Canadian Press: With less than a week to go before what they call a sham presidential election in their homeland, dozens of Iranian-Canadians gathered at the Ontario legislature Saturday to call for a boycott. Organizers said the rally was staged to call attention to human rights abuses and the lack of democracy in Iran. Canadian Press
By ROMINA MAURINO
TORONTO – With less than a week to go before what they call a sham presidential election in their homeland, dozens of Iranian-Canadians gathered at the Ontario legislature Saturday to call for a boycott.
Organizers said the rally was staged to call attention to human rights abuses and the lack of democracy in Iran.
They said only eight out of over a thousand presidential candidates have been allowed to present themselves for the June 17 election that will choose Mohammad Khatami’s successor.
All of them, they claim, have been implicated in political atrocities.
“No matter who of these eight candidates win, the result is still the suppression (and) the human rights violations that have been going on for the past 25 years,” said organizer Shahram Golestaneh of the Ottawa-based Committee for Defense of Human Rights in Iran.
“We are asking for the basic freedoms, the basic right to vote, the basic right to choose our own clothing, the basic need for equality between women and men.”
Iranian-born protester Mahnaz Etemadi, 35, has lived in Canada for 10 years.
She’s involved with the group, she said, because she knows first-hand what it’s like to have her rights violated.
When she was 11 years old, she and her two sisters were taken from their home and put in an Iranian prison.
She said she was held against her will for three months because the authorities considered her a dissident.
“I was 11 years old,” she said. “What could I have understood about politics?”
She had a cousin who was killed in police custody at the age of 18, and has a niece currently in the Ashraf City camp.
“We’re going to fight to the end,” she said.
Protesters marched in stifling heat, carrying Iranian flags and posters of their chosen candidate, Maryam Rajavi – president of the Iranian Resistance, a pro-democracy coalition.
Although she would never be accepted as a candidate under the current regime, Golestaneh said, Rajavi can still be seen as a symbol of freedom and equality.
The march was led by a man in a stripped prisoner’s outfit with a noose around his head, a woman clad in a blood-stained white hajib, and a man carrying two cardboard missiles.
It was followed by a viewing of a smuggled, 13-minute videotape showing three public hangings.