Iran election protests reach Iowa City - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iran election protests reach Iowa City

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by Bryan Goettel

IOWA CITY (KWWL) - Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi has called for a mass rally tomorrow to protest his disputed election loss.

It's seen as a direct challenge to the country's elected leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and comes amid reports of the military's continued crackdown with more arrests and more curbs on information posted to the internet.

Social networking sites such as Twitter and facebook are playing important roles for young, urban Iranians opposed to President Ahmadinejad.

Twitter is so important that the U.S. State Department said it contacted Twitter yesterday to urge a delay to a planned upgrade that would have cut daytime services to Iranians.

As the situation in Iran continues to intensify, the government is making it harder for the voices of opposition to reach the outside world, but that outside world is raising its own voice as a show of solidarity.

The protests are a far cry from the thousands pouring out onto the streets of Iran. The mood is calm. Just a few dozen are demonstrating on Iowa City's ped mall. But their message is strong.

"We want our vote back," protester Maysam Takapoo said. "We want our democracy back."

"To show the outside world that Ahmadinejad is not the only voice in Iran and we do not support him," protester Maysam Mousaviraav said. 

Some here grew up in Iran. Many have brothers, sisters, parents, cousins in the middle of a crisis.

"The violence and the people getting killed really concerns me and makes me feel sad," Mousaviraav said.

"We got a hold of my aunt a couple nights ago and she said in Tehran at least there's chaos during the night," protest organizer Yashar Vasef said. "It's impossible to sleep."

"I always talk to my brother, encourage him to don't stay in the streets especially now that they shoot people," Takapoo said. "They're shooting people."

Vasef helped organize Wednesday's rally. He knows Moussavi supporters face an uphill battle, but it's not stopping him and thousands of others around the world.

"I'm hoping for the best, but in some ways I'm expecting the worst," Vasef said.

"The reason we are in the streets we are demonstrating and protesting this because we still have hope in the heart," Takapoo said. 

Most of the protesters had green cloth covering their faces or wrapped around their arms.

Green is a past symbol for Moussavi and now is a symbol for democracy and freedom.

Online Reporter: Bryan Goettel

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