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Bay Area protest adds to pressure on Iran

Thousands of protesters converge onto San Francisco's Union Square for a Freedom Rally for Iran in October 2022. | Chris Victorio for The Standard

Fahimeh Sylvan was 19 years old when she was out in public with her boyfriend in her home country of Iran—a risky endeavor for unmarried couples—when undercover agents arrested her. 

Calling her names, they put her in a car as she begged them not to take her to a security facility. Later, after recounting it to her now-husband, he asked if she had been kidnapped. 

“This is a normal thing in Iran,” said Sylvan, a Mountain View resident. “At the time, I didn’t think about it like that. You have no idea where they’re going to take you and do to you. As a 19-year-old, it breaks you.”

The death of Jina “Mahsa” Amini, a Kurdish-Iranian woman, at the hands of the same forces known as morality police in September brought back those traumatic memories for Sylvan, who left Iran a few years later. Since then, widespread protests and shows of resistance have kept a strong grip on the country—at a steep cost to the 500 people killed in protests and more than 19,000 arrested. 

It’s the recent demonstrations of brutality inflicted on protesters and long-standing treatment of Iranians that has Bay Area locals marching in Downtown San Francisco on Saturday. Protesters are calling for the U.S. government to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a special branch of the armed forces propping up the government, as a terrorist group.

The protest organized by Bay Area 4 Iran was expected to march from Powell and Market streets to Embarcadero Plaza. 

The Trump administration already deemed the IRGC terrorists in 2019 with the likes of ISIS and Boko Haram, which the Biden administration upheld. The European Union is again taking up the matter on Feb. 20 in Brussels, where there is expected to be a protest echoing the same demands as in San Francisco. 

Sylvan and other protesters want the United States to also pressure the European Union to take a step further from the new sanctions to add the IRGC to its list of terrorist organizations. They are also commemorating the executions of Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Seyed Mohammad Hosseini, a karate champion and volunteer children’s coach, respectively, done without due process.

Iran executed four young men connected to the widespread protests, with CNN reporting at least 43 face execution as of January, with higher numbers anticipated by activists.

“Any money going to IRGC is going toward cracking down more brutality,” said Sylvan, an organizer with Bay Area 4 Iran. “People don’t want this regime. Every morning I wake up, I’m scared of looking at my phone and seeing they killed someone else.”

Freedom March and Rally for Iran

📍Market and Powell streets
🗓️ Feb. 18, 11:30 a.m.
🔗 Bay Area for Iran

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