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Protesters Turn Out in New York to Show Solidarity With Iranian Opposition Activists


Protesters in about 80 cities around the world have called on Iran to end its crackdown on opposition activists, demanding the release of hundreds of Iranians rounded up during demonstrations over the country's disputed election last month. A crowd, estimated at several thousand by organizers, marched from Times Square to the United Nations headquarters.

Saturday's global protests stretched from Tokyo to Seattle to Caracas. The massive, coordinated rallies were organized by United for Iran, a coalition of individuals and human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Nobel Women's Initiative.

The protest in New York brought together former political prisoners and other Iranians in exile with residents from around New York and the rest of the United States.

Despite their diverse backgrounds, protesters - many dressed in green to show solidarity with Iran's opposition movement - voiced a common theme of solidarity with the people of Iran. Protesters also condemned Iran's crackdown on political demonstrations and the country's restrictions on civil liberties.

Padini Hajarin moved to the United States from Iran three years ago. She says she thinks such public demonstration will help turn international attention to the situation in her home country. "I think all of Iranians should be together and this way they can show the other people that we are together and support the people that are in prison in Iran and all the people that are killed. This way we can show the Americans and especially the United Nations to do some for Iran," Hajarin said.

Human rights groups believe hundreds of people have been arrested for taking to streets following Iran's presidential election on June 12, when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed a landslide re-election victory.

One reformist Web site on Saturday said one of the protesters in custody in Iran has died. He was said to be the son of an advisor to another defeated presidential candidate, Mohsen Rezaie.

The organizers of Saturday's rallies want the United Nations to investigate allegations of torture and abuse in Iran's prisons.

"We need people throughout the world to, one, recognize their struggle, know what they are doing and to support them. And , I think just that, for the Iranian people, is huge. Because just the knowledge that what you are doing isn't in vain, because its being noticed," said one protester.

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