NewsSpecial WireIran exiles defy bans to hold rally, call for...

Iran exiles defy bans to hold rally, call for end to clerical rule

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Iran Focus: Berlin, Feb. 10 – Thousands of Iranian exiles braved cold and rain, and defied bans by two European governments, to hold a rally in the heart of the German capital on the twenty-sixth anniversary of the revolution that ended monarchy in Iran. Iran Focus

Berlin, Feb. 10 – Thousands of Iranian exiles braved cold and rain, and defied bans by two European governments, to hold a rally in the heart of the German capital on the twenty-sixth anniversary of the revolution that ended monarchy in Iran.

The exiles, supporters of the dissident coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran, had received authorization from municipal and police authorities in Berlin to hold a demonstration at the landmark Brandenburg Gate on February 10 to support democratic change in Iran on the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Organizers said the rally — transferred to Berlin at short notice after French authorities refused to allow it to take place in Paris — was intended to send a message in support of democratic change in Iran. In all, 40,000 Iranians from 20 countries across Europe were expected to attend the rally.

In the early hours of Thursday, however, the Berlin authorities banned the demonstration and thousands of policemen were deployed throughout the city to enforce the ban. Police blocked entire streets as policemen went to hotels, airports, and train stations to warn the thousands of Iranians coming into the city not to join the rally.

Many buses and private cars were prevented from entering the city, passengers of chartered planes were kept waiting for hours on the tarmac, and Iranians who stayed in Berlin overnight were woken up by noisy policemen at dawn, telling them the rally had been cancelled and asking them to return home immediately.

Police finally gave way and removed restrictions on protesters after rally organisers got an emergency injunction from the Berlin courts, which ruled that German police action against Iranians attending a peaceful protest with prior permission was unlawful.

Prior to the court ruling, Iranians began holding smaller gatherings in different parts of the city. A dozen parliamentarians, jurists and human rights advocates from Germany, France, Britain, and Belgium held an impromptu press conference in Nikolsburger Platz, where several thousand Iranians had gathered. They denounced what they described as “a Paris-Tehran collusion to gag Iranian dissidents in Europe” and supported the “third option” proposed by opposition leader Maryam Rajavi in her speech at the European Parliament in December. Rajavi rejected foreign ”appeasement” of the Iranian regime and opposed war and invasion as a solution. Instead, she called for an “Iranian solution”: an end to the religious dictatorship by the Iranian people themselves.

The rally had been sponsored by more than 100 political and human rights organisations as well as 250 parliamentarians from across Europe.

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