Photo depicting protestors carrying signs that read, "Freedom for Iran" as well as the Iranian flag.

PHOTO ESSAY | Iranian Diaspora Protest Government of Iran

by Alex Garland

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The people of Iran have been protesting their dictatorial government for three weeks, and here in Washington, members of the Iranian diaspora have been making themselves heard. As the people of Iran have been protesting, so, too, have their friends and family in King County. For the first time, on Saturday, Oct. 1, over 1,000 Iranian Americans and their community allies gathered at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle for a rally and march.

The protests in Iran started three weeks ago when 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was beaten by “morality police” for improperly wearing her hijab. Mahsa Amini died of her injuries, and with her death, the people of Iran have reached their breaking point.

Dena, from Iran, has been in Seattle for three years. “This is by far the largest protest after the revolution in Iran. In Iran, every city, town, even little towns, are protesting what has happened during the last 43 years after revolution. They’re asking for justice for all women and all men. … The solution is a free country without mullahs, without ayatollahs, without Islam. Religion shouldn’t be mandatory. It’s freedom, you can choose what you believe,” she said.

Photo depicting Dena and her husband raising their fists and making peace signs while listening to a rally speaker
Dena and her husband protest Iran’s conflation of church and state. (Photo: Alex Garland)
Photo depicting protestors marching through downtown Seattle.
Over 1,000 Iranian Americans and their community allies gathered at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle for a rally and march. (Photo: Alex Garland)
Photo depicting Navid cutting his passport with scissors.
Navid cuts up his Iranian passport in protest of Iran’s “morality police” murder of Mahsa Amini (Photo: Alex Garland)

An Iranian man, Navid, took the stage with his Iranian passport and a pair of scissors. Angry at his homeland’s treatment of women, Navid cut his passport to pieces on stage while wearing a neatly folded American flag over his shoulder. “We need to change the regime in Iran, right now,” he said. When asked about his passport, Navid replied, “This is not our passport; they choose everything for us. This is not for me; this is not for anyone.”

Speakers led the rally in song as a young Iranian woman danced on stage, her long hair flowing freely in both defiance and celebration. Chants in Farsi, Arabic, and English echoed off downtown buildings as people in the crowd held up signs showing their support for women and denouncing Ali Khamenei, the current supreme leader of Iran, who has held power for 43 years.

Boshra, an American citizen of 11 years and a refugee from Iran, spoke about why she was at the protest. “The reason I came to the United States, in the most minimalistic way, was Mahsa Amini, which is the name of the girl who was beaten to death for [having] some of her hair out of her scarf. … She is not the only one who has lost her life for not having the choice for her body,” she said. “Women, men, LGBTQ+: None of us want this regime. This is a dictator regime, and we became one voice to say we don’t want it. We are here to be the voice of voiceless people in Iran, my sisters and brothers who are getting killed. … One of the things we were shouting is ‘Silence is violence,’ because it is. We want freedom for Iran, basic human rights.”

Photo depicting Boshra carrying a protest sign with pictures of the names and faces of two women facing a death sentence for their sexual identity as well as Mahsa Amini.
Boshra stands in Westlake after the protest with a sign bearing the names and faces of two women facing a death sentence for their sexual identity and Mahsa Amini who was killed by morality police in Iran. (Photo: Alex Garland)
Photo depicting Somaye Dadgari speaking into a microphone while making a peace sign. Other protestors carry signs that read, "Iranian Lives Matter" and "Freedom is Not Free."
Somaye Dadgari (far right with peace sign) leads chants at Westlake in protest of the Iranian regime. (Photo: Alex Garland)

One of the organizers of the protest, Somaye Dadgari, is Iranian but has been in the Seattle area for seven years.

“We went through a lot in the last 43 years. … We want a revolution, there is no other option. The people inside [Iran] started protesting, and they were beaten and were shot, so we will be their voice and we will not stop,” said Dadgari. “We have this protest every night in Bellevue from 6 p.m. till 8 p.m. We will continue until the regime is changed, that’s the only thing we want.”

As the rally grew and began spilling into the streets, Seattle police arrived on scene and guided the protest as it marched from Westlake down Pine to 1st Avenue, up Pike to 3rd Avenue, and back to Westlake, where the crowd began to disperse.

  • Photo depicting protestors marching and carrying signs. A protestor in the forefront carries a sign that reads, "From Iranian women to West: Compulsory hijab is not our culture; bodily autonomy is a human right; cultural relativism is racist; it's the racism of [obscured]ow expectations."
  • Photo depicting protestors marching with a protest sign raised that reads, "Death to Khamenei; No to Islamic Republic #OpIran; 'We hate you.' Say her name: Mahsa Amini."
  • Photo depicting protestors carrying a flag and a sign that reads, "Iranian Trans Gay Womens Childrens Lives Matter! Defend Our Lives! Be Our Voice! #MahsaAmini #OpIran #IranRevolution #Iran."
  • Photo depicting Iranian protestors marching through Pike Place square.
  • Photo depicting protestors carrying signs that read, "Stop supporting terrorists; join the movement! #MahsaAmini."
  • Photo depicting protestors marching through Pike Place square downtown.
  • Photo depicting protestors carrying roses and protest signs that read, "Solidarity with Iran #MahsaAmini."

Alex Garland is a photojournalist and reporter. With a degree in emergency administration and disaster planning from the University of North Texas, Alex spent his early professional career as a GIS analyst for FEMA. Follow him on Twitter.

📸 Featured Image: Over 1,000 Iranian Americans and their community allies gathered at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle for a rally and march. (Photo: Alex Garland)

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