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‘It was very emotional’: B.C. woman describes taking part in protests in Iran

Click to play video: 'Metro Vancouver woman witnesses convulsions rocking Iran'
Metro Vancouver woman witnesses convulsions rocking Iran
A Metro Vancouver woman says she was tear-gassed, attacked by security forces, and witnessed atrocities as she participated in demonstrations rocking Iran, now in their third month. She has returned home and is telling her story for the first time. Negar Mojtahedi reports – Nov 17, 2022

“I saw the brutality of the regime.”

Nazanin, a B.C. woman, recently returned home to Metro Vancouver from Iran after taking part in protests and witnessing events that have left her with nightmares.

“There was a young man shot in his chest and he had difficulty breathing,” Nazanin told Global News. She said the other protesters provided first aid because going to a hospital would get one arrested.

Global News is not revealing Nazanin’s identity for fear that speaking out could put her life in danger.

She left Iran before the uprisings were sparked in September by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old who died while in the custody of the so-called Morality Police for apparently wearing her hijab improperly.

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Click to play video: 'Vancouver resident describes his time at Evin Prison in Iran'
Vancouver resident describes his time at Evin Prison in Iran

Nazanin was in Iran to help a close family member with serious health issues and witnessed the country transform overnight.

“After the death of Amini people were so mad and upset at the Islamic Republic for 44 years of brutality, dictatorship, lack of human rights and lying to people,” she said.

She described the night she joined protests as a defining moment in her life.

“The Basiji attacked us with tear gas and shooting. We all run away and one kind man opened his door and we rushed to his home.”

She said her eyes were burning from tear gas.

Read more: Iranian-born Canadian fears for his friends in Iranian prison where he spent 11 years

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A protestor, she said, warned her not to touch her eyes and blew cigarette smoke towards her eyes to help relieve the stinging pain.

She said it was beautiful to witness unity and bravery but devastating to witness the inhumane crackdown of protestors.

“I had a mixture of feelings. Excited and hopeful for Iran to proud of (the) young generation especially women standing up against the dictatorship, demanding their own human rights,” Nazanin said. “On the other hand, I was so sad to be witness of how they beating up people, shooting and I was worried and scared not only for myself but for all young brave people.”

Out of 290 MPs in Iran, 227 of them recently called on the judiciary to issue death sentences to all imprisoned protesters.

At least five protestors have already been sentenced to death. The United Nations said nearly 15,000 protestors are imprisoned and at least 300 killed – including nine-year-old Kian Pirfalak, killed in the crackdown.

Kian Pirfalak. @1500Tasvir

While people await their death sentences, Zohreh Elahian and Kazem Gharibabadi, two of the MPs who voted in favour of calling for the execution of protesters, travelled to New York to attend UN General Assembly’s meetings.

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Nazanin feared for her life travelling back to Canada.

She was anxious at the airport in Iran, terrified a security officer at the airport would arrest her. She erased all photos and videos from her cellphone and said she prepared herself for the worst-case scenario.

Read more: Crackdown in Kurdish region of Iran hits home for Port Moody, B.C. woman

Four decades ago, Nazanin’s cousin, a political prisoner, was executed by the Islamic Republic.

Nazanin said she waited nearly 44 years for that moment to stand up against the regime, and did so in honour of her late cousin.

She said she had tears in her eyes taking to the streets.

“It was very emotional time, I can’t explain with many words. We were waiting 44 years for that moment and I was there and that made me very happy.”

A moment she is hopeful is on the road to a revolution.

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