Hundreds of activists gathered at San Francisco City Hall Saturday to call attention to human rights violations that followed last month’s elections in Iran, which many have criticized as illegitimate. The event, organized by grassroots organization United for Iran, was part of a Global Day of Action taking place in more than 100 cities worldwide, including Oslo, Dublin, and Tokyo. (See our video of the San Francisco rally above.)
Firuzeh Mahmoudi, the Iranian-American who organized the international event, told us that she has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of international support that followed the violence in Iran. Though it was formed only a month ago, United For Iran has accumulated thousands of supporters through grassroots activism and social media forums like Facebook and Twitter. High-profile supporters include Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu and U2, who each sent videos of support for the July 25 rallies.
It is unclear what effect the worldwide demonstrations had on internal Iranian affairs or international attitudes toward the Middle Eastern political pariah. Some claimed that the protests marked a watershed moment in Iranian history comparable to the death of Martin Luther King Jr in the United States and Mahatma Gandhi in India. But with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in his second term despite widespread allegations that last month’s election was fraudulent, the voices of protestors may fall on deaf ears rather than achieve substantive change.
Event speakers included 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, CA senator Mark Leno, and former captain of Iran’s national soccer team Parviz Ghelichkhani. Also present were notorious activists Code Pink and tents representing oppressed Tibetans and Chinese Uighurs, whose mission sometimes muddled the messages coming from the main stage.
Though demonstrations in Iran have calmed and Ahmadinejad is now forming a new cabinet, his political capital remains tenuous at best. Last week, he drew fire from conservative nationalists for promoting the controversial Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, a reported friend to Israel, as his chief of staff. Even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei actively opposed the appointment, which led Ahmadinejad to back down. He is also unpopular among liberals, who despise the violence that he endorsed to quell last month’s protests. The opposition leader, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who challenged Ahmadinejad in the election, vowed Monday to keep fighting for change. “People made the  revolution for freedom. Where is that freedom now?” Mousavi asked in a statement on his website. “This situation will destroy everyone and will harm the system.”
Despite the international protests, it could be years before we know whether Iran will listen.
Video produced by Taylor Wiles.