City officials across Orange County are passing resolutions condemning Iran’s violent regime and standing in support of the Iranian American community – months after the death of a woman detained by the country’s notorious morality police sparked a national uprising.
These resolutions are being made as some Iranian Americans in OC push for local governments to condemn the atrocities being committed by the Iranian government thousands of miles away in their home land.
They say the Iranian regime poses a threat not only to the people of Iran, but democracy.
And they’ve been showing up to city council meetings and demanding their elected officials call out the violence the Iranian government is committing against their own people.
Hengameh Abraham, Costa Mesa resident and Iranian American engagement director for the OC Republican Party, said in a phone interview she faced the morality police at a young age for expressing herself.
“My own personal encounter with morality police was when I was 12 years old in Iran and I shaved my head in protest of the mandatory headcovering and I was stopped by them and I was threatened to be taken to jail,” Abraham said.
While Abraham was able to leave Iran and the morality police, others aren’t as lucky.
In September, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in the custody of Iran’s notorious morality police after she was arrested for not covering her hair properly.
Amini’s death sparked protests not only in Tehran but across the globe, even thousands of miles away in Orange County and Southern California which is home to tens of thousands of Iranian Americans – some of whom escaped the brutality of Iran’s government and religious police.
[Read: So Cal Rallies in Irvine To Protest Iranian Repression]
Abraham, who is leading the efforts behind the condemnations, is on a mission to get every city in the county to make such a declaration.
“I wanted to do something more than just protesting and rallies, so I decided to write a resolution,” she said.
Abraham said her goal is to get all the cities to take this action and noted OC is home to one of the largest populations of Iranians in the U.S.
More than 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.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, more than half of all Iranian immigrants in the U.S. live in California and more than one-third live in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
Abraham’s efforts and those of other Iranian Americans in OC have made progress.
Last week, officials in Orange County’s largest city, Anaheim, also unanimously passed their own resolution condemning the violence.
“The City of Anaheim stands in solidarity with Iranian American community members, particularly Iranian women, as their relatives and associates are suffering through the current injustices in Iran,” said Councilwoman Natalie Rubalcava, reading the resolution.
Rubalcava called for the resolution after some Orange County residents asked the council to take a stand against the Iranian government’s violence at a previous meeting.
Yorba Linda City Council members also passed their own resolution, last week, condemning the violence and demanding the Iranian government end its systemic human rights violations.
“I have the privilege of standing in front of you, as a free woman advocating for my brothers and sisters in Iran, who are being brutally murdered and killed and jailed just because they want basic human rights,” Abraham told Yorba Linda city officials last week.
The Washington Post reported last week an estimated 20,000 people have been arrested in Iran for protesting and more than 500 people have been killed. They have also published videos showing the government’s escalated crackdown on protesters.
Human rights groups have long reported on the atrocities committed by the Iranian government.
For more information on Iran’s human rights record, here are 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.
Anaheim and Yorba Linda officials are the latest to condemn the violence months into an uprising taking place across the globe where hundreds of people are being killed and thousands are being imprisoned for speaking out.
Resolutions have been passed by officials in Costa Mesa, Irvine,, Orange, Lake Forest and Laguna Beach.
“I’m here because my dad was an immigrant from Iran and he escaped an oppressive regime,” said Laguna Beach Councilman Alex Rounaghi at a council meeting last month. “What we see around the world is there’s so many people who are fighting for that basic value of freedom.”
“This is a human rights issue and that’s why we wanted to just make it clear that we stand with the Iranian people and all the people in the world against oppressive regimes,” he said.
Officials in Mission Viejo, Fullerton and Laguna Niguel also made proclamations last year against the Iranian government’s brutality.
And Tustin made a proclamation in support of Iranian women as well.
A majority of Newport Beach city council initially voted against such a resolution in November, but ended up unanimously approving it on Jan. 11.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
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