m9482 BC-MN-IranRally-Minneso 1stLd-Writethru 06-24 0585
Death of ’Neda’ in Iran fuels Minneapolis rally
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AP Photo MNJM105, MNJM103, MNJM104, MNJM102, MNJM101
By NOMAAN MERCHANT
Associated Press Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Standing under a large umbrella in a steady rain, 18-year-old Nastaran Motlagh and her 14-year-old sister, Neyala, chanted in English and Persian, adding their voices to an opposition movement thousands of miles away.
Amid a crowd of about 150 people rallying Wednesday against violence in Iran, Neyala held a red-and-black sign that read, "I Am Neda," a tribute to a young Iranian woman whose videotaped slaying has sparked international outrage.
"Me and my sister don’t know anything but democracy," Nastaran Motlagh said. "But our families, our cousins, know nothing but oppression, humiliation, dictatorship."
Both sisters said they are using Facebook to keep in touch with their cousins and are reading updates from other Iranians on Twitter.
"We came to make a point," Neyala said. "We came to show that a government can’t rule its people like that."
The rally in front of the Hennepin County Government Center attracted many people on break from work. Some wore scrubs or uniforms. They brought homemade signs and banners as well as umbrellas. One man carried a photo of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that had been doctored to give him a Hitler-esque mustache.
Most of the crowd wore green — the color associated with opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi — or tied strips of green cloth around their wrists. A few used green cloth to cover their faces.
Rallygoers faced a bank of television cameras and shouted, "Stop killing innocent people," "Down with dictators" and "Ahmadinejad’s got to go."
Demonstrations against Iran have occurred throughout Minnesota and the United States during the last 10 days. In Iran, the disputed re-election of Ahmadinejad has sparked the biggest challenge to the nation’s current regime since it was established 30 years ago. Iran’s government has cracked down on protests and banned foreign journalists.
Many in the rally said the violent death of a young woman in Tehran, Neda Agha Soltan, inspired them to attend.
The crowd also included people who came to support Iranian friends and co-workers.
"We’ve got to see beyond one race and one creed," said Sean Stapleton, who works at a sales company with several Iranians.
Bethany Khan, who described herself as Arab-American, came with an Iranian friend after seeing the video of Neda’s death.
"When I watched the video, I cried," Khan said. "I can’t get there and it’s dangerous, so I’m trying to do what I can."