DC demo for democracy in Iran

This morning I went to the demonstration for democracy in Iran in front of the Capitol building in Washington, DC. About 500-600 enthusiastic people —mostly Iranian and waving a large number of Iranian flags—turned out on one of those sweltering, steambath days for which DC is famous in the summer.

“Secular Democracy in Iran Now,” read the main sign in front of the stage. Speakers included a number of Senators and Congressmen—all Republicans, unfortunately—as well as representatives of the Iranian-American community speaking in English and Farsi. In between there was Iranian music and chants such as “Down with the Islamic Republic of Iran” and “United Nations pay attention.”

The event was broadcast to Iran via satellite TV in Los Angeles.

A banner in the crowd thanked President Bush for supporting the people of Iran. But it wasn’t completely a Republican lovefest. One speaker denounced Secretary of State Colin Powell for calling the Tehran regime a “democracy.” Another banner denounced Republican Congressman Bob Ney of Ohio for “covering up for state-sponsored terrorism.” Ney has led the effort in Congress to encourage “dialogue” with the Islamic regime.

Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota, one of the speakers at the demonstration, is a leader of a competing effort to pass the Iran Democracy Act, which would provide tools to help the regime’s opponents communicate.

Keeping their distance from the main event were two people carrying a banner with the message, “US Hands Off Iran.”

I spoke with one of the demonstration’s organizers, a woman named Manda, who left Iran after Khomeini came to power in 1979. Her ex-husband, a journalist, has been imprisoned and tortured by the regime for two years, she told me. She complained that The Washington Post and The New York Times have downplayed the struggle in Iran because they “only care about the Left.” When I identified myself as a leftist who supported the struggle, she seemed surprised but skeptical. She said Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy had been invited to speak, but declined.

She told me that when she arrived in the USA she thought the Democrats were the party that stood for freedom and justice, but soon found out that most of the members of Congress who supported the Iranian opposition were Republicans.

She may have been exaggerating some, but I’m afraid there’s a lot of truth in what she said. I promised to do what I could to help win support on the Left for the struggle for democracy in Iran. This blog is one way of doing that, I hope.

Update: Turns out there was a Democrat who spoke: Congresswoman Anna Eshoo of California. She must have appeared after I left. Good for her.