The Chronicle first met Eugene Dariush Daneshvar in the context of “home” – he attended a Wall Street neighborhood meeting we covered in December 2008, where he was concerned about how his home in the Riverside Park Place condominiums would be affected by a University of Michigan building project.
On Tuesday evening we encountered him again, also in the context of home – this time, he was on the Diag with about 100 other Iranian students and faculty, protesting voter fraud in recently held elections in their homeland.
We’d been alerted to the protest by another Iranian student, who told us that students were planning a peaceful demonstration to protest election fraud. The protest was in support of the hundreds of thousands of people in Iran who’ve rallied since election results were released on Saturday that declared President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner. Ahmadinejad had run against a popular reform candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, who called the election an “astonishing charade,” according to the Associated Press.
Organizers of the Diag gathering hoped to raise Americans’ awareness about the situation. Many protesters dressed in somber colors and wore green crepe paper ribbons tied around their wrists or arms – green was the color of Mousavi’s campaign. Most carried signs that read “In Solidarity with the People of Iran” and “Where Is My Vote?”
A few signs showed photographs of Iranian police beating demonstrators during recent rallies in Tehran, the nation’s capital. Others passed out green flyers to passers-by that explained their concerns, including the fact that at least eight people have been killed and others injured by the country’s Revolutionary Guard and supporters of Ahmadinejad.
Daneshvar, a doctoral student in UM’s department of biomedical engineering, was born in the U.S. but told us that about half his family lives in Iran, which he visited a few months ago. Communication has been difficult, in part because so many people are trying to reach their friends and relatives that the country’s telecommunications system is overloaded, and in part because of Iranian government security measures.
This is the first major uprising since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which brought hard-liners into power, and Daneshvar said it’s exciting that there’s potential for change. But mainly, people are frustrated, he said – if the country is going to be ruled by a dictatorship, then just say it. Don’t hold a fake election just to placate the population: “Why bother?” he said.
Tuesday’s protest brought out UM students, but Iranians attending MSU, Wayne State University and the University of Toledo also took part. Organizers said a similar event might take place on Thursday in Lansing.
Meanwhile, Daneshvar was planning to turn his attention later Tuesday evening to his other home – councilmember Sabra Briere (Ward 1) was to meet with the Riverside Park Place board, of which he is a member, to update them on the Wall Street project.