By Colleen Long (Canadian Press)
NEW YORK, N.Y. — Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani told cheering Iranian-Americans outside the United Nations on Thursday that they have the support of “all democratic people.”
The lively but controlled group protesting against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s United Nations appearance, appeared on Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, across the street from the U.N. complex. Several other organizations were holding separate protests there.
The protest was organized by the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The France-based umbrella group includes the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, which was removed from the European Union’s list of banned terrorist groups last year. It remains on the U.S. list, though the group is trying to persuade the American government to stop classifying it as a terrorist organization.
A couple thousand demonstrators turned out, though organizers claimed the number was much higher. The protesters held purple balloons; red, white and green Iranian flags; and red, white and green umbrellas to ward off the hot autumn sun. Some had confetti. There was a huge papier-mache replica of Ahmadinejad’s head with a nuclear missile strapped to the back. Many wore purple, which one of the organizers, Ali Safavi, called “the colour of democracy.”
Some signs decried adultery stonings, while others said “Down with the Islamic Republic of Iran” and “Off the List,” a reference to the exile list.
“Your goals are our goals,” Giuliani said. “They are the goals of all democratic people. You want to see freedom of religion … of the press.
“We must confront tyrants, oppressors, bullies and terrorists as early as possible,” he said, prompting even louder cheers.
“I am here to be the voice of the opposition for Iran,” said participant Neda Farhan, who came with a group from Washington. “In the election, many young people were arrested and they are still in prison and we must fight for their rights.”
The protesters voiced support for Maryam Rajavi, head of the National Council of Resistance of Iran — and some carried posters with her picture.
The protest featured a kind of play with three women in prisoner uniforms being hanged and man being beaten by a man in a military uniform, all under the eye of an actor wearing an Ahmadinejad mask. The play acted out in the plaza was also being shown on a large video screen. They played audio of screams of people who sounded like they were being tortured and beaten.
None of the Iranian-American protesters questioned wanted to give their names, saying they feared putting their relatives in danger.
“It’s a shameful day for New York, a shameful day for the USA,” said retired Swedish teacher Osborn Hommstramd, who carried two signs, one reading “Iran hangs children,” and the other, “Iran stones their women.”
The protest was peaceful, and 40 to 50 police officers watched nearby.