been in place since the 1979 Iranian revolution — as well as specific anger at the presidency of Ebrahim Raisi, a noted Islamist who came to power in 2021.

'People don't want this regime anymore'

Under Raisi, Iran's morality police have stepped up their patrols, targeting both men and women.

The country is also dealing with surging inflation rates and a water crisis.

Nassim Zand, who moved from Iran to Kelowna recently and attended a rally held outside city hall Friday, said all of these issues have hit a boiling point.

"People are becoming poorer and poorer," she said. "There are a lot of economic pressures ... but it's also about human rights — that people cannot protest against anything. You cannot say any of your opinions. People don't want this regime anymore."

Protests have spread across at least 46 cities, towns and villages in Iran. There has also been condemnation from Western countries and the United Nations, as well as protests in solidarity abroad.

On Sunday there were protests in London, where violence broke out. In Canada, a protest similar to Vancouver's was held in Ottawa.

Tammy Sadeghi was one of the organizers of the rally in Vancouver on Sunday.

"We're here to support the Iranian movement in Iran, especially since women came onto the street because they have been fed up with this regime the last 42 years," Sadeghi said.

"They've been fighting day and night to push back the Islamic regime."

Tammy Sadeghi was one of the organizers of a rally in Vancouver in support of protests in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini. (Janella Hamilton/CBC News)

Growing backlash

Many at the rally said they want an end to laws that require women to wear hijabs. They also want an end to capital punishment in Iran and the release of political prisoners — all examples of the regime's brutality.

Iranian police have denied mistreating Amini and claim she died of a heart attack. The country's authorities say they are investigating.

Protests in Iran have resulted in the deaths of both protesters and police and the arrests of demonstrators.

After gathering at the Vancouver Art Gallery, protesters against Iran's regime marched through the downtown area of the city. (Isabelle Raghem/CBC News)

Honieh Barzegari said she attended the rally in Vancouver to speak out for human rights in Iran. She said she was impressed with how diverse the crowd was.

"We need to stay united, not just Iranian people. We want the world to stand with us. Hold our hands, tap on our shoulders and be our voices," she said.

"Human lives matter, Iranian lives matter. Iranian women's lives matter. We all matter."

Honieh Barzegari attended the rally for Iran in Vancouver on Sunday Sept. 25, 2022. (Janella Hamilton/CBC News)

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story stated that this was the second demonstration against repression in Iran to be held in Metro Vancouver in the past week. In fact, there have been several demonstrations.
    Sep 26, 2022 11:03 AM PT

With files from Janella Hamilton, Jon Azpiri, Thomson Reuters and the Associated Press

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