For years, every Wednesday during early morning hours, members of the Unitarian Universalist Society in San Francisco (UUSF) would hold a vigil calling attention to and protesting injustices and oppression in this country and around the world. On June 21, commuters encountered our small but spirited group of UUSF and IEC activists in a vigil that was part of the international struggle to free Iran’s political prisoners.
About a dozen determined protesters were responding to the urgency captured in a social media post of the Burn the Cage/Free the Birds movement in Europe that said:
Some of the most heroic people are in Iran’s prison because of their love of the people and their hatred of oppression. They are harbingers of a different future. But right now, the lives of these “best of the best” are in imminent danger. We need to free them before it’s too late. By any political and social means you have, express your rage and opposition to this injustice.
We held up signs that said “Free All Prisoners of Conscience in Iran” and “Stop the Executions of Iran’s Political Prisoners.” Someone brought a boom box and lyrics sheet so we sang the anti-fascist anthem Bella Ciao in solidarity with Iranian women prisoners, who had sung this song and sent it out from Evin Prison.
Some of us passed out flyers to motorists, including many immigrants who commute to work along this busy route. An Iranian man on his bicycle was overwhelmed by seeing Americans publicly supporting the political prisoners and struggle in Iran. An Egyptian woman stopped to express her support for the Iranian struggle and appreciation for the vigil. One motorist who was dropping his daughter off nearby took up a “Free Iran’s Political Prisoners” sign and held it up out the window of his car (see photo).
The enthusiastic mood at our June 21 vigil was raised from the knowledge that we were acting in international solidarity with people in different parts of the world together in the struggle to demand an end to the persecution and murder of those who have dared to stand against Iran’s theocratic tyranny.
For the past two and a half years, people in and around UUSF have joined in cooperation with the IEC in the crucial fight to free Iran’s heroic political prisoners. For example, in January 2022, we held a highly successful Zoom forum with a diverse panel of speakers on the deadly situation faced by political prisoners in Iran, attracting a wide U.S. and international audience, including within Iran itself. The UUSF Sensible Cinema hosted film virtual screenings and discussions of Nasrin and The Secret Fatwa. The UUSF had also hosted a hybrid presentation and discussion of the IEC mission and unique political perspective with its prominent signatories on its Emergency Appeal.
When the massive rebellion erupted in Iran in the wake of the brutal murder of Mahsa Jina Amini in September 2022, that important upsurge became a theme of a UUSF weekly morning commuter-hour vigil. The Iran rebellion is broadly supported by the vigilers who number anywhere from 6 to 15 members and friends of UUSF. Since the rebellion began it has continued to be one of the issues highlighted by the vigil.
Mahsa Jina Amini’s picture continues to be frequently displayed at our vigil. Condemnation of Iran’s theocratic fascist dictatorship has been regularly mentioned, often in conjunction with denunciations of U.S. theocrats (the Supreme Court majority) and the attacks on abortion rights, and the rights of LGBTQ people by fascists here in the U.S. These messages often elicit enthusiastic support from passing motorists and pedestrians.
We hope to continue this dynamic and important working relationship to positively impact freeing all of Iran’s political prisoners and to stop the horrific surge of executions taking place in Iran.
—An activist with the UUSF and supporter of the IEC
Voces de solidaridad internacionalista por la libertad de los presos políticos en Irán (Voices of international solidarity, from Colombia)