BY JASMINE ZHU
Daily News Editor
Published June 16, 2009
“What do we want?” asked Rackham student Navid Dianati, while circling the block “M” on the Diag, to a crowd of more than 60 graduate students from the University and Michigan State University protesting the Iranian presidential election.
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“Democracy!” they responded, en masse.
“When do we want it?” Dianati continued.
“Now!” they said.
The student protest, which took place at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, was initiated by Rackham student Sahar Zangeneh to show support and sympathy for Iranian citizens and advocates of more liberal Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi, who lost to re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday.
Many Iranians became infuriated with the re-election of the more conservative Ahmadinejad, speculating that the result was a fraud.
Zanegeneh said she is mostly concerned about the violence occurring in response to the election results.
“People are dying, being killed — just for wanting their voices to be heard — and wanting their votes to be counted,” she said. “If there wasn’t any fraud, there wouldn’t be any reason for this violence afterwards.”
Zangeneh added that she believed Moussavi would have won the election if it had been conducted fairly.
“Based on the turn-out of the rallies, the polls that were taken prior to the election and just the enthusiasm that was in the people, it was an obvious fact that Mr. Moussavi was going to win,” she said. “Just based on scientific fact, it’s pretty obvious that there was fraud in the election results.”
LSA freshman Shima Abadi, who attended the protest, said fellow protestors wore green and black to represent Moussavi and as a symbol of respect for those who died or were injured in the aftermath of the election.
Rackham student Fardokht Abulwerdi said the protest wasn’t organized by a specific student group but by the students as a whole.
“It was an event organized by the students — no one (group) is really affiliated with it,” she said. “It was an idea of my friend Sahar’s to get together (here) and sympathize with our countrymen in Iran and try to voice our opposition.”
Abulwerdi added the reason behind the protest was to support a new election.
“I guess the mission of this gathering is to just be with the people of Iran and let them know that Iranians outside the country are thinking about them, are not happy with the results and also really oppose this brutal violence that’s going on in Iran,” she said. “And we definitely want to have a reelection so that the people could get their basic rights to vote.”
Zangeneh said that she didn’t believe anyone would oppose the protest held on the Diag.
“I mean (Ahmadinejad) did get some votes in Michigan, but I don’t think that anyone will speak out (against the protest),” she said. “This is more of a humanitarian thing. We don’t want to give it a political flavor.”
According to Zangeneh, another reason the students held the protest was to raise awareness in the Western media.
“While the journalists were in Iran, there wasn’t enough coverage,” she said. “We’re just hoping to raise a little bit of awareness.”
Zangeneh said that she believes the once-democratic nature of Iranian presidential elections is jaded by this year’s election and that illegitimate elections may be a trend in the future.
“The elections have always been a democratic process, and I guess now we’re seeing a new twist,” she said. “The whole election process is changing.”