This past weekend, the City of Irvine became a focal point alongside protests all across Southern California, the nation and the world, where throngs turned out in over 130 cities to amplify their voices in solidarity with the people of Iran. 

People of Orange County and beyond from all ages, backgrounds and professions began congregating at the intersection of Culver and University Drive in Irvine near Mason Park even before the 11 a.m. start time to the “Freedom for Iran” rally on Saturday Oct. 1, 2022. (Omar Sanchez / Voice of OC)

All across Iran, crowds of enraged women and men are flooding the streets protesting the recent killing of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman who was arrested, beaten and killed by Iranian morality police for not properly wearing a headdress, called a hijab. Government officials say she died of a heart attack but few people have accepted that version of events..

Women are now taking off their hijabs, burning them, and even cutting their own hair in support of Amini and anti-government protests.

Additional posters and signs from the “Global Day of Action for Iran” protest in Irvine. Oct. 1, 2022. (Omar Sanchez / Voice of OC)

As of Oct. 2, over 130 people –including children– in Iran have been killed during these demonstrations, according to Norway-based human rights group Iran Human Rights. 

The Islamic regime has even gone as far as cutting internet access to its country and arresting at least 28 journalists as of Sept. 29. 

Residents from across all of Orange County and the region were no strangers to those demonstrations as women, children, and men –walking with baby strollers, canes, wheelchairs, flags, posters, and a demand for action to support an oppressed country– gathered by the hundreds at Mason Park near the corner of Culver and University Drive in Irvine Saturday morning. 

Mason Park near the intersection of University and Culver Drive in Irvine, California. Oct. 1, 2022. (Omar Sanchez / Voice of OC)

There were also protests at Irvine’s Great Park later that day.

Southern California is  one of the largest emigre centers for Iranians outside of Iran, with a vibrant LA business district in Westwood, called “Tehrangeles”.

There’s as many as 32,000 Iranian Americans lived in Orange County in 2019, according to the latest available American Community Survey data, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.  

At Mason Park on Saturday, people were resilient. 

A woman holds the Sheer-o Khorsheed flag on top of a bus stop near Mason Park in Irvine during the “Global Day of Action for Iran” protest on Saturday Oct. 1, 2022. (Omar Sanchez / Voice of OC)

Chants in English and Farsi included, “The people united will never be defeated,” “Freedom for Iran,” and ““Say her name, ‘Mahsa Amini’” as the volume to their voices continued to get louder and louder until the number of people on the side of the road overwhelmed the amount of traffic coming in all directions. 

Vehicles heading north and south on Culver Drive frequently sounded their car horns in support of the demonstration, with the addition of Irvine Fire Dept. trucks sounding their sirens and commercial vehicles waving Iranian flags with the lion and sun imprinted on the fabric as they drove by.  

Most of the posters and signs spotted called for the support of Iranian women, life, and freedom against the current Islamic Regime in Iran. Oct. 1, 2022. (Omar Sanchez / Voice of OC)

More and more, the protests have evolved into a referendum of sorts on Iran’s repressive regime. 

“Iranian authorities severely restricted freedoms of assembly and expression. Over the past three years, security forces have responded to widespread protests stemming from economic rights issues with excessive and unlawful force, including lethal force, and arrested thousands of protestors,” reads the introduction to the 2022 Human Rights Watch report on Iran

For more information on Iran’s human rights record, consider reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the U.S. State Department annual report on Human Rights, or the U.N. Human Rights report on Iran

Here’s a look at the people from our region who turned out in Irvine this past weekend to say something about Iran’s  human rights record. 

A variety of artwork, signs including the tag #MashsaAmini embedded, and Sheer-o Khorsheed flags were seen at “Global Day of Action for Iran” in Irvine. Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman was arrested, beaten and killed by Iranian morality police for not properly wearing a headdress, called a hijab. (Omar Sanchez / Voice of OC)
In 1980, the Islamic Republic replaced the flag with the current regime one seen today and made use of the former flag a punishable offense. The Sheer-o Khorsheed flag is still seen as the country’s true flag amongst Iranians, according to the National Union For Democracy in Iran (NUFDI). (Omar Sanchez / Voice of OC)
Additional posters and signs from the “Global Day of Action for Iran” protest in Irvine. Oct. 1, 2022. (Omar Sanchez / Voice of OC)
“They need someone outside of Iran to amplify their voice.” Reza, an engineer and resident of Orange County of 15 years, came out to support the people of Iran and be the voice of someone who can hear him. Reza mentions that people, especially women, are at high risk of having a confrontation with the police. Even if it’s something as simple as going for a walk or going to the grocery store. “This regime is not going to last long,” said Reza. (Omar Sanchez / Voice of OC)
“This has been going on for over 40 years, enough is enough.” Gisou and her friend attended the protest to support the people of Iran because rights are being taken away, people are losing their jobs, and are being killed in the streets. Gisou believes that it’s imperative for those with a big platform or that are in power to speak out for the people of Iran, especially due to internet censorship being enforced in the country. Both women grew up together and met in kindergarten while both their fathers served in the air force.“We don’t have any freedom in Iran. (The government) says we do, but we don’t. I feel for my Iranian sisters, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sons.” (Omar Sanchez / Voice of OC)
“(The regime) is pretending that the people want an islamic regime, but it’s not true. This can help my people.” R., who wished to remain anonymous, traveled to the protest from the city of Highland in San Bernardino county. When she saw what happened to Mahsa Amini, she thought of the possibility of that situation happening to her own sister who currently lives in Iran. R attended with her own family she started with her husband who has been supportive of her. Her husband sent an email a couple of days ago to the Biden administration asking for more than just verbal support. “The women of Iran have a boot on their neck all the time,” said her husband. (Omar Sanchez / Voice of OC)
“I want everybody to see what’s happening, this is the voice of Iran.” Mahmoud Kazerouni, former Iranian police officer and veteran of the Iran-Iraq War during the 1980s, mentioned that there were protests in support of the people of Iran happening in over 130 cities all around the world. Kazerouni said that his son told him there were over 40,000 people in attendance in downtown Los Angeles. “My kids grew up here, but I am an exile. I’m scared for my country. But I’m not afraid (of the regime).” (Omar Sanchez / Voice of OC)
“The revolution is starting.” Siavash Azari was a reporter covering the Shah of Iran during President Jimmy Carter’s administration in 1977. Azari found out there was a demonstration happening that day and traveled all the way from Ventura County to attend. (Omar Sanchez / Voice of OC)
Over a thousand people gathered at Mason Park in Irvine close to the intersection of Culver and University Drive to participate in the “Global Day of Action for Iran” protest on Oct. 1, 2022. Irvine was one of over 130 cities hosting protests all around the United States and around the world on the same day. (Omar Sanchez / Voice of OC)

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