Americans, many of Iranian descent, are joining forces with Iranian election protesters by the hundreds in demonstrations across the United States.
Supporters of Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi planned a march Thursday from the Iranian interests section in Washington to the Chinese Embassy. They said they were protesting Beijing’s official recognition of the declaration that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won last week's election in a landslide.
Protesters vowed to continue their demonstrations in Washington as long as protests continued in Iran. Some called on President Barack Obama to take a higher-profile role in the discussion, and a march to the White House was planned for Saturday.
Wednesday night, several hundred people shouting slogans and holding signs demonstrated outside the Iranian interests section before marching to the Russian Embassy, denouncing Ahmadinejad and calling for a new election.
The protesters wore green, Mousavi’s campaign color, and black to mourn the seven dead protesters in Tehran.
“Those people are putting their lives on the line,” said Babak Talebi, who organized the demonstration. “They’re sweating, they’re bleeding for their rights, for democratic principles.”
‘We want our vote back’
Hundreds of protesters have gathered each night since the weekend at intersections in the Los Angeles, which has one of the largest Iranian populations in the country. The protesters planned a rally Thursday afternoon in Irvine, south of downtown.
“I think every Iranian you talk to was affected by this process. They think it was not just,” said Alex Bolourchi, an Iranian with dual U.S. citizenship who hosts a local television program on Iranian culture. “They all want to participate and make sure what’s going to happen in the future is going to be right.”
Similar demonstrations were taking place Thursday in New York and numerous other cities, including Iowa City, Iowa, where several dozen people chanting people gathered with pro-Mousavi signs on a pedestrian mall.
“We want our vote back,” said Maysam Takapoo, one of the protesters. “We want our democracy back.”
Yashar Vasef, who organized the rally, said he had spoken this week to an aunt in Tehran, who said the Iranian capital was in turmoil every evening after sunset.
“I’m hoping for the best, but in some ways I’m expecting the worst,” Vasef said.
Many simply call for peace
Millions more Iranian-Americans were closely following the unrest in Tehran on television and through postings on Twitter.com, Facebook.com and other social media Web sites.
Firoozeh Razban of Paducah, Ky., said she was concerned for two of her relatives in Iran whom she had not heard from since the protests started over the weekend.
“My sister-in-law’s cousins were beaten yesterday — two 18- and 20-year-old boys, and we have no information on their whereabouts,” said Razban, who said she supported the demonstrators.
“I get worried, and I pray to God for people to get freedom that they’ve been longing and fighting for so many years,” she said.
Masoud Homami of Monterey, Calif., lived through the revolution in 1979 when Islamic militants led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini overthrew the shah. He said he, too, was firmly behind the protests.
As they did then, he said, the people were taking to the streets to protest oppression.
“Right now, people of Iran regret what they did in 1979,” Homami said. “Most ... are actually fed up with this regime.”
But others said they were not taking sides in the election, saying they simply wanted to show their support for the Iranian people and to urge a peaceful resolution.
“I don’t support Mousavi or Ahmadinejad,” said Mohammad Borna, Homami’s nephew. “I support the people who want real change.”
Baha’i followers fear for human rights
Others said they feared the government could use the unrest as an excuse to crack down even further on dissidents and religious minorities in Iran.
Video: This video is no longer available In Seattle, members of the Baha’i faith were following reports from Iran closely. The religion is widely reported to be persecuted in Iran, where it has one of its largest populations.
“Of course, we’re concerned with the human rights issues,” said Todd Kutches, an officer of the Baha’i faith in Western Washington. “We hope and pray that people are not harmed and the human rights issues are resolved for everyone.”
Jalil Roshandel, director of security studies director and a specialist in Iranian politics at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., held out hope that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would bring a peaceful conclusion to the dispute when he makes a rare appearance leading Friday prayers.
“I’m very emotional for the younger generation who is being killed in the streets of Tehran, innocent people,” said Roshandel, who said he was following the demonstrations in Tehran through updates from his former students.
More on Iran
By Alex Johnson of msnbc.com. The following NBC stations contributed to this report: KING of Seattle; KNBC of Los Angeles; KWWL of Waterloo, Iowa; KSBW of Salinas, Calif.; WITN of Washington, N.C.; WPSD of Paducah, Ky.; and WRC of Washington.